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Chauncey Marvin Holt (October 23, 1921 – June 28, 1997) was an American adventurer who became known as a painter of celebrity portraits, but who also worked as a pilot, an accountant and a mafia associate as well as claiming to have been a contract operative for the Central Intelligence Agency. He served organized crime figures Meyer Lansky and Peter Licavoli and, in 1953, was employed by Lansky as an accountant for the International Rescue Committee which, according to Holt, was a proprietary interest of the CIA. In 1955 he was involved as a covert operative in the CIA-staged coup that overthrew the government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala. In his career as an artist, he painted numerous portraits, including those of Lansky and Licavoli, as well as many show business celebrities, such as Clint Eastwood, who sat for a Holt portrait.

Contents

Career overview

Chauncey Holt continued his association with the CIA during the 1960s and 1970s and played a role in covert operations in Brazil, Laos and Chile. At the same time he continued his close friendship and business interests with Peter Licavoli until the mobster's death in 1984. Holt was also deeply involved with attorney Frank Belcher Sr. with whom he maintained, at the Bank of America office in Burbank, a special account through which many of Holt's CIA contract agent "projects" were funded and funneled.

In 1975, the CIA began to purge rogue contract agents, known as "cowboys", from its employ. Some were forced into retirement, while others like Chauncey Holt ended up in prison. On January 2, 1976, Holt had written a letter to his old CIA ally, William King Harvey, apprising him of his recent indictment by a federal grand jury. Harvey responded by saying he could only offer "token assistance". Harvey did offer to send Chauncey some CIA documents that were about to be declassified. These records proved Holt worked for the Clandestine Operations Division of the Central Intelligence Agency.

In 1977, Holt was convicted of mail fraud and sent to the federal prison on Terminal Island. Prior to sentencing, he refused an offer from the Organized Crime Task Force of a place in the Witness Protection Program and early release from prison in exchange for testimony against Lansky and Licavoli. Representatives of the CIA did promise him preferential treatment in prison and a "payoff" if he agreed to keep silent about his activities on behalf of the Agency. He kept his word, until the principals died.

A native of Kentucky, Chauncey Holt died of cancer at the age of 75, eight days after completing a film about his life story. [1]

Claims of involvement in JFK assassination

Holt is best known for his confession of involvement in the JFK assassination. He testified that he drove with mob hitmen Charles Nicoletti and Leo Moceri to Dallas from the Grace Ranch in Arizona. The ranch was owned by Peter Licavoli and allegedly served as a base for CIA operations, drugs and gun smuggling. [2] Holt was also carrying forged secret service badges and lapel pins to Dallas, on orders of his CIA contact Philip Twombly. Holt delivered the lapel pins and badges to anti-Castro Cuban exile Homer Echevarria. He also delivered handguns and ID's to Charles Harrelson on the parking lot of Dealey Plaza behind the grassy knoll. Harrelson, the father of actor Woody Harrelson, was a convicted hitman, who died in 2007 while serving a prison sentence for the murder of federal judge John H. Wood, Jr. in 1979.

After the assassination Holt, Harrelson and Rogers were apprehended from a boxcar in the railroad yard and detained by the Dallas Police. They were released the same afternoon. While they were escorted over Dealey Plaza, seven pictures were taken by press photographers. These pictures became known in history as "the three tramps". Holt related that during the Warren Commission, he and other CIA operatives involved in the Kennedy assassination, stayed in a luxurious CIA safehouse in Acapulco, owned by attorneys Frank Belcher and Joseph Ball. Joseph Ball served as senior counsel on the Warren Commission .

1991 interview with Chauncey Holt

Chauncey Holt first came forward with his story in 1991 and, on October 19, was interviewed for Newsweek by JFK researchers John Craig, Phillip Rogers and Gary Shaw. The article was published in the December 23, 1991 issue.[3] Also, a number of local news channels in San Diego and Dallas did reports on Holt's story. [4] The 3 hour interview itself was never published at the time, however, a transcript of the interview was later published on the website of Dutch JFK assassination researcher Wim Dankbaar. [5] Chauncey Holt himself submitted to the San Diego Union Tribune a critical reaction on their review of the book Case Closed by Gerald Posner, who advocates that Lee Harvey Oswald killed President Kennedy. Holt predicted that his comments would not be published by the newspaper, as in his view it was always firmly defending the Warren Commission's conclusion. He wrote:

I would not be responding to you personally if I felt that there was the slightest possibility that the San Diego Union Tribune would print any excerpts of my response. The paper has always demonstrated a definite bias in favor of those who opposed the conspiracy theory. Recently, it printed a lengthy column by our old friend, David Belin. Not one letter from readers, who disagreed with Belin, was printed in the “Readers Write” section. I wrote what I felt was a persuasive letter in opposition but it was never printed. In my original review of Posner's book, I failed to address the statements that Mr. Posner made about me. This was done deliberately because I wanted my critique to be free of personal bias and as objective as possible. However, criticisms have been received from some individuals who considered this failure, on my part, to be prima facie evidence of the truth of Posner's statements. Nothing could be farther from the truth and, in this addendum, I will address those statements.
On page 273 Posner made the following statement regarding me in regard to the "tramps", which he claimed were arrested on 22 November 1963:
Some self proclaimed adventurers, like Chauncey Holt, have confessed to being one of the tramps and spun long tales about their purported roles in the assassination. But in February 1992, researchers discovered that the Dallas police files released in 1989 showed that three tramps had indeed been booked on November 22, 1963. The records identified the suspects as Harold Doyle, Gus Abrams and John Gedney. Two of the men, Gedney and Doyle, were still alive, and it turned out they were real tramps who had been to the local rescue mission the night before the assassination and were sleeping in the railroad car when the police arrested them. The men had no connection to the events at Dealey, and the conspiracy press suddenly and quietly abandoned the issue.
Mr. Posner's allegations, couched in the same demeaning, sarcastic language he resorted to throughout the book, is replete with misstatements of fact. Mr. Posner alludes to me as a "self proclaimed adventurer". To proclaim is to announce officially and publicly. I have no need to do this. I have knife and bullet wound scars and broken bones to establish my bona fides.
As far as I know I am the only person who has come forward and admitted to being one of the tramps or "spun a long tale" about his role in this matter. The "police records" were not released in 1989, but only after Newsweek printed a lengthy story about me in the December 1991 issue. There were also articles appearing in other newspapers, and my account of that fateful Friday was aired on television in Houston, Dallas, and San Diego. It is interesting to note that the Dallas television reporters asked me if I would be willing to confront Marvin Wise, one of the police officers in the now famous photograph of the "tramps". I readily agreed to this confrontation, but Marvin Wise, who is now a rent-a-cop, refused to appear with me.
I provided numerous photos of myself, taken in the sixties, which Lois Gibson, a nationally recognized forensic artist with the Houston Police Department, used to compare with photographs taken in Dealey Plaza on Friday, 22 November 1963. To the best of my knowledge, no photographs of Abrams, Gedney, or Doyle, taken in the sixties, have been furnished to researchers or the police.
Furthermore, the statements of Gedney (Florida Today, 7 March 1992) and Doyle (A Current Affair, 25 February 1992) differ from those of Posner in his book, demonstrating again that Posner is very reckless in his claims as to what he was told by various witnesses.
Doyle and Gedney told essentially the same story. This is what Gedney said: He and two drifters had gotten cleaned up at a homeless shelter in Houston. The train stopped in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. They were returning to the railroad yards from another soup kitchen near Dealey Plaza when the sirens began howl ing. Somebody said the president had been shot. Suddenly a police dragnet was sweeping the streets for suspicious characters. Gedney says more than 100 people were hauled in for interrogation, but only he, Harold Doyle and Gus Abrams got caught by a photographer. We were taken away, put in jail for three or four days and found not guilty of anything but vagrancy.
Does this sound like three tramps sleeping in a boxcar? The records released by the Dallas Police Department after almost thirty years indicated that Abrams, Doyle, and Gedney were charged with burglary and remained in jail for four days, but, incredibly, have provided no fingerprints or mug shots of these three derelicts. I realize that the Dallas Police Department in 1963 was appallingly inept, but does this really make sense?

(full letter here)

Indeed, the letter was never published by the San Diego Tribune, but assassination researcher James Fetzer recently made it available on his website. [6]

Controversy over Holt's story

Holt's story was undermined in 1992 when the Dallas Police Department alleged that the three tramps were Gus Abrams, John F. Gedney and Harold Doyle. Ray and Mary LaFontaine carried out their own research into this claim. They traced Doyle and Gedney who confirmed they were two of the tramps. Gus Abrams was dead but his sister identified him as the third tramp in the photograph. Assassination researcher and Warren Commission apologist John McAdams reported the findings of this research on his website. [7] Other researchers like James Fetzer, Lois Gibson and Wim Dankbaar point to the inconsistencies in this research and even suggest it was a deliberate attempt to discredit the story of Holt. Wim Dankbaar stated:

Chauncey's revelations were largely ignored by the mainstream media. The few media that did report on it, left it with a conclusion that cast doubts on his story. I could believe that Doyle, Gedney and Abrams were picked up from a train and taken into custody. So in that regard they may well have been telling the truth. I just don't believe they are the men in the tramp photographs. As Chauncey said, several individuals were picked up that day from the railroad yard.

To the above I would add that photographs, as presented in HSCA photo consultant, Robert Groden's fine book, "The Killing of a President: The Complete Photographic Record of the Assassination, the Conspiracy and the Cover-up", show that one very important former employer of Chauncey Holt's, Meyer Lansky, and another one, William Hale Brading (who for the occasion dubbed himself, Bill Braden until authorities uncovered his true identity, were also picked up by police in Dealey Plaza within minutes of the assassination. I doubt that Meyer Lansky would have ever known low-life's, if that is what and who they really were, like Gedney, Doyle, and Abrams. But with Holt's known history within the CIA and O.C., Lansky certainly did know Holt. Also, Holt gives the only explanation I know of for how Oswald got the two pieces of ID that were found by DPD when Oswald was arrested at the Texas Theater. No one else, including Posner, has managed to come up with a documented admission by someone about how Oswald got his second name. Holt has been identified Lois Gibson as having been present in one of the photographs taken of Oswald's leafletting in New Orleans to "give him some support." Holt discovered there who Oswald was. I doubt that Gedney, Abrams or Doyle had ever met Oswald, or Holt. E. Howard Hunt even maintained to his son, Saint John Hunt, until his death that he was NOT the little older tramp. The only other person, involved previously with Oswald (New Orleans), who knew the name "Nicoletti" was Holt. Nicoletti was the immediate boss of James E. Files. Yet Files had never met Chauncey Holt. Holt and Files knew Nicoletti, but did not know each other. The CIA has a unit known as the Technical Services Bureau. It provides such things as weapons, masks, body-changing prosthetics, etc. to its covert operatives who have a need to look like someone else who also is associated with the "Company." If one looks closely at the "Tramps" photographs one can see in the side views of them, what look like soft mask lines about half way over each man's face. I think Hunt, for at least one, was really not Hunt as had been charged by so many. I think it was Holt with a mask on. I think that the one many thought of as Frank Sturgis, was really Harrelson dressed up to look as much like Sturgis as possible. this is just conjecture on my part. But I believe Holt was there as he said he was. And, after all, Holt had been in various shows in acting roles in the 1950s. He was a good trapeze artist. The shadows in the photographs indicate a time around 2:30 PM or later. The shadows have moved two hours compared with the time of the shooting. This is consistent with Holt, who said they were hiding in the boxcar for 2 hours before they were found. It is not consistent with what Doyle and Gedney were telling. In the photographs you can also see that the crowds of people are gone, which is also indicating a time well after the assassination. All the documents and statements (also from the arresting officers) say that the arrests occurred very shortly after the assassination, within an hour, well before 1:30 PM. Read the interviews with the arresting officers. [8]

The sun and shadows don't lie. It's just the law of the earth's rotation.

Also, Doyle and the others said that they were picked up from an open flatbed coal car, known as a gondola, not a boxcar. This is in their FBI statements. [9]

The man that is supposedly Harold Doyle looks to be much older than 32. This is also more consistent with what Holt is telling. Charles Rogers, aka Richard Montoya was 43 at the time. Two good acquaintances of Rogers identified him immediately from those photographs. One was an ex girlfriend that he dated, the other was Charles Rolland, manager of the Houston ice-skating rink where Rogers frequently used the pay-phone.

Forensic expert Lois Gibson

Lois Gibson works for the Houston Police Department and is one the most respected forensic facial experts in the world. She was recently awarded with a notation in the Guinness Book of World Records for the highest crime solving rate based on composite sketches. Lois Gibson has made a comparison study of the "three tramps", photographed in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963. She concluded that the three men were Chauncey Holt, Charles Harrelson and Charles Rogers. The video presentation of her analysis can be found on the Internet.

Film Spooks, Hoods and The Hidden Elite

Wim Dankbaar of Holland - a longtime JFK assassination researcher - announced in September 2008 that he made available a video documentaryon Holt's life to view online free of charge. Dankbaar acquired the documentary in 2007 although it was made in 1997. The production contains the life story of Chauncey Holt and was titled by Holt: Spooks, Hoods and The Hidden Elite.

It was for years locked in litigation over the ownership rights (between the producers and the heirs of Holt who died shortly thereafter) which was eventually concluded in favour of the producers, from whom Dankbaar purchased it. Since the movie is eleven years overdue, Dankbaar commented: "It is time to share the story with the American public, as was the wish of Chauncey Holt himself, who died 8 days after its completion. This is not another conspiracy theory, it's just the confession of a man who claims involvement and knowledge about the JFK assassination. I leave the judgment of his credibility up to the viewer of his testimony."

The synopsis of the film reads as follows:

Spooks, Hoods and the Hidden Elite is the video memoir of CIA contract agent and underworld figure Chauncey Marvin Holt as he operated in the twilight world of bootlegging, bookmaking, gun running, money laundering, espionage and assassinations, using secret identities, serving many masters. Holt's amazing story chronicles his participation in Top Secret "black operations" conducted during the Cold War, and reveals his clandestine role in the events surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Early in his criminal career, Holt connected with Meyer Lansky, chairman of the board of organized crime, and Peter Licavoli, a ruling "Don" of Detroit's Mafia family. His versatility earned him Lansky's praise as a renaissance man of crime. In 1953, Holt was loaned by the Mob to a "proprietary interest" of the newly-founded Central Intelligence Agency. At the same time, he continued his close association with top echelon "hoods" of organized crime.

Holt's skills as a pilot, munitions expert and accounting whiz made him invaluable to both the Mob and the CIA. For nearly 25 years, the CIA utilized his talents in some of their most important "black ops" in Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Brazil, Laos and Chile. During his tenure running front companies for The Agency, Holt worked closely with many legendary CIA "spooks" and fellow "cowboys" (independent contract agents who carried out field operations away from CIA headquarters).

As a money manager and fine art connoisseur, Holt was affiliated with some of the most influential members of the "hidden elite." In Spooks, Hoods and the Hidden Elite, he unmasks their identities - including a senior counsel to the Warren Commission - and exposes the long-standing incestuous relationship between Intelligence, Organized Crime and a shadowy group of elites.

In this video interview - made one week before his death - Holt provides a chilling account of why the Secret Government's preparations for the coup d'état of November 22, 1963 were well underway by April 1963. He explains why he and a team of CIA operatives were in Dealey Plaza, and the truth behind the mysterious "three tramps" picked up behind the Grassy Knoll after the assassination. Holt also describes his firsthand knowledge of the special relationship between Oswald and the intelligence community in the months preceding the assassination of JFK.

Spooks, Hoods and the Hidden Elite presents persuasive evidence of the existence of a powerful, interlocked cabal that orchestrated the removal of a president with frightening resolve. Most importantly, this video reveals the footprints of a renegade covert network, a Secret Government, that has exerted untold influence over U.S. policy from World War II until today...

Notes

References

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