F. Lister's Guilty Plea to Tax Charges
In the spring of 1987, with the OCDETF case against Blandon's organization foundering, the inquiry into Lister's activities became a tax investigation by the IRS. According to IRS SA Laura Hillhouse, Lister's cash purchase of the Orange County property made him a better target than Blandon because the government needed only to show how much money Lister was spending, how much money he had claimed to be earning on his tax return, and the likely source of his unclaimed income, which she believed to be from narcotics trafficking.
In an effort to track down all of Lister's sources of income, SA Hillhouse interviewed Orlando Murillo and Blandon in Miami, to whom Lister had recently transferred some property. When interviewed by the OIG, Lister recalled that Blandon had called from Miami to tell him that SA Hillhouse was asking about him. Blandon had told Hillhouse that Lister was "their security agent in Central America." Lister noted that this was "the cover story" because he was in the drug business. IRS reports show that Blandon and Orlando Murillo told Hillhouse that Lister had borrowed about $7000 to $10,000 from Orlando Murillo to pay bills, and that Murillo had taken property Lister owned in Crestline, California, as payment. Blandon had handled the transfer of the property.
Once the tax case against Lister was ready, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Byrne, handling the matter for the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney's Office, negotiated a preindictment disposition with Lister's attorney. Byrne never spoke with Lister about cooperation during or after his plea. But he did coordinate with the San Diego U.S. Attorney's Office (Assistant U.S. Attorney Amalia Meza), because that office was prosecuting Lister on a drug charge (discussed below), and Byrne endeavored to structure a global disposition of all the charges against Lister in both districts.
On January 2, 1991, Lister signed a plea agreement in which he agreed to plead guilty to one count of subscribing to a false tax return in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section 7206(1) for the tax year 1986. Lister also agreed to admit that he received income of at least $79,000 in 1985 that he had knowingly and willfully failed to report on his 1985 tax return. He also agreed to admit that he had received income of at least $390,000 in 1986 which he knowingly and willfully failed to report on his 1986 tax return. In exchange, the government agreed to terminate the grand jury tax investigation of Lister; transfer the case to the Southern District of California under Rule 20 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, and recommend that any sentence Lister received on the tax case be concurrent to any sentence that Lister received in the San Diego drug prosecution. Lister entered his guilty plea on April 22, 1991.
G. Orange County Prosecution of Lister
Even while Lister was the subject of the IRS investigation, he was also running into difficulties with local law enforcement authorities. On August 24, 1988, Lister was arrested in Orange County by the Costa Mesa Police after he sold an undercover police officer two kilograms of cocaine. The Costa Mesa officers then executed a search warrant at Lister's home and found his expired police badge and credentials. After he agreed to be a police informant, Lister was released on his own recognizance.
Judge Craig E. Robison, a Municipal Court judge in Orange County Harbor Judicial District, worked in the Orange County District Attorney's Office in 1988 and handled the prosecution of Lister on the local drug charges. Robison told the OIG that Lister's cooperation involved aiding in the investigation of a real estate agent and a former Orange County judge. Through Lister's cooperation, ten kilograms of cocaine and a substantial amount of marijuana were seized at a motel in Costa Mesa. Sergeant Loren Wierick of the Costa Mesa Police recalled that, although Lister's information proved to be reliable on the ten kilogram seizure, he otherwise was not trustworthy. Wierick recalled Lister making statements about Nicaraguans and the Contras and claiming that he knew "some people," but Wierick said those comments were pretty much dismissed as a "fairy tale." Wierick stated that no one took these statements seriously and that they were not recorded in police records. Wierick noted that Lister "winds a good tale," but that he is often untruthful.
According to Robison, Lister entered a guilty plea for the 1988 arrest, but still had not been sentenced when he was arrested in San Diego by the DEA (discussed below). When Robison learned of that arrest, he informed Assistant U.S. Attorney Amalia Meza that Lister's federal arrest had violated his cooperation agreement with Orange County, and his bail was consequently revoked. Not until 1996 was, Lister finally sentenced on the Orange County charges to six months to be served concurrently with the federal sentence he had already served.
H. The 1990 San Diego Prosecution
In October 1989, an individual named Brian Hicks agreed to sell a kilogram of cocaine to an undercover DEA agent with the understanding that five additional kilograms would be sold upon the successful completion of the first sale. On October 23, 1989, Hicks delivered the kilogram to the undercover agent and was arrested. Hicks agreed to cooperate, and arrangements were made for the undercover agent to meet Hicks' source of supply -- Ronald Lister. Hicks and Lister went together to retrieve two kilograms of cocaine to sell to the undercover agent, and Lister was arrested by the DEA on October 23, 1989. Lister immediately agreed to cooperate and took the undercover DEA agent to speak with his source of supply, Daniel Powell. After the meeting, the DEA got a search warrant for the source's house and confiscated an additional 12 kilograms of cocaine. Lister was held without bail pending trial.
While in jail following this arrest, Lister tried to gather information that would help him to reduce his sentence and get him released on bond. He had his attorney prepare a "resume" that outlined his potential as a confidential informant. It stated that his current employment was as a "security consultant" who had worked for the governments of El Salvador, Colombia, Italy, and Iran; he had worked with the Contras, including Eden Pastora; and he "knows the cocaine trade better than most people who have been exposed in a similar fashion." The document described Lister's connections to various alleged Colombian and Mexican cocaine kingpins and weapons smugglers. It also described Lister's connection to various people who could offer intelligence from El Salvador or Eastern Bloc countries. It offered information related to Norwin Meneses and Danilo Blandon, noting that, "because of his work with the Contras, Lister knows these individuals very well." The document concluded:
Lister can be a very charming individual. He seems to have the ability to befriend people immediately. . . . He is greatly motivated to assist himself in trying to improve his position. He is facing a potential eight-year State cocaine charge and also a very serious separate Federal cocaine charge. . . He also has a lot of confidence in himself and is fearless. He has a lot of experience being in tight spots and would make an ideal undercover agent. It is my idea to attempt to set Lister up with the right operating agent after getting him out of custody and to have him work for eight months to a year in order to see what he can do. . . . [H]e is highly intelligent and has experience to be one of the most outstanding C.I.s that any agency could have.
During this period (as has been described in Chapter II), DEA SA Jones was gathering intelligence on Blandon. When he heard from an informant that Lister was involved with Blandon, and found out that Lister was in jail on a drug charge, Jones contacted Assistant U.S. Attorney Meza in the San Diego U.S. Attorney's Office, who in turn spoke with Lister's attorney, Lynn Ball, about obtaining Lister's cooperation in the Blandon investigation. Ball advised Jones and DEA SA Michelle Leonhart that Lister had said that he would have to check with the "Agency," meaning the CIA, before talking to the agents. Meza told Ball to check with Lister and "let them know." Ball later told Meza that Lister was willing to talk to them.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Meza and Ball initially entered into an informal cooperation agreement, which was memorialized in a memorandum dated June 8, 1990. The memorandum provided that nothing Lister said in interviews with law enforcement agents could be used against him; and that although no promises had been made by the government, the government viewed Lister as a cooperating defendant and "will negotiate a departure or a plea bargain in the event that it is determined that what Ronald Lister has given is substantial assistance to the Government."
To facilitate Lister's cooperation, Meza and Jones met with Deputy District Attorney Craig Robison in Orange County. Meza recalled that Robison was very upset because Lister had been arrested in San Diego when he was supposed to be cooperating with the Costa Meza police. Robison warned them that Lister was a "con artist" and that he was very "smooth," but Robison agreed to lift the outstanding arrest warrant on Lister. Lister was soon released on a $500,000 bond to obtain information for the DEA, chiefly to provide records, addresses, and photographs of drug traffickers. Lister was released from prison in order to cooperate on December 20, 1990.
Meza told the OIG that after Lister was indicted on the October 1989 drug arrest, she allowed him to plead guilty to an information charging him with conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with intent to distribute in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841(a)(1) and 846. Meza stated that Lister was charged with an unspecified amount of drugs to enable his attorney to argue for a lesser sentence.
Lister entered into a plea agreement with the government in exchange for his plea to the information. The plea agreement required Lister to testify truthfully and fully, and submit to interviews with agents of the United States if called upon to do so. The agreement stated that, if Lister abided by the provisions of the agreement, the "Government will recommend a downward departure from the sentencing guidelines. . ." The plea agreement also stated that a further condition of the agreement was that Lister was not to commit any further crimes and that, if he violated any provision of the plea agreement, the agreement would be null and void and that Lister would thereafter be subject to prosecution, and that prosecution could be based on information provided by Lister. Lister entered his plea to the drug charges stemming from his October 1989 arrest by DEA on January 22, 1991.
Meza told the OIG that she had told Los Angeles Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Byrne, who was handling the Los Angeles tax case against Lister, that Lister was cooperating. Byrne had said that if Lister would enter into a plea to a tax count in Byrne's case, Byrne would terminate his tax investigation and agree that Lister could be sentenced to concurrent time on the tax count.
Lister was thereafter debriefed on his historical knowledge of the Blandon organization by DEA SA Jones. In this debriefing, Lister claimed that he had a "CIA connection" and mentioned the names "Scott Weekly," and "Bo Gritz." Jones told the OIG that he never checked with the CIA to verify Lister's alleged connections with the CIA. He noted that neither he nor SA Gustafson ever believed Lister's claim of affiliation with the CIA.
Lister's cooperation consisted of giving historical information about the Blandon organization, including a written account of his dealings with Blandon in 1984 and 1985. But Lister did not have any information on the Blandon organization subsequent to the execution of the 1986 search warrants on Blandon's and Lister's properties.
I. Claims of CIA Affiliation While Lister Was Cooperating
Gary Webb has alleged that a DEA report dated June 4, 1991, supports his allegation that Lister was affiliated with the CIA. The OIG reviewed this report, which is part of a large DEA investigation called "Operation Green Ice," a money laundering investigation based in San Diego.
Around June 1991, six months after Lister's release on bail, SA Jones received information from a source that Lister was "just using Jones," and continuing to commit crimes while cooperating. While in the San Diego Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC), Colombian drug dealer Luis Mejia had told the source that Lister had stolen $500,000 that Mejia had given him to launder for the Colombians. Mejia had been released from custody and became a fugitive, and had asked the source to help get the money back from Lister.
It soon emerged that Lister had in fact stolen this money, and that the Colombians were taking other measures to get it back. Osvaldo Montalvo, a Colombian supplier in Los Angeles, was called in to recover the money from Lister. Montalvo's money-laundering "partner" at the time (unbeknownst to Montalvo) happened to be an undercover DEA agent working in the "Operation Green Ice" investigation, and the DEA was able to monitor the matter carefully.
When Montalvo and the DEA undercover agent approached Lister, Lister told them that the missing money had been laundered with the assistance of the CIA and that he could not get it back. Lister said that he and the CIA had transported multi-hundred kilogram loads of cocaine from Cali, Colombia and Costa Rica to the United States. He promised to wire the money to Montalvo if he gave the number of his offshore account. Montalvo declined. When the undercover agent asked if Lister was aware of the danger he was putting himself in if he failed to pay back the money, Lister replied that he had nothing to fear since he worked for the CIA. The undercover agent asked Lister if he was also employed with the FBI or the DEA, and Lister responded that he was not. After Lister left, Montalvo announced that he would kill Lister and torture or kill his mother. He proceeded to arrange for a hit squad to kill Lister. Lister's conduct here followed a familiar pattern: claims of CIA ties whenever faced with a threat of prosecution, or, in this case, worse. But there is no evidence that he was in fact connected to the CIA.
Assistant U.S. Attorney O'Neale, who was in charge of the "Green Ice" investigation, told the OIG that the planned hit on Lister for his theft of drug money created a crisis. O'Neale did not want to expose the undercover operation, but also had a duty to warn Lister of the threat to his life. The problem was solved when the DEA orchestrated what appeared to be the random stop of the Colombian "hit team" at an immigration checkpoint. Found in their car was a picture of Lister and a map to his mother's house. All four of the occupants of the car were deported. Montalvo was later prosecuted in Los Angeles for money laundering.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Meza, SA Jones confronted Lister and asked whether he was laundering money for the Colombians. Lister denied any involvement. Jones then told Lister that there was a plot to kill him, and offered him protection. Lister declined protection and signed a form acknowledging the threat and refusing to be placed in protective custody. Lister asked for and was given a copy of the form. Later, the undercover agent reported to Jones and Meza that Lister said to Mejia that he worked for the DEA, showing this same form as evidence.
DEA soon executed a search warrant at the Markon Corporation, where Lister was working while out on bail, based on the DEA's information that Lister was continuing to engage in illegal activity. The Markon Corporation was run by an individual named David Scott Weekly. Lister told the OIG that Markon was involved in numerous "totally legitimate" business projects, including attempting to negotiate a better exchange rate on the Mexican peso for clients in the United States. Documents supporting the government's assertion that Lister was still involved in illegal activities were recovered, including what appeared to be a money laundering proposal addressed to Jose Urda, a target of Operation Green Ice. Thereafter, in July 1991 the government moved to revoke Lister's bail because of his continuing criminal activities. However, rather than jeopardize Operation Green Ice, the undercover agent's safety, and the identities of any sources, Assistant U.S. Attorney Meza based the motion to revoke Lister's bail on his admission to SA Jones that he had traveled out of the country while on bail without permission.
The search at Markon brought to light yet another effort by Lister to claim "national security" connections. Agents found letters from Lister to "Scott" dated from July to December 1990. Lister told the OIG that these were letters that he had written to David Scott Weekly while he (Lister) was in prison to keep Weekly informed of what he was doing. Lister noted that he had believed Weekly to have some connection to the Defense Intelligence Agency that could help Lister get out of jail somehow. Lister stated:
I wanted him to know I was scraping down, I wasn't concealing anything, I wasn't -- because he was putting a lot of trust in me. He said, you know, Ron, he said, I told you you should never be in the drug business to begin with, and it's no good, and look what happened to you. Now, I'm going to give you a chance and a job and you want to work here you've got great contacts and things. And so I felt obligated to always keep him informed of what I was doing.
An examination of the letters reveals that, with one exception, they are nothing more than descriptions of drug traffickers and money launderers that Lister knew and how these contacts might be used by Markon. However, one of the letters, dated July 17, 1990, stated:
Pastora came up in 1985 - as he received cash from Danilo for the Contra causes of A.R.D.E. group in Costa Rica and LA. They are purposely staying away from anyone who might be connected with the Agency, like Pastora. They would like me to tell them who they can't get because of a nat'l sec. block. They are extremely afraid of a nat'l sec. block. So their logic is to go after above listed people and assoc. who they can go after on a direct overtact relationship between cash and dope where personal gain is clear and no Contra activity appears. They say they don't even want to know about the Contra organization or anything related. [Emphasis in original.]
When asked by the OIG to explain this statement, Lister stated that the "they" who were allegedly worried about a "national security block" were the San Diego U.S. Attorney's Office, Assistant U.S. Attorney Amalia Meza, and DEA SA Chuck Jones. Lister told the OIG that he did not know too much about this and was only repeating what Meza and Jones had told him. Lister said that SA Jones had told him, "Give us information, but not too much." Lister emphasized that he had cooperated completely with the government, but Meza and Jones had been very unfair to him and sent him to jail.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Amalia Meza, Assistant U.S. Attorney L J O'Neale, SA Charles Jones, and SA Judy Gustafson all deny that the Lister and Blandon prosecutions were anything other than very ordinary drug prosecutions. All dismiss as ridiculous the notion that they were concerned about "national security blocks" or that they were contacted by anyone outside of their normal chain of command. We found their accounts far more credible than Lister's. Throughout Lister's contact with the government, he has demonstrated a willingness to say whatever will help him most at any given moment. He was not even able to keep his story consistent in his interviews with the OIG. When initially interviewed, he told the OIG that allegations of CIA intervention in the prosecution of the Blandon organization had merely been a defense tactic in the "Big Spender" trial that created a "myth." Later, he completely changed his story, claiming that the U.S. Attorney's Office and DEA were in fact concerned about CIA intervention in the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney O'Neale told us that he became aware that Lister was making claims of CIA affiliation during Operation Green Ice, but did not take the claims seriously. One reason for this was that Lister had reported that his CIA contact was David Scott Weekly. O'Neale was familiar with that name. In 1987 or 1988, O'Neale had indicted James Gordon "Bo" Gritz for passport fraud. When Gritz had claimed to be associated with the CIA, DIA, and National Security Agency (NSA), O'Neale had contacted the intelligence agencies regarding this claim, and David Scott Weekly's name had come up as someone affiliated with Gritz. O'Neale learned through his inquiries in that case that neither Gritz nor Weekly was an intelligence agent, asset, or operative, and that Weekly had used the "CIA defense" unsuccessfully in an explosives prosecution against him in Oklahoma, claiming he was transporting explosives because he was working with the CIA to train the Mujahadeen in Nevada. (See discussion of David Scott Weekly and this matter in section L, below).
Meza told the OIG that she thought Lister's statements about the CIA were "all nonsense." She never took it seriously enough to look into it and concentrated on the drug investigation and prosecution. Meza stated that when she was investigating the Blandon case, she was only interested in getting information on cocaine and did not explore Lister's claim with the CIA. She stated that she never discussed the Contras with Lister, and added that, in retrospect, Robison was correct in describing Lister as a "con artist."
J. More Allegations by Lister Regarding the CIA at the Time of His Sentencing
Lister's suggestions of intelligence involvement became an issue at his sentencing in San Diego in January 1992.
Although Lister's plea agreement indicated that the U.S. Attorney's Office would move for a downward departure in his sentence based on his "substantial assistance" in other investigations, it refused to do so, claiming that Lister had breached the agreement by committing other crimes while he was supposed to be cooperating. Lister responded with accusations that the government was angry because intelligence agencies halted the Blandon investigation and the government thought Lister was responsible. On September 5, 1991, District Judge Rudi M. Brewster ruled that Lister was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on the issue of whether he had committed further crimes. Assistant U.S. Attorney Meza explained to the OIG that she tried to avoid a hearing into the matter because it would have jeopardized the ongoing Green Ice investigation.
On January 6, 1992, Lister's lawyer, Lynn Ball argued that the government's refusal to move for a downward departure in Lister's sentence was "arbitrary and capricious and made in bad faith." The motion stated:
There may be other reasons why the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California has not been able to proceed on an Indictment of defendants identified by Ronald Lister. These reasons may have more to do with so-called "national security" and political decisions made by the Attorney General, the State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and other agencies of which this defendant and the United States Attorney for the Southern District of California has no control. A decision not to prosecute individuals in order to avoid embarrassing high Government officials for possible complicity in drug dealing should not be sufficient reason for this defendant not to be able to have the advantage of his plea bargain for cooperation. . . . The Prosecutor, Customs and DEA Agents in this particular case may be irritated because other branches of the Government aren't interested in proceeding with the case, but that is hardly under the control of this particular defendant.
On January 8, 1992, Lynn Ball wrote a letter to Judge Brewster outlining the "substantial assistance" rendered by Lister. The letter noted Lister's cooperation against four individuals unrelated to the Blandon organization, and described Lister's cooperation against the Blandon organization and Norwin Meneses, including testifying in the grand jury four times, "provid[ing] detailed physical evidence," providing a complete chronology from 1982 to 1986, and identifying approximately 80 people affiliated with the Blandon drug smuggling organization. Ball then stated:
Unfortunately for the United States Attorney's Office, I have heard that the U.S. Intelligence agencies have used their influence to prevent prosecution of the Blandon drug smuggling organization. It strikes me that the Government in this case -- the local DEA Agents -- feel that Ronald Lister had something to do with the decision not to prosecute these people. In fact, Lister's only involvement with covert forces has been his involvement as a security expert and consultant for the government of El Salvador and to a certain extent, during the Contra dispute, he provided security information. I have heard that the Government feels that Ron Lister used some influence in order to get the prosecution of the Blandon drug organization stopped and the Government is angry about that. In fact, that is not true. Lister had no influence over anybody and he had understood that two or three times prior to this time, there had been an attempt to prosecute the Blandon smuggling organization and it had been "quashed" by U.S. Intelligence agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department because it would have been embarrassing.
The letter did not cite any factual basis for Ball's conclusions. Nor did it say where Ball had "heard" that intelligence agencies had interfered with the prosecution of the Blandon drug organization.
On January 14, 1992, Assistant U.S. Attorney Meza filed a motion entitled, "Government's Supplemental Declaration of Charles Jones in Support of Government's Response and Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Evidentiary Hearing." The attached declaration of DEA SA Jones stated that there was "absolutely no truth" to Ball's assertion that intelligence agencies had halted prosecution of a drug smuggling organization or that interference by the intelligence community had caused the government to retaliate against Lister.
On January 14, 1992, Ball submitted another letter to Judge Brewster that included portions of a declaration by Lister. Lister denied that he had been involved in money laundering while working with the DEA, and stated that he had requested permission from the DEA to travel outside of the United States, and had cooperated fully. Lister stated that he believed that the government was irritated with him because it was unable to pursue the Blandon investigation. He wrote in the declaration:
This Blandon investigation goes back a long time. In August of 1989, I was asked to attend a meeting by a Costa Mesa police investigator . . . . At that meeting, F.B.I. Agent Hales [sic] wanted to talk about the Blandon case. I told him I could do a lot of things for him but I really didn't think I could talk about the Blandon case without first seeking permission from another agency. He was very understanding and told me that he personally had followed the history of these people since the late 70's. He advised me that in 1986, the main players and myself came very close to indictment, but the Government chose not to proceed because of "matters of national security." At that time, it was blocked and I told them I would contact someone from that "other agency" and see what could be done. I said I had no reason not to help him if I could. He told me to forget it and that he was asking me please not to contact anyone from this particular intelligence agency.(48)
Lister also stated that he had been contacted by Meza and Jones and had told them that he was willing to cooperate because it was the only way he could get out of jail. He stated that he "informed them that this matter [regarding Blandon] was very sensitive and that it might cause conflict with matters of national security. Jones assured me that these old blocks were no longer valid and the old systems were dead. He said this was 1990 and I had better wake up."
Lister concluded his declaration by stating that he "spoke to a source that I have in the Central Intelligence Agency and was told that as long as the U.S. Attorney did not get in the administrative trough in their investigation, everything would be okay. I was told that if a certain name came up then it was all over and they would be shut down." Lister noted:
It is my understanding that this case has been taken out of Miss Meza's hands and Mr. Jones' hands and bumped up to the Drug Enforcement Agency [sic] in conjunction with other agencies under a "special project" division. The Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney's Office still have involvement and a certain amount of control, but a different disposition will probably occur with regard to the principal people. I believe that this will be a disposition not to the liking of Miss Meza and her group. This is not my fault. I feel that the U.S. Attorney's Office is attempting to blame me for something that I have no control over and get out of their plea bargain with me.
Meza told the OIG that Lister had made all sorts of wild and unfounded allegations about the government's anger at Lister because intelligence agencies had halted the Blandon investigation. Meza stated that she had no contact with any intelligence agencies and received no request not to pursue the Blandon case. Meza stated that the case was transferred from her to Assistant U.S. Attorney O'Neale based on a decision as to the best allocation of resources.
SA Jones also told the OIG that the Blandon case was handled as a normal drug investigation. Jones described Lister as a "pathological liar."
No evidentiary hearing was held at the time of sentencing. Assistant U.S. Attorney Meza argued that Lister was not entitled to a further reduction in his sentence because he had engaged in illegal activities and violated a court order by traveling outside of the country in furtherance of those activities. The government relied on information received from two cooperating defendants, a recorded telephone conversation, Lister's admission at the time of his arrest and the documents found in the course of a search.
The Probation Office calculated Lister's guideline range as 121-151 months, based on the total quantity of cocaine involved in the conspiracy -- 13 kilograms had been recovered from Hicks and Lister's source. The probation officer recommended the higher end of the guideline range because, had Lister been sentenced on his case in Orange County, it would likely have increased his criminal history category and therefore his guideline range. Judge Brewster sentenced Lister to 97 months incarceration and 60 months probation.
K. Lister's Appeal of His Sentence and Release
Lister appealed his sentence on the grounds that the government failed to honor the plea agreement with him and failed to move for a downward departure on his behalf. On January 28, 1993, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a memorandum opinion finding that the district court had correctly concluded that the plea agreement in the drug case was void: The agreement had bound Lister "not [to] commit any further crimes," and his violation of that provision rendered it "null and void." The appellate court also found that "Lister's release on bond was conditioned upon his remaining within the Southern and Central districts of California. Lister's travel to Mexico violated the conditions of his release, and is punishable by criminal contempt." The court further stated: "Since Lister admitted traveling to Mexico, there was no factual dispute regarding his violation of the conditions of his release on bond and no need for an evidentiary hearing." Although the court therefore affirmed Lister's sentence and conviction on the San Diego drug charges, it overturned his conviction on the Los Angeles tax charges, finding that the district judge who had accepted Lister's guilty plea in that case had failed to properly advise Lister of his rights.
The Los Angeles U.S. Attorney's Office chose not to pursue the tax prosecution further because it would not have affected the prison term Lister received. Assistant U.S. Attorney Byrne stated that if the Los Angeles office had sought to prosecute Lister again on the tax charge, Lister would have received concurrent time in the tax case with the San Diego drug case. The Los Angeles U.S. Attorney's Office therefore thought it was not worth pursuing the tax case after Lister's successful appeal.
Lister was released from prison in 1996. SA Gustafson recalled that, when Lister dropped by DEA offices to pick up his belongings shortly after he was released, he again discussed his connection to the CIA and commented that Assistant U.S. Attorney Meza would not be able to obtain any information from the CIA about his relationship with it. Lister told the OIG that he is currently in the leasing business, leasing equipment for "everything -- agriculture equipment, mining."
48. FBI agent Hale did have dealings with Lister during the period when Lister was cooperating with the Costa Mesa Police. As noted in Chapter II above, Hale is no longer alive, but other FBI agents confirmed that they dealt briefly with Lister in the investigation of an individual unrelated to the Blandon organization. The contact appears to be the only interaction between the FBI and Lister.