On June 29, General Paul F. Gorman, US Military Commander Southern Command, made a speech stating the US had evidence that elements of the Nicaraguan government were involved in drug smuggling, though Gorman did not mention Seal or the undercover flights. , Soon after the broadcast, the heads of the Florida and Louisiana task forces met to work out an agreement that would allow Seal to continue working with the Florida task force and testify as a witness at trial.  Seal attempted to push back against the investigation by appearing in a television news series broadcast by WBRZ in Baton Rouge in November 1984. Barry Seal was an ace pilot and a drug smuggler of such proportions that he has been called "the biggest drug smuggler in American History". -Daily Mail Online. The accident didn't happen during filming. Then, flip through these wild Narco Instagram posts. The case against the cartel had been engineered by Barry Seal, a convicted drug dealer turned informant who worked closely with Vice President George Bush's anti-drug task force in Washington. Adler Berriman "Barry" Seal was an American commercial airline pilot who became a major drug smuggler for the Medelln Cartel. Purwin was a passenger in a plane that went down, killing both Purwin and Venezuelan pilot Carlos Berl. Yes. "Tom did all his own flying in the movie," says director Doug Liman, who is a pilot himself (Vulture.com). The man said that despite the incident, he was still very fond of Barry. That last statement was quite the understatement. Universal Pictures. The plane was hit and Seal had to make an emergency landing at Sandino International Airport in Managua. The office referred Seal to DEA headquarters, which assigned DEA agent Ernst Jacobsen to debrief Seal and evaluate his potential as an informant. Additionally, the movie version of Seal quits his job with the airline to pursue a life of crime. When you see the photos, you will understand why. Still unknown at the time, the cartel would go on to make hundreds of millions from the explosion of cocaine use in the U.S. Barry Seal, who became known as "El Gordo" (The Fat Man), ended up being an integral part of that success. "The DEA agents who worked with Barry loved him," said director Doug Liman. In the American Made movie, Barry Seal's boredom with piloting commercial flights leads him to perform stunts that cause the oxygen masks to fall and frighten passengers. Sep. 28, 2017. When asked how, he replied, "Oh, Barry stole an airplane from me. He carries it around and begins spending it, which attracts the attention of the local authorities. Originally planned for mid-April, the flight did not take place until the end of May. From 1980 on, Bottoms was the main pilot in Seal's smuggling enterprise, often flying with Camp while Seal oversaw planning and operations. "Barry Seal was a friend of mine," Plumlee says. The lawsuit claims that the pilots were overworked and that the crash happened after a 12-hour workday. Despite his successful career, Seal had his eye on more exhilarating endeavors. As part of his reduced sentence, the judge had ordered Barry to spend his nights, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., at a Salvation Army halfway house for six months. . Like in the movie, the American Made true story reveals that Barry made a living as a commercial airline pilot for several years. This draws the attention of the CIA. The photo was taken in Mexico when he was 24. . Other photos like the one below show Federico Vaughan (center, striped shirt), a man that Seal claimed was a top aide of Tomas Borge, the Sandinista Minister of the Interior. He made more than $50 million smuggling drugs into the United States from South America between 1977 and 1986. . He was assigned to the 20th Special Forces Group and graduated from the United States Army Airborne School selection and training. by Allie Gemmill. His non-active duty was served in the 245th Engineer Battalion, where his MOS was radio telephone operator. "He thought we had more time. , When Seal received only time served and probation, Louisiana state and federal drug investigators were faced with a dilemma. His father was a candy wholesaler and an alleged KKK member, according to Spartacus Educational. Max Mermelstein, a high-level cartel distributor in Miami, later testified in court that he was shown the documentary a few days after it was broadcast and was told that the cartel wanted Seal either captured or killed: the price was $500,000 if Seal was killed, and $1,000,000 if he was captured alive. -Smuggler's End: The Life and Death of Barry Seal. He made four trips to Nicaragua that year, allegedly to document the complicity in cocaine trafficking. Pablo Escobar and the Ochoas were going to be arrested at a celebration of Seal's successful cocaine transport. Also, Mr. Seal, who also went by the name Bill Elders as well as variations of his real name, "testifies he made 6 or 7 hundred thousand dollars in trafficking drugs after he went to work for . Yes. Barry Seal (Photo: Facebook) . While at a bar one night, Barry is found by a man saying his name is Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson). The Nicaragua drug story first appeared in the Washington Times (7/17/84) and was immediately given big play by all the major papers, wire services and TV networks. Seals career as a pilot for Trans World Airlines crashlanded in 1974 when he was caught trying to smuggle explosives to anti-Castro Cubans in Mexico. She is a brunette, not a blond like Sarah Wright's character in the movie. Hahn was part of the task force that pursued Seal in the 1980s. American Made: Directed by Doug Liman. The scene was actually inspired by something that happened while director Doug Liman and Tom Cruise were training for the movie. He testified that Vlez was present when he was given the contract and that Vlez later asked Mermelstein to turn the contract over to him. No other name is perhaps more associated with the Iran-Contra affair than Oliver North, but his involvement in exposing Barry Seal's mission and blowing his cover is unknown and entirely speculation. Three Colombians supposedly sent by the Ochoas, including Cruz and Velez, were later arrested at the airport. , Ironically, Seal's operations received an important boost when he was arrested and jailed in Honduras on the return leg of a drug-smuggling trip to Ecuador. He had already been flying planes for nearly half his life, earning his student pilot . -Smuggler's End: The Life and Death of Barry Seal, Yes. Tom Cruise's latest vehicle American Made, directed by Doug Liman, sees the A-lister play the infamous Barry Seal: a pilot who became a drug smuggler, who in turn became an informant, finding . Tom Cruise is moving on from his Mummy -fied adventures in 2017, with his next big release, American Made, hitting theaters soon. Before returning to Nicaragua, the DEA arranged for CIA technicians to install hidden cameras inside the plane. Although newspapers published his name after his arrest, Seal was known to the Ochoas as Ellis MacKenzie. A witness identified Vlez as the driver of the vehicle in the halfway house parking lot. Alder Berriman Berry Seals life has become somewhat distorted over the years, and it isnt really a mystery why: such an exciting and controversial story is bound to be reproduced or exaggerated. . A DC-4 was seized at the Shreveport Regional Airport loaded with almost seven tons of plastic C-4 explosives, 7,000 feet of explosive primer cord and 2,600 electric blasting caps. The extent of Barry Seal's involvement with the CIA in the 1980s has provided fuel for speculation and conspiracy theories. Seal took pictures during a Nicaragua sting operation clearly showing members of the Colombian Cartel loading kilos of cocaine onto the plane. It proved impossible to impanel sufficient jurors in Baton Rouge, so the venue was moved to Lake Charles. Seal also made a public appearance before the President's Commission on Organized Crime, recounting his experiences as a drug smuggler. Within U.S. airspace, Seal would have people on the ground monitor for any signs his planes were being tailed. But the media showed much less interest when subcommittee chairman Hughes recently disclosed he had new evidence that the entire Sandinista connection was a US intelligence fabrication. In 1988, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing that looked into how Seal's 1984 trip to Nicaragua was leaked to the press. Featured Image:The low-res image of Frederico Vaughn (in the striped shirt) that Ronald Reagan offered as proof of Sandinista drug trafficking. Seal took pictures during the Nicaragua sting operation that clearly showed Pablo Escobar, Jorge Luis Ochoa . , At Seal's sentencing hearing in January 1986, Judge Frank Polozola acknowledged that he was bound by the agreement, but informed Seal and his lawyer of his dissatisfaction with Seal's failure to receive jail time in Florida, forcing Polozola to sentence Seal to probation on much more serious charges in Louisiana. On July 17, 1984, an article detailing Seals infiltration of the Medelln cartel hit the front page of the Washington Times. Once he flew into U.S. airspace, Seal would drop his plane to 500 feet and slow to 120 knots to mimic a helicopter on the radar screen of anyone who was watching, as the small aircraft frequently flew between oil rigs and the coast. Particularly suspicious is the role of Federico Vaughn, the supposed Sandinista official, who appears to have been a US spy all along. Surprisingly, American Made actually downplayed just how integral an asset Seal was to the DEA especially when it came to taking down the Medelln cartel. He stated that IranContra figure Oliver North had attended two meetings about the sting operation and had the motivation to release the information. On Feb. 19, 1986, Barry Seal, a very prominent CIA drug smuggler and ace pilot, was murdered outside his halfway house in Baton Rouge, LA. . Also, before the agreement was reached, the Louisiana task force investigation had been looking into Seal's involvement in smuggling thousands of kilograms of cocaine. Three of them, Luis Carlos Quintero-Cruz, Miguel Vlez, and Bernardo Antonio Vsquez, were indicted on state charges for capital murder. The photos quickly leaked, boosting Washington's anti-Sandinista effort but likely putting a . Barry Seal started his career as a pilot for Trans World Airlines but he soon turned to the more profitable life of drug smuggling. Domhnall Gleeson, right, stars in director Doug Liman's crime drama 'American Made,' based loosely on the story of Baton Rouge native Barry Seal, a pilot-turned-smugger-turned-federal-informant. It alleges, explicitly and implicitly, that an aircraft operated by a CIA front company in 1984 used the airfield at Mena, Arkansas, as a stating point for weapons supply flights to the Contras in Nicaragua; on the return flights from Honduras, the aircraft allegedly carried illegal narcotics to Mena. They agreed to a sentence for Seal's Louisiana activities no greater than the sentence he received for his Florida smuggling, with both sentences to run concurrently. , While Seal had come to an agreement with the DEA and the Florida drug task force in March 1984, he was still under active investigation by state and federal authorities in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Little Rock, Arkansas. Vasquez was identified as the purchaser of the halfway house vehicle by the car agency salesman and paid for hotel rooms and rental cars using his name. The pilot flew into Nicaragua with CIA cameras on his plane, taking photos showing Escobar and several other members of the Cartel . Donate today to be a part of this important mission. The most important witnesses were Max Mermelstein and Luis Carlos Uribe-Munera. Click the button below! Yes. The state narcotics agents who were investigating Seal in Baton Rouge sued over their depiction in the series, but the lawsuit was dismissed. The film never set out to be a documentary, according to films director Doug Liman, who described the blockbuster as a fun lie based on a true story, according to TIME. This operation involved a long, complicated cocaine shipment from Bolivia, refueling in Colombia, refueling again in Texas, and delivering the cocaine in Las Vegas. American Made stars Tom Cruise as Barry Seal, a real-life former airline pilot who embarked on a wildly successful cocaine smuggling operation between Colombia and a tiny airstrip in Mena, Arkansas, in the 1980s. Sixteen year-old Baton Rouge Civil Air Patrol cadet Barry Seal boards a U.S. Air Force plane on July 23, 1955 to fly to a two week training camp at Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, Louisiana, where he will meet fellow cadet Lee Harvey Oswald . The pickup went as planned this time, and the cameras successfully photographed Seal and several Nicaraguan soldiers loading cocaine, aided by Pablo Escobar, Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha (another important cartel member), and Federico Vaughan. In American Made, facts matter less than fiction. The cartel tells Barry that they'll deal with JB, a suggestion that Barry opposes. . Undercover cameras installed on Seal's plane captured photos on the tarmac of a Nicaraguan airport. He was one of the youngest 707 command pilots in the TWA fleet. Mermelstein, who had told the DEA of the murder contract after his arrest in 1985, testified that Ochoa, Escobar, and Cardona had asked him to take the contract and provided him with money and weapons to do the job.  Without a deal, Seal was tried in February 1984 and after a month-long trial was convicted on all the counts in the first indictment. The explosives were supposedly going to anti-Castro Cuban fighters. Synopsis. Cruise's Seal gathers intelligence by flying low over Guatemala and Nicaragua and snapping photos from his plane. Later, after Seal's cover was suspiciously blown, President Reagan used the photo shown below in a 1986 television address to the nation. , The Florida Task Force plan called for Seal to set up a cocaine purchase with the Ochoas and other cartel members, providing the basis for indictments in the U.S. Seal had previously dealt with the cartel through another associate so that they were unaware of his real name. Although Seal had pleaded guilty, with the support of his DEA supervisors, he was sentenced to five years of unsupervised probation. However, her real name is Debbie, not Lucy. They put out a contract to kidnap or murder Seal. CBS obtained pages from Col. Oliver Norths diary revealing that the former National Security Council aid communicated frequently with the CIA about the sting operation in the weeks before the photo was leaked to the press despite objections from the DEA. The photograph taken by Barry Seal that outed Pablo Escobar as the Medelln cartels drug kingpin. During the Iran-Contra affair of the 1980s, the U.S. plotted to secretly help the rebels (Contras) overthrow Nicaragua's Communist Sandinista government. But before he died, the photographs he captured made Pablo Escobar a wanted criminal and ultimately played an important part in the drug kingpins downfall in 1993.  By 1978, he had expanded to flying significant loads of cocaine, pound-for-pound a much more profitable enterprise than marijuana smuggling. Liman has referred to the film as "a fun lie based on a true story" (TIME). Saunders was videotaped paying a bribe to Seal in Miami, and was also successfully prosecuted. Barry also got lucky and captured photos of the communist leader of the Sandinistas . In the movie, Lucy's brother JB (Caleb Landry Jones) steals money from Barry (Tom Cruise). , Louisiana Attorney General William Guste wrote to United States Attorney General Edwin Meese criticizing the government's failure to protect Seal as a witness. , To expand his smuggling capacity, Seal also hired William Bottoms, his ex-brother-in-law, as a pilot. In her suit, Lisa, who is not depicted in the movie, also claimed that there were factual inaccuracies in the script, including the fact that Barry had five children, not three, and that the movie falsely suggests he was an alcoholic and a reckless pilot. Among other things, the panel sought to determine if top leaders of the Colombian cocaine cartel escaped arrest because the much ballyhooed war on drugs took a back seat to a covert operation designed to discredit the Nicaraguan government this at a time when the administration was seeking additional aid to the Contras. As author Del Hahn states in his book about Barry Seal's life, Smuggler's End: The Life and Death of Barry Seal, there is no evidence to support claims that Barry Seal worked for the CIA.  Seal's activities in Mena later became the subject of rumor and controversy, but according to Seal's biographer, former FBI agent Del Hahn, Seal did not use Mena as a drug transshipment point. Mermelstein testified that he accepted the contract, believing that a refusal would mean death.  Although the newspaper report and the arrest of their Miami distributors confirmed that their pilot was DEA, it was not until the cartel members received a copy of Seal's television documentary that they learned McKenzie was Seal. With Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright, Jesse Plemons. Watch an interview with the real Barry Seal where he discusses his undercover mission, and listen to President Ronald Reagan talk about the photos Seal obtained on the mission. When Seal pulled into the center's lot and parked, a man got out of a car behind the center's donation drop boxes and opened fire with a suppressed MAC-10 submachine gun.  Before Mermelstein had located Seal, however, he was arrested by a federal task force in June 1985. Barry Seal - gunrunner, drug trafficker, and covert C.I.A. , These arrangements were not yet complete, so Seal's first shipment was to be a direct flight to the U.S. No. In real life, his first encounter with the Medelln Cartel happened less dramatically. Then the Washington Post leaked the story, revealing that Seal was working undercover for the CIA. , The plane Seal acquired was a C-123K, a large aircraft used primarily for military transport. Yet, it's also certainly possible that Seal had no involvement with the CIA in the early 1980s at all, given there is nothing to support the claim but rumors. Lisa Seal Frigon, Barry's daughter from his first marriage, sued Universal, claiming that the studio should have purchased Barry's life rights from her, not his third wife Deborah who they paid $350,000. ", The probation conditions prohibited Seal from leaving Baton Rouge without written permission from Judge Polozola, who ordered Seal to spend every night at a halfway house from 6PM to 6AM for the first six months of his probation. -Daily Mail Online, No. Yes. .  In an interview with Frontline, North said he was told by his superiors on the National Security Council to brief Senator Paula Hawkins about the operation, but he denied leaking the report. The plane Seal acquired was a C-123K, a large aircraft used primarily for military transport. Investigators are still trying to separate myth from reality. As a child in the 1950s, Seal worked odd jobs around the citys old airport in exchange for flight time. Twitter/VICEBarry Seal likely never worked for CIA, as shown in American Made. , Seal returned to the Los Brasiles airfield in Nicaragua on June 25. This led the U.S. to covertly supply arms to the Contras, the rebels fighting against the Sandinistas. When Seal landed in the airfield, he was immediately surrounded by armed soldiers. A work of Doug Liman, previously known for Bourne Identity and Mr. & Mrs. Smith, the new film, American Made, could turn out to be the crime drama of the year in its telling of Seal's story. As stated in the previous question, there is no strong evidence to confirm that Barry Seal was working with the CIA prior to becoming an informant after his arrest in 1983. This led to photos of key Nicaraguan government officials . Author Del Hahn, a former FBI agent who wrote the book about Seal titled Smuggler's End: The Life and Death of Barry Seal, told Vice, "Seal thought he was smarter and cleverer than the Ochoas," who are one of the founding families of the Medelln Cartel. Universal Pictures. The movie's loose interpretation of the true story is echoed in the trailer when a voice-over by Tom Cruise as Barry Seal tells us that only "some of this sh*t really happened." The arrests never happened since Seal's cover was blown. No. On June 26, 1984, Barry Seal boarded a plane equipped with two hidden cameras and flew back to Nicaragua. An "extensive joint investigation" by the FBI, Arkansas State Police and IRS revealed that Barry Seal used the Mena airport for "smuggling activity" from late 1980 until March 1984, according to . Also, view a news story about Barry Seal's death. Concurrently, they had to make sure not to raise the suspicions of the ruthless Colombian drug lords. -The Independent, In the movie, Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) starts working for the Medelln Cartel after they abduct him while he is refueling his plane and then make him an offer he can't refuse. Barry Seal's apparent piloting of a JFK assassin getaway plane points, again, to Bush Sr. and his cronies (the Biderman part of the DuPont family, Rockefellers, and more). In 1981, he was making daily deposits of $50,000 into an account at a bank in the Bahamas. Executing secret missions for the government in the movie might add a sort of patriotism and redeeming quality to his character, but in real life Barry Seal was a drug smuggler first and foremost. Adler Berriman "Barry" Seal (July 16, 1939 February 19, 1986) was an American commercial airline pilot who became a major drug smuggler for the Medelln Cartel. In yet another conspiracy-stoking morsel, the C-123 used by Seal was the same one later piloted by Eugene Hasenfus when he was shot down over Nicaragua while piloting illegal U.S. arms shipments . Barry Seal, The Most Important Witness In The History Of The Drug Enforcement Administration. "Doug and I are both aviators, so we both love to fly.". Barry and his wife talked about going into witness protection, but like in the movie, he decided against it. Aterriz en el aeropuerto y junto con las personas que lo esperaban carg unos bultos. His cooperation led to many convictions, as well as indictments against Pablo Escobar and Jorge Ochoa, two of the founding members of the Medelln Cartel. Instead the Times ran a brief item in its Sunday national edition (7/31/88) quoting President Reagans weekly radio broadcast about how Sandinista officials are still involved in drug trafficking.