Federal drug agents who seized a suitcase containing 12 kilos of cocaine at Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport 2 1/2 months ago say they have identified Ram cornerback Darryl Henley "as the source of the cocaine," court documents show.
In a federal affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, agents also say Henley and a woman--later identified as Ram cheerleader Tracy Donaho--showed up to claim the suitcase shortly after authorities discovered the drug. It is unclear why Henley was not arrested.
Four reputed drug dealers threatened to kill Henley and his mother if they were not paid $360,000 they claimed to be owed for cocaine supposedly supplied to Henley and confiscated by Drug Enforcement Administration agents, the documents show.
The four men were arrested last week and charged with conspiracy to commit extortion by threatening violence.
Rafael (Ralph) Bustamente, his brother Moises Bustamente, Alejandro Cuevas and James Saenz are all being held without bail at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles.
One of Henley's attorneys, Gerald L. Chaleff, said Henley was not involved in using or distributing narcotics of any kind, and in fact, helped authorities with information that led to the arrest of the four men.
The Rams have asked the NFL commissioner's office for a roster exemption for Henley, who left the team Monday. John Shaw, team executive vice president, said he hopes to know within "a couple of days" if the team can add a player to replace Henley before its Oct. 14 game against Atlanta.
"As we get closer to the Atlanta game," Shaw said, "it becomes more important."
Henley has requested time away from the team pending the outcome of the investigation.
Shaw would neither confirm nor deny that Henley was being paid during his leave of absence. Henley is earning $275,000 in the option year of his contract.
Ram Coach Chuck Knox has yet to announce a replacement at right cornerback, although a likely candidate would be Robert Bailey, who has one of the team's four interceptions this season and who replaced Henley in the starting lineup last season when he was injured. Another possibility is second-year man Steve Israel.
"We have plenty of time to make a decision on that," Knox said.
Federal agents gave this account of the investigation of Henley:
It started shortly after July 15, when the woman boarded a 1 a.m. flight from Ontario International Airport to Atlanta. She had paid cash for a one-way ticket.
Upon her arrival in Atlanta, the woman was questioned by agents. She claimed the suitcase, but said it did not belong to her. After letting her go, authorities discovered the cocaine in small packages stuffed into the suitcase. Later that same day, Henley and the woman showed up to claim it.
Almost six weeks later, Henley reported to Anaheim police that he was accosted at the Ram training facility by three men, one of whom threatened him with a gun and drove off in Henley's white Lexus. The car contained a loaded 9mm pistol, Henley told police.
Authorities identified Rafael Bustamente, Cuevas and Eric Manning as the three men. The day after the confrontation, Manning was found shot to death in the parking lot of his apartment complex in Covina. Manning is suspected of being a messenger who bought drugs on Henley's behalf, and authorities said he apparently knew his attackers.
Henley later told a member of the NFL's security team that the men had demanded money for the cocaine seized in Atlanta and would kill his mother if he did not pay. But Henley told the NFL he had nothing to do with the drugs.
A week after the shooting, two men, identified by authorities as Cuevas and Rafael Bustamente, showed up at the home of Henley's parents in Upland and told Henley's brother, Thomas, that they had Henley's Lexus and demanded the money they said they were owed. When someone from the family called police, the men fled.
During a series of tape-recorded telephone calls to the Upland home in mid-September, Cuevas, using the name "Frank," told family members that Henley owed him $360,000 for a drug transaction. Cuevas reportedly informed the family that a Ram cheerleader had been stopped in the Atlanta airport and cocaine had been found in the suitcase she was carrying.
In a second telephone conversation, also taped by authorities, Cuevas allegedly gave Henley's father a one-week deadline--until Sept. 25--for Henley to pay his debt or be killed.
One day before that deadline, Henley's father, Thomas Jr., agreed to cooperate with authorities in trying to capture Cuevas and Bustamente. An undercover agent, pretending to be a Henley cousin, arranged to meet with Cuevas and hand over some money. That night, agents spotted Cuevas at a pay phone and a confidential informant said Cuevas had been driven to the meeting place by Moises Bustamente, Rafael's brother.
The parties never connected that night, and they planned to meet the next evening in the parking lot of a Marie Callender's restaurant in West Covina. Cuevas allegedly told the undercover informant that he had hired someone to pick up $100,000 in the parking lot.
At 5 p.m., with agents surrounding the restaurant, a man on a motorcycle arrived and searched the parking lot. Agents spotted Cuevas watching the lot from a hill. A second undercover agent met the man, identified as Saenz, and said he would deliver the cash directly to Cuevas. Saenz insisted on receiving the money, and when the agent refused, Saenz drove to Cuevas and shook his head no.
Agents arrested Cuevas and Saenz on the spot. According to the affidavit written by a DEA agent, Saenz said Rafael Bustamente had promised him $500 if he would deliver the cash to another Bustamente brother named Rico. Saenz allegedly said that the three Bustamente brothers--Rico, Rafael, Moises--and Cuevas had gathered at a nearby gym to discuss the money pickup shortly before the scheduled meeting with undercover agents.
Authorities said they found a loaded .38 caliber automatic pistol in Cuevas' gym bag, adding that after his arrest Cuevas admitted to calling Henley's family, appearing at the Upland home, and confronting Henley at the Rams park.
Rafael and Moises Bustamente, Saenz and Cuevas are expected to be indicted next week in federal court. The investigation of Henley is continuing.
Henley is a five-year pro out of UCLA.