by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT
YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.
Dan Lasater is a talented entrepreneur. Born poor in rural Arkansas, he started a chain of hamburger restaurants called Scotty's at the age of 19 and succeeded in undercutting McDonald's by selling burgers at 12 cents instead of 15 cents -- and making up the profits with a higher price for french fries, a formula that apparently made him a millionaire by his mid-twenties.  By the time he was 30 he was the owner of the Ponderosa steakhouse chain in Ohio and Indiana, with annual sales of more than $300 million. Cashing in his equity for around $15 million,  he turned to horse racing and soon became the most successful breeder and racer of thoroughbreds in the world. With stables of 80 horses in Florida and Kentucky, he was the leading money winner three years in succession -- 1974, 1975, and 1976 -- netting a total of $10 million in prizes, and winning the Eclipse Award of the racing industry. But according to a police statement by one of his employees, Lasater's success with the horses was achieved by "putting in the boot"-fixing the races. 
It was at the Oaklawn Race Track in Hot Springs that Lasater first befriended Virginia Kelley, the mother of Governor Clinton, and began to close his vice around the First Family of Arkansas. Collecting governors was one of his business specialties. In early 1983 he bailed out Governor John Y. Brown of Kentucky with $300,000 cash in a paper sack at the Lexington airport. At the time Brown was desperately trying to stay one step ahead of the IRS. He had withdrawn $1 million out of a Florida bank without a "cash transient" report.  "I just took care of John Y.'s money problems," Lasater told his colleague Michael Drake. 
Lasater also tried to befriend Governor Tony Anaya of New Mexico, offering him a consulting job at the end of his term. Anaya never took up the offer, but he did use taxpayer funds to construct an 8,900-foot runway at the Angel Fire Ski Resort owned by Dan Lasater.
The governor was viewed by his opponents as naive but honest. However, the Attorney General's Office in Santa Fe was later to investigate Lasater for suspected "narcotics trafficking via aircraft with possible Organized Crime ties" operating out of Angel Fire.  At the time of the alleged drug trafficking, Angel Fire was managed by Patsy Thomasson, later to become Director of the Office of Administration at the White House. "I put Patsy in as the assistant chairman, and she pretty well ran that project for me," said Lasater. 
But the show trophy of his collection was undoubtedly Governor Clinton, who seemed to require more favors than most. When Clinton needed a safe house for his delinquent half-brother Roger, it was Lasater who spirited him out of Arkansas and gave him a sinecure job as a "stable hand" in Ocala, Florida. And when Roger fell behind in payments to his Medellin contact -- a stash of cocaine had been stolen from his convertible, which his mother had just given him -- it was Lasater who paid the debt, or perhaps a better word is ransom.  The Colombians, apparently, were hinting that there could be violent reprisals against the Governor himself. 
Always restless, Lasater moved into the bond business in 1980. A brief business partnership with Senator George Locke was dissolved, because of enveloping SEC violations, before Lasater embarked on his own as Lasater & Company. One former broker told me that he never witnessed enough authentic business to justify the existence of Lasater's office at 312 Louisiana Street. He suspected that Lasater was "shuffling money."  By the mid-1980s Little Rock was a hub of petty racketeering and fly-by-night securities trading. The target: small, deregulated thrifts that had been neglected by the big firms on Wall Street. "You have no idea how crazy it was here in the mid-eighties," said Ron Davis, a former Lasater broker. "At one point there were 54 investment houses in Little Rock. There were 4,000 brokers working in this city. In 1987 we did more institutional sales than any other city in the world, and that includes New York, London, and Tokyo. You had used car dealers signing up making a $1 million a year in commissions." 
For investigators attuned to the methods of organized crime, the Lasater empire looked suspiciously like a laundromat for tens of millions of dollars of drug profits. Nor was this an idle hunch. In 1977 Lasater had lost a Lear jet in Santa Marta, Colombia, after it was confiscated by the Colombian authorities on suspicion of narcotics trafficking. The aircraft was insured at Lloyds of London, so he was not too bothered by the event, but the FBI took note.  The jet had been leased to a Las Vegas outfit called Jet Avia, which was under investigation for Mafia ties. It had been flown to Colombia to evacuate a badly burned pilot who had crashed a DC-6 loaded with marijuana in the jungle.  Among the passengers on the jet was Jamiel "Jimmy" Chagra, viewed as one of the most dangerous mob bosses in the United States. In 1982 he was prosecuted for conspiring to murder Judge John H. Woods, the first U.S. federal judge to be assassinated this century. He was acquitted on that charge, but was ultimately convicted on charges of cocaine smuggling.
Lasater was a player in the cocaine trafficking network of the Dixie Mafia as early as the mid-1970s. Intelligence reports show that the DEA had opened a file on Lasater in 1983 and had assigned him a tracking number of 141475.  Lasater was tipped off at once. A source called him in 1983 to inform him that he was listed in the computer as the subject of a DEA probe. 
In February 1984 Lasater, accompanied by Patsy Thomasson, flew to Belize in his private jet to negotiate the purchase of a 24,000- acre ranch.  The deal fell through because of a dispute with the "governor of Belize who was hard to deal with." One member of the Lasater party boorishly proposed "that the governor should be wasted."  This caused some heartburn for the U.S. Ambassador who was present during these interesting negotiations. Also present was a lawyer from Washington, D.C., named Ed Cummings, who had flown down with Lasater. 
Ostensibly, Lasater was looking for a horse farm. But the property, known as the Carver Ranch, was in fact a refueling stop for smugglers coming up from Colombia. Located near the border with the Yucatan, it has cropped up in a number of investigations. One of them was the "Mena" probe of Arkansas State Trooper Russell Welch, which focused on the smuggling empire of Barry Seal. This is what Welch wrote in his notebook during a debriefing of one of Seal's pilots: "With orders from Seal he would fly to a place in Southern Colombia, bordering Peru, and pickup 200 kilos of cocaine. This operation was to be staged from 'Carver Ranch' ... operated by Chester Cotter. Seal met Cotter through Roger Reeves. [Roger Reeves was the intermediary who introduced Barry Seal to the Medellin Cartel.] Seal used this ranch frequently."  So, apparently, this ranch was no horse farm. It was part of the Medellin trafficking empire.
It was certainly well known among the drug pilots. Basil Abbott, a convicted smuggler, told me that he used it frequently when he operated from Belize in the early 1980s. He remembers Cotter, the manager, as a man with legendary sway over the local "peons." He would have the fuel supplies ready at the landing strip. The usual route to the United States, explained Abbott, was through a blind spot in the mountains of Mexico, near Monterrey, crossing the border five miles east of the McAllen control tower. "There were about seven or eight of us doing it, and none of us ever got caught," he said. On one occasion in early 1982 he flew a Cessna 210 full of cocaine into Marianna, in the rice delta of eastern Arkansas. The aircraft was met by an Arkansas State Trooper in a marked police car. "Arkansas was a very good place to load and unload," he said. 
Lasater had his own agents in the State Police. One of them was a narcotics investigator named Mike Mahone, whom he had befriended at the Oaklawn Race Track in the box of Virginia Kelley -- Governor Clinton's mother.  Lasater spotted easy prey. The subsequent courtship offers a revealing insight into his methods of corrupting law enforcement. First he invited Mahone to spend the July 4th weekend, 1985, in one of his condominiums at the Angel Fire Ski Resort.  Having broken the ice, the bribery began. It was disguised, of course. What Lasater did was to instruct one of his subordinates to buy a run-down property belonging to Mahone. The price was inflated, netting the State Trooper a windfall profit.  Lasater also paid off $7,500 of a delinquent loan that Mahone had taken out in his sister's name.
In return for these little favors, Mahone was generous with police intelligence. In the early summer of 1986 he met with Lasater and Senator Locke at a hotel in Chicago to brief them on the status of the investigation into their drug activities.  He warned them to be careful of their telephones and told them that the two State Troopers on the case -- Doc Delaughter and Larry Gleghorn -- had a "hard on" for Lasater. The two officers could be found at "Spanky's" restaurant, he added, as if tempting Lasater to take drastic action.
Trooper Mahone advised Lasater to freshen up his image by donating money to the Gyst House for Drug Abuse. So, with a nice sense of the absurd, Lasater launched a philanthropic Blitzkrieg that included funding for the Florence Crittenden Home for Unwed Mothers. This caused huge amusement at Lasater & Company, where the running joke was guessing which of the unwed mothers Lasater had sent there in the first place.  (Years later, Lasater was profiled by CNN's investigative reporter John Camp as a humble born-again Christian, trying to redeem his soul by helping in a soup kitchen.)
It was chilling for Doc Delaughter to discover that he was being betrayed by criminal elements within his own police department. But nothing about this case was normal, least of all the two status reports he gave to Colonel Tommy Goodwin, the commander of the State Police. They were strictly verbal, conducted on the telephone, and both times the calls were patched through to the personal offices of Governor Clinton.
"I don't know if Bill Clinton was listening on the line," said Delaughter. "I wasn't in the room. But he had no business being in the loop." 
Delaughter believed that he had sufficient evidence to pursue a full-fledged investigation of Lasater for drug trafficking. At the very least there were grounds for probing his transportation of cocaine on private jets. But Delaughter was squeezed out of the investigation, prevented from attending the critical interviews of Lasater, Senator George Locke, and Roger Clinton. In the end, U.S. Attorney George Proctor offered Lasater a plea agreement that charged Lasater with a conspiracy to distribute cocaine for "recreational use." It was a slap on the wrists. Lasater was paroled after one year, most of it spent at a halfway house in Little Rock. The prosecutor was later appointed to be head of the Justice Department's Office of International Affairs by President Clinton.
At the sentencing U.S. Federal Judge Thomas Eisele said: "There are a lot of people who would like to believe that your financial success was derived, because it was so spectacular, from nothing less than being in the drug business. But I have to rely on the evidence, and there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that you were making money in the drug business," he intoned before falling into tabloid cliche: "I think we are dealing with essentially an American tragedy, a case where the American dream turned into the American nightmare."
Others in law enforcement were less inclined to regard Lasater as a victim. According to The Albuquerque Journal, the FBI and U.S. Customs in New Mexico opened a fresh probe in 1988 under the auspices of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, naming Dan Lasater as the chief target. But it fell apart in early 1989 due to jurisdictional bickering between the FBI and Customs on one side, and the DEA on the other. 
Governor Clinton gave Lasater a state pardon in 1990, purportedly so that he could regain his hunting license. The pardon was of dubious validity, because Lasater had been sentenced by a U.S. federal court, not a state court. But it sent a signal to the Arkansas authorities that Lasater should be allowed to resume his financial and broking activities without hindrance.
Lasater retreated to a 7,400-acre heavily guarded estate in the Cockspur Mountains of Saline County. (Complaints by neighbors about low-flying aircraft had been passed on to the DEA, according to Captain Gene Donham of the Saline County Sheriffs Department.) But Lasater's influence lives on through the tenacious Patsy Thomasson, his adjutant and partner in adventures at the Carver Ranch. Her rise to prominence in Washington is remarkable, given that she worked so closely with Lasater -- a convicted drug distributor -- continuously from June 1983 until July 1992. "I was his eyes and ears. Whatever needed to be done I did," she explained. 
The Albuquerque Journal reported that Thomasson was still listed as the registered agent of Lasater's Phoenix Mortgage Company after she went to work at the White House. She was executive vice president of Lasater & Company, and president of Angel Fire Corporation and the Phoenix Group Incorporated. She was the signing officer for Agency del Sol, Portfolio Services Incorporated, Emerald Isle condominium development, and Starfire Resorts Incorporated.
When Lasater was sent to prison, she was given "durable power of attorney" to manage his business empire. This included everything from signing checks, to selling off his properties, and filing lawsuits in his name.
A self-styled "yellow-dog Democrat" with short black hair and a brusque no-nonsense manner, she had once served on the staff of Arkansas Congressman Wilbur Mills. At Lasater's, she was viewed as the link to the Democratic Party by the firm's employees. "We'd all have to make contributions to the Clinton campaign funds, anywhere from $500 on up, scaled on earnings," said one bond salesman, describing the obligatory tithing system at the firm. "Patsy was the one who handled the money." 
Feared and disliked by many members of the firm, she was clearly a favorite with Bill Clinton. He installed her as executive secretary of the Arkansas Democratic Party to help build the foundations for his presidential bid. After the 1992 elections, she was catapulted into one of the most powerful positions in Washington -- Director of the White House Office of Administration, in charge of personnel, computers, security, and drug testing -- where she continued to make her presence felt in the successive scandals that have beset the Clinton presidency.
She participated in a six-hour meeting on May 15, 1994, with the FBI that eventually led to the investigation and firing of the Travel Office staff. And it was, of course, Patsy Thomasson who was found sitting in Vincent Foster's office on the night of his death, rifling through his drawers. All this without benefit of a White House security clearance. For reasons that have never been explained, the Secret Service refused to give Patsy Thomasson a White House security clearance until March 5, 1994. 
* * *
Nobody was more astonished by the vaulting ascent of Patsy Thomasson than Dennis Patrick, a truck driver in Florida. He was listening to the Rush Limbaugh radio show just before Christmas 1993 when suddenly her name cropped up in the midday commentary. "Rush made some comments about Patsy Thomasson removing some documents from Vince Foster's office," he said. "Then he started talking about Dan Lasater, and I thought 'My God."' 
The names brought back a flood of confused memories. Dennis went rummaging through boxes of documents at home and unearthed a wad of trading receipts from a brokerage account in his name at Lasater & Company. He had looked at them years before but the documents were hard to interpret, and anyway his life had been in such a shambles that he had somehow missed their full significance. This time he looked closer.
The trading tickets showed that "his" account had been buying bonds worth tens of millions of dollars in late 1985 and early 1986. In a single trade on July 31, 1985, Patrick & Associates bought a block of Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation bonds for $6,763,373. On September 18 it bought a block for $9,492,216. It was constantly buying and selling Treasury Bills in blocks of$1 million or $2 million at a time, and GNMA pools for $5 million. 
Dennis took the slips to a friend from church, a stockbroker, who told him that these trades were not options trades -- where a small sum of money can control large amounts of stock. These were actual buys and sells, face-value transactions by a man who could write a check for $ 10 million. Lasater & Company had been running huge sums of money through a "straw" account in his name.
Dennis was living in hiding with his wife and two young children in Coral Gables, Florida, when I first went to see him in early 1994. A gentle man with a tense, quivering voice and tired eyes, he seemed older than 42, but then he had a good excuse for premature aging. If a Hollywood screenwriter concocted his story, it would fail the test of plausibility.
He had once been a rising star in the Appalachian coal town of Williamsburg, Kentucky. He came from a respected local family. His father had been Sheriff of Whitley County. His mother had been Circuit Court Clerk, and he stepped in to succeed her after her death. The youngest Circuit Court Clerk in the country, aged 24, he did a good job. "He had integrity," said Marlyn Arnold, chief deputy clerk. "He saw that everything was run right. It seemed like everybody loved him."
"I was asked to run for state office by the Kentucky State Republican Committee," recalled Dennis, shaking his head with melancholy regret. "My goal was to be governor. I thought that one day I might really lead the state of Kentucky."
But if Dennis had a failing, it was a willingness to go along to get along. In the summer of 1985 he was contacted by an old college friend, Steve Love, who was making a fortune trading bonds at Lasater & Company in Little Rock. Love drove up in his Lamborghini, flush and exuberant, and began to lure Dennis into Lasater's flashy, vulgar world. In July 1985 he invited Dennis to stay at one of Lasater's luxurious beachfront condominiums in Destin, on the Gulf of Mexico. Out fishing, Dennis caught a Wahu, which Lasater & Company mounted at exorbitant expense and shipped back to Kentucky.
"When I look back now I realize that I was just a clay pigeon. I was being set up from the beginning," said Dennis. "We were out on a fishing boat and Steve turned and said 'I've got the inside on this. I can make you a great deal of money, Dennis, and it won't cost you anything.''' It wasn't something that Dennis wanted to get mixed up in. His income as Circuit Court Clerk was less than $25,000. His total assets were only $60,000, including the value of his house. He was in no position to play with the big boys on the bond market. "I should have just said no, but they were being so generous I felt obligated. I told Steve to send me something so I could read up and see what I was getting into. He changed the subject."
A few days later Steve Love called up and said: "I've just earned you $20,000, but I need you to come down to Little Rock and open an account." Dennis was ecstatic. He jumped into his pickup truck and raced to Arkansas. "My God, I would have ridden rollerblades to Little Rock for $20,000 dollars." At the Capitol Hotel he was treated like royalty and given the best suite. He was escorted to the First American Bank and $21,932 was deposited in his newly opened account.  The money went through Dennis's fingers like water. "I spent the lot," he said, sheepishly. "My fear was that they were going to ask for it back."
Years later Dennis was interrogated about this by FBI agents working for the Whitewater investigation. Why did he take the money? "Hell," he replied. "Hillary Clinton took a hundred thousand dollars without asking any questions, didn't she? And she's supposed to be one of the best lawyers in America." This caused considerable mirth at the Office of the Independent Counsel. Indeed, the FBI agents interviewing him had to leave the room until they could control their laughter.
After a grueling cross-examination, FBI Agent Mike Smith told Dennis that he was "a vital witness in the overall investigation of Whitewater." But Dennis was never contacted again. Dennis's trip to Little Rock was a whirl of high-life extravagance, ending at a nightclub where Roger Clinton was playing in the band. "Good to have you aboard," said Lasater, patting Dennis on the back and promising him that the firm would make him a rich man. Lasater's senior vice president, Billy McCord, told Dennis that $20,000 was nothing. Dennis was going to make that much every week.
"I was already thinking of buying farms up in Kentucky," confessed Dennis. He was hooked. When the firm offered to send a Lear jet to London, Kentucky, to fly him to Angel Fire for an elk hunt, he accepted eagerly. He asked whether he could invite his girlfriend Karen (later his wife), who was in the little town of Paducah. The aircraft was put completely at his disposal. So he called Karen from the air phone, and the Lear jet collected her off the tarmac.
During the flight Steve Love repeatedly tried to get Dennis to sign a set of papers that would formalize his relationship as a client of Lasater & Company, and Dennis kept trying to put it off. "I began to get a queasy feeling in my stomach, even then. I don't know why," said Dennis.
Then the music stopped, as abruptly as it had begun. After the trip to Angel Fire, Dennis never heard another word from Lasater & Company.
His life began to fall apart a few weeks later. In October 1985 the ATF contacted Dennis and told him that an armed criminal by the name of Patrick Henry Talley, who had recently been granted early parole from a federal penitentiary in Oklahoma, had been apprehended in Alabama. "They told me that Talley had been 'dispatched to murder' me." Apparently Tally had been arrested after a fight in a bar. Among Talley's possessions police discovered a picture of Dennis, a hand-drawn map of his house, a picture of his Blazer jeep and its license tags, as well as $30,000 in cash and an Uzi submachine gun with a silencer. Talley was driving a motorbike with no serial numbers on it -- a classic "drop bike." Though Talley confessed to the ATF that his intent was to murder Dennis Patrick, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Alabama declined to investigate the apparent contract hit and allowed Talley to plead guilty to a minor firearms violation. 
When Dennis met with an ATF officer, he found himself accused of high level involvement in narcotics smuggling. "You'd better start talking because those bastards are going to kill you, and we're going to hang you out to dry," warned the officer. 
If that was shocking, what happened next was bizarre. Sex ads with his name and address were published in magazines. "White, Bi, male seeks satisfaction, Anytime, Anywhere, with Anyone. Nothing too kinky for me to enjoy," was one that appeared in Modern Publications. Rolls of film with pornographic pictures were dropped off at the photo shop. Dennis's name and address were on the cover envelopes. "I wouldn't pick up the pictures, but it didn't make any difference, it started spreading like wildfire," he said. The mystery of who placed the sex ads and pictures was eventually solved -- as we shall see -- but not before even more harmful rumors spread.
A woman he had chosen to work in his office as a deputy clerk came to him, highly distraught, to say that she could not take the job. The minister of the First Baptist Church, Dennis's own church, had told her to stay away from him, because he was "heavily into drugs."
"That just busted my chops," said Dennis. "For a while people stick with you, but when it keeps coming they pull away, and you're all alone .... It reached a point where people would walk out of the barber shop when I came in .... And I still didn't know why it was happening."
"It was all out war. I was getting sued left, right, and center, fictitious lawsuits, draining me of every penny I had." Then his house was firebombed. On October 15, 1985, a gas grenade canister was hurled through the window, setting the curtains and walls on fire. Dennis was not there. After the ATF warned him about the attempted contract hit on his life he had been sleeping in barns, or in his jeep, always watching his back.
Terrified, he now began to take exceptional precautions. He bought a bullet-proof vest, and turned his house into an electrified fortress with live wires activated at night. Inside he had seven guns carefully placed in different spots. One was a shotgun mounted in the kitchen with a triggering mechanism attached by string to the kitchen door. He even linked a copper wire from his Chevy Blazer to an electric cable under the ground so that anybody trying to plant a detonating device in his car would be blown up in the process.
"There are a lot of animal instincts in a human being that you don't know about until something like this happens," he said. Perhaps it was animal instinct that led him back to his house on Friday, December 13, 1985. He was standing by the kitchen window getting a drink of water when an old Bonneville with Tennessee tags drove up. "I knew at once that this was it .... A man got out with a package and started walking up toward the door. The next thing I know he'd hurled a bomb at the window, but it hit the corner and exploded outside. It was a military CS gas grenade that he'd covered with candle wax and shotgun pellets."
What happened next was something straight out of a Charles Bronson movie -- with this difference, it is attested to in sworn depositions before the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Tennessee.
The would-be assassin sprinted back to his car with Dennis, barefoot, running after him in the snow. His assailant raced off the wrong way up a blind alley, giving Dennis enough time to jump into his Blazer and go careening down 1-75 in hot pursuit. As they wove through the mountains at 100 mph, dodging in and out of heavy trucks, the assailant fired a .38 Smith & Wesson out his window. Dennis rammed the assailant's truck, but the impact sent Dennis's own Blazer spinning out of control, finally bouncing back on the tarmac.
When the assassin pulled off the freeway, Dennis fired a Belgian Browning 270 deer rifle with an eight power scope at the assassin's car. "I shot his tire out, and then just started to dismantle the car shot by shot .... I blew out the windscreen, the gas tank .... I was going to make sure that this one never got away."
The Jellicoe Police arrived, followed in quick succession by the Tennessee State Police and the ATF. The assassin was arrested. He was a Texan named Danny Starr Burson. In a deposition given a year later he admitted that he had been contracted for "$20,000 plus expenses" to kill Dennis Patrick and his wife with a KG-9 machine gun.  He described how he bought a "drop car" under a false name, how he found a spot in some foliage where he sat at night, wearing camouflage, his face painted, and watched Dennis's house with a set of night binoculars.
"Was it your instructions at the time to kill Mr. Patrick and his wife, or to only put him under surveillance?"
"No, it was to kill 'em."
"Why didn't you do it?"
"Couldn't find him."
He admitted that he had put Dennis on a pornographic mailing list. It was one of the tricks in a harassment manual he had picked up at a gunshow. He referred in opaque terms to the organization that contracted him as a multi-million dollar outfit with military ties. As a case of conspiracy to murder that crossed state lines, the federal authorities had jurisdiction, but the ATF left it to the local authorities. Burson pleaded guilty to "wanton endangerment" and "criminal mischief." He was sentenced to five years, but was immediately released on probation. Omitted from the deposition was a crucial piece of testimony. In an examination under oath shortly after the attack he had said:
"This guy called me named Steve and I met him in Little Rock, at a McDonald's near downtown and he told me he wanted to harass this guy Patrick."
"Steve who? Do you know?"
"No, sir." 
There was one last plot to murder Dennis Patrick. A group in Texas -- penetrated by an ATF informant wearing a body microphone -- planned to blow up his Chevy Blazer, and if that failed to kill him, to attack his house with an "M-72 anti-tank weapon" (sic). Thanks to the informant, the group was charged with conspiracy to commit murder, and sent to prison. But the ATF investigator in charge of the case, John Simms, could not fathom why anybody would go to such lengths to eliminate a Circuit Court Clerk of modest means in Williamsburg, Kentucky. "Somebody, somewhere, was really determined to kill this guy," he said. "But I never was able to get to the bottom of it." 
"I think John Simms felt sorry for me," said Dennis. "He came to my house one day and sat down in the kitchen. My wife was there, six months pregnant, and he looked up and said 'Dennis, I don't know what I can do for you .... This thing is too big.'"
The local newspapers attributed the attacks to a dispute between Dennis and his business partners in a wildcat drilling venture in Kentucky. One of the conspirators from Texas, James Josey, was involved with civil litigation against Dennis over some marginal oil and gas leases.
"If you added up the whole company I was involved in it wasn't worth $25,000," said Dennis. James Josey later phoned Dennis from prison to confess that the conspiracy was much bigger than he imagined. "There are a whole lot of people who want you dead," he said, in a taped exchange. "There are a lot of things I can't disclose right now .... We're in very thin shoes." Josey intimated that he had been exploited by a powerful organization and used as a patsy. The murder attempts, he said, had nothing to do with the oil leases. 
Dennis had been warned long before by a disenchanted broker at Lasater & Company called Linda Nesheim that people with ties to the firm were trying to kill him. "Linda kept talking about Patsy Thomasson," recalled Dennis. "She told me that Patsy was the one in charge, that she was the one who could put an end to my whole nightmare." 
But at the time it didn't make much sense to him. "I couldn't figure out why Lasater would do this to me. I didn't know back then that he'd run $100 million, or $150 million, or whatever it was, through my account."
Eight years later, Dennis managed to speak to Nesheim again, if only for a few minutes. This time she was more circumspect. "They're bigger than we are, they're larger than you can imagine. I know you have a son, and I know you love him. I have a daughter, and I love her too," said Nesheim. "Just leave this alone, Dennis." 
Dennis limped through to the end of his term as Circuit Court Clerk, then left town with his pregnant wife, Karen, and his infant child, Robert.
"We drove, and drove, and drove, always going South, to get as far as possible from Kentucky," he said. "We ended up here In Florida, living in a motel with roaches. Here I was with a college degree, working a dump truck ... but that's all I was fit for. I couldn't think, I couldn't focus, I was a burned out husk of a man .... I still am."
His friends did not know whether he was dead or alive. "How could I face them when I'd been stripped of my whole life, my name, my integrity, everything I had?" Too proud to return to Williamsburg in disgrace, he preferred to build a new identity as a working man in Coral Gables, Florida. And that is how he was living when two British reporters, Chris Wood from The Economist and I from The Sunday Telegraph, invaded his refuge in the spring of 1994.
It was only after we started writing about Dennis that the worst details came to light. The Economist was leaked a confidential document dated March 15, 1989, entitled "REPORT FLINTLOCK SCORPIO 000289." It profiled Dennis Patrick as "an associate of the Lamida Family of Long Island, New York .... Subject allegedly has been under suspicion of trafficking in cocaine with the Lamida Family. He has hidden all assets ... under the drug cartel in Florida." 
The report called for an urgent investigation. "Need two operatives to proceed immediately for additional information to Cape Coral and Williamsburg, Kentucky." In a supplementary page it stated that "subject is known to carry a 9 mm UZI in his vehicle while traveling. He must be considered armed and dangerous at all times."
The documents included a printout of telephone calls from Dennis's house made between August and September 1988. According to the printout six calls were made to a place called Lehigh Acres, "a swamp with small landing and drop zones." There was a trading receipt from Lasater & Company for a Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation bond sale worth $9,492,216 and an asset statement, dated December 13, 1985, that was drawn up by a Memphis accountant named Ron Moore. It listed the net worth of Patrick & Associates (the associate had been Dennis's first wife) as $12,339,850.
The FLINTLOCK SCORPIO document portrays Dennis as a wealthy drug smuggler capable of trading $9,492,216 in bonds in a single block. The question is, who was behind FLINTLOCK SCORPIO? Who had a motive to give a dump truck driver the false identity of a man with this kind of money? The report carries no government identification or letterhead. Its style and lettering look like an amateurish rendition of an FBI document. But similar charges were appearing elsewhere. Dennis was informed that his name appeared on Florida police computers as an associate of Colombian cartels.  Moreover, in 1989 an FBI agent in Louisville went to Williamsburg, Kentucky, to inform the Police Department that Dennis Patrick was involved in a Florida drug cartel.  Whoever was behind this effort had deep reach into U.S. law enforcement.
For Dennis's erstwhile "broker," Steve Love, life has had its up and downs, too. When I tracked him down in a small town in Pennsylvania, he was a different man. The Lamborghinis were gone. He, too, had been living half-underground for years, frightened that the past would catch up with him. "I find it extremely painful to think of what happened at that time," he said. "I was just a scapegoat. I was used by Lasater, and flushed away, my whole life destroyed .... I finished up sleeping on park benches." 
He professed remorse. "Dennis never did anything wrong, and I'm deeply sorry that I got him mixed up in it. The fellow was like a brother to me."
Love swore that he was not responsible for the monster trades of $9 million at a time in the account of Patrick & Associates. His "broker number" was on the transaction slips, he admitted, but the orders had been given by the higher-ups who ran Lasater & Company. "There was an awful lot of money going through that business, that's all I can say, and most of us didn't really know what was going on," he said.
Did Lasater & Company order his murder? I asked outright.
"They certainly didn't want anybody to blow the whistle," he replied.
* * *
In 1989 the Arkansas Committee, a group of left-wing students at the University of Arkansas, started investigating the alleged nexus of drug-running, money-laundering, and covert activities linked to Mena Airport. The Arkansas Committee's lead advocate, Mark Swaney, came to suspect that Lasater and others were laundering funds through the Arkansas Development and Finance Administration (ADFA), a state-controlled investment bank created by Governor Clinton in 1985 to provide "low interest finance for economic development." 
There was no need for Clinton to create ADFA. The state already had the Arkansas Housing Development Agency and the Arkansas Industrial Development Corporation (later made famous by a clerk named Paula Corbin Jones). But these two bodies had semi-independent boards. ADFA gave Clinton a patronage machine that answered to the Governor alone. It was a versatile instrument. As James Ring Adams reported in The American Spectator, it was designed with the help of a Boston consultant named Belden Daniels and allowed Clinton to tap into the huge reserves of the Arkansas Teachers Retirement System. At the same time, Clinton steered bond business to Lasater, and low interest industrial loans to the others in the Arkansas group -- Seth Ward, for instance, the father-in- law of Webster Hubbell -- frequently without due diligence and over the objections of the agency staff.  "They were giving money away like candy to the insiders," said Mark Swaney. 
Believing that ADFA's records would reveal the story of a national security operation run amok in his home state, Swaney tried to pry open the books. His FOIA requests were stonewalled. He fought a protracted lawsuit that eventually compelled ADFA to let him review some of the archive. It was not exactly full disclosure, but what he found was enough to confirm his suspicion that the agency was engaged in practices that were far outside the scope of a state development agency.
Funds had been flowing offshore. ADFA had done at least $250 million worth of business with the Fuji Bank ofjapan. In December 1988, for instance, ADFA raised $50 million for the purpose of building and buying houses for the needy of Arkansas, but instead, ADFA wired the $50 million to the Fuji Bank, Grand Cayman Branch, account number 63119808.  It was a nice piece of arbitrage profiteering. ADFA raised the money at 7 percent interest with tax exempt status, and loaned the money to Fuji at an interest rate of 9.37 percent, generating a profit of about $1 million on a ten-month investment. Whether the money -- all of it, plus interest -- came back from Grand Cayman is anybody's guess. ADFA has not provided the wiring documents. When the bonds were remarketed in October 1989 the principal had fallen to $47,915,000. 
In 1987 ADFA borrowed $5.04 million from Japan's Sanwa Bank to buy stock in a Barbados company called Coral Reinsurance.  With 84 of the 1,000 shares issued, ADFA was in fact the biggest single shareholder. The activities of Coral Reinsurance triggered an investigation by the Delaware Insurance Department in 1992, which cause panic at ADFA.  Among the documents obtained by Mark Swaney were a series of memos by Bob Nash, who had taken over as director of ADFA (he is now White House chief of personnel). "Why are they asking about this??!!" scribbled Nash. "Why no other states, only private people? Who was the mover and shaker on this? ... CALL ME."
Swaney believes that ADFA was created by Clinton as an instrument for Dan Lasater. What we know is that Lasater wrote at least eight letters to Bill Clinton recommending people for the board of ADFA. Most of them were appointed. The letter and telephone traffic between Lasater and the Governor's Mansion suggest that ADFA was essentially answering to his instructions. 
In 1984 and 1985 there was an explosion of housing bond issues. They spiked to $300 million a year, way above their usual level of between $50 and $100 million. It is exceedingly hard to find an actual bricks-and-mortar house built with all this money. As an experiment, I tried auditing ADFA's $175 million housing issue from July 1985, but the money is impossible to trace.  "It just disappears on you, it goes into night and fog," said Mark Swaney.
The finance director, Bill Wilson, admitted to me that ADFA "had trouble getting enough house buyers."  If that was the case, why raise the money in the first place? It was a confession that the purpose of the bond issue was to generate commissions -- or soak up money. Wilson was soft-spoken and charming when I paid a visit, but one of his aides destroyed the effect by switching on a tape-recorder as soon as we started chatting about the exploits of Dan Lasater. 
Lasater & Company was deeply involved in the demise of thrifts in Illinois. One of them, First American Savings and Loan of Oak Brook, Illinois, fired back with a lawsuit against the firm in October 1985, alleging that Lasater had transferred "unprofitable investments from his personal account to the account of the Plaintiff" after trading was closed.  The suit was taken over by the government's Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation in April 1986, after First American was seized by regulators. It hired the Rose Law Firm to handle the case. The attorneys were Hillary Clinton and Vincent Foster. They settled for a modest $200,000 in a sealed agreement that drew a veil over the reasons for the collapse of the S&L. The Chicago Tribune ran a blistering series on Hillary Clinton's role. It accused her of a "glaring conflict of interest" for negotiating "a secret, out-of-court settlement" that ended a suit "against a family friend and an influential benefactor of her husband."
Patsy Thomasson handled the case for Lasater, who was by then in prison. She was more than just an executive vice-president. She was also a "financial and operations principal" of the brokerage firm, with direct liability for criminal misuse of client accounts. According to the Arkansas Securities Commission, she held the key 24,27, and 53 series brokerage licenses (as well as a Masters in Economics from the University of Missouri), making her one of the most highly qualified broking principals in the country. "She's as smart as a whip with these licenses, a very rare find," said a spokesman for the National Association of Securities Dealers. "But she was sitting in front of a howitzer. If any of the brokers had got in trouble, she would have been responsible."
She must have been fully cognizant of the transactions in the account of Patrick & Associates, if not involved herself. Her role was certainly something that seemed to interest the Republicans in the early summer of 1994. After Dennis Patrick went public with his amazing story, he was summoned to Washington and ushered from one office to another on Capitol Hill. Senator D'Amato (R-N.Y.), for one, was in high dudgeon. "This man should be sworn in, he should be deposed. We should have a right and the people should have a right to hear his testimony, and to judge," he thundered on the floor of the Senate. "There are substantial documents to show tens and tens and tens of millions of dollars being funneled through this fellow's account, a person who has absolutely no wealth, and the question is how? And the question is why?"
But it was all bluster. "D'Amato's office never called me. When he got into the majority he didn't do anything about it," said Dennis. A year and a half later Dan Lasater was called to testify before the Whitewater Committee. He was not asked a single question about the trading in the Patrick account. (D'Amato told The Wall Street Journal that it was outside the scope of his investigation.) "I think all these investigations of Clinton are red herrings, just trying to divert attention from what really went on," said Dennis in disgust.
"One day I want to go back to the mountains and woods of Kentucky and go squirrel hunting again like I once did. I want my kids to come back with me to a town where nobody questions my integrity," he said one evening, sitting in the garden of my house in Washington.
"When I think what these people have done to me, the living nightmare they've put me through, I don't think death could have been worse. I would never have believed that what happened to me could happen to anybody in the United States of America. I've never been a militant, but you look at the Red, White, and Blue, and you think of the renegades running everything, and it makes you wonder whether we'll have to fight to get our country back."