PHILADELPHIA -- A routine bust last January has led federal authorities on a probe of a clandestine web of drug smuggling, global intrigue and thefts of military hardware with shadowy CIA connections, a published report says.
One of three men arrested last Jan. 4 is believed to be a high-ranking associate of a nationwide group of mercenaries and drug-smugglers called 'The Company,' which has reportedly handled $55 million worth of drugs, The (Philadelphia) Bulletin said in a copyright story Sunday.
Bradley F. Bryant, 36, the reputed member of 'The Company,' also allegedly did contract work for the CIA and was reportedly involved the theft of U.S. military weapons that were to be swapped in Libya for sophisticated Russian radar, the newspaper said.
Bryant's cousin, former Air Force officer Larry Earl Bryant, 40, also is under investigation in connection with thefts of equipment from a secret naval ordnance station at China Lake, Calif., which occurred over a period of several years, The Bulletin said.
The paper quoted federal sources as saying Larry Bryant told them his cousin and another man were involved in stealing Russian radar in Libya for the CIA. Bryant denied making the statement.
'This was a James Bond sort of story, an amazing story,' said U.S. Attorney Peter F. Vaira, recalling the arrests last winter. 'There's something awfully strange here.'
Philadelphia police, who thought they were investigating routine drug smuggling, arrested the Bryants and a third man, Roger Barnard, 30, at the Philadelphia International Airport.
But when officers picked up Bradley Bryant they found no drugs. Instead, police said they found semi-automatic weapons, sophisticated coding equipment, $22,800 cash, 10 counterfeit Kentucky driver's licenses and a semi-automatic pistol.
Baggage confiscated from Larry Bryant and Barnard at a hotel near the airport turned up pistols, commando daggers, a silencer, ski masks, ammunition, disguises and 11 phony driver's licenses, the newspaper said.
Hotel managers tipped off police to Larry Bryant and Barnard when the pair aroused suspicions by paying for their rooms with $100 bills, the newspaper said.
Police also found a pamphlet entitled 'The Top Secret Radio Frequencies of the United States Government'; Russian-English and Spanish-English dictionaries, and stationery listing the address and work habits of a man named George Haddad -- described by sources as an agent who has done intelligence-related work for the United States and Libya, The Bulletin said.
Since then, Larry Bryant has been acquitted of charges of possessing a silencer. His cousin and Barnard are awaiting trial in Philadelphia.
Bradley Bryant, of Lexington, Ky., also has alleged connections to a high-rolling narcotics smuggler considered a suspect in the 1979 killing of a federal judge in Texas, the newspaper said.
In 1979, a former suburban Philadelphia businessman had a contract to provide 'bodyguard' services for Jimmy Chagra, a convicted El Paso, Texas, drug smuggler, the newspaper quotes sources as saying. Chagra is a suspect in the May 29, 1979 assassination of U.S. District Judge John Wood, who was to preside over a drug hearing involving Chagra.