Cuban emigre pleads not guilty to weapons cache charge
Campaign News | Monday, 29 May 2006
Robert Ferro stashed nearly 1,400 machine guns, grenades and rifles in his Los Angeles home to help a paramilitary group overthrow President Fidel Castro
Los Angeles 26 May - A man accused of illegally storing 1,400 guns in his home pleaded not guilty to federal weapons charges on Wednesday.
Robert Ferro, who told investigators he was holding the guns on behalf of a group intent on overthrowing Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, entered the plea during a short hearing in U.S. District Court in Riverside.
His attorney, Christopher Johnson, declined to discuss the allegations afterward, but did issue a brief statement on Ferro's behalf.
"Mr. Ferro is a veteran and a patriot who comes from a long line of patriots," Johnson said. "He believes when all the facts and circumstances are known he will be exonerated."
Johnson said Ferro, 61, is a former Army special-forces officer.
Ferro remains in custody without bail. He is charged with two counts of gun possession by a felon and three counts of possessing unregistered firearms.
Investigators found the guns during a search of Ferro's Upland home last month.
Included among the weapons were several machine guns, rifles and pistols with silencers, according to Ferro's indictment.
Ferro is not supposed to have guns because of a 1992 conviction for possessing explosives.
In that case, investigators said they found the explosives on Ferro's Pomona chicken ranch. They claimed he was also training young men on the ranch to overthrow the Cuban government.
According to a search-warrant affidavit in the new case, Ferro claims to be a member of the anti-Castro group Alpha 66.
Investigators claim Ferro told them he and Alpha 66 were laying plans to overthrow Castro.
He said Alpha 66 funded the purchase of the guns, and that he was storing them in advance of the mission, investigators claim in the affidavit.
An Alpha 66 spokesman has denied any link to Ferro.
Ferro appeared in court Wednesday dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit with chains around his waist and wrists.
He was notified of his constitutional rights before he was called to stand before the judge. He emphatically entered a not guilty plea.
More than a dozen friends and relatives filled the courtroom to support Ferro. He repeatedly twisted his head to see them before his case was called.
Magistrate Judge Oswald Parada ordered him to return to court for a pretrial hearing on July 3. The judge also set a July 11 trial date.
Cuban emigre indicted on five federal counts over weapons cache
Los Angeles 20 May: A Cuban emigre who said he stashed nearly 1,400 machine guns, grenades and rifles in his Upland home to help a paramilitary group overthrow President Fidel Castro was indicted this week on federal weapons charges, officials announced Friday.
Robert Ferro, 61, faces five felony counts for allegedly storing the weapons, some of which were unregistered. Each count carries up to 10 years in prison. A spokesman for the US attorney's office said additional charges could be filed.
A retired Army Special Forces officer, Ferro told The Times that the weapons, which included a rocket launcher, were being stowed for Alpha 66, the Florida paramilitary group that has long plotted Castro's overthrow.
The group has disavowed any connection to Ferro. His attorney, Wayne M. Rozenberg, has said that the group takes that stance because it operates in a secretive manner.
Fidel Castro mentioned Ferro in a May 1 speech in Havana, saying the exile "had as many arms as the mercenaries brought with them to Giron," a reference to the disastrous 1961 US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion, the Associated Press reported.
Authorities discovered the weapons in Ferro's home last month while investigating a La Verne man accused of shooting his wife and a Glendora police officer. The man had once lived at a house Ferro owned in Rancho Cucamonga.
In 1992, Ferro was sentenced to two years in prison for possessing an explosive device. Authorities found 5 pounds of C-4 on his Pomona chicken ranch, where he had been training mercenaries to topple Castro.
Ferro is being held without bail at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga. He is to be arraigned Wednesday in US District Court in Riverside.
US government gave me weapons says arms stash man
A Los Angeles man accused of selling guns illegally from his home said in a jailhouse interview on Thursday that some of the 1,500 weapons he had at his home were covertly supplied to him by the US government, intended for an attempt to overthrow Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
Police say Cuban-American Robert Ferro had 1,571 firearms and some hand grenades stashed inside secret compartments and hidden rooms he built inside his sprawling foothill estate. He was arrested last week after a search of his home in connection with another case uncovered the weapons.
But in an interview with The Los Angeles Times on Thursday, Ferro, 61, contended that some of the high-powered weapons - including assault rifles, silencer-equipped handguns and Uzis - were supplied to him by the US government.
He said the weapons were supposed to be used in an attempt to oust Castro that would have coincided with U.S. Navy operations being conducted in the Caribbean Sea.
"Obviously, now it will not take place," Ferro said. "Those guns I had were very sophisticated weapons. It was for a fight. I was just trying to mimic what President Bush has done in Iraq, bring freedom to the country.
"I was born [in Cuba]. I want to free them. I love freedom. I love [the U.S.], and I want the same thing for my country."
US military officials acknowledged that 6,500 sailors on several ships and the Virginia-based carrier George Washington are participating in an exercise with at least eight other navies in international waters in the Caribbean. Although the exercise will come as close as 12 miles to Cuba's territorial waters, military officials said it would primarily be hundreds of miles away from the island nation.
One military official said the idea of a U.S. invasion of Cuba "sounds like it's coming from a guy living in a mental time warp, stuck back in the Bay of Pigs. This is 2006, not 1961."
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Jeffrey D. Gordon said, "Clearly, these allegations [by Ferro] have no merit and have no basis in fact."
Ferro was arrested last week by officers with L.A. IMPACT, a Southern California multi-agency task force, as they investigated his connection to Frank Fidel Beltran, 36, a fugitive arrested in late March while living in a Rancho Cucamonga rental home owned by Ferro.
Beltran was wanted on suspicion of shooting a Glendora police officer in the hand after the officer responded to a domestic dispute between Beltran and his wife. A few weeks later, Beltran shot his wife eight times at a San Dimas intersection after pursuing her in his vehicle, a Los Angeles County sheriff's official said. The woman remains hospitalized, and the gun has not been found, authorities said.
According to police, Beltran is an associate of a Pomona street gang. When he was arrested, authorities said, he had two guns, including a silencer-equipped handgun, similar to weapons found in Ferro's home.
The U.S. attorney's office has charged Ferro with one count of possessing unregistered firearms, but Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the office, said additional charges, including harboring a fugitive, could be added before his scheduled May 10 arraignment in U.S. District Court in Riverside.
Investigators say the Ferro-Beltran link leads them to believe Ferro was selling the guns for profit on the street. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is tracing the guns, but that could take months, bureau spokesman John D'Angelo said Thursday.
During the jailhouse interview, Ferro denied law enforcement assertions that he was a friend of Beltran and that he had provided him and others with weapons. He said Beltran "did some work for him" a few times and moved into the Ferro-owned home without his approval while Beltran's brother did some repair work on the property.
Ferro, who says he's a member of a Miami-based group, Alpha 66, that advocates the overthrow of Castro's regime, said Thursday that about 50 other U.S. citizens were scheduled to accompany him to Cuba, with further assistance coming from people inside Cuba.
FBI spokeswoman Laura Einmiller said her office was investigating the possibility that other anti-Castro sympathizers connected to Ferro had stashed weapons in their homes.
"Mr. Ferro's motives, and all aspects of what Mr. Ferro's statements have been - whether or not he was planning violent acts - are under investigation," she said. "No one else has been arrested in this matter."
Alpha 66 leader Ernesto Diaz said last week that Ferro was not a member of the group.
In the 1990s, Ferro was sentenced to two years in prison for possessing 5 pounds of the putty-like explosive C-4. In a 1991 raid, police said Ferro, then a licensed gun dealer, was arrested at the Upland home, where deputies seized an illegal assault rifle and semiautomatic shotgun. About 300 legal firearms were not confiscated.
Prosecutors in the 1990s case said Ferro was an Alpha 66 member training Mexicans at a Pomona chicken ranch he owned for a Castro overthrow attempt.
Cuban media calls on US to act on terrorist group linked to arms stash
Havana, Apr 21 (Prensa Latina) Cuban media condemned US judicial authorities Friday, for not bringing charges against Cuban-born citizen Roberto Ferro, who was recently arrested in California with a cache of more than 1,000 weapons.
Under the banner headline, "What will the FBI do now?" Granma pointed out that members of the Alpha66 "Cuban-American Miami-based terrorist group with a large dossier of criminal attacks against Cuba" have not been investigated.
Ferro, who was part of that group, and an ex member of the US Army Special Forces, with a long personal arrest record, was also arrested in November and presently faces eight charges for that arrest.
He was also accused in 1990 of directing a paramilitary camp in Pomona, where five pounds of C-4 explosives were confiscated.
At that time, Ferro was convicted to two years in prison, but no action was taken against the terrorist group, which continued operating freely in Miami, although Ferro confirmed that Alpha 66 paid for the weapons.
Granma daily condemned the unexplainable stance by the FBI, which has so far done nothing to find out what happened.
Current Alpha66 chief Ernesto Diaz Rodriguez "continues promoting terrorism from his office at 1714 W Flagler Street, Miami, and the FBI remains quiet, it editorialized.
Alpha66 planned to murder Cuban President Fidel Castro, has attacked Cuban fishing boats, and threatened to kill people friendly to Cuba in the US, Canada, Mexico, and in Latin America.
The current US administration has excellent relations with Alpha66 (President George W Bush met with eleven Alpha66 cronies on May 20, 2003), despite Miami police documents considering it "one of the most dangerous organizations" in Miami.
While this happens, five Cuban men: Gerardo Hernandez, Rene Gonzalez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando Gonzalez, who monitored terrorist activities of these criminal groups, have been unfairly imprisoned in the US since 1998, the daily contended.
Gun stash was intended for attack on Cuba, says arrested man
Ex-Army officer had more than 1,000 weapons in his home
California, 20 April: A Cuban emigre who was arrested for having more than 1,000 guns in his suburban California home has told federal authorities that the weapons were for a military group planing to invade Cuba.
Federal agents on Wednesday found hundreds of additional firearms as well as hand grenades during a follow-up search of the San Bernardino County home of Robert Ferro, a retired US Army Special Forces officer, adding to the 875 guns that had been confiscated on Friday.
Ferro told federal investigators that he was a member of the anti-Castro group Alpha 66, "a militant group who collectively desire to overthrow Fidel Castro and liberate the country of Cuba," according to an affidavit filed in federal court by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Special Agent Keith Krolczyk.
Ferro said the organization paid for the guns and had other caches of weapons, according to the court document.
Alpha 66 is among the oldest anti-Castro groups in Miami and in the 1960s and 1970s trained in the Everglades for an armed invasion of Cuba. Officials with the group could not be reached for comment.
Ferro's arrest on federal weapons charges came more than a decade after he was accused of running a paramilitary camp in Pomona, Calif., that was training Mexican nationals to overthrow Castro.
Authorities found five pounds of the explosive C-4 at the ranch and in 1992 Ferro was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison.