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Deputy’s ’83 Coke Bust Reaps Pot of Gold in ’89

Times Staff Writer

When Sheriff’s Deputy Billy Guinn arrested Clive Thomas with 7 pounds of cocaine in February, 1983, he could not have known it would come to this.

But, after six years, 18 arrests and a nationwide treasure hunt, that drug bust earned a real dividend Friday for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department--a $246,000 check from the federal government for help in cracking a major cocaine ring.

Thomas’ arrest opened a six-year federal investigation of businessman William Musson that reached from Hawaii to Ohio and netted $30 million in drug profits, said Charles Hill, Drug Enforcement Agency special agent-in-charge. Hill joined U. S. Atty. William Braniff and Chief Deputy Marshal Robert Dighera in presenting the check to Sheriff John Duffy at a news conference Friday.

Most of the money is the first installment of the $800,000 the Sheriff’s Department expects to earn from the sale of the gold coins and bullion surrendered by Musson in a plea-bargain agreement with federal prosecutors, Duffy said. A small part of the check is for help on other cases. Under the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, the Justice Department shares drug profits seized from traffickers with assisting local police agencies.

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‘Enormous Resources’

“The drug lords are not constrained by budget deficits or Proposition 13 and have enormous resources at their disposal,” Braniff said.

Federal payments directly to his department are used to buy computers and other high-tech equipment, according to Duffy.

The Musson case led federal agents from the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force in Denver to a remote Nebraska ranch, a Hawaii mountaintop and a Colorado crevice in search of the $4.5 million in gold buried by the drug ring, Hill said.

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But he credited San Diego sheriff’s deputies with helping the investigation get that far.


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