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Former wrestler helped take down Aryan Nations

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Quigley_Sharps, Jun 2, 2015.

  1. Quigley_Sharps

    Quigley_Sharps The Badministrator Administrator Founding Member


    MEDFORD, Ore. – Sitting in the living room of his home in Coeur d’Alene, Rico Valentino listened as two white supremacists hatched a scheme. What was needed, they said, was a smaller group, a specific target and a specific plan. A bomb.

    Valentino nodded as they spoke. The men trusted the flamboyantly dressed, guitar-playing wrestling promoter who’d endeared himself to the Aryan Nations’ decidedly macho membership. What Robert Winslow and Stephen Nelson didn’t know that day 25 years ago was that within a year, they’d both be in federal prison because of Valentino’s testimony.

    On a recent afternoon at a Medford, Oregon, coffee shop, his eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses, Valentino, who now lives in a rural part of Jackson County and describes himself as “78 before breakfast,” says he first became an informant while working in the burgeoning wrestling industry in the 1960s. In those days, the circuit was rampant with drugs, he says.

    “I was promoting wrestling in California and two federal narcotics agents came up to me,” he recalls. The agents wanted him to help them make a case against another member of the circuit who was also a prominent cocaine dealer. “They said he was bringing it in big-time.”

    The undercover gig paid well and he enjoyed it, so he kept it up, going on to work for other agencies in Northern California. Another job opportunity presented itself in the early 1980s, when a drug dealer approached Valentino while he was in Medford visiting with his sister. Valentino said he went straight to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department and approached then-Sheriff C.W. Smith, asking for $10,000 in buy money and offering his services as an informant.

    Smith was skeptical at first and called around to check his references. “He told (Lt. Jim VanSant), ‘If that S.O.B. runs with the money, shoot him,’ ” Valentino recalls, laughing.

    But the sting worked and investigators got their man, so he continued working for the sheriff’s department. “I’ve worked for a bunch of sheriffs, but C.W. was the best,” he says. “He’s one of the few people in the world I can call a true friend.”

    By 1989, Valentino was working for the FBI as a highly placed informant in the Aryan Nations compound at Hayden Lake. The white supremacist group was at the top of federal law enforcement agencies’ target lists after a splinter group called The Order went on a nationwide crime spree and sought to start an anti-government revolution four years earlier. Valentino was so successful infiltrating the organization that Richard Butler, the leader of the Aryan Nations, was later reluctant to accept that Rico had been working against him all along.

    For much of his time working undercover, Valentino wore a hidden microphone connected to a transmitter or a tape recorder. Discovery of the wire could have meant death for the former wrestler, but his intimidating size kept anyone from getting too handsy, he says. “Nobody had the nerve to search me.”

    At the time the FBI was inserting Valentino into the Aryan Nations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms already had placed a man of their own close to the top. These days, law enforcement agencies “deconflict” their undercover and tactical operations through state and national watch centers and regional computer systems. But when he first encountered Valentino in 1989, ATF informant Kenneth Fadeley later testified before Congress, there wasn’t any coordination between federal law enforcement agencies with regard to avoiding conflict between their informants.

    Valentino remembers Fadeley walked and talked like he didn’t belong. “I’m old enough to realize who’s a cop and who’s not,” he says, though at the time he wasn’t certain which agency Fadeley worked for. Fadeley was eventually outed as an informant when Aryan Nations security guards, looking into his background, discovered his car’s license plate number didn’t match its vehicle identification number.

    After Fadeley’s cover was blown, ATF agents eventually approached Ruby Ridge resident Randy Weaver, who allegedly had sold Fadeley two sawed-off shotguns. The agents offered to drop their case against Weaver if he agreed to serve as an informant, but he refused. Weaver later found himself at the center of a standoff with the FBI, ATF and the U.S. Marshals Service, during which his wife and son were both fatally shot by agents.

    In 1990, while still undercover in the Aryan Nations compound, Valentino befriended Winslow and Nelson, who had decidedly militant ideas about advancing the group’s ideology.

    “You’ll always have idiots like that hanging around (white supremacist groups),” Valentino says. As the men plotted in his home that night, their conversations were recorded by a video camera hidden inside his television set.

    After watching Winslow and Nelson test a homemade bomb with a third man, Procter James Baker, Valentino offered to drive the group to Seattle, where they planned to target the Neighbours Disco in Capitol Hill. FBI agents swooped in and arrested Winslow and Nelson en route after they stopped to purchase alleged bomb components; Baker, who hadn’t made the trip, was arrested the same day in Idaho.

    Informants generally keep their identities secret and aren’t expected to testify in court, but Valentino, who was paid $90,000 in the Aryan Nations investigation, wasn’t shy about taking the stand. His testimony proved crucial in putting the bomb-plot suspects behind bars. Winslow was sentenced to nine years in prison, Nelson to eight and Baker to two.

    Valentino maintains he never instigated criminal activities himself and was careful to document every bit of his eventual testimony. “I recorded everything they said and I wrote it out,” he says.

    In 1992, Nelson, Winslow and Baker appealed their convictions to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing the FBI had used Valentino to entrap them, effectively encouraging criminal activity. The court rejected their appeal.

    “At the time Valentino first targeted the appellants for investigation, both Winslow and Nelson had already expressed interest in blowing up establishments frequented by homosexuals,” Judge David R. Thompson wrote in the court’s decision.

    Valentino says he’s received plenty of death threats since his identity became known. One Aryan Nations member told him over the phone that the only reason Valentino was still alive was that his would-be assailant didn’t have a car. Valentino said he offered to pay for a cab.

    “The way I looked at it, I lived a full life – if I get killed, so what?” he says. “You are only going to die once, but you get to live every day.”
  2. Quigley_Sharps

    Quigley_Sharps The Badministrator Administrator Founding Member

    its interesting how everything in that area was tied together like the snipet of Weaver being tied in to this.
    kellory and Tully Mars like this.
  3. 3M-TA3

    3M-TA3 Cold Wet Monkey Site Supporter++

    Interesting story and wish there are more like him out there. In one of the very few times the Southern Poverty Law Center did something right they sued the AN for 6.3 Million dollars on behalf of two people who were beaten when their car backfired outside the compound. That pretty much broke their back financially and started the decline.

    Aryan Nations - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  4. UncleMorgan

    UncleMorgan I eat vegetables. My friends are not vegetables.

    "Pay for the cab..."
    What a GREAT line.
  5. chelloveck

    chelloveck Diabolus Causidicus

    Couldn't happen to a nicer group of people (AN) .
    Quigley_Sharps, BTPost and ghrit like this.
  6. 3M-TA3

    3M-TA3 Cold Wet Monkey Site Supporter++

    I was living in Idaho at the time - we were all greatly relieved since their stench stuck to all of us.
    chelloveck, Taku and Quigley_Sharps like this.
  7. Minuteman

    Minuteman Chaplain Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    It's a sad time in this country when a low life snitch for profit is hailed as some kind of hero. The guy is the lowest form of scum. Randy Weaver, a college football star, honorably discharged Green Beret, true "John Wayne" American told the people this scumbag worked for to stuff it. He wouldn't snitch on anybody for them. So they murdered his wife and son and destroyed his life. But this guy is proud of "working" for these criminals to set up and destroy the lives of others (who may or may not have been guilty of anything). Yep, that's a true American right there huh? Who was the bigger threat to the public, the AN or the BATF? I think the body count goes hands down to the feds.
    gunbunny likes this.
  8. Quigley_Sharps

    Quigley_Sharps The Badministrator Administrator Founding Member

    Good to see you post again.
  9. Minuteman

    Minuteman Chaplain Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    back in.
  10. Quigley_Sharps

    Quigley_Sharps The Badministrator Administrator Founding Member

    LMAO, no kidding
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