U-T: SD Firm Linked To Mexican Plot To Smuggle Gadhafi's Son
Veritas Worldwide Security Says Its Associates Were Only In Mexico To Collect Money
Wendy Fry, U-T
December 7, 2011
SAN DIEGO -- Mexican authorities on Wednesday said they thwarted an attempt to smuggle a son of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi into a resort near Puerto Vallarta, a conspiracy they say involves two associates of a San Diego-based security company.
The associates of Veritas Worldwide Security are being detained in Mexico, along with two others who have been arrested, after an investigation dubbed by authorities as "Operation Guest," according to Mexican authorities and an employee of the company.
Veritas specializes in clandestine operations, armed combat and provision of weapons, according to its website, and it lists Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano as its executive vice president for law enforcement training.
Bejarano, who is also a former San Diego police chief, said Wednesday he was a vice president with the company on paper only and has not had any contact with anyone from the company since January.
"I have no idea who is working for the company. I have not done any consulting for the company. I have not received any compensation from the company," Bejarano said. "I wasn't aware I was on their website. I just assumed that the company never got started and I never heard any more."
Saadi Gadhafi, 38, a former professional soccer player, is accused by the Libyan National Transitional Government of commanding Army Special Forces military units that brutally suppressed demonstrators during recent final uprisings against the regime. He is wanted by Interpol and is being held in Niger without extradition.
Four suspects in the smuggling attempt — including a Canadian woman named Cynthia Vanier identified as the mastermind — are under house arrest in Mexico.
Two people connected to Veritas were identified by Mexican authorities as members of the criminal network planning the operation — Gabriela Dávila Huerta and Pierre Christian Flensborg. The authorities said the two arranged air travel to destinations included Mexico, the U.S., Canada, Kosovo and several Middle Eastern countries.
"The large economic resources which this criminal organization has, or had, allowed them to contract private flights," Interior Minister Alejandro Poire said at a Wednesday morning news conference.
According to Gregory Gillispie, director of special operations for Veritas, Huerta and Pierre are his associates through another company, G&G Holdings, and had been sent to Mexico to collect money for air travel.
Gillispie said the payment was for travel to Tunisia for Vanier. Gillispie said he knew nothing about what passengers were up to.
"I brokered an airplane deal," he said. "That's all I did."
Further, he said, his associates were not able to collect their payment before being detained.
Michael Boffo, a training official for Veritas, said Wednesday he is worried about his two co-workers detained in Mexico and that the situation is horrible.
Boffo confirmed the company has leased a plane to Vanier a couple times and also denied any responsibility for the plot.
"We weren't involved in it," he said. "If I rent a car to you and you go rob a bank with it ... "
Bejarano has a history with Joseph Casas, CEO of Veritas Worldwide Security, the San Diego company whose associates have been detained in Mexico over a plot to smuggle in Saadi Gadhafi.
Casas, an attorney, represented Bejarano in May 2010 in a dispute the chief had with a former business partner from an unrelated private security firm that Bejarano had co-owned.
Bejarano’s former business partner at Presidential Security claimed Bejarano was still writing checks and collecting a paycheck from the firm after leaving to become police chief in August 2009.
Bejarano said he was approached a year ago by Casas to provide “active shooter, threat training and first responder training” at a Veritas center in San Antonio. Bejarano is listed on the Veritas website as executive vice president of law enforcement training.
“Headquartered in San Diego, Calif., VW Security is in the ideal location to provide personal security detachments (PSD) to both American and Mexican clientele,” according to the Veritas website. Bejarano said he signed a contract with Veritas Worldwide Security, but would not provide it because it’s confidential. He said he has received no compensation from the company and may have made an investment of $500 in the venture.
“I’m not aware what they’re involved in or what they did, but obviously if they’re involved in anything illegal, I absolutely would not condone that or be involved in that,” Bejarano said.
The company’s website also states, “With kidnapping and border violence at unprecedented highs, VW Security can provide safety and peace of mind for a wide range of domestic and international scenarios.”
Bejarano leads a department of 224 sworn law officers, 100 civilian staff members and about 70 volunteers. He oversees a budget of about $44 million providing law enforcement services to the second largest city in the county with 225,000 residents.
In addition to being Chula Vista’s police chief, where Bejarano earns an annual salary of $187,000, he is on the board of directors at Vibra Bank and the Chula Vista Elementary School District.
Also listed among Veritas personnel, as vice president of acquisitions, is former Port Commissioner Michael Najera. He could not be reached for comment.