Authorities Hunt for Winemaker in Drug and Money Laudering Case
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Authorities are seeking a man who allegedly used a posh California vineyard as a base while smuggling tons of marijuana, dealing cocaine through a Nob Hill hotel and running millions of dollars through an international money laundry.
An affidavit filed in January in federal court regarding property seized from Jack Curtis Ryan names people on both coasts and describes a sophisticated money-laundering operation reaching to Hong Kong.
The 37-year-old Ryan is a fugitive from an indictment returned Dec. 12 by a federal grand jury in Tampa, Fla. It alleges that he and 12 others smuggled marijuana to the United States for about a decade.
Court records described Ryan, who first came to the attention of authorities in Florida in the 1970s, as a major West Coast cocaine processor and distributor. The documents said he made 220-pound batches of the drug at his home north of San Francisco and went on weekly deliveries and collections that included Nob Hill’s Fairmont Hotel.
Court records quoted an informant as saying individual 20-pound weekly cocaine deliveries to the Fairmont involved a person in ″a high position″ with the hotel.
In San Francisco, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Graham, who coordinates the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force, on Wednesday called Ryan a major drug dealer who bragged to informants he made $5 million from illicit narcotics.
Agents described many trips in which Ryan allegedly brought in tens of thousands of pounds of marijuana from Colombia to Florida and Texas ports, with sums up to $400,000 changing hands in a single deal.
″On a scale of from one to 10, he’s a nine or 10 - that’s certain,″ said Graham, who spoke of a continuing investigation in San Francisco. No charges against Ryan have been returned in California.
Agents said Ryan’s assets included two vineyards in Sonoma County with two homes and a horse stable, another house in Marin County, a boat, and two expensive vehicles.
Ryan was listed as the owner of 55-acre Ryan Vineyards west of Healdsburg, about 60 miles north of San Francisco in some of the most desireable wine country in the nation. Agents seized the property last year.
Although California wine authorities, including the industry’s Wine Institute, said they never heard of Ryan Vineyards, the state Department of Food and Agriculture had it listed as a small operator.
In a search in February, agents seized more than 1,000 cases of wine with Ryan Vineyards label.
The affidavit filed to support the search warrant also claimed that accountant Rodney Wagner was ″a financial consultant and tax adviser″ to five narcotics traffickers in the alleged money-laundering scheme.
Agents said they learned in November 1985 of the alleged role of Wagner, who lives in Kentfield, 15 miles north of San Francisco and one of the most expensive residential communities in California.
Contacted by telephone, Wagner, who has not been charged in the case, said he had no comment.
Agents quoted in the affidavit said one informant reported ″that Wagner had been laundering money (for Ryan) from the United States to Hong Kong and back″ for at least the previous five years in an operation that involved a Hong Kong bank, U.S. and Panamanian corporations.
Court documents alleged that Ryan and Wagner schemed with a Hong Kong banker to smuggle U.S. currency to his bank, launder the funds through the bank and shell corporations, then transfer the funds back to the United States. The money was said to be used for acquisitions of assets in phony names.