The pilot who once flew fugitive financier Robert Vesco from place to place remembers him as a fearful “white knuckles passenger.” Vesco’s coloring these days is more likely an outraged shade of purple. Last month the pilot, a 45-year-old daredevil named Alwyn (“Ike”) Eisenhauer, “repossessed” Vesco’s $3.5 million Boeing 707, flying it from Panama to New Jersey, where it was impounded by a court order.
Eisenhauer pulled off the brazen stunt in order to collect about $55,000 in back pay and other expenses that he says Vesco owes him. It was one of the few successful attempts to recover anything from Vesco, who is accused of bilking $224 million from overseas mutual funds. For more than two years Vesco has been living in the Bahamas and Costa Rica.
In 1971 Eisenhauer, then Vesco’s chief pilot, helped his boss lease the surplus airplane and oversaw the refitting to include such amenities as a bar, sauna and dance floor. Then, when Vesco’s financial network soured, Eisenhauer’s job fell through, and about two months ago Vesco ordered the jet parked in Panama, where he thought it would be safe from his creditors.
Back in the United States, Eisenhauer proposed sneaking the plane home to a New Jersey judge, who gave tacit approval to the scheme on behalf of the airplane’s owners, a holding company that had gone into receivership. The plane is its principal asset.
Eisenhauer and a crew of two flew to Panama on a commercial jet and wangled a meeting with the country’s director of civil aviation. The official was still angry because the pilots Vesco had hired to fly the airplane to Panama had landed without the proper clearance. Brags Eisenhauer: “I wrote a beautiful letter apologizing and explaining I represented the legal owner.” Then he sat down for a formal meeting with the Panamanian official, where the two discovered they were both old fighter pilots. “He came around the desk and shook my hand with both of his,” says Eisenhauer. It was then he knew the ploy had worked. Eisenhauer and his crew went to the airfield, readied the plane and made an uneventful flight to the United States.
The airplane will probably be sold—a rock band has expressed interest—and it will be sorely missed by Vesco, who sometimes would put in as many as 28 days out of a month aboard the jet. “He liked to work in it,” recalls Eisenhauer, “wearing his wine-colored lounging pajamas. It was like his security blanket. The crew was all on 24-hour alert—always on the go. Before you could even finish your drink you were in another country.” Though Vesco often ordered exotic meals prepared for his guests, his own favorite was pizza cooked aboard the plane and an inexpensive Chianti.
Ironically, Vesco disliked flying, especially in turbulence. “Once,” recalls Vesco former chief stewardess Dottie McCarthy, “we hit an air pocket and a galley door banged open. Bob dropped to his knees and yelled, ‘What the hell is going on?’ And he walked back to his seat on his knees.”
Now, after the return of the 707 it turns out Elvis was looking for an airplane and Elvis paid a $75,000 deposit on the Boeing 707 but the deal fell through. The previous owner, Robert Vesco, was the fugitive financier who had fled to South America after allegedly embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars from international investment firms. Buying his plane would involve some complicated wrangling with the IRS and Elvis was warned about another complication: If the plane ever landed in any of the countries Vesco was establishing a base in, there was every reason to believe that they might try to seize it.
So, Elvis found a used Delta Airlines Convair 880 that had a clean record and would have no problem flying to any country around the globe. Elvis opted for the Convair for $250,000.00 USD.
Now, what happened to Vesco?
A Last Vanishing Act for Robert Vesco
HAVANA — Robert L. Vesco, the fugitive financier who spent most of his life eluding American justice, might even have managed to die on the sly.
Mr. Vesco, who was sentenced to a long prison term in Cuba in 1996 and was wanted in the United States for crimes ranging from securities fraud and drug trafficking to political bribery, died more than five months ago, on Nov. 23, from lung cancer, say people close to him. If so, it was never reported publicly by the Cuban authorities, who said Friday that they considered him a “nonissue.” American officials said Friday they knew nothing about his death.
“We don’t know that it occurred,” an American official said.
If Mr. Vesco indeed eluded the American authorities until his final day, it was the fitting end to his nearly four decades on the run. He was wanted for, among other things, bilking some $200 million from credulous investors in the 1970s, making an illegal contribution to Richard M. Nixon’s 1972 presidential campaign and trying to arrange a deal during the Carter administration to let Libya buy American planes in exchange for bribes to United States officials.
Mr. Vesco last made the news a decade ago when he was sentenced to prison in Cuba, where he had taken sanctuary, for a financial scheme. He emerged in recent years and lived a quiet life in Havana until he contracted lung cancer. After about a week in a hospital, friends say, he died and was buried in an unmarked grave.
Given the controversial nature of the man, none of his friends dared be identified for fear of running afoul of the Cuban authorities. While word of Mr. Vesco’s death could be the final ruse of a 72-year-old modern-day buccaneer who had every reason to drop off the radar, it would have to be an elaborate one.
Records at Colón Cemetery in Havana indicate that a Robert Vesco was buried there on Nov. 24, and photographs and videos viewed by The New York Times show a man resembling him in a casket with his longtime Cuban companion looking over him.
Instead, Mr. Vesco seemed to have a compulsion to call attention to himself from his places of exile. A self-made man, he seemed hardly able to help it.
A high school dropout from Detroit, he lied about his age to get a job on an automobile assembly line. At 21, he moved to New Jersey to work for a struggling manufacturer of machine tools.
He took over the company when it went bankrupt, rebuilt it and renamed it the International Controls Corporation. By the age of 30, Mr. Vesco was a millionaire.
He later turned his sights on a Switzerland-based mutual fund company, Investment Overseas Services (I.O.S.). When that, too, ran into trouble, Mr. Vesco offered to rescue the company and was embraced as a white knight by investors terrified of losing their savings.
He bought I.O.S. in 1970 for less than $5 million, gaining control of an estimated $400 million in funds. The accounting at the company had been so chaotic that Mr. Vesco, by adding a few subterfuges of his own, was able to plunder its holdings at will.
After numerous complaints, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission carried out an investigation. In 1972, the commission charged Mr. Vesco and others in a civil suit with stealing more than $224 million.
But Mr. Vesco had already fled, first to the Bahamas and then to Costa Rica. There, he established a close friendship with President José Figueres, plowing some $11 million into his adopted country.
“I wish more Vescos would come to Costa Rica — we need them,” said Mr. Figueres on television in response to criticism that he was harboring a criminal.
Mr. Vesco also befriended Donald A. Nixon Jr., a nephew of President Richard M. Nixon, and gave $200,000 to the Nixon campaign, apparently hoping the president would help quash the investigation against him.
It was to no avail. But to the frustration of the F.B.I. Mr. Vesco remained tantalizingly out of reach in Costa Rica, where he passed himself off as a progressive dairy and cattle rancher, and an investor in high-tech projects.
Eventually, one of his high-tech brainstorms — a factory to make machine guns, which included President Figueres’s son as a partner — became his undoing.
A public and political outcry ensued, and by 1978 he was forced to leave for the Bahamas, the beginning of years of hopscotching that included stops in Antigua and Nicaragua, before Cuba finally accepted him for “humanitarian” reasons.
“We don’t care what he did in the United States,” Fidel Castro said. “We’re not interested in the money he has.”
In Cuba, Mr. Vesco grew a beard, donned a white guayabera shirt and passed himself off as a Canadian citizen named Tom Adams. He and his family lived in a suburban Havana house that was modest by United States standards but lavish for Cubans. Within a few years, allegations began to circulate about Mr. Vesco’s involvement in narcotics trafficking, and he was named as a co-conspirator in the trial in Florida of Carlos Lehder Rivas, a reputed leader of Colombia’s biggest drug cartel.
Mr. Vesco eventually ran afoul of the Castro government with a scheme to produce a wonder drug that supposedly cured cancer, AIDS, arthritis and even the common cold. He was accused of defrauding a state-run biotechnology laboratory run by Fidel Castro’s nephew, Antonio Fraga Castro, and sentenced to 13 years. After serving most of his time in a private cell in a large prison in eastern Cuba, Mr. Vesco was quietly released in 2005 and lived so simply in recent years in Havana that a friend said he did not know what had happened to his fortune.
So, I think we can agree that the only thing new in today’s world is the history we have not read…..but now you know the rest of the story and corporate crime, on a large scale, is nothing new and will continue…..there is a reason greed is one of the seven deadly sins
Have a good weekend and take care/be safe.
March 16, 2018