Senior Agent Frank Donovan’s POV
Orlando Office, Sons of Tezcatlipoca Task Force
The office had been reeling with the news of the morning raids and the losses of life and overwhelmed by the volume of evidence that had come in. There were Federal judges in California, Florida, and Washington, DC that did nothing this day except issue search warrants. The information that Frank Grimes had provided was both accurate and explosive.
The raid in Oakland got the press, but it was the other information he had that caused heads to roll. The list of names rumored to be on the Cartel payroll was disturbing. The DEA Director in San Francisco had been replaced, multiple senior agents and lawyers suspended, and investigations opened. Frank Grimes was suspended and rumored to have tipped off the Sons of the attacks coming, which was ludicrous. Frank hated those guys more than anyone; they’d killed his friends.
I had just gotten back from visiting the Steel Brotherhood’s Orlando clubhouse and passed along the information to Mongo and his men. I hoped they listened to me and stayed out of the spotlight because the investigation was starting to resemble a feeding frenzy. Good men like Grimes were being caught up in it, and the Brotherhood could be next.
It was past eight at night when I walked into the office, and the tension could be cut with a knife. “About time you showed up, Donovan,” Al Perkins said from his office door as I took my seat at my desk in the middle of the space. “Commander Lindstrom has been on a conference call for almost an hour now, and it isn’t going well from what I can see.” She was the FBI manager who had taken over the Task Force from Frank Grimes.
“I don’t think anyone is comfortable right now, especially me,” I said. “Frank Grimes was my boss and a close friend; I was half expecting to be asked for my gun and my badge when I walked in.”
“Well, you might want to know what I found out from our friends in Canada,” he said.
“Anything we can use?”
“Actually, yes. You can’t use intercepted communications between US citizens, or between a US citizen and a foreign national. You CAN use communications between two foreign nationals. The list of numbers that Grimes gave us, we used that to search for international numbers, then pulled the conversations. We identified two numbers belonging to the Sinaloa cartel, and four belonging to Sons of Tezcatlipoca chapters in Mexico. We couldn’t tie them directly to the smuggling, but between the phone numbers and the bank accounts, we have the Club on money laundering.”
That was good; that was one of the crimes the RICO statute could use. “At least it is something.”
Al nodded. “True, and the call histories of the Sons chapters here to the known Cartel numbers will help.”
I heard a loud belly laugh in the room, and everything stopped as people turned to see what was going on. It was one of the FBI men, on the phone. “Hang on,” he said. “This is too good to keep to myself; I’m putting you on speakerphone.” He hit a button. “Everyone, this is Claire Bennington, she’s one of our forensic accountants back at Headquarters. Claire, we’re all listening.”
“Well, let me back up a bit and explain. My office has been following up on the account statements that Director Grimes provided. The bank in the Cayman Islands refused to cooperate at first, so we focused on the other end of the transactions. The US bank accounts connected to the Sons, that was easy, and receiving those funds was the basis of the raids this morning.”
“That was good work; I still can’t believe we got the warrants that fast,” I said.
“Thank you. Anyway, the tougher part was tracing the deposits going into the account. We have to go from one offshore bank to another, but we finally traced the funds to Bank of Mexico accounts. The Mexican banking authorities took over from there and confirmed the transactions. Tens of millions in US currency has gone through a half-dozen Mexican banks.”
There was some applause at this; we all wanted them for violent crime, but money laundering laws had severe penalties. “All right, now tell them the good stuff.”
She laughed. “We put pressure on the Cayman bank to freeze the account, but it’s taken us most of the day to get them to provide us with the account records. The statements are legitimate.”
“Did you seize the funds,” I asked.
“We got them to freeze the account, but I don’t think it’s worth the legal headaches of seizing the funds,” she said over the phone.
“Why not, that account had almost ten million in it,” another agent said.
“No, it had nineteen dollars and eighty-seven cents left.” My jaw dropped, and I could hear several people gasping. “All the money was transferred back to the United States yesterday, before the raid on the Oakland warehouse.”
“Well, then we go after the funds in the United States,” I said. “That’s even easier, and we can take down the people who received the funds.”
“I don’t think you want to do that. Look, either the Sons had a complete change of heart, or someone hacked their account and drained it. My money is on the latter, and if I ever meet the person who did this, I’m buying them a beer.”
“What did they do?”
“The contents of the account were distributed charitably. About two hundred and twenty-five thousand sent to each of the GoFundMe pages of the three Orlando police officers, the victims of the attack on the Orlando clubhouse, and Harleigh Ryder. The remainder was divided among a few charities supporting law enforcement and military foundations. The Marine Corps/Law Enforcement Foundation, the Gary Sinise Foundation, a few others.” She started laughing. “It’s fucking classic. Someone took the gang’s drug money and used it to help the victims of the gang. We don’t have to go after the money; it’s already gone.”
I thought about it, then started laughing too. Others soon joined in. “Oh man,” I said as I wiped my eyes. “I wish I could be a fly on the wall when Jesus Correria or the others pull up their account information and see it gone.”
“I can’t wait until they are behind bars, and all the guards are thanking them for their charitable donations,” Al Perkins said. “Honestly, this is better than any other option. The money would be tied up for years before the Government adds it to the general fund. Instead, a whole bunch of families and deserving people are going to get some financial help out of this.”
“Well, I’m done investigating where the money went. I’ll put the final destinations in the report. I’ve already checked with Legal; since the charitable organizations and funds did not know the source of the money and did not solicit it directly, they can keep it. The Government could sue to retrieve it, but that would be the dumbest move ever.”
I had to agree. At that moment, the door finally opened to Commander Perkins’ office. “Donovan, a moment.”
“Yes, ma’am.” I walked into the room as she held the door; she gestured for one of the chairs in front of her desk and closed the door behind her. I waited for her to sit down behind her desk before I sat. “You heard about the Cayman account?”
“I’ve been briefed,” she said. “You know about Director Grimes?”
“Just what is on the rumor mill. I left a message on his phone, but he hasn’t returned it. The guys in the Los Angeles office don’t know anything; I know the Deputy Director is taking charge.” It all seemed surreal to me, I could only imagine what Frank was going through.
“He is suspended; there is evidence he tipped off an unknown person about the timing of the raids. That person we suspect hit the building where the tunnel came out at the same time we raided the Clubhouse. They killed six men and took something; we believe it was a large amount of cash.”
“I don’t believe he would do that,” I said.
“He may not have known what the other person was doing, but at this point, it doesn’t matter. He has informed the Director that he will be retiring anyway, and so he won’t be going back. Acting Director Terry Jimenez has asked for you to return, and I’ve agreed to let you go from the Task Force. You are to turn over your information to the team tonight and clear out your desk. Catch a flight back to Los Angeles and report to work.”
I just nodded, I was shocked to be off the task force so quickly. “I understand. Thank you, Commander Perkins. Maybe we will work together again.”
“Sooner than you think, Agent Donovan. The Sons task force is relocating. There isn’t anything left in Florida to deal with now. The Florida Attorney General is closing out the investigation into the events here; all of the Sons involved are dead or presumed dead. If there is evidence of a conspiracy to commit murder, it will be in another state and pursued at the Federal level.”
I whistled. “I didn’t think the locals would give up that easily.”
“They aren’t the priority anymore, and they want to close this chapter out. No one likes open cases involving dead cops.”
It made sense. “You said the task force is relocating. Where?”
“Los Angeles,” she said. “I’ve been asked to head up the Federal law enforcement group; the Justice Department will be heading it up, with State and County officials. This task force is going to be huge; there are multiple states involved, and hundreds of people indicted. I will close out this office tomorrow, then head west. That’s not to be talked about yet; I’ll make the announcement soon.”
“Understood. Congratulations, Commander.” She started to work, so I took the hint and got up. “I’ll check out with you when my turnover is complete,” I said.
“Go.” I walked out the door and back to my desk, several of my colleagues gathering around to find out what is going on. “It’s true, Director Grimes is suspended and is retiring. I’ve been taken off the Task Force and directed to return back to the Los Angeles office to support the Acting Director.”
“Shit, sorry man,” Al said. “I’m not surprised; all the action is out west now.”
“Hey, I get to sleep in my own bed again. It’s been good working with you,” I told him as I handed over my card. I called my home office and had them get me a flight; I took one that left at two in the afternoon tomorrow so I could sleep in. I didn’t have a lot to turn over, so I exchanged contact information and cleared out my desk.
When I went to check out, Commander Perkins was on the phone; she just waved goodbye to me and turned to look at her computer again. I dropped my keycard at my desk, shook a few hands, and walked out just before ten at night. I opened the trunk of the rental car and set my suit jacket and tie inside, then put my gun and badge on top; I wasn’t on the clock now.
I needed to make one more stop before I left, so I drove the familiar route to the Orlando Brotherhood clubhouse. Parking outside, I told the Prospect manning the gate that I needed to see Mongo. “Follow me,” he said.
He opened the gate. I followed him inside, and he led me to the bar area of the big space that they had. The Clubhouse was packed, music was blaring, and the tables were full of members and their Old Ladies. Mongo was at one of the long tables, Three Tequila on his lap, surrounded by a few of the other Chapter Presidents I recognized from the service. “Sorry about dropping in, but I needed to talk,” I told him as he looked up.
“Let’s go to my office,” he said as he started to lift Three Tequila up.
“No, this is fine. I’d rather do this over a couple of beers.” He raised an eyebrow at that but gestured to the Prospect to get me my drinks. “I’m off the clock and the case,” I said.
“Well, in that case, have some barbecue with your beers.” Another prospect came up, bringing a plate loaded with chicken, ribs, cornbread, and beans. “You picked a good time to go off the clock; the party really starts up in the next hour or two.”
I tried the chicken; it was excellent. “I’m off the Task Force,” I told the men at the table. “I’ve been recalled to the Los Angeles office. I fly out in the afternoon.”
“There’s a lot of shit going down out there,” Three Tequila said. “I’m not surprised they are sending you home.”
“You heard about Frank Grimes?” A few of them nodded. “He’s out; if he gets off suspension, he’ll already have his retirement papers in. They need me back there, and like you said, all the action is out there now. We don’t have any suspects in Harleigh’s abduction or the attack on your Clubhouse who are still alive.”
“The Sons are still a danger,” Shimmy said. He was acting President of the Fort Lauderdale chapter now, with Granite still in the hospital and paralyzed from the waist down after taking a bullet in the back. “Jesus Correria is still at large.”
“For now,” I said. “The Sons are going to be buried in indictments and injunctions soon. We’re going to RICO their asses until they are all in prison.” I started to laugh. “You wouldn’t believe what I heard tonight before I left.”
“You can’t just leave that hanging,” Three T said.
“Notice anything in your Go Fund Me pages,” I asked.
Three T’s eyes lit up. “It’s been amazing,” she said. “Some of the families are over three hundred thousand in donations.”
“Well, SOMEONE hacked the Son’s offshore account where they kept their drug money after laundering it,” I said. “They donated over two hundred thousand to every one of the victims, and made big donations to some other military and law enforcement charities.”
Her jaw dropped. “THAT is where the money came from?”
I nodded. “My God, I wish I could see their faces when they find the money gone, and then when they find out where it went. It’s poetic.” I started laughing, then the rest of the table joined me.
“We don’t have to give that money back, do we,” Tripod asked.
“No, the Government isn’t going to go after it, I have that straight from the FBI and their lawyers.” I tucked into the ribs; they were even better. We didn’t get good barbecue in Los Angeles, not like this. “Damn, this is great stuff.”
“One of the guys at the Myrtle Beach chapter came down and cooked this. We have an unofficial barbecue competition since the Chapters love to drink and eat. He won Best Ribs,” Eclipse said as he ate a few more. “We’ve been doing whatever we can to help out the Orlando chapter while they get set up again.”
I took a long drink. “Well, keep your heads down, and things should blow over soon. I don’t think the Sons will be able to put another attack together given the pressure we are putting on them, but you need to stay safe.”
“We’ll make sure they are,” Eclipse said.
We talked for a while about other things, and they were disappointed to learn I didn’t ride. “Jesus, you’re in Los Angeles, you should be riding all the time,” Mongo said.
“I never learned,” I said.
“There’s nothing like it,” he said. “It’s never too late. The stats say the average Harley buyer is a professional male in his forties. You’re in the zone,” he said. “Once you retire, you could even prospect if you wanted.”
“That’s all I need, to be fifty years old and waiting tables,” I said with a laugh. “Where’s the bathroom?”
“Back this way, I’ll show you,” he said. I wiped off the sauce with a napkin, tossing it on a plate that only had the bones left, and chugged the rest of my beer. Following him through a door and down a hallway, we went into a smaller room.
Mongo checked that it was empty, then locked the door as I was using one of the urinals. “She’s safe,” he said.
“Good. Keep her that way.” I finished up and went to wash my hands. “I was able to keep the investigation from going in the direction of Chase and Rori, but I’m off it now. Make sure they keep their noses clean and avoid attention.”
“We will. Come on, the band should be starting soon.” We went back out to the party, and I let myself have fun for one night. They had a Prospect drive me to my hotel.
The flight to Los Angeles was brutal with the hangover I was nursing.