Sheriff Takes Contribution From Legendary Drug Smuggling Figure

Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti's campaign has taken a contribution from a storied drug smuggling figure who was investigated by the Broward Sheriff's Office at a time that Lamberti helped run its narcotics unit.

On September 26, a company called World Jet Inc. gave Lamberti the maximum $500 allowed under law. World Jet, which operates out of Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, is owned by Reginald "Don" Whittington, a fellow who was involved in one of the more notorious marijuana smuggling operations of the 1980s.

Whittington's brother Bill was convicted of smuggling thousands of pounds of marijuana. Don handled the money in the operation and was convicted of money laundering (he did 18 months in the federal pen). Also involved was race car driver Randy Lanier and furniture store heir Gary Levitz. Dig a little deeper and you'll find ties to Ben Kramer, the infamous drug smuggler, killer, and championship powerboat racer (you might remember that it was Kramer who killed powerboat legend Don Aronow). Here's a link to the New York Times story on the Whittington brothers' conviction.

Once you dig into any big drug operation, the ties go everywhere -- and this one is no different. More recently, Whittington's business has been loosely linked by renegade journalist Daniel Hopsicker to a cocaine plane downed in Mexico and planes used by the CIA in its rendition program. Read Hopsicker's report here. It gets pretty murky, hasn't been further substantiated, and doesn't necessarily indicate any wrongdoing by Whittington, but it's all pretty interesting stuff.

Making the acceptance of the contribution even more questionable is the fact that Lamberti, according to his own bio, was Deputy Director of the Organized Crime Division at BSO during the Whittingtons' heyday. BSO drug agents were directly involved in the investigation and helped bring Whittington down while Lamberti was helping to oversee the narcotics unit.

Don't get me wrong. This isn't a barn burner. It's really more a reflection of South Florida than it is of Lamberti (though it does indicate either a lapse in judgment or a lack of oversight on the part of the sheriff). You can't throw a rock around here without hitting someone that was once involved in the drug trade. Read this old saw about Lamberti's disgraced predecessor, Ken Jenne, to get deeper into the guts of some of this stuff.

I've contacted Lamberti's campaign office for comment, so there might be more to come. At the very least, I think this is five hundred bucks Lamberti might want to return to sender.

[Just realized that a blog on the Miami Herald website had an item about the contribution a couple days ago, so just consider this post a wildly fascinating follow-up to that rather spare report].

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