George Clooney to Produce Drug Smuggling Movie "Coronado High" - Based on Coronado's Biggest Crime Ring

 


Grant Heslov and George Clooney team up to produce future movie called "Coronado High".

This is one of those stories, true stories, that many Coronado locals don't want to talk about - they are even less enthused about having Hollywood make a major motion picture about it.  Some eCoronado.com members have shared personal memories and details about this case, but asked us not to write about it.  We haven't.  They certainly didn't want to name names, so we did some "Google research" and found out more details about why Hollywood is so interested this 30+ year-old Coronado crime ring.  Here is a quick overview of the "Coronado Company" drug business that ran from 1972-1981 - yes, right here in Crown Town:

Former Coronado High School Spanish teacher Louis "Lou" Villar orchestrated one of the largest drug smuggling rings enlisting former CHS students.  Nearly 100 tons of marijuana and hashish were imported from Mexico and the Orient.  They made millions before getting caught by the DEA.  Over 60 people were indicted and over 20 served time.  One conspirator spent over five years in a Moroccan jail after getting caught.  Even though Villar was the kingpin of the "Coronado Company", he was able to avoid jail by becoming a witness against his former conspirators and even his lawyer Philip DeMassa.  

UPDATE:  Here is the Mike Wallace "60 Minutes" video on the "Coronado Company".

Back in 2004, Union Tribune writer and CHS grad Logan Jenkins penned these words:

Twenty years ago, I was spellbound by the bizarre history of another drug ring that hailed from a high school – Coronado, my alma mater.

Most of the names, and many of the faces, of the principal conspirators were familiar.

Most astonishing in the lineup was Louis Villar, whom I remembered as a hip young Spanish teacher who drove an old Corvette. He was also the coach of the swimming team, which won the CIF championship in 1964, if memory serves.

This charismatic figure would go on to become the CEO of the Coronado Company, which, next to the Hotel del Coronado, remains the most famous business enterprise in the island's history.

By the early 1970s, Villar had dropped out of teaching and become a house-painting, pot-smoking beach savant everyone called "Pops." Some of the local kids, former students of Villar's, were making use of their considerable water skills by smuggling in kilos of Mexican marijuana. Pops was recruited to help negotiate with wholesalers in Tijuana.  

Read the entire UT article here.

Here is a synopsis of the Coronado Company according to court documents:

In 1972, Louis Villar, Edward Otero, Paul Acree, and Lance Weber agreed to work as partners for the purpose of smuggling and distributing marijuana. This partnership became known as the Coronado Company. In its early years, this partnership conducted smuggling operations on a relatively small scale. As the size of the loads increased, employees were hired to help with the off-loading part of the operation. In 1977, Bob Lahodny joined the Company, replacing Weber as a partner.

Late in 1979, the Company began to plan a fifth smuggling operation. Lahodny contacted a previous supplier, Lux Phaksuwana, and his associate, defendant Bibbero, about procuring a load of Thai marijuana. In a series of meetings at Santa Barbara and San Francisco, Bibbero met with the partners of the Company to discuss the operation. It was agreed that Bibbero would buy seven tons of marijuana and ready it for shipment to the United States. The Company would oversee the transporting of the load to Neah Bay, Washington, and land the shipment by helicopter for warehousing and distribution. The financial terms of this agreement were that Bibbero and the Company would each pay 50% of the cost of the supply, and Bibbero and the Company would receive 40% and 60% of the load respectively.

After a series of mishaps, the off-loading operation was abandoned with only one ton of the load safely landed and warehoused. Six tons of marijuana were recovered by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents on the shores of Neah Bay. Bibbero successfully renegotiated the division of the salvaged marijuana and received 45% of the load.

During the spring and summer of 1981, Bibbero met Villar and other partners at Santa Barbara, Palo Alto, and LaCosta, California, to plan a sixth smuggling operation. Because of the debacle at Neah Bay, it was agreed that Bibbero would receive more than half of the load. Bibbero also succeeded in getting a friend, Joe Siegfried, onto the off-loading crew so that Bibbero could maintain closer contact with the off-loading operation. The landing was planned for Bear Harbor, California. Marshall was recruited to work as a crew member and arrived at the site several weeks early to help prepare for the off-loading operation.

When the boat transporting the marijuana had engine trouble near Japan, Bibbero loaned the Company $25,000 to cover the cost of repairs and was scheduled to receive 100% interest on this loan.

A six-ton load was successfully landed at Bear Harbor in October, 1981, and transported to a house at Arcata, California, where it was weighed and packaged. Marshall participated in the off-loading. Bibbero stayed at a hotel in Eureka during the operation. He later arrived at the Arcata house with Siegfried, congratulated the crew members, and departed. Sometime after the operation was completed, Lahodny hosted a victory party, which was attended by Bibbero and Marshall.

On August 3, 1982, a federal grand jury in the Southern District of California returned a three-count indictment against Bibbero, Marshall, and twenty-five other individuals pertaining to the drug smuggling operation. Count one charged Bibbero, Marshall, and twenty-five others with conspiracy to possess marijuana, exceeding 1000 pounds, with intent to distribute in violation of 21 U.S.C. Secs. 841(a)(1), 841(b)(6), and 846 (1982). Count two charged the same individuals with conspiracy to import marijuana with intent to distribute in violation of 21 U.S.C. Secs. 952, 960, and 963. Count three charged Bibbero and twelve others, not including Marshall, with possession of 3000 pounds of marijuana with intent to distribute in violation of 21 U.S.C. Sec. 841(a)(1).

The district court divided the twenty-seven defendants into three groups and ordered three separate trials. The defendants were tried as a separate group, and judgments were entered after the jury found Bibbero and Marshall guilty as per the indictment. The defendants filed a timely appeal from the district court's judgment order.

Here is another summary taken from court documents:

From 1977 to 1981, a large-scale drug smuggling organization known as the "Coronado Company" imported and distributed approximately twenty-four tons of marijuana from Thailand. More than twenty-five persons participated. The five appellants here, Robert Barker, William McKinley, Jeffrey Engle, Jason Engle, and George Timmons, were each charged with multiple substantive and conspiracy counts stemming from their involvement in the Company's importation of five tons of marijuana in 1981.

According to a 1986 LA Times article:

Founded in the early 1970s by high school buddies who smuggled drugs from Mexico on surfboards, the Coronado Company became one of the West Coast's biggest importers of "Thai stick" marijuana from the Orient.

Also from the LA Times:

At one time, Villar, the ring's mastermind, was DeMassa's client. In 1982, Villar, who is now 46, pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiracy to import marijuana and was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.

But five months later, Villar became the government's star witness, and he soon implicated DeMassa and others in the conspiracy and avoided going to jail.  

Click here to read an excerpt from "The Mammoth Book of Drug Barons" that talks about the Coronado Company.

The Well Fed Muse interviewed author David Corbett and he shared this about a story he wrote about the Coronado Company:

I worked on a number of interrelated marijuana smuggling cases linked to a group of characters out of San Diego who called themselves the Coronado Company. They were Navy brats for the most part, comfortable with boats and the sea, and began dealing pot in high school, crossing into TJ for party-size loads, nothing major. But little by little the demand grew and so did their nerve, until they got to the point someone needed to speak Spanish. So they recruited their high school Spanish teacher, a walking mid-life-crisis named Lou Villar, into the company. They began doing major smuggling runs up from Mexico, then teamed up with some Vietnam vets yearning for a little adventure who had contacts in Southeast Asia. They became the largest smuggling operation on the West Coast, and were more wild than evil. If they’d lived in the 17th century they would have sailed around the world for treasure and fame. They were just born four hundred years too late.

Read the entire interview here.

Coronado locals can't bury this story anymore.  Yesterday, The Wrap (a Hollywood entertainment website) published an exclusive story giving some of the first details about this future project that is being led by two talented producers that just won Oscar gold for "Argo":  George Clooney Reteaming With 'Argo' Journo on Drug Smuggling Project.  

This is old Coronado news for locals, but with the new movie and heavyweights such as Clooney and Hevlov producing it, this 30-year-old news may just be playing at Village Theatre right here in Coronado.

Views: 17055

Tags: community, crime, people, schools

Comment by Julie Overstreet on April 26, 2013 at 12:20pm

Who knew!  Crazy!

Comment by Carolyn Jennings on April 26, 2013 at 3:03pm

Thank you for sharing this piece of info and the supporting historical articles. I had no idea about the drug ring -- the plethora of books re: the history of Coronado definitely don't cover that part of the island's story! I'm thrilled to see eCoronado is not hesitant in covering stories that expose the other side of Coronado. It's a fantastic place to live, but let's not be pollyannish about it. And I'm also excited to see you are pulling info from Deadspin! An expanded coverage of Coronado is very much appreciated! Keep up the good work!

Comment by Kristin Lindeman on April 26, 2013 at 4:08pm

People at the high school are sharing this on Facebook like crazy!! Can't believe this happened in Coronado!

Comment by Andy Niemyer on April 29, 2013 at 9:12am

These were my classmates and team mates (waterpolo and swim team).  Lou Villar exploited what were a bunch of low-level, local kids and then when faced with actual punishment for his crimes, threw them to the Feds without even blinking. 

Comment by eCoronado on April 29, 2013 at 4:44pm

We just posted the "60 Minutes" video special hosted by Mike Wallace that covers the "Coronado Company".

Comment by avalee cohen on May 1, 2013 at 8:27am

Everyone back in the mid 70's knew about this! It was a pretty small community back in the day and everyone knew someone who was involved. Lou Villar was an extremely popular teacher at CHS. He even married a former high school cheerleader. My neighbor around the corner (class of '67) was involved, my high school class president (class of '68) spend many years in a federal prison.  Well said Andy Niemyer (class of '69)!!

 

 

Comment by Kimberley Graham on February 26, 2014 at 3:31am

Comment by Kimberley Graham on February 26, 2014 at 3:34am

SENOR VILLAR 

Senor Villar aka Luis Enrique Villar was a Spanish teacher as well as water polo/swim coach at Coronado High School in the 1960s.  He was a handsome man in his mid-20s with dark chocolate brown, wiry hair cropped close to his head, bright blue eyes, a charming smile, and wore black-rimmed eyeglasses or prescription Ray-ban sunglasses.  He stood about six feet tall.  He was slim and fit and looked quite dashing in his collegiate tweed sports jacket, black slacks, and crisp white dress shirt with a thin black tie, a standard uniform for him.  Always charismatic, he was a real charmer to both female and male students alike as well as his fellow colleagues, faculty, and the students’ parents.  He drove a bright red convertible Corvette and really stood out among the generic, drab staff of Coronado High School not to mention the community in general.  Like the generation he would teach, he was youthful and a product of the 60s' bohemian lifestyle and influence.

 When he arrived from the East Coast in 1964 to take the teaching position, he was only 26, not much older than the students he would teach.  As a result, he formed an unusual bond with his students bordering on older brother status and almost peer but more as to someone for the impressionable kids to look up to for camaraderie as well as guidance  -- and in the case of water sports, a real coach.  He would learn to body surf alongside his surfer students and in time the distinction between he and his students became blurred.

 

Senor Villar came to Coronado High School from his alma mater Syracuse University in upstate New York.  He had been a college basketball star while attending the university and acquired his teaching credentials.  He would marry for a short time and divorce before leaving New York.  Born in Cuba in the late 1930s, he was from a family of landowners of Castilian descent.   His mother was a blonde, blue-eyed beauty, and his father he did not speak of very much.  When Castro took over the Caribbean island with his Communist regime, the land belonging to his family was confiscated by the military junta.  Luis’ family were displaced and suffered a severe fall from financial grace and social status.  His Aunt Maria would migrate to the United States soon thereafter bringing her favorite nephew along with her.  Luis was a young teenager at the time.  They moved to Brooklyn where the young Cuban had a very difficult time fitting in as he spoke not a word of English.  Ambitious and driven, he would soon learn the language and become a great achiever in school and with the ladies.  After graduating high school, he would attend Syracuse University on a basketball scholarship where he also excelled.

 In 1968, Senor Villar would marry a local Coronado girl from a prominent naval family, Katherin Stocker.  Kathy was also a former student of his.  Luis Enrique Villar would now don the name Louis Henry Villar or Lou and had assumed the youthful helm by marriage of a reputable Coronado “old guard” family.  Lou and Kathy would have a big wedding with a full mass at the local Sacred Heart Catholic Church with no expense spared at the ceremony and reception.  It was a big “to do” in town and the talk of all.  With his nuptials to one of our local girls, Senor Villar would establish himself as “one of us” -- kind of.

 Lou and Kathy Villar became a “cool” couple of the 1960s, and the youth affiliated with the twosome would admire them and enjoy hanging out with them at their home or at school functions or at the beach for some water fun.  Kathy was pretty and young and a product of the times as were her peers.  She quickly became a “hippie” type from a varsity cheerleader-type smoking pot with her husband and donning the uniform of the hipsters and practicing Transcendental Meditation with Lou as well.  Lou traded in his shiny red Corvette for a green and white VW “surfer” bus, and together they were among the leaders of the march towards the unconventional lifestyle that was establishing itself in our community and the rest of our nation.

I was nine years old when Senor Villar made his grand entrance to the Emerald Isle.  It would not be long that even I at this very adolescent age would become aware of the popular high school Spanish teacher.  One of my friend’s sister would ooh and aah about her dashing instructor at school.  She and all of her other girlfriends would become quite giddy at even the mention of his name.  Full of curiosity, a pack of pubescent girls would begin to visit this enigmatic educator at recess.  He was quite charming and we along with the older gals became quite smitten as well.  Senor Villar would flirt with us and welcome us into his classroom teasing us with Spanish tongue twisters asking us to repeat them back.  I sat in one of the student desks in my go-go boots and big-flowered Mary Quant dress out of my mind with curiosity and at the same time frozen in my seat with shyness.  I would just stare at him with my big brown doe eyes and hope he would never call on me.  Thank goodness he never singled me out and really did not take much notice of me in particular.  But it was obvious, that he loved all the attention and soaked it all up even from us who were still girl children.

 Later on, the Villars would become best friends with my parents.  Both couples were like minded in the quest to be cool and hip and current with the changing times.  It was in this element, that I would soon become the “scandal” of Coronado for years to come as I evolved and was “coached” into the teen lover of Senor Luis Enrique Villar.

COOL PARENTS

 Concurrent to my metamorphosis into a new creature unrecognizable as my childhood being, my parents were both morphing into a new breed of free thinkers or as many of my friends would call them “cool parents.”  Simultaneously, although I think my dad was taking the lead from my mother, they became extremely permissive and open minded with their parenting skills, a trend that had unwittingly begun a few years back.  Now they would consciously proclaim this enlightened approach.

Don and Jan Dill had at present donned the attire of the hippie movement.  They attended rock concerts like Elton John with us, both grew their hair out, and even began dabbling with marijuana.  Since my father had shut down his medicine cabinet and coffee addiction, he became more relaxed and for him a bit “mellow-yellow.”  My mother began entertaining the ideas of the women’s movement that had taken hold in this decade and was questioning her role as a housewife, wife, and mother.   She like many other women of the time “burned her bra.”

My dad, who was very much a racist as was his father before him often used the word “nigger” to identify a black person, started listening to the radio speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.  I found this interesting as I at the time had no idea what it all meant.  The true historical import of the late reverend and civil rights activist literally “king” of the movement was yet to be realized.  My dad may have become more open minded but he would still remain a racist and use the “n” word.  Fortunately for us kids and our embarrassment, Coronado had very few “n’s” so this misnomer did not come up very much.

Together they experimented in an approach to the mind and its mechanization known as Transactional Analysis aka TA aka “I’m Okay, You’re Okay.”  This was also the precursor of the “New Age” thinking, a huge trend that would take hold in the ‘70s and would affect all manner of organized religion, the approach to treatment in the professions of psychology with psychoanalysis taking the dominant lead, and everyday thinking in general.

At any given day and at any given time, there were always a collection of friends and their friends and strangers who were to become my parents and our family's friends hanging out at our house.  Many times you would find them sitting in a circle in our communal den playing out transactional exercises to open up the soul being led by my newly found guru mother.

Our home became a go-to destination for all sorts of teenagers and young adults with problems at home and in life to come explore their feelings and options, many of whom were invited to not only hang out at our house whenever they wanted but also to stay with us. 

My father, who became somewhat liberal in much of his thinking as a physician and its approaches to medicine and various treatments and cures, began assisting family friends who were “in trouble.”  At the time, abortion was very illegal.  I remember sitting in the living room when our doorbell rang, and my beloved babysitter, would arrive in tears only to be comforted by my father who said he would assist her on the "hush hush."  Arrangements were made to be followed shortly by another visitor.  This time a controversial Coronado character showed up at the front door.  I was wondering why Bud "The Butcher" could possibly have any reason for being at our house.  I would later figure it all out after my inquiries were sort of answered that our family friend was pregnant, still a teenager, she did not want to have the baby nor did she want her parents or anyone else for that matter to know of her "dirty little secret."  The Butcher was the “go to guy” for all such matters. 

 In those days, the option for a pregnant teenager was either to be sent away to have the baby in quiet during which times adoption arrangements were secured or more dangerous methods were employed including fetus-mutilation by coat hanger.  At any rate, it was a rather dismal, inhumane situation to find oneself in.  Not only was the young girl's reputation destroyed, but her self respect and self worth would be shattered for many years to come if not for always.  It was in these dark times that my father would become a Knight in Shining Armor to some of these damsels in distress arranging secret rendezvous with the local butcher.

The Dill parents explored new relationships with people they hadn’t normally associated with in the past including Lou and Kathy Villar.  The newlywed couple would become a fixture in our transactional analysis forums with Lou often competing as the leader of the sessions.  The Villars would eat and prepare meals with our family, establish craft making sessions in our backyard such as creating handmade candles and tie-dying T-shirts.  Camping became a ritual in an effort to get back to nature for all of us.  Lou and Kathy would become our troop leaders as my parents became rather incapacitated with their new found preoccupation of smoking pot and "trippin'."  The cannabis was also supplied by our troop leaders. The usual vacations to Mexico and romantic getaways would be substituted with weekends in Idyllwild to attend folk music festivals with not only the Villars but other more progressive-thinking friends of my parents. 

It was in this environment of change and the metamorphosis of the construct of my home that I was sent away to an exclusive all girls private boarding academy for guidance and tutelage my parents felt unable to perform.

 

MISCONDUCTED AFFECTIONS

Amongst my mother’s new pursuits in her new found self was to broaden her knowledge.  After her high school graduation, my mother no longer pursued any higher education as all of the focus was on getting my father through medical school.  This was not unusual in the 1950s for young women as the social expectation for the female was to marry at an early age to a promising beau with a path to a good profession that would provide financial security while they purchased their white picket fence home and began a family.  Women were to be seen and not heard and to work would only be out of necessity. 

The primary focus for the up-and-coming housewife would be concentrated on developing their cooking and shopping skills, managing a household, a representative of a good family image with proper morality, and of course, the maintenance of the home itself.  Sewing skills were also preferable but not always necessary if you could mend, darn a sock, and be able to press a good pleat with a hot iron and spray starch.  Even when I was in school, one of the subjects of our curriculum was home economics -- a definite prerequisite to the life of a married housewoman which just enhanced the lessons passed down from their own mothers and grandmothers.  It was also very important to behave as a lady with physical sports not encouraged and coarseness in any form not a welcome trait.  Beauty was a key essential and if not naturally pretty, many products and salons were in place to elevate even the most dowdy of women to a state of attractiveness.  Besides hair spray holding every curl in place, mounds of make up was freely applied from bright scarlet rouge to a facial foundation with mascara, eyeliner, eyelashes, eyeshadows, eyebrows penciled in, and the finishing touch a dark red lipstick preferably. 

Jan Dill had all aspects of professional housewifery down pat.  She was the envy of all for not only was she drop-dead beautiful, but she was a definite trendsetter on all fronts from the way she dressed, to how she decorated, to how she threw a fabulous dinner party, to how she amazed all men, to how she raised her children, and best of all as a magnificent arm piece to the very handsome and debonair Dr. Donald M. Dill, M.D. – a title my father insisted on.

 Being the center of attention always, my mom, the “Reigning Beauty Queen of Coronado,” could afford to be dismissive of not only her husband’s doting attention and affections but the rest of the very generic, unappealing gentlemen that surrounded her in our town.  I can count on one hand any of the handsome, appealing “mad men” of Coronado.  Believe me, as I would entertain my own crushes on them.  The cutest men were the boys, and Jan, would flirt with them more so than the men in her peerage.

It was a surprise to all of us when one day Mom announced that she was going to take a night school class at the high school.  We all wondered what that could possibly be and worried for her as we weren’t sure whether she would be able to perform on an academic level.  The class she had designated was “Beginners Conversational Spanish.”  It seemed logical to us when we heard the subject matter because of my parents’ extreme fondness for anything south of the border and also since we had a live-in maid, Catalina, who knew very little English.  Mom also went to Tijuana often to work with the third-world artisans who would handcraft our furniture according to her designs.

 This Spanish class would be taught by none other than the heartthrob of all the pre-teen and teenage girls of our town, Senor Luis Enrique Villar.  When I found this out, I almost asked my mom if I could go to class with her.  All my schoolmates prodded me to do so. 

Needless to say, when Mom brought Senor Villar and his newlywed bride home for show and tell, I was thrilled but frightened into a complete standstill position not only physically but mentally.  It was a good thing I could hide behind the fact that I was after all just a kid.

 Lou was handsome and his wife was pretty.  You could tell my mother had definitely placed him in the category of worthy of her flirtations and over-the-top antics.  Jan was not used to feeling these dips into true romantic and sexual desire.  As a result, she became quite obvious in her superficial behavior and was no match for a professional flirter, who was more sophisticated in that skill than her usual male counterparts.  He was used to being a star.  He was used to receiving plenty of female attention and coquetry.  My mom had without doubt met her match.  Lou, although flattered, became bored quickly, and instead would set his sites on the youthful enigmatic innocent, me.  I hardly knew what flirting was, and I recoiled from my mother when she behaved in such a manner.  From a very, very infantile age, I had sensed this behavior as a definite threat to my security in her dedication and devotion to my father and her family, and I was somewhat right.

Senor Villar began to show me a very intense inordinate amount of attention as if this distillation process would somehow absolve him from the mediocrity of life both as a married man again or as a break-out conservative teacher seeking a more intriguing and challenging relay race.  When I would come in the room, he would light up shining his enormous smile upon me making it quite known that it was my presence that accounted for his exhilaration.  His blue eyes became saucers and would twinkle in accompaniment to his thrilled countenance.  He almost made a whistling sound or at least I always thought I heard one seething behind his ecstatic facial expression.

 I was entirely confused and not at all flattered as I did not even begin to understand or identify with this behavior towards me.  I may not have understood it, but there were two people always in the room who did – my mother and his wife.

Work in Progress…

Comment by avalee cohen on February 26, 2014 at 8:07am

Hi Kimberley, I just finished reading your story about your family and Lou Villar. Thank you so much for taking the time to record and share this information. It is part of the history of this important period in Coronado's history. You say it's a work in progress, I look forward to the next chapter. I remember Kathy's family - my younger sister was friends with her younger sister. She never mentioned much about her older sister but I always wondered how things turned out for her.

Comment by Kimberley Graham on February 26, 2014 at 9:39am

Thanks for your great comments.  I am currently penning my autobiography and will keep you apprised of its publication release date.  Once again, thank you for your interest.  You can follow me on Facebook where I will be posting updates and supplements.  Sincerely, Kimberley Graham

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