Agent Named In Drug Plot Had A Hard-nosed Rep

Border Patrol agent Gary Patrick Callahan has had a reputation in Cochise County as a anti-Communist, drug-hating survivalist during his nearly twenty years on the southeast Arizona frontier.

Now Callahan's really got a reason to hate drugs.
Paradise Valley dentist Bill Bartel, who is accused of trying to peddle 81 pounds of cocaine, has named Callahan as his source. Bartel also has implicated his sister, Betty Lindstrom, who supposedly is another coke conspirator.

Bartel's story is that Callahan stole cocaine last year from a shipment seized at the border.

Cochise County records obtained by New Times show that Callahan was the sole arresting officer in a 400-pound coke bust in late May 1988 near his home base, the border burg Naco. Law enforcement sources say the 81 pounds of cocaine that ended up in Bartel's possession may have been spirited away by Callahan from that bust.

Funny thing, but almost three years ago, Callahan landed in hot water for exactly the opposite reason: the overzealous pursuit of the Big Dope Bust.

Cochise County assistant public defender Joseph DiRoberto tells what happened:

DiRoberto was driving on U.S. 80 west of Bisbee one evening in October 1986 when Callahan pulled him over. Without ever asking for DiRoberto's identification, Callahan accused him of having illegal drugs in the trunk of his 1980 Camaro. DiRoberto refused to open the trunk and repeatedly asked Callahan why he had stopped him.

After several minutes, Callahan reached inside DiRoberto's car window and snatched the keys. He opened the trunk and searched it. He found nothing.

I was thinking at the time, ~`If this guy plants a lid of grass or something in there, my career is history,'" DiRoberto recalls. His whole attitude was super-aggressive, like I was some kind of archcriminal. Then he gave me my keys back and said good night."

DiRoberto was steamed. He complained to Callahan's bosses, and Jerald Jondall, the Border Patrol's chief patrol agent in southern Arizona, responded in writing: After he judged that you were a citizen, I have concern in the manner he proceeded beyond that point. He displayed a lack of professionalism and for that I offer you an apology. Agent Callahan will be reprimanded for his action in this case."

That wasn't the end of it, however. In June 1987, DiRoberto filed a claim against the United States for $25,000 for false arrest and false imprisonment." He later accepted $2,500 in an out-of-court settlement.

Callahan apparently led a lavish lifestyle in Bisbee, but Cochise County cops say he still was known mostly for being a hard-nosed guyand a rabid anti-Communist. A sheriff's deputy who knows Callahan tells New Times:

"Gary is a real character, but I didn't realize he was such a scumbag. His license plate says, `I'd Rather Be Killing Communists in Nicaragua.' I bet these days he's wishing he was down there doing that."

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin