TRANSCRIPT OF VIDEOTAPED INTERVIEW WITH CHAUNCEY MARVIN HOLT.
HOUSTON, TEXAS, OCTOBER 19, 1991.
INTERVIEWERS PRESENT- JOHN CRAIG, PHILLIP ROGERS, GARY SHAW.
TRANSCRIBED BY WILLIAM E. KELLY, APRIL, 1992.
Names followed by question mark are spelled phonetically.
– The gentleman we are interviewing is Chauncey Marvin Holt.
Holt: My true name is Chauncey Marvin Holt. Throughout the years I have used many, as many as 25, perhaps 30 aliases, I don’t remember them all. Starting with the first ones that I do remember, that were prominent in operations, there was Robert Roston, Jack Hall, Jack Moon, Curley Sigler, William Dean Rutz…(John Moon)…
Those were the main alias that we used throughout the years. We did use other aliases, which are called, ‘floating identities,’ one time things, that you just sign your name on, which was used not only by me, but others as well. The best known one, I suppose, was Edward Joe Hamilton, which was used by a number of people. And I used that also, from time to time.
-When were you born?
Holt: I was born on October 23, 1921, in a little hamlet called Pine Knoll, Kentucky. My date of birth is October 23, 1921 although on some records it is referred to I was born in January of 1921, for the simple reason that I entered the (military) service before I was 18 years old and I moved my date of birth back. But I was born on October 23, 1921.
I have three social security numbers, at least three. My legitimate social security number is 402-32-1339. I am presently drawing social security under three different numbers because I worked under those names and I paid in under those name.
-Can you give us some background on your military career?
Holt: On October 11, 1939 I joined what was then the Army Air Corps. It was part of the Army at that time. It was known as the Brown Shoe Air Force in those days. While in flight training I was very rebellious. I didn’t take very well to hazing that we came under. The Army at that time was full of misfits. You had guys in there that couldn’t do anything else and made a career of it. And do they delighted in hazing people. It was part of the game as far as the Air Force was concerned, but I didn’t take too well with it. There was on guy who picked on me. He always picked on me. His name was Lada (?) He was a disgrace to the uniform.
So one day he came out and he picked on me on the wrong day, and he made some serious remarks and I hit him with a Springfield and chased him across the quadrangle. Hit him at every jump. I would have killed him if it wasn’t for the MPs. Of course I got a general court martial. They gave me five years and sent me out to the U.S. penitentiary barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where you really do hard time. Of course general court marshals are always subject to review by reviewing authorities. So after 7 months they decided to review my case and reduce my sentence to that 7 months that I had served up to that point and turned me back to duty, although they didn’t put me back in the Air Corps. I went into the newly formed Armor Force that was formed in January of 1940. After I was turned back to duty, this is in June, 1940, I found it very difficult to adjust to the Army life. I had a bad reputation. I got all the worst assignments. I’m not making excuses for what happened. But it really wasn’t any picnic. we continued on. I would be in and out of trouble until 1941. Of course in December,…After I was turned back to duty, I had bad luck in getting bad commanding officers and that sort of thing. And being a rebellious teenager in the first place, I mean I didn’t take to well to it. Actually I didn’t adjust to Army life too well. It was a bad time. I struggled through it until 1941…until, you know, Pearl Harbor.
Page 2. Holt.
You know, I think that Pearl Harbor,…another guy and I went AWOL on Pearl Harbor day. We went back and continued our duty until the early part of 1942. This friend of mine said he had an automobile form his cousin, and we decided to go from Fort Knox to Louisville.
-This is early 1941 or 1942?
Holt: This is early 1942. In any case we got caught joy riding in this automobile, and the FBI frankly, tried to make a (federal) case against us. They didn’t identify themselves and asked us questions and so forth and did lots and lots of work trying to prove we had taken this car, which the cousin said, “No, he didn’t do it.” So we wouldn’t plead guilty and went to trial and they did a great deal of work trying to prove we took this car across state lines, which we didn’t. But they finally ended up charging us with 4 or 5 counts of violations of the Dyer (?) Act. One charge going over, one charge coming back, one charge going here. Although the FBI claimed we pleaded guilty, I got the original FBI report. It indicates they had done considerable work on this. The Commonwealth of Kentucky refused to indict us, the FBI office in Louisville.
Through the Freedom of Information Act we got our FBI file. Hoover himself sent a wire from Washington D.C. to the Special Agent In Charge in Louisville wanting to know why we hadn’t been convicted.
Now here we are, in the middle of a war, and he’s taking his time out. They actually perjured themselves and we were convicted. And we were given just two years, and gave us time served so that reduced it to 18 months. Chillicothe, Ohio. The U.S. Industrial Reformatory at Chillicotti, where I met some very interesting individuals, including Bob Swick, who was an enforcer for the Licavolis.
And it was through Swick…I was paroled in December of 1942. He (Swick) said, “Hey, if you ever need too, I’ll give you an introduction to Licavoli.” So I went to the draft board and talked to them about reentering the service, and a parole officer said to me, “No, you need special permission from the Secretary of War to do this. Why don’t you just sit out the war and work in a defense plant?”
So for the rest of the war I worked for the Bethelem-Fairfield Shipyard Company. I worked in the design department, time and motion department. I designed, primarily, bulkheads. So I stayed there until the end of the war. And at the end of the war, I contacted Peter Licavoli. I gave him my background. And we went to Florida.
-Would you identify Licavoli for us.
Holt: Licavoli was a high ranking member of the Mafia who was involved in three of the most sensational murders in American history. The killing of Jerry Buckly, a crusading reporter, a supposedly crusading reporter in 1935, the killing of Jackie Kennedy, the beer baron of Toledo, not the president, and of course he was one of the principles in the St. Valentine’s Day massacre, because it was their trucks. But Bugs Moran was high jacking TO Capone.
But he didn’t talk very much about that until many, many years later. But years later he’d reminiscence about those things.
Licavoli, he was originally from St. Louis, but at the time he was in Detroit. He was one of the five ruling Dons of Detroit, along with John Prisoli?, Angelo Mali?, Black Billdetoko? and Anthony Zerilli. Those five ran Detroit. Their activities ranged all the way from St. Louis to Youngstown. They controlled race tracks…they owned Hoyel (?) Track in Detroit, River Downs in Louisville, and James Licavoli, who was notorious in his own right, actually ran Youngstown, Ohio.
They were, of course, into Florida. Most of the casinos in Florida at that time were owned 1/3 New York, 1/3 Traficante-Lansky, 1/3 Detroit. They were into everything.
Page 3. Holt.
-Who were your major associates during that time?
Holt: When we went to Florida, the person we answered to in Florida was an individual by the name of Mert Whorhammer (?).
First I was in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, where they put me in there as a book keeper at a place called Kites? Bar & Grill. Now it looked like an innocent sort of place, but it was the center for all numbers rackets in the Jacksonville area.
The reason I went down there was Kite was coming up short in his proceeds. Their business was dropping off about $15,000 a week and they figured that Mr. Kite probably had his hand in the till. So we went down there and I stayed there about a month as a book keeper, numbers writer, that sort of thing. And as soon as we found out that, yea, he was stealing, I moved on. Then I went on….
-What happened to him? To Kite?
Holt: He ended up with a pea in his head, as they say. They found him floating in the surf off Jacksonville Beach.
Then I went down to the casino area. The Miami area. Broward County at that time was in full swing. I immediately went to work for an accounting firm, a very respectable accounting firm. But they handled all of Meyer Lansky’s accounting work. All the companies that worked? for Lansky. Many of them were noted philanthropists. Max Horowitz, Dan Ruskin, Barrry Berheishyer?, Sam Becker…
The firm that I worked for at the time was a firm called Albis?, Aldimus?, Morgan and Weinberg. They handled all of Lansky’s accounting work, among other things. They were very, very respectable. We did accounting work during the day and we handled gambling proceeds at night…. The principle that I worked for more than any other,…at the Colonial Inn, which is next door to the Gulton? Park Race Track. It was the plushiest of the carpet joints at that time. That and La Boheme. They were both in Broward County. They referred to Broward County as “Lansky Country.” He owned the sheriff, he owned everything.
-What was your knowledge of Lansky at that time?
Holt: Well, I knew that he had been a long time,…he wasn’t a Mafia member, of course, but he was a Mafia associate and he went back a long way, to the Bugsy Siegel days when they were actually enforces for the Mafia. They were executing contracts for them. Lansky was always a real money maker for them. That’s why they associated with him, although he was Jewish. Just as Licavoli cooperated with the Cleveland branch, who also was all Jews, or like New Jersey, ones like Longie Zwillman, were Jews. The Jews and Italians collaborated and cooperated with one another although those guys, the Jews, were actually never members of the Mafia.
-Were you hired by Lansky or by an associate?
Holt: I was hired by him personally.
-So you knew him well?
Holt: I knew him well after I went to work for the firm – Adison-Costa…Then Mr. Acosta did, he was Italian. Then it became Adison, Morgan, Aldis, Weinberg. Then Adis left and formed a bank for Lansky, actually the Industrial Bank, which they owned.
Page 4. Holt.
Even when working for the accounting firm we had offices, …I had an office in Miami Beach at one of Lansky’s companies, which was called the Gator Corporation, which he used as a vehicle for practically all the other work that he did, including at the time, the main thing at that time, he was working with Louis Wolfson and they were trying to make a raid on American Motors. They didn’t take it over, but they bought a lot of stock. Max Orbitson, Dan Ruskin were planning for Lansky at the time, and both of them ultimately got convicted for their association with Lansky.
-Were you ever in and out of Cuba at this time?
Holt: Many times. They were involved in setting up the casinos with Trafficante and others. Norman Rothman for instance. In Cuba…we went to Cuba many times. At that point in time Carlos Prio was President of Cuba and Batista was in exile. It was Lanksy who was instrumental in getting Prio to allow Batista back into the country. He came back into the country and one day he just walked into the Presidential Palace apparently, and made Prio an offer he couldn’t refuse. This is how Batista,…Batista was always in Lansky’s pocket. So we were back and forth there in regards to the casinos.
Later on, when Castro started kicking up a force, and of course after he had landed there in the Escambay Mountains, Lansky, to hedge his bet, began offering assistance to Castro in the form of money and arms that were flying in. So although he was a very close friend of Batista, he was still assisting Castro. Around that time flying arms to Castro was no problem. The State Department didn’t bother you at all. They just tolerated it. So that was the experience in Havana.
-Was it at this period in time that you got involved with the CIA?
Holt: That came later. WE went into Cuba many times before, without having anything to do with the CIA. How I came to be connected to the CIA in the beginning was the formation, in May 1950, of the Kefauver Committee. The Kefauver committee was scheduled to begin hearings in May 1950. At that time I was working for an accounting firm, the Eisner Firm, Dan and Seymour Eisner. They were scheduled to be the first witnesses subpoenaed before the Kefauver committee and we knew we wouldn’t be far behind.
And Lansky, of course, they tried to subpoena him but they were never able to get him before the committee. He was probably the only organized crime figure that evaded the Kefauver Committee. Every other one they got, but him. So I started looking around for another job. I had to leave there and Lanksy said, “I’ll put you into the International Rescue Committee- the IRC, as Comptroller.”
-What was the IRC ?
Holt: At the time I thought it was a philanthropic organization like the Red Cross or something. But when I went over there, Lansky didn’t explain anything about the position, he just said to go over there and your job description will be forthcoming. So I went over there and sat around for a couple of weeks reading the Racing Form when a guy by the name of Sluder? came down from Washington, I suppose, and informed me that this IRC was a propriety interest of the CIA. That its main function was dispensing funds for the agency. At that time I didn’t know what a propriety interest was. Didn’t even known what the CIA was.
-He said you would be working for him?
Holt: Yes, well, that I would be working for the agency. At that time of course, I was a pilot. I had been a pilot since 1937. I was an accomplished artist. I was one of the best shots around. I was probably in….?? too.
Page 5. Holt.
Richard Sluder, I assumed that he came from Washington D.C. He did not show me any credentials.
-Your impression was that the CIA was working in conjunction with organized crime in carrying out its activities, with propriety interests and so forth?
Holt: Yes. I was sure of it. Actually I talked with Meyer Lansky about it as soon as I was informed about what kind of operation it was. I went to him and asked him. And he said they had been in bed, …his exact words were, “We’ve been in bed together since 1944.” He elaborated a little bit on how they were able to get Lucky Luciano deported and the deals they made and how they made the deals with the Anastasia brothers, Tony and Albert, who were in control of the docks. So they wouldn’t have any more acts of sabotage like the Normande, and that sort of thing. And so we knew they scratched each other’s backs.
-What about the IRC?
Holt: The IRC was concerned with two things. First was the situation in Cuba, and secondly, their primary concern at that time was in Guatemala.
It looked like Arbenz, who was a left leaning individual, had a good chance of winning an election. In 1948, (Jorge) Ubico had been the dictator of Guatemala at that point. They overthrew him in 1948 and they were concerned that Arbenz would win the election and consequently the communists would have a foothold in Latin America. So we turned our full attention to Guatemala, both from a fiscal standpoint in trying to send money down there to try to effect the election, and to even to interfere with the election that was coming up, to the extent of knocking off (Franscilsco) Arana and blaming it on Arbenz. And he won the election….
As far as organized crime went, Meyer Lansky, we were loyal to Meyer Lansky and to Peter Licavoli even though I was working for the IRC. We were involved in handling various accounting functions for both Licavoli and Lansky. Even after the closing of the casinos.
In Miami, in 1948, in Broward County, they closed them all up in 1948. All of them. But Lansky had for….really interesting. Once you had his loyalty and respect. Then we did a number of things that concerned us at the time. You had to remember that casino operators were just beginning in Las Vegas. They were building the Flamingo. It was rumored that Bugsy Siegel was squirreling away some money that he and Virginia Hill were going to take off with. They got the word, and organized crime had some $6 million invested in the Flamingo at the time. I went out with Lansky, simply because I was an accountant. We went out in December 1945, I guess it was. Of course that predated when I was with the IRC. But that was one of the things we were doing. We went out to check on Bugsy Siegel. He was killed in 1946. But we did the same sort of thing all though the 50s and 54 and all the way up to 1958. Never deviated from that, as far as doing the work for Licavoli and Meyer Lansky. It had very little to do with Trafficante. He of course, was the number one guy in Florida. But he was in Tampa. We had very little to do with him.
-When did you start to forge documents and run proprietaries for the CIA?
Holt: We started almost at once, in 1950, to try to figure out ways to establish identities. The first one we did was the name of Robert Ralston, which was the name I used when we went down to Guatemala. They had suggested that I use,… at the time I was using the name Holt, and they suggested that I create some kind of an identity. And I started at once, creating the Moon identity, which went back to that time. But we were doing documentation in a small way, even then. It didn’t really come to full fruitation until we went to California, in which they really wanted various documentation mills.
Page 6. Holt.
-Was it a proprietary interest?
Holt: A proprietary interest is what you call a wholly owned subsidiary. It is owned by the CIA. I mean they own it lock, stock and barrel, as opposed to,…they also have assets. They’re someone who does something else and are called on, like newspaper men,…a lot of things. They have agents of influence – they’re agents who are used form time to time to do the CIA’s bidding. They have, of course, the full blown contract agents, who usually work for some propriety interests, or they’re freelance, that they call on. They have contract agents so they can have plausible deniability. That’s the number one thing.
During the Bay of Pigs it was reputed that owned 56 companies in the Miami area. They had detective agencies, they had insurance companies, they had printing companies, airlines, they had their own little fleet, and of course they had the Lykes Line, which was out of New Orleans. But the Lykes Line was always at their beck and call, although it wasn’t really owned by them.
-What is a documentation mill?
Holt: I am talking about providing full sets of ID identity, either floating ones, that anyone can use, or deep cover ones. Usually on a deep cover ones would be partially…You would use the IDs that are produced to actually generate something that’s actually genuine. In other words, if you needed a driver’s license you would use something like a birth certificate to get the documents that were real. We use to produce credit cards and so forth, functional, but not usable, used for ID identification. But you didn’t charge anything on them.
-How did you create the identify of John R. Moon?
Holt: As far as Moon went, I knew a John R. Moon. I knew enough about him. And this is the same technique used in establishing all of these things. I know enough about John R. Moon. I knew where he was born, I knew where he went to school, I knew everything about him. We acquired this information in a very simple way. We simply advertised (for a job) and he sent in his resume. In which I just picked it up. Now the resume that was sent in, this man’s name was actually Jack Ralph Moon. Now everybody knows that Jack is the nickname for John. His name was actually Jack, but I decided to….(break in tape).
-Please repeat the answer.
Holt: We used the standard procedure that we used in practically all of the long standing ones that we were going to use. You found out as much as you could about this individual, where he was born, parents, school, everything about him. In the case of Moon, we got the information from the resume he sent us. He put everything on there.
You have to remember that back in that period, establishing identification was much easier than it is today. For instance, I could go into the Department of Motor Vehicles and get a drivers license without any problem. You could go to a bank and open an account by just putting money in there. You could to the Post Office and get a P.O. box. They didn’t ask you for anything at all. No problem. You didn’t need to verify anything. Later, throughout the years, it became more difficult. They wanted authenticated verification. So we had to develop some information that would get us a genuine drivers license or something like that. An authentic drivers license is a must because you can not run around using a forged drivers license.
-What is the advantage of using the name of a real person, as opposed to making up a fictitious alias?
Holt: So long as you don’t have interference form the real person, because this person actually exists. In the case, as in most of them, you had people running around actually with 2 names. In some cases, of course, you would pick a person that had to be dead. Unless someone actually knew they were dead, they would have an advantage. It is very hard to build up an identity that is completely false that will absolutely stand up. You have got to have some kind of a background.
-How did you develop your skills as a forger? How did you learn your craft?
Holt: Well, I was interested in art form the time I was six, seven years old. I sold my first painting in 1927 and I had been painting continually. During the war, when I worked at the Bethelem-Fairfield Shipyard Company, I was very interested in art and thought I’d like to make a career of it. I went to the Baltimore Art Institute. I also did anatomical drawings for some well known scientists at the John Hopkins University, actually the School of Medicine. Mostly there were physical anthropologists, so I was always interested in increasing my skills as a draftsman, and I was noted as being one of the better ones around. It just naturally followed that you could forge.
-What about the CIA operations against Castro you were involved in?
Holt: Operation Mongoose was the yoke and seed, almost idiotic plan to assassinate Castro, in which they decided, of the plans that they had, the one that ended up as Mongoose was the most ridiculous of all, in which they decided to use organized crime. The idea, I guess, was that organized crime was as skillful at that sort of thing.
There may be certain types of assassination that they’re good at, but other types they’re not. So they enlisted the better known names, Giancana, Roselli, in Operation Mongoose. And you had Edward Lansdale, and William King Harvey, all the guys who became legends. And there is no use in expounding on their careers and how they got involved in this.
Also, one of the lesser known people involved in this was Peter Licavoli. Licavoli was a confidant, close to both Giancana and Roselli. And he had a ranch in Tucson, Arizona. It was very nicely placed and had a landing strip on it. So he was involved in Mongoose because of the location (of his ranch), and it was a nice place to have meetings and they had meetings there. His involvement in Mongoose was a marginal type thing.
END OF TAPE
Holt (continued): I really don’t think that Roselli or Giancana or Mahu ever were all that serious about knocking off Castro. They wanted to get some leverage against the government. They were trying to deport Roselli, the were chasing Giancana all over the landscape and they were willing to use anything they could to actually give them an edge.
-You were involved in this operation. What were your duties?
Holt: We provided some assistance to them in the form of identification. We did very little actually as far as the operational end of it. As for as they were trying to poison Castro, they had some plan that we understood to be a viable plan that had been hatched by (Rafael) Trujillo. Of course you forget that Trujillo hated Castro with a passion and was an old hand at assassination. He was the one they could turn to if they,….I thought that was the best plan. Though they had a pretty good plan in place at one time where they were going to knock off Castro during one of those harranges at the television studio where he walks back and forth. But before they had a chance to implement it, the CIA and the State Department decided they were going to rid the country of Trujillo, so they concluded this thing.
Page 8. Holt.
But I am not as knowledgeable about Mongoose as some other operations. We (I) knew what was going on, we talked to William King Harvey. We discussed, we had seen Lansdale one time. We met down at Ray Ryan’s place in Palm Springs. Ray Ryan was a big gambler, an oil man. He was friends with Licavoli, Giancana. He had a propriety interest in Palm Springs – the Bermuda Dunes Airport, which is owned by the CIA. We had a meeting down there in which time, it was the only time I participated when all those groups got together. Which was in December, 1961, when they discussed project ZR/RIFLE. How they intended to proceed, they also indicated that James J. Angleton knew about it. And that they were going to insert things into what was called, we referred to as the Central Registry. They referred to em’ as the 201 Files. We were referring to them as the Central Registry. Frankly I don’t know the difference between the 201 File and the Central Registry. Now the Central Registry was…I don’t know the difference.
-What other operations were you more involved in than Mongoose?
Holt: Well after Castro came to power in January, 1959, there was a very, very short honeymoon, and the CIA began at once, or certain elements of the CIA was involved. The official stance from Langley was that they wanted no part in it. But other operatives from the CIA, together with organized crime, together with some anti-Castro Cubans, some of them were from Batista, some of them were from the Carlos Prio regime and so forth, were very anxious to get rid of Castro.
At that time Castro’s grip on Cuba was actually not that great. I mean that he was very heavily opposed, not only by Cubans in Miami, but by Cubans who were in Cuba at the time. They had a second front organization, which was critical. The second front organization which we were flying material, providing money and buying boats for them, and that was what led to the operation that William Alexander Morgan, – that I knew very well, whose career paralleled my own. I knew him. He was down there. He came to Miami, he and a guy named Talaha?, who had been an official in the Batista government. They were trying to develop funds for this operation. It turns out that Morgan was a double crosser and Castro knew all about the entire matter. And they actually had a bunch of Globemasters that were outfit by a company that Jimmie Hoffa owned, and they were actually scheduled to fly troops. One group actually went into Trinidad. They were putting up a big demonstration for them. Guns fired, and they saw signs all over the place saying, “Viva Americans,” “Down With Castro.” It was all really hyped?.
Actually they were trying to get the principle down there to execute him. It turned out that only a handful went down there, 10-12 guys, in a C-54, and Castro grabbed the.
-What about the Bay of Pigs?
Holt: Well our involvement, I was still with the IRC- the International Rescue Committee. Our involvement as far as the IRC went, was strictly from a fiscal point of view.
Initially the Bay of Pigs was to be a very small, secret operation. It depended upon the uprising of the Cuban people. It wasn’t going to be an over the beach amphibious assault that it finally turned into. But after it got transformed, a guy from the Marine Corps, Jack Hawkins came over, then it got to be a, like a Terra-type of assault. It became a great logistical problem. The thing to do was to look around and get, especially the ships and other equipment, this was simply, principally what the IRC did at that time. It was a conduit for all of those funds,…but the logistical problems.
Holt: ….Like some of the others like Rip Robertson and Graceton Lynch, who as far as I know were the only two Americans that were actually on board ship at the time. We had very little involvement in that.
Page 9. Holt.
-Where were you?
Holt: I was in Miami. I left in t he latter part of April, almost immediately after the Bay of Pigs. I went to California. It w as partly because a purging from the company and partly at the insistence of Licavoli and Lansky. I just wanted a change of scenery and they said, “Why don’t you go to California. We need a documentation mill out there. We have a lot of friends out there,…” and that’s when I went out there, before the assassination of Trujillo. I went to California in May, 1961.
-Would you characterize your activity at this time as criminal, but authorized?
Holt: It was all very criminal and involved,…was authorized by the CIA, and some was not. Every contract agent that I know had some little thing going on the side. And ht CIA never objected, so long as it did not interfere with their operations. When we had a documentation mill and we were forging documents and disinformation for them, and if we wanted to do something else on our own, we got no interference from them at all.
-What about the Bay of Pigs fiasco. It was a disaster for this country, and much of the blame was laid at the feet of John Kennedy. Do you recall the scuttlebutt? What was going through the grapevine of your group at this time?
Holt: It ran very strongly against him, not only with the Americans, but with the Cubans, to the point where his conduct was characterized as cowardly, as treasonous and they felt they had been led into something and they were simply deserted. And this would not have happened if there was another president.
-How did Licavoli and Lansky feel about it?
Holt: Both of them held great resentment…although both of these individuals, as they knew it, thought the plan was too hard. They didn’t think that was the way to retake Cuba. They were as interested as anyone else in getting back because it cost millions in casino receipts and they were very interested in it, but both of these individuals thought, their viewpoint was that this couldn’t have happened under a president like Eisenhower, and Eisenhower, of course, was president during the Guatemala operation, and he gave full responsibility to the commanders there to do what they would, and if they needed military backup, they would have it.
-In California you worked for both the CIA and organized crime. Would you describe that?
Holt: When I first went to California I had a long list of friends of either Lansky, organized crime and the Company, and of course, I was looking for employment and the company was looking for businesses there. Perhaps one that I could run. Something within my capabilities. So one of the longtime assistants of Meyer Lansky was Doc Strather. He finely ended up, …he was a titan of organized crime, like Lansky. The only time they ever got Lansky was on some gun wrap in upstate New York. And Strather? was arrested with him. So he had a lot of influence in California and we went out there and were given a lot of very prominent names of people who we could count on for employment or for assistance. Among those were Goodwin Knight, a former governor of California. There was Alfred Giberson?, who was a Superior Court Judge, and a whole group of individuals who worked with him, known as the KG Group. They had a company called KGO, and maybe a dozen companies they operated.
Page 10. Holt.
Among the individuals that was with him was Morris Kaling?, Sid Colby?, Isadore Reinhard?, these were guys who Lansky said, “If you want a job, you go to these guys. They are always looking for someone whose talented, yet not to scrupulous to do these things.”
On the other, we also had some democrats. These guys were all dyed in the water republicans, but we also had some democrats. Principally among these was Frank Belcher, who was one of the most prominent attorneys in California, president of bar associations, he was very rich, his wife was a Penitz?, and he could be counted on to provide service. His grand daughter was with the Bank of America.
So we were given these people, and they said, “We’re also looking for some other interests. We’re looking for a documentation mill. We’d like to have an on going concern. So we started looking into an old line company – the Los Angeles Stamp and Stationary Company, LASCO, which was owned by Philip Shore. He was the board director, and he was in dire financial straits. So “the Company” came in and bailed him out. He had a real nice building in downtown Los Angeles. They did all types of badges, banners, that sort of thing. They had police badges actually, from every municipality in the United States. They had drawers of them. So it was the type of operation the CIA was looking for.
-When you say “the Company,” you mean the CIA.
-They actually gave you instructions to look for a specific propriety company that they could acquire in LA to produce documents that we have described here as illegal, illicit forms that could pass for real documents?
Holt: Yes. LASCO, we referred to it. We bailed them out and brought in a man by the name of Tony Materna?, who had been very high up in the Hughes organization, to run the company. 95% of their business was legitimate, and they continued to do their legitimate business. Probably 5%, not more, would be for the Company. But if you needed something, then they had a wonderful facility. Four stories, the lower three stories were devoted to their, what you would call legal activities. The top floor had all this specialized graphics equipment, photograph studio….we used that from 1961 till 1972.
They were also interested in a fixed base operation where they had hangers, airport repair facilities and that sort of thing. We found that at Bermuda Downs, which is between Palm Springs and Indio?, California. It was isolated. It was a nice area, and the Company put up the money to buy Bermuda Downs Airport, which was fronted by Ray Ryan, a big developer in that area, and Ernie Dunlevy, who had been an Air Force pilot and had connections with the OSS.
We also located at the Van Nyes Airport, where we had a facility that was operated by an individual by the name of Roger Clarke. His last name had an “e” on the end. He had a number of very qualified flight instructors, Al of whom had flown for Paragon Air Service in Miami and Inter-Mountain, which was another propriety interest of the Company which was not as well known as Air America or CAT, but was the same type of operation. Ray Rafferty was a full time flight instructor who had flown for Paragon Air.
James J. Canty was a high level official of the Veterans Administration. He was able to, this gave him plenty of opportunity to fly all over the country. He had no problem at all going anywhere he wanted to. At the same time Frank Belcher Jr. had a company, Belcher Aircraft. Although his father and mother were worth millions, they sort of looked down the nose at him because he married the wrong girl. So they weren’t giving him too much in the way of financial assistance. So he went into Belcher Aircraft, and we also used him from time to time because he was an ATR? rated pilot and he was a very close personal friend. He was the type of person who would not shrink from asking you to do anything and you wouldn’t shrink from asking him to do anything. There are very few individuals in that business that fit into that category.
Page 11. Holt.
-At this time you did some printing that ended up with Lee Harvey Oswald?
Holt: Among the assignments we got, and I guess I should elaborate. I should point out of course, one name I haven’t mentioned and probably the most important on the West Coast was Phillip A. Twombly.
Twombly had been at one time an Executive Vice President of Coca Cola for their Caribbean operations. And along with Donald Kendall (Pepsi Cola), was considered by the CIA to be the eyes and ears of the CIA (down there). So he came to California and bought a bank in Fullerton, which was strictly for the use as a conduit of finances.
All of the instructions that came to the West Coast came through Twombly. Twombly in turn, we would, we rarely met face to face. He had two assistance, one, a man by the name of David L. Palmer, and he had a gentleman by the name of Marilyn Mahab?, who used to pass on all the information to us in the way of instructions as to what we were to provide.
All of the requests that came for the stuff that we were to produce for Oswald, who we had never heard of, didn’t even know, came from, through Twombly. These were pamphlets we were suppose to do, false identifications, a number of false identifications that ended up in the hands of authorities. We did IDs for Oswald in both his name and Hidel. Some of which I know never ended up with anybody. What happened to them? I don’t know.
-You prepared these IDs and leaflets for Oswald. What were you ordered to do with them?
Holt: Sometime between April and June of 1963 was when we first delivered the first documents and leaflets to Oswald. We were given instructions, Dave Palmer gave us instructions. He gave us the copy for them, and we printed them up. And we delivered the documents to George Reynolds. His aide de camp delivered them to New Orleans. Also at that time, we had two kinds of IDs. We had one ID that had Oswald’s name and Oswald’s picture and another with Oswald’s name, but obviously not Oswald’s picture.
All of these went to George Reynolds. George Reynolds ran the Achafalaya? labor camp among other interests, in Morgan City, Louisiana. The order to produce them and where to deliver them came from Phillip Twombly’s office in Fullerton, California. George Reynolds operated a number of companies in the Morgan City area, as far away as Lafayette, but most of his main interests was the Achafalaya? labor camp, which had a P.O. box in Morgan City, although the camp itself was further down in the Op. Swamp.
We came to know George Reynolds first, through an individual by the name of Guy Main, a close associate of Doctor Park, a Korean. It was our understanding that Park was on MacArthur’s staff at the end of WWll and had close ties to the KCIA. And he came to California. Guy Main had an office in his building, which was located at 2600 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills.
George Reynolds accepted them I think that probably Leroy Young? delivered them to Oswald. The first time they were used we were not present there in New Orleans because he was distributing them outside some naval base and got shooed away, or something happened. We did not get involved until some months later, in August of 1963. We were advised that Oswald needed some moral support to give out these leaflets. So we went over to create a presence there.
Phillip Twombly asked us if we would be willing to fly to New Orleans and give some support to Oswald, who was a stranger to us. The only thing we knew about Oswald at the time was we had detected the address on there as being 544 Camp Street. Although we were not familiar with Oswald we certainly knew what was at 544 Camp Street because we had done that before. It was the HQ of Sergio A. Smith’s organization, the CRC. There was a restaurant in the first floor and Guy Bannister had an office in the building, although he used an address around the corner, it was in the same building. And George Reynolds knew the man who owned the building, a guy by the name of Sam Newman, and he knew him.
Page 12. Holt.
So we knew the connection that way, but as far as who Oswald was, we got to see that there was some kind of a disinformation program because Oswald’s name was on documentation and it wasn’t his picture. And others had his picture and his name, although at the time we had never seen Oswald and we didn’t know which one was the real guy.
I mean it could of been the others, Frank Belcher Jr., “Bud” he was called Bud to differentiate him from his father. We flew one of his airplanes down to Morgan City, stopped there and went up to New Orleans. We didn’t fly into New Orleans International. We try to avoid those airports if we could not only because the traffic is heavy, but the controls and so forth. But we went up to some field near Lake Ponchartrain. I don’t remember exactly which one we used.
One of George Reynold’s associates, who we had never seen before, although he was driving a station wagon (with the firm’s name on the door), George Reynold’s chemical company, who drove us down to New Orleans. That was the first time we saw Oswald. This was down on Canal Street when he was handing out pamphlets.
We stayed in New Orleans at that Hotel that was ….it had tropical in its name, not on the airport highway, and not the Town and Country, although I know George Reynolds stopped there.
We were there and Oswald started handing out the leaflets and we were right in anti-Castro country you know. Bud Belcher went down with me, and he actually handed out some of the leaflets. He was dressed almost like Oswald, but I wasn’t. Leroy Young was there. I don’t think he gave out any. There were some other people there I had never seen before. I didn’t know who they were. People were coming and going, some seemed to be passers by, some seemed to have an unusual interest in it as if they were part of the group without actually taking part in it.
This was on Canal Street, on August 9th, I believe. They were one week apart. The other (incident of Oswald’s leafleting was) in front of the Trade Mart was on the 16th of August, 1963.
The first was when they had a little disturbance which didn’t really amount to much, although it looked like it was going to evolve into something serious, and I didn’t want to get involved. I wasn’t about to defend Oswald or anybody else.
But when Carlos Bringuier came down there he didn’t seem to be very serious about whipping Oswald real bad. It seemed like a joke to him. I thought it was maybe contrived.
Then I went back to California. Even before that incident, around April, the word came out that something was in the wind that was going to come down in the later part of that year. It was one of the few times we met directly with Phil Twombly. Because of the fact we met with him, suddenly, before that our funds had dried up to a trickle. Not that we were hurting for money. Because we still had the normal side of the business, but we weren’t getting any assignments until April of 1963. Then they said something was in the wind and would happen that year.
After the incident with Oswald in August of 1963, there was a frenzy of activity, especially in September, for providing unusual orders for documents. Not the Secret Service documents, but a lot of documents being produced could be used for any type of operation you could think of. However, as it wore on, we began getting inquiries as to whether we could do the Secret Service documents, which is very different than doing other types because its in book form and it includes little recognitions like the lapel pins they wore every day.
In an emergency, in their coming and going, they are recognized by those pins. LASCO was set up nicely to do this kind of thing because they provide badges for police departments. They do all kinds of badges. So action really picked up and we were asked, in November, to produce a whole range, not all the Secret Service documents, just certain ones. We produced about, between November 15th,…we received orders on November 15th, on the type of pins that were going to be worn in Dallas that day. The pins themselves, it wasn’t the background, that never changed, it was the markings on the pins that determined what was going to be used that day.
We were under a time constraint for when we received the order November 15th, and were told that we had to be in Dallas on the night of the 21st. George Reynolds had a plane that he had already bought that we were going to take back to California.
Page 13. Holt.
The plane that we had to use, a Cessna 175….was a poor airplane, it was really underpowered for a cross country flight.
So since we were going to be leaving from Arizona, we felt we could drive it in about 20 hours.
-Who were we?
Holt: John J. Canty was the pilot coming along simply to fly the plane back with me. I could of flown the plane back myself. I had never flown a Comanche 260 before but it would of been no problem. You look at the handbook and that’s it. But Canty wanted to come along and we said, “Yea, Okay.” At the last minute however, when we left Licavoli Grace Ranch, Charles Nicoletti and Leo Moceri? indicated they wanted to make the drive with us. And we would all alternate driving so we could drive straight through.
They were going to Louisiana. I thought they were going to New Orleans, maybe not, maybe they were going to Lafayette, maybe they were meeting Marchello, I don’t know.
So we left California by plane to Grace Ranch, simply to break it up. It’s 1400 miles and 1,000 more miles to Dallas. So we stopped there and Nicoletti and Moceri were at Pete Licavoli ranch outside of Tucson. We stopped to break up the trip and picked them up because they wanted to drive with us as far as Dallas.
So in the car there was James “Joe” Canty, called Joe, Charlie Nicoletti, Leo Moceri and myself.
-What’ the Grace Ranch. Where does the name come from?
Holt: The Grace Ranch was named for Pete Licavoli wife, whose name was Grace. It was a very, very nice set up. It was isolated at the time, not anymore. It was surrounded by a lot of acreage. It had a very nice landing strip on it. It was ideal. Organized crime used it all the time for meetings. It was set up like a motel style so there were eight or ten units there. Two swimming pools. It was a very nice place. When they had problems to solve in Las Vegas, for instance, they had the dispute with Gus Greenbaum at the Riviera. They met there and decided what to do about Mister Greenbaum.
The Grace Ranch was probably the most popular meeting place for the Mafia. I would say it was the western counterpart to Marchello’s Churchill Farm. It was like a fortification. You couldn’t get in or out. It was fenced in, it had a landing strip. It was set up as a motel and had another advantage. It was near Mirana?, which was a main CIA base for the Company. They had a huge, huge facility at Mirana, which was right outside Tucson. So it was a nice place to fly in.
The Italian wetbacks came by that route. They came to Point Mirano’s ? ranch in Vera Cruz, and came up and stopped off at Licavoli’s. But mainly it was a meeting place.
-How many sets of documents were you delivering to Dallas?
Holt: I’d say we had at least ten sets of documents. Some I can remember who they were, some I can’t. But we had some I don’t have any idea whether they were there or not. I never saw them. We’re talking about individuals like Orlando Octoro?. We had documents for Rolando Masfara. WE had some for other Miami based Cubans. I didn’t know if they were produced for this operation or not. I’m confidant the Secret Service IDs were involved in this operation . Of course we gave them to Harrelson, Charles Harrelson. We gave them to an individual we knew by the name of Richard Montoya.
-Did you know Harrelson and Montoya personally?
Holt: I had seen a lot of pictures of him, because we provided the documents. I knew him by reputation because according to what was told to us, he was supposedly involved in the gunshop operated by John Masen, and we were told that and we had furnished a lot of ammunition for them. We were told by a guy, a gunrunner who probably ended up at Leavenworth,….Harrelson was associated with Masen’s Dallas gunshop.
We had shipped, and by we I mean our operation we had at the Balita? Airport at Santa Barbara, which was known as the GMB Machine Tool Company. Our interest in that particular operation, which again the CIA rescued when they had money problems, was the fact that it was a weapons modification plant. We produced silencers by the hundreds, we hired an excellent re-loader, to reload ammunition to special specifications, including ammunition shipped or delivered to Masen’s. Sometimes we shipped it, sometimes we delivered it by someone else.
-What was the purpose of this ammunition?
Holt: Most of the ammunition was specially loaded ammunition. Sometimes it would exceed factory specifications in some instances. We also loaded ammunition that was furnished to us. In other words they furnished the bullets and even the casings. There was nothing unusual about the primers, so we fired the primers. We loaded it with the amount of powder, according to the specifications, that included underpowered ammunition that would practically dribble out of the barrel of the gun. Almost like a co-shot when you used the primer only. The little bit of powder was to ensure that it didn’t get stuck in the barrel.
-You were not an ammunition manufacturer, nor knew the purpose of the ammunition?
Holt: No. The only ammunition was,…we surmised it (the underpowered ammunition) was going to be shot without sufficient velocity to hurt anyone. It was not designed to actually shoot anyone, or hurt anyone.
We’re talking about maybe 300 to 400 rounds of 6.5 and 7.5,… the hotloads of course, we wanted those to exceed the factory ammunition up to the very extent we could without blowing up the gun, in order to give it a lot of velocity.
What I want to point out was, we received from Masen’s, we received what looked like pristine ammunition. Unfired ammunition. Upon first examination it looked like it was absolutely unfired and hadn’t passed through anything. It was to be reloaded to their specifications, and we reloaded it. But upon closer examination, you could see it had been fired at least once. We had no idea what the purpose of it, except obviously we came into possession of some bullets that perhaps
had been fired probably into water. It hadn’t been damaged and had some markings on them that could be identified as having been fired from a rifle. They had been shipped to Masen’s. We had been instructed to finish the documents and to deliver them to Dallas, with some other guns, all handguns. We didn’t have a rifle in the bunch. We had some handguns that were silencer equipped and fit into aluminum cases, a regular photographer’s case. Which we were going to deliver to Masen’s.
-What caliber were these weapons?
Holt: These were all 9 mm with the exception of probably, maybe two that were .22, either .22 high standards or 22 lugers. We used them a lot, so there were .22s and the others were 9 mm Browning highpowers.
-Do you remember when you left Grace Ranch?
Holt: We left Grace Ranch on the evening of the 20th of November, planning to drive straight through and sharing the driving so that we could come straight through and expecting to arrive in Dallas sometime on the evening of the 21st. We were instructed to go directly to the Cabana.
Holt: The Cabana Hotel or Motel, not too far from Dealey Plaza. It was a motel built with Teamster money.
-Who was in the car again?
Holt: There was James J. Canty, whom I had known for a long time. He was a pilot. His activities were strictly limited to flying operations…ferrying…any type of operation like that. He had worked, at one time, for Inter-Mountain, which was located out of Tucson, Arizona. And he had also flown for Paragon Air Service in Miami. Both of these were proprieties of the Central Intelligence Agency.
He (Canty) really was not a shooter. He was first an excellent pilot and flight instructor who worked for the Veterans Administration. He had plenty of opportunities to go anywhere he wanted to, cause he could coordinate it with his other business without any problem.
The other individuals were…(Leo Moceri and Charlie Nicoletti), along with Canty.
-He was to fly back with you?
Holt: He, (Canty), was to fly the Comanche, which had already been purchased and was at Redbird Airport, which was a little bit south of Dallas. That place belonged to Southwest Aircraft Corp., another propriety interest of the CIA that had been incorporated many years ago. Licavoli had taken it over long before we ever got involved with the CIA, but at that time it was used time to time by the CIA. They paid all the tiedown fees for all the aircraft. We had at least 6 aircraft at the time, and they paid the tiedown fees, they paid the insurance, they paid all the expenses.
-Where did the funds to make that trip come from?
Holt: We had probably $4,000-$5,000 between us, because we always had lost of money, lots of cash, and we never, ever used any credit cards, never. An examination of all the bank accounts that we had, which we still have records of, would indicate the amounts of money that went through these bank accounts, thousands of dollars would go through them in a weeks time.
Holt: The Bank of America was the bank that their bank accounts were with. The bank from which their funds came to us was the bank at Fullerton, California, which is the Interstate Bank. But at the time it was known as the Bank of Fullerton, California. The stock was 100% owned by Phillip A. Twombly. He was the president of the bank.
They would send money to the Bank of America, where we had five separate accounts in the names of John R. Moon or John R. Moon and somebody else. The reason for having so many bank accounts was they were able to circumvent the restrictions of taking a lot of cash, we could take as much as $25,000 out in one day without it ever being recorded.
Page 16. Holt.
I’m not sure whether the recording requirements at that time, if anything in excess of $10,000 had to be recorded or not, I don’t know, but we just didn’t want to draw a lot of attention to ourselves. It was the same money, we were just switching it around. We’d rotate a check on one bank account for say about $1500, then the other $1500. So we could get large amounts of cash without being too obvious.
-Who were the other two men in the car with you and Canty?
Holt: The other two men, (Nicoletti and Moceri) were longtime associates of Peter Licavoli. Both of whom had been involved in Cuban politics and had been involved with Jimmy Hoffa. Although it wasn’t common knowledge was that Hoffa was involved in Cuban politics up to his neck. He owned a company called ACROS?, and they produced airplanes. Hugh transport planes. They were longtime associates of not only Licavoli, Moceri had known Licavoli longer than I had. He had known him for 40 years, and had been involved as one of the suspects in the Jackie Kennedy killing…(the bootlegger, not the President). He was a U.S. citizen, as was Charlie Nicoletti.
Nicoletti was also a hit man of some note. Hew as an enforcer and a contract killer. I don’t know if he was on the payroll of the CIA or not. Or whether he was working independently or not. The same with Moceri. I have no idea who paid them, but we didn’t give them any money.
They were going on to Louisiana, we assumed they were going to New Orleans,…to see Marchello. Thy had known him for a long time. Marchello and Licavoli were close, although they didn’t associate too well because in the Mafia you can’t afford to associate with each other. But they worked though intermediaries and they knew each other. Of course the ones who worked for Carlos Marchello and Civello and these guys, they knew and were close to the old timers in Dallas, like Benny Binion, Ernie “the Cap” Nobel and those guys. They knew all of those guys very well.
-When did you arrive in Dallas?
Holt: We didn’t arrive in Dallas until early the following morning, on the morning of the 22nd, for the simple reason that we had some car trouble, some bad weather, and it took longer to drive than we thought. We were scheduled to go to the Motel, the Cabana, and get there that evening. We were told that Morgan Brown,…I knew who he was although I didn’t know him that well… I knew his brother Morgan? G. Brown But I understood that Morgan and Eugene “Jim” Brading, I knew him, and Dave Yaras, was suppose to be at the Cabana.
We were suppose to deliver all the documents and put them in a pickup truck. We already identified the pickup, with a camper shell and Texas license plates on it. It was suppose to be at the Cabana. If that didn’t work out, if there was a delay for any reason, then we were all to…the pickup truck was to be in the parking lot at Dealey Plaza, and that’s where we found it. They told us it was near the railroad yards behind the picket fence by the Texas Book Depository, near the tower by the railroad yards. We were suppose to put it in there, the truck, and we were suppose to wait around. And that ended our responsibility.
-You had communications equipment?
Holt: I had a state of the art, hand held trans-sever, which was made by ICOM, top of the line. We had been provided with the frequencies of the Dallas Police Department and were able to monitor the motorcade on the 2 channels they were operating on. To make sure there wasn’t any mixup, they were crystal controlled, although normally they aren’t crystal controlled, but this was, just like an aircraft transever. So we could monitor what was going on. That was provided by Twombly at the very beginning, or from David Palmer. We had a lot of equipment. When I say it was provided by him, all of this equipment came from Twombly, purchased by them, and provided by other….It was fair to assume this was a strange trip.
Page 17. Holt.
-What was out of the ordinary, unusual about this trip?
Holt: The safety precautions. Eating at out of the way places. Not being up front about where we were going to go. Not being told the full extent of what was happening or what was going to happen. Not being told what personnel was going to be there, or whether we could trust these individuals, some of which we knew. Some of whom we knew as notorious double crossers and tipple crossers, like …Seraphin…we knew. Aldo Vera Seraphin was a premier assassin often used by the CIA. He was also suspected of being a double agent for Castro. He was also suspected of being an FBI informant. And reputed to be very untrustworthy. We had delt with him for many years. Same way with…he was in the same category as Carlos Morales. The guy would double cross anybody, but he was useful and would be used from time to time. He was Cuban and we were to provide documentation for him. I didn’t see Seraphin, nor did I see Orlando Bosch. The documents were left in the truck. These items were to be distributed by Homer Echeveria, who was as anti-Kennedy as you could absolutely get.
-At what point did you know JFK was going to be in Dallas?
Holt: We knew before we left, sometime probably after November 18th. We were advised that he was going to be in San Antonio, Houston and Dallas, although we were not privy to the route. We did not known what the route was going to be. We had been told an incident was going to be created which could be laid at the door of pro-Castro Cubans. The word attempted assassination was never used. We assumed that from all this light loaded ammunition that maybe somebody was going to try to take a shot from somewhere, probably the Dal-Tex building, or one of the buildings around there. But at no time was it ever intimidated to us that an assassination or attempted assassination on Kennedy, Connally,…there were other targets there as well. Somebody might have wanted to knock off Gonzalez. We had (been operating on) a need to know basis. It may sound stupid but, if they had (told us), I’d have been back at Grace Ranch, relaxing.
It was such an elaborate set up. When you think back, I couldn’t possibly have been so duped. When we saw him on TV and he said, “I’m just a patsy!” I tell you the word really rang home.
-What is a “need to know” basis?
Holt: A need to know operation are central, not only to the CIA, but for organized crime or anything else. The information is imparted to individuals on a need to know basis. If you try to inquire, just one time, if you show a some curiosity, just one time, as to what is going on, then you won’t be around. You’ll either be dead, or you’ll be ostracized. Not only is it isolation from top to bottom, but latterly as well. It operates not only at the higher ups, naturally they are interested in protecting themselves more than anyone else. These guys down here are protecting themselves, too. It’s just another example of plausible deniability. I say, “hey, give me a lie detector test!” If they ask, “Did you, were you there for the purpose of assassinating Kennedy or engaging in an attempted assassination of Kennedy,” and in all honesty, we could say, “No, I wasn’t.”
-Is it a fair assumption to say that on most operations you worked in the blind?
Holt: More often than not it is rare that you see the Big Picture, a broad stroke picture. Most of the time you are engaged in one little, small…(part)…with very generalized instructions, and in retrospect, they were rather bizarre. We had been assured that the whole incident would be over by 12:25 and that if anything went untowed happened, that created any activity as far as law enforcement or any government agency or anything like that occurred in that area, that sitting on the siding would be this train. It could be identified as a Rock Island Train.
Page 18. Holt.
They said that the train would be locked on one side, but not the other side. It would be unlocked, and it would not be searched and we could go on the train and we would be concealed, and the train would be moved out almost immediately, and we could jump off very quickly and that’s how we were to exit the situation.
No one suggested that we get back to the Oldsmobile and drive out of the parking lot. They should have given us that option I suppose. But when you receive those types of instructions, you don’t really inquire as to the rational or even inquire. That’s how you operate.
-Where were you when the motorcade went past?
Holt: At the time I was in the parking lot back near the railroad tracks, behind the grassy knoll. I couldn’t even see the motorcade. I saw the lead cars come buy, but we never got a glimpse. I was the only individual back there at the time. Others were wandering around. There were a lot of people in the area, some were dressed in suits, others were dressed in work clothes, they had construction workers wandering around there. There were lots and lots of people around there, but as far as my colleagues went, I was the only one there at the time.
-You encountered Harrelson and Montoya there, who you knew ?
Holt: Harrelson came up and actually introduced himself to me as though we had just had a business meeting. He said to me, in his typical Texas accent, “I’m Harrelson.” And we shook hands. But at the time this happened (the assassination), I hadn’t seen him. He had been there for awhile I didn’t see him at that particular…(moment).
When I encountered him was when I had went back and scooted to the railroad car. I thought probably I would be the only one there. Then I see Harrelson and the individual I knew as “Montoya,” that I had seen three or four times over a three or four year period.
I met Montoya the first time in 1959. When we were trying to elicit funds from Orlando Petra, who was Batista’s paymaster. He lived on Pine Tree drive in Miami. And when I went over there, there were a number of individual, bodyguards and such. And this individual introduced himself as “Richard Montoya,” although I must admit he didn’t look like the rest of the Cubans.
He looked like he might be Latin. He was dark, but he didn’t look like….He was a cut away from the other Cubans, although he spoke excellent Spanish.
At the time of the shooting, the moment the shots were fired, we (I) knew something went awry. We didn’t know why, but from the screaming and carrying on we knew that there had been one hell of a bad incident. At the time, what went through our minds was, “Hey, we had gotten ourselves into something that is way over our heads.” So I scooted under the train, went under to the other side, encountered Harrelson and Montoya, we searched out the car, which was not too far from the engine, (#7?), climbed in it, closed the door and sat there in silence, while I monitored the radio and listened to what was going on.
We were in the railroad car by 12:31-12:32, almost immediately,…as soon as the shooting started, and there was pandemonium and people were running all over the place. When actually, we look back on it, we could of easily of lost ourselves in all of this stuff. We could have gotten right up to the grassy knoll and thrown ourselves on the ground, like everybody else was, and started screaming, and that would have been the end of it.
We were in the box car a long time. Actually we heard a lot of transmissions. I estimated that it was almost 2 o’clock, although my watch was still on Arizona time. I had a bad habit of not changing my watch. So I think we stayed in there till practically 2 o’clock. We were still in there during the time when we heard the transmissions involving Tippit and back and forth. We heard a lot of other communications. We heard the call than an officer had been dying. I am told and I believe it was somewhere around 1:15 when we heard about the incident at the Texas theater, although we didn’t know what happened.
Page 19. Holt.
So I thought it was possibly 2 o’clock before the train actually started to move. We started to move, backing down the tracks a little ways. We thought it was going to move, then we starts to backup. I thought they were going to switch us onto another track.
Then suddenly the thing stopped. They opened the door and there was a whole bunch of police officers with shotguns and everything else. We saw, the box car was not a fully loaded box car, but in this box car was ammunition, unusual ammunition. Defcord?, crates that looked like they were possibly claymore mines, drums marked : MUD, which seemed like drilling mud, which was unusual to be with the rest of this material. Which I assumed to be C-4 or some plastic explosives.
The officer too us out, we tried to identify ourselves. We said, “Hey, we’re federal agents working on this thing,” and they said, “Come with us.” So we strolled along and actually we went back, we came out of the yard, we went by the Texas Depository building, across the street. I would say Harrelson and I were sort of dragging along, but Montoya, he was really digging out. He was actually right up behind the lead officer. he turned us over to two officers, the officer in charge, we later learned was Harkness.
In the photos, the individual in front is the individual I knew as Richard Montoya. The individual behind him I knew as Charles Harrelson. I had reason to believe that’s who he actually was, even though I didn’t know him that well. I “I’m confident that’s who it was. And I’m the gentleman in the back, carrying the bag with the radio in it.
We were not placed under arrest. We were taken across, and someone interviewed us momentarily, and turned us over to someone else. A person I later learned was Captain Fritz, he said not two or three words to us. He said he was turning us over to the FBI. His name was Gordon Shanklin.
He asked us who were, what we were doing there. Just about this time, while were doing this, there was a lot of confusion, a lot of pandemonium, and actually a lot of, I would term jubilation on the part of all of the police officers in there, especially Gordon Shanklin, which led us to believe that our release was because of something that happened. Although they had said it on a number of occasions, someone else was arrested. They had caught someone in the Dal Tex building. I heard someone say, “We got one of them.” But then when the matter came in that they had indicated they had got the individual that had killed the cop in Oakland (sic: Oakcliff), all at once it seemed to me, even what I considered prematurely, they indicated they had the guy that shot the president too. And at that time the level of attention on us,…they had some other people they had detained and looked like they were going to arrest, including Braden.
Jim Braden was there. I didn’t recognize him at first, because he had a hat on with some kind of Texas style hat band on it, and I didn’t know him all that well, if you know what I mean. But I knew that I recognized him like I recognize you.
But once we got in there, and these events come off because they happened almost at the time we arrived there. Then the attention shifted a lot at once, from us to Oswald, who turned out to be Oswald. I assumed that it was their normal enthusiasm about having captured a cop killer, is what I thought. Because they treat cop killers a hell of a lot different than they treat killers of anyone else. Not the president of course. But at that point, Gorden Shanklin,… we hadn’t been in there too long. We were there a little while. And all this time, …then who we are came up, then they were very careless. We were strolling around, people were coming around. They didn’t treat us like dangerous suspects. They didn’t handcuff us. Plus they didn’t search us, and we were heavily armed.
-What building were you taken to?
Holt: We were taken to the Sheriff’s Department, right there on Dealey Plaza. Didn’t walk far. We didn’t make a statement. Weren’t fingerprinted. Weren’t taken to the jail (where) I assume we would have been taken. Then Gordon Shanklin said, “you’re free to go.”
Page 20. Holt.
We left together. They split and I split too. I didn’t know what they were going to do. I was going to try to get back to California.
Morgan H. Brown was going to take us to the airport. We (I) called (the Cabana) and they said that he had checked out at 2 o’clock. So we went down to try to find somebody to drive us out there. Looking back, I don’t know why we just didn’t get a cab and get ourselves as far away as we could.
They left Braden. Braden didn’t get out until probably 3 o‘clock. Braden had a car he was driving. Canty was ready at the airport. Revved up the engines. Checked everything for us to go and he expected us to be at the airport before 1 O’clock. When we went out there he had already preflighted the airplane…He asked us if we wanted to file a flight plan and we said no, we’ll file it enroute to Witchatau Falls, just get out of town.
-When did you know the president was shot?
Holt: We heard, within five months after the shooting, that somebody had been shot. The airwaves were very congested at the time. We heard sheriff Decker…We heard someone was being taken to Parkland hospital. Possibly within five minutes we knew both Kennedy and Connally had been shot and that a little after l o’clock that the president was dead.
-Describe the airplane you flew out of Redbird Airport in?
Holt: The airplane was a Comanche 250. But it was specially modified for short take off, with 3 bladed…I still have the end number, because I still have it somewhere, because Frank Belcher ended up selling the airplane for me. I don’t remember the precise color, but I do remember that on the tail of the airplane it had a monstrous picture of a gear, because at one time it had belonged to someone in the business of making gears. That’s all I can remember about the plane.
-What did you learn from monitoring the police radio?
Holt: We learned, we already knew that the president was dead. The news reports were constant. That Connally was going to survive and that the assassin had been captured. At that time of course, we realized we were involved to some extent. Although Canty wasn’t privy to as much information as I was, and we simply dismissed the thing, I was sure that Oswald was set up.
-From 1942 till 1977 it appears you avoided arrest?
Holt: Well, it wasn’t because I wasn’t engaged in criminal activities. I would assume it was because most of the time we were under the protection of the U.S. government. That some of those activities we were engaged in, not for any government agency, but aside from it, they turned a deaf ear to it simply because of the fact they didn’t want to interfere with other types of operations.
-What happened in 1977 that you weren’t offered that protection?
Holt: It actually started in 1975 when Schlesinger and Turner came into the CIA. They proceeded to purge all the cowboys in the field and they sent a lot to prison. I was one of those at the time. I was indicted in 1975 and a fugitive till 1977, when I went to prison. At which time I had a whole series of charges against me, and pleaded guilty to one charge of mail fraud.
-Is it fair to say you are a career criminal?
Page 21. Holt.
-Why have you come forward now?
Holt: Several individual have been wrongly accused of having been the tramps. Possibly some of them deserve having been accused of that, or something else, and I specifically refer to someone like Frank Sturgis, who incidentally ran afoul of the law on something else and ended up in prison. Howard Hunt, who was falsely identified as the person I claim to be.
There’s a lot of mystery surrounding the assassination. I felt that my information is from a point of view that probably, if I am believed, would lay to rest these ideas that Jack Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald were just nuts that passed in the night.
And I always felt a sympathy for Oswald. I just didn’t fell it’s right, or his children should be stuck with that stigma, that’s all.
-Do you feel harm could come to you?
Holt: Of course, but I’m certainly not going to shrink from it.