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) Bustamante, his brother Moises Bustamante, Alejandro Cuevas and James Saenz are all being held without bail at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles.
One of Henley's criminal defense 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 in place of Henley before its Oct. 14 game against Atlanta.
"As we get closer to the Atlanta game," Shaw said, "it becomes more important."
If granted the exemption, the Rams could replace Henley on their 53-player roster. 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 name a replacement at right cornerback, although a likely candidate would be Robert Bailey, who has one of the team's four interceptions this season. Bailey replaced Henley in the starting lineup last season when he was out with a sore shoulder. Another possibility is second-year man Steve Israel.
"We have plenty of time to make a decision on that (replacement)," Knox said.
Federal agents said they began an investigation of Henley shortly after July 15, when Donaho--who is no longer employed by the Rams--nervously 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, agents questioned Donaho, who 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 day, Henley and Donaho 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 Bustamante, 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 up. 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 Bustamante, 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 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 Bustamante. 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 he bad been driven to the meeting place by Moises Bustamante, 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 Bustamante had promised him $500 if he would deliver the cash to another Bustamante brother named Rico. Saenz allegedly said that the three Bustamante brothers--Rico, Rafael, Moises--and Cuevas had gathered at a nearby gym to discuss the money pickup just before the scheduled meeting with undercover agents.
Authorities said they found a loaded .38 caliber automatic pistol in Cuevas' gym bag, and after his arrest Cuevas admitted to calling Henley's family, appearing at the Upland home, and confronting Henley at Rams Park.
Moises Bustamante, 18--also known as Moises Trango Heredia--was also taken into custody at that time. His attorney, William G. Morrissey, said his client lived in New Mexico with his parents until two years ago, when he moved in with his half brothers, Rico and Rafael, in Rancho Cucamonga.
Saenz is 31 and lives in Covina. He is described as having a long criminal history with two felony convictions, according to court documents. Saenz said in an affidavit that he is self-employed and earns $2,000 a month.
Rafael Bustamante, 28, has a prior misdemeanor conviction involving possession of firearms, a 1990 drunk driving arrest involving a hit and run, and was on probation from a 1991 charge of possessing a controlled substance. He surrendered to authorities Friday and was denied bail at a hearing Tuesday, after a federal prosecutor described him as a flight risk and a danger to the community.
Cuevas, 30, is an account executive with an independent escrow company based in West Covina, and has a 6-week-old son by a girlfriend, according to court documents. Assistant U.S. Atty. Deirdre Z. Eliot described him as an "integral part of a potentially very violent situation" in court papers, adding that he "participated in most of more serious aspects of the threats."
All four are expected to be indicted next week in federal court. The investigation of Henley is continuing.
Henley, a five-year pro from UCLA, has 14 tackles, including 12 unassisted, in five games this season. He had four solo tackles in a 37-6 loss to New Orleans Sunday at Anaheim Stadium.