The U.S. mercenary who organized the failed raid on Venezuela is being investigated on possible arms trafficking and other charges.
MIAMI (AP) — A former Green Beret who has claimed responsibility for a failed military incursion into Venezuela is under federal investigation for arms trafficking, according to current and former U.S. law enforcement officials.
The investigation of Jordan Goudreau is in its initial stages and it's unclear if it will result in charges, according to a federal law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The probe stems from a frenzy of contradictory comments Goudreau has made since a small cadre of mercenaries he was advising on Sunday launched an impossible raid aimed at overthrowing Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
Members of Congress are asking the State Department about its knowledge of Goudreau's plans and raised concerns that he violated arms trafficking rules.
An AP investigation published before the failed raid placed Goudreau at the center of a plot hatched with a rebellious former Venezuelan Army general, Cliver Alcalá, to train dozens of Venezuelan military deserters in secret camps in Colombia to carry out a swift operation against Maduro. The United States has offered a $15 million reward for information leading to Maduro's arrest or conviction. He was indicted by the Trump administration in March on narcoterrorist charges.
The men were being readied for combat at three rudimentary camps in Colombia with the help of Goudreau and his Florida-based company, Silvercorp USA, multiple Maduro opponents and aspiring freedom fighters told the AP. But the plot seemed doomed from the start because it lacked the support of the Trump administration and was infiltrated by Maduro's vast, Cuban-trained intelligence network, the AP found.
The law enforcement official said Goudreau's comments suggests his work on behalf of the volunteer army may have violated laws that require any U.S. company supplying weapons or military equipment, military training and advice to foreign persons to seek State Department approval.
"Goudreau's public comments alone show he was exporting his lethal expertise into a foreign country," said Sean McFate, a former Army paratrooper who worked as a private military contractor and is the author of a book, "The New Rules of War," on the foreign policy implications of privatized warfare. "This is a serious violation."
Goudreau declined to comment Tuesday. The State Department said it is restricted by law from confirming licensing activities.
The law enforcement official said Goudreau's possible involvement in weapons smuggling stems from the March 23 seizure by police in Colombia of a stockpile of weapons being transported in a truck. Alcalá claimed ownership of the cache shortly before surrendering to face U.S. narcotics charges in the same case in which Maduro was indicted.
The arms stockpile, worth around $150,000, included spotting scopes, night-vision goggles, two-way radios and 26 U.S.-made assault rifles with the serial numbers rubbed off. Fifteen brown helmets seized by police were manufactured by High-End Defense Solutions, a Miami-based military equipment vendor owned by a Venezuelan immigrant family, according to Colombian police.
High-End Defense Solutions is the same company that Goudreau visited in November and December, allegedly to source weapons, according to two former Venezuelan soldiers who claim to have helped the American select the gear but later had a bitter falling out with Goudreau amid accusations they were moles for Maduro. The AP could not independently verify their account.
Company owner Mark Von Reitzenstein has not responded to repeated email and phone requests seeking comment.
Two former law enforcement officials said an informant approached the Drug Enforcement Administration in Colombia before the weapons were seized, with an unsubstantiated tip about Goudreau's alleged involvement in weapons smuggling. The DEA, not knowing who Goudreau was at the time, did not open a formal probe but suspected that any weapons would have been destined for leftist rebels or criminal gangs in Colombia — not a ragtag army of Venezuelan volunteers, the former officials said on the condition of anonymity. One of the officials said the information was passed on to the Department of Homeland Security.