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Police say Americans fled Brazil with Outside Help

December 28, 1986

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) _ Four Americans charged with arms smuggling who escaped Dec. 15 from a Brazilian jail received the help of collaborators in fleeing to the United States, a police offical was quoted Saturday as saying.

The Sao Paulo newspaper O Estado also cited U.S. news reports as saying three of the four Americans arrived in Miami from La Paz, Bolivia, last Thursday, and the other escapee was also safe in the United States.

Federal police chief Romeu Tuma said the four - Sheldon Ward Ainsworth, Timothy Michael Carmody, Steven Warren Hedrick and Frederick Verduin - may have used the Bolivian ″cocaine route″ along with other ″collaborators’ ′ to reach the United States.

″Without passports and knowledge of the idiom it’s very strange for them to have so easily left the country,″ O Estado quoted Tuma as saying. ″The fugitives could have passed through Bolivian locales where North American troops were recently involved in anti-drug operations.″

Attempts to reach Tuma for further comment Saturday were unsuccessful.

The four escapees were among eight Americans held in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia for extradition to Argentina to face arms smuggling charges. They were arrested in a southeastern Brazilian port last March and charged with trying to smuggle arms into Brazil.

Police also seized their tugboat with six tons of weapons, including automatic rifles and grenades.

Group leader John Early, one of the four Americans still in jail, said the arms were legally purchased in Argentina and for delivery to the government of Ghana. He said the Americans had been hired to take the shipment to West Africa and train Ghanian soldiers. But he said the crew decided to dock in Brazil after discovering the arms really were intended for Ghanian rebels.

The four Americans escaped five days after Brazil granted the extradition of the eight to Argentina.

Tuma was quoted as saying ″security failures″ at the jail made the escape easier. He said Hedrick’s statements to the U.S. media about escaping by sawing bars and using a rope made of knotted sheets ″corresponds to our investigations regarding how they escaped.″

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