Richard Wilson, the alleged mastermind behind a series of speakeasies and underground gambling operations recently busted by Seattle police, has already pleaded guilty to arranging large-scale drug deals with a group of Hondurans. Now, however, it is Wilson's connection to leftist rebels in Chiapas, Mexico, that is the latest source of intrigue. According to federal court documents, between 2003 and 2005 Wilson worked as an arms dealer, supplying rifles to the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.
The documents offer little else in the way of details. Wilson, however, did plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to export firearms without a license in June 2010, and at his sentencing hearing he pleaded with the judge for leniency, arguing that by providing guns he "believed that he was doing something that would help the Zapatistas, a group with whom he had sympathy."
Chiapas is one of Mexico's poorest states, and the Zapatistas have been active there since 1994. They fight for autonomy from the Mexican federal government and on behalf of indigenous farmers in the region, promoting a form of socialism in which land is collectively owned and cultivated. They are named after Emiliano Zapata, a leader of the Mexican Revolution.
MercyCorps explains how the anti-globalization movement came to support the Zapatistas:
"Many idealize the Rebels as part of a broader resistance movement of indigenous peoples who have taken up arms against global capitalism--or what is often called "neo-liberalism."
The term neo-liberalism has the effect of a scattershot, as it refers to a cluster of concepts. More often than not Zapatistas associate the term with corrupt policies stretching back as far as the Conquistadors. But anti-globalization proponents refer so-called "free trade" agreements, such as NAFTA, where large corporations - in collusion with national governments - institutionalize highly regulated and often corrupt international trade."
They have sporadically clashed with the Mexican government for years, sometimes violently and sometimes through peaceful protest. But the judge in Wilson's case wasn't buying the argument that the gun-running was for a good cause. He told Wilson, "Sending firearms into a conflict is going to have all kinds of ramifications and likely lead to loss of life in ways that you cannot predict."
Wilson was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in federal prison, and is currently serving out his time at a low security facility in Englewood, Colorado.
Wilson also pleaded guilty to a variety of drug charges, all of which were outlined in a complaint filed in federal court in June 2009. According to the document, the FBI joined a Seattle Police investigation into Wilson's speakeasies and illicit card rooms, an operation they say was fronted by the arts group the Free Sheep Foundation.
Starting in 2006, an undercover SPD officer was "able to insinuate himself into a position of trust" with Wilson by "posing as an affluent 'trust fund baby' who was only interested in partying and turning a quick buck." The narc purchased small amounts of blow at first, then gradually increased the deals at Wilson's urging.
On March 16, 2009, the complaint says, the undercover cop met Marshall Reinsch, Wilson's supplier. Reinsch bragged that he sold a kilo of cocaine a day, and said he had a supplier who sells "everything" including coke, meth, oxycontin, and weed. The undercover cop agreed to buy a kilo of blow for $19,500.
On April 10, the three men met again at Joey's Restaurant in South Lake Union. They had lunch and drove to "The Yard," a "private gambling establishment" at 1419 East Pike street owned by Wilson. At this point, the documents say, Wilson offered to act as the undercover cop's muscle during the drug deals. In exchange for his services, he asked for a cut--"one half of one percent of total purchase price."
Wilson apparently knew what he was doing. According to the court documents, on May 9 the undercover man met Wilson at his apartment on Capitol Hill. Wilson was packing some serious heat: a "snub nose" .38 revolver, a .357 revolver with a Seattle Police stamp on the handle, and a shotgun. He was also wearing body armor, and bandoliers filled with shotgun shells. Wilson took $200 to act as security during the drug deal later that day. They met Reinsch at Joey's again, and bought a kilo of cocaine for $20,500, money that was provided by the FBI. Reinsch also provided a sample of meth, which he called "glass."
The major drug deal that led to the bust was arranged on June 3 at Joey's. Reinsch agreed to sell Wilson and the undercover cop seven kilos of cocaine, three pounds of meth, and a Honda Accord with hidden compartments for a cool $217,000.
Switching things up in case someone like the FBI was watching, the group met June 10 at Daniel's Broiler. This time, Reinsch was joined--unexpectedly--by an intimidating trio of Hondurans. The leader, Carlos Zavala-Bustillo, popped the hood of his car and showed off his hidden compartment that came "straight from Mexico." At this point, the undercover officer joked, "So it won't die on me?" Bustillo, the FBI writes, "did not laugh but said, fairly sternly, that he doesn't mess around."
In another car nearby sat Edwan Fletes, and in a white pickup Cesar Canterero-Arteaga. Canterero had a duffel bag filled with the drugs, according to the court documents. Eventually the FBI arrived with the cash, and Zavala-Bustillo said he hoped it was "the beginning of a good business relationship."
It was not. Shortly thereafter everyone was arrested by SPD, including Wilson who was carrying his two handguns. In custody, Reinsch said he'd gotten into selling drugs after hanging out at Noc Noc and the Sea Sound Lounge in 2008. He said he met his Honduran hook-up in 2009, and was threatened and intimidated once when he was late with a payment. Reinsch claimed Zavala-Bustillo was bringing 100 kilos of coke at at time to Seattle, and once lost $1 million when a shipment was stopped at the border.
Zavala-Bustillo told police he came to Seattle in 2009 after entering the country illegally. He refused to identify his supplier, except to say they are Hondurans who live in San Francisco. Asked for a name, he told the FBI he couldn't say because "those people will kill me."