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Garcia Altered Date Books, Prosecutor Says

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A federal prosecutor Friday accused Darnell Garcia of altering his personal calendar books so he could refute allegations that he stole millions of dollars in narcotics and cash while working as a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

The date books have become a key to Garcia’s defense and he has relied heavily on them during five days of testimony at his jury trial in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

“You’ve altered some of the entries in your calendars since you learned you were under investigation, didn’t you?” Assistant U.S. Atty. Joyce Karlin asked during a second day of intense cross-examination.

“No,” Garcia replied, speaking in a low voice.

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Under further questioning, Garcia conceded that in at least one instance he altered a ledger entry to greatly increase his income during a time that the government believes he was profiting from drug trafficking.

Some of Garcia’s logs for 1982 to 1987 are book-sized with red covers. Others are larger “month at a glance” ledgers with black covers. They have been sent to a government laboratory, where experts are trying to determine if Garcia has changed his original notes since he was indicted in 1988 on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering.

Although lab results are not expected until next week, Karlin’s questioning indicated she was confident that Garcia had tampered with the date books.

Neither Karlin nor co-prosecutor Stefan Stein would comment on the lab work.

The date books purport to show his daily appointments and travels as well as outside income. They are not official DEA records.

Garcia has been incarcerated since July, 1989, when he was arrested in Luxembourg after a seven-month international manhunt.

Garcia, 44, of Rancho Palos Verdes is the last defendant in a corruption scandal that centered in the DEA’s Los Angeles office in the 1980s. Two other former agents, John Jackson and Wayne Countryman, pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges. They have testified that Garcia participated with them in thefts of narcotics.

Garcia’s defense is that he was able to deposit about $3 million in a Swiss bank account because he was paid big commissions by an Italian jewelry firm to smuggle gold chains past U.S. Customs. Under the extradition agreement with Luxembourg, he was not charged with smuggling, a felony. The government has charged that the $3 million represents Garcia’s illicit drug profits.

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On Thursday, Garcia estimated that--based on his date books--he smuggled more than five tons of gold chains into the United States over a five-year period. During three of those years, he was a DEA agent.

Taking note that Garcia has been in jail for more than 1 1/2 years, Karlin told him: “You had every opportunity to go back to your calendars and alter them.” Garcia denied this.

Karlin said it was curious that in November, 1988, government agents searched Garcia’s Rancho Palos Verdes house but failed to find the date books. Garcia testified Friday that they were on a bookshelf in his library “in plain view.”

Karlin accused Garcia with being “selective” in his entries. She said he attempted to “distance” himself from Jackson, Countryman and convicted drug dealer Ron Waddy, who Garcia is accused of harboring, by crossing out references to them or not mentioning them at all. Garcia denied this.

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Among the alterations, Karlin said, was one for Dec. 28, 1985--a note for Garcia’s gold smuggling profits for that year. Garcia, she told jurors, placed the number “4" in front of his original entry of $59,905, thus increasing his profit by $400,000. At the same time, she said, Garcia added the notation: “Profit to me.”

Garcia testified he “may have” recalculated the figure.

“You had to justify your big Swiss deposits?” the prosecutor asked.

“No,” Garcia replied.

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