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Shadows of Doubt and a Double Life

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Diane Parker came to court Wednesday determined to stand by her man.

She offered to put up her San Juan Capistrano home, her mutual funds and her mother’s townhouse to secure bail for her husband, a state narcotics agent arrested on federal drug trafficking charges.

“I know in my head and my heart that he loves me and his children,” she testified at a bond hearing for husband Richard Wayne Parker.

His commitment to their family is so strong, she said, that he would never entertain the thought of fleeing to avoid trial.

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But all that was before a federal prosecutor confronted her with evidence that Parker, a nine-year veteran of the state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, had been leading a double life--one that included hidden ownership of a dozen cars, desert property, a $620,000 hoard of cash and, worst of all, a mistress who lives in an apartment he rented in Newport Beach.

No, she hadn’t known about the alleged tryst, she told Assistant U.S. Atty. Rebecca Lonergan in a voice that betrayed no hint of emotion.

Staring from the witness stand straight at her husband, Diane Parker then removed her wedding ring and slipped it into a suit jacket pocket. The gesture spoke volumes.

In an attempt at damage control, defense lawyer Pedro Castillo then asked her if she still stood behind her husband.

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“Quite honestly,” she answered, “I need a drink and a couple of hours to think about it. I need to do a little bit of investigating of my own.”

That was enough for U.S Magistrate Rosalyn M. Chapman. She ended the testimony and denied bail for the 43-year-old narcotics agent who has been held at the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles since his arrest by FBI agents on July 2.

In addition to Parker’s being a flight risk and a potential threat to others, the judge said, the evidence was clear that he was “leading a double life with his wife and family and is not a truthful person.”

FBI agents say Parker is believed to have been trafficking in drugs since 1991 through four other persons arrested with him. Two are cooperating with authorities and have agreed to testify against him.

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Besides uncovering his ownership of 12 vehicles and some property in Temecula, FBI agents said, they recovered $620,000 he allegedly stashed at various hiding places. They also found a business card from a bank in the Cayman Islands, raising suspicions that he might have more money in offshore accounts.

It is inconceivable that he could have accumulated all those assets on his $55,000-a-year salary at the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, the prosecutor told the judge.

“Everywhere we’ve searched, we keep finding more money,” she said.

She also characterized Parker as a potential threat to others, citing the discovery of an AR-15 automatic rifle in the trunk of one of his cars. The rifle is a weapon of choice in the violent world of drug traffickers, she said.

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Parker was assigned to the state narcotics bureau’s Riverside office, the same office from which 415 kilograms of cocaine were stolen during a burglary a year ago. The case remains unsolved. Investigators have declined to say whether Parker is a suspect.

The Parkers, both in their early 40s, have been married for five years and have two children, ages 4 and 2.

She is a former Orange County sheriff’s deputy, now working as a private investigator and polygraph examiner.

The couple met, she testified, when both were assigned to a narcotics task force in 1989.

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Parker has a brother who is a California Highway Patrol officer.

During his years with the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, Parker received several commendations, according to his wife, including one, ironically, from the FBI.

After the bail hearing ended, U.S. marshals allowed the Parkers a few minutes of private conversation in the spectator section of the courtroom.

Parker was then handcuffed and chained to be escorted back to jail.

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“I’ll take good care of your children,” his wife said as he was led away.


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