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State Drug Agent Held; Suspected in Cocaine Case

Court: Official worked in Riverside office where 415 kilos of the drug vanished. He is charged with possession and conspiracy to distribute.

July 07, 1998|DAVID ROSENZWEIG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

What began as a routine drug bust by the FBI last week has led to the arrest of a veteran agent of the state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, himself accused of cocaine trafficking.

The agent, Richard Wayne Parker, 43, was assigned to the bureau's Riverside office, the same office from which 415 kilos of cocaine mysteriously disappeared a year ago.

That case has never been solved.

Parker, who has worked for the state narcotics agency for the past eight years, was arraigned Monday in Los Angeles Federal Court on charges of cocaine possession and conspiracy to distribute the drug.

The FBI said he is suspected of having sold drugs since 1991.

After his arrest Thursday, FBI agents searched Parker's pickup truck and reported finding about $100,000 in cash, transaction receipts for large amounts of money and a business card for a bank in the Cayman Islands.

A drug-sniffing dog also picked up the scent of narcotics in the truck.

The Bureau of Narcotics is an arm of the state attorney general's office. Authorities there declined to comment.

Also arrested on charges of drug possession and conspiracy were four persons through whom Parker allegedly peddled cocaine.

They were identified as Monica Lillian Pitto, 39, of Manhattan Beach, his onetime girlfriend; Christine Whitney, 26, of Manhattan Beach; Pamela Susan Gray, 43, of Hermosa Beach, and Gerhard Ewald Hensel, about 40, of Redondo Beach.

Pitto and Hensel are cooperating with authorities, according to an FBI affidavit.

The case began with a tip from the FBI's Detroit bureau that Hensel was selling cocaine to a dealer in that city. FBI agents here set up a "buy" and arrested Hensel allegedly in the act of selling several kilos of cocaine at a garage in Lomita on June 30.

During his interrogation afterward, the affidavit said, Hensel agreed to cooperate, telling the FBI agents that he bought his cocaine from Pitto and a woman known as Chrissy who, in turn, received their supplies from an unidentified "DEA agent." That was the first indication of possible official corruption.

Fitted with a hidden recording device and given $38,000 in cash by the FBI, Hensel arranged a meeting with Pitto to purchase another supply of cocaine on July 2 in Manhattan Beach, the affidavit said.

After the exchange, the agents tracked Pitto to Pasadena, where she rendezvoused on the roof of a parking garage with a man who turned out to be Parker. Both were arrested a short time later.

Pitto told the agents that she used to date Parker, the affidavit said, and that in 1991 he asked her if she could sell a kilogram of cocaine, offering to split the proceeds.

Hensel was her first customer, according to the affidavit, and over the next seven years she sold increasing quantities to him, all obtained from Parker. She estimated receiving 140 kilos of cocaine from the state narcotics agent.

She also told investigators that she sold cocaine to and bought cocaine from Whitney.

Whitney was arrested Friday after she stopped at Gray's house to pick up a gym bag allegedly containing about a kilo of cocaine.

The FBI declined comment Monday on whether any of the drugs allegedly distributed by Parker might have come from the Bureau of Narcotics office in Riverside.

Employees returning to work there after the Fourth of July holiday a year ago were shocked to discover that 415 kilograms of cocaine had been taken from the evidence locker.

At the time, state officials said they were investigating the "horrifying possibility" that the theft was an inside job.

The office, located in a business park northwest of downtown Riverside, had several layers of security, including locks, alarms and codes required to gain access.

Since the theft, security at the Riverside office has been upgraded.

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