new book, the National Post's Stewart Bell chronicles an audacious plot
to turn a tropical island into a criminal paradise.
Wolfgang Droege answered a knock at his apartment door at 2:30 in the
afternoon. It was Keith Deroux. He was standing in the hallway carrying
a blue Pan Am Airlines bag with a loaded revolver inside.
Keith was a relentless junkie. He'd been buying cocaine from Wolfgang
for six months. The $305 he owed was carefully recorded beside his
initials in the 8 1/2-by-11-inch notebook that Wolfgang used to track
his clients' debts.
Even though it was mid-afternoon, Wolfgang wore nothing but a T-shirt
and underwear. He had no use for clothes. All he did these days was sell
drugs out of his apartment, and the job had no dress code. His clients
were desperate. They didn't care if he wore pants.
The neighbors suspected he was up to no good. Visitors would come and go
at all hours. His apartment on the second floor of 2 North Drive was a
regular drive-thru but the Toronto police drug squad apparently knew
nothing about it. Although Wolfgang was one of those cryptically
referred to as "known to police," and his FBI file warned he "should be
considered armed and dangerous when not in custody," it had been years
since his last run-in with the law.
Except for the large quantity of cocaine in his closet and the marijuana
in his freezer, Apartment 207 was otherwise ordinary-looking -- 750
square feet, with a single bedroom, a TV and an armchair by the window.
The only hint of Wolfgang's troublesome past was his signed photograph
of the German far-right leader Ernst Zündel. And then there were the
files on the bookshelf beside the sofa that contained the membership
lists of the Heritage Front, an organization Wolfgang had once headed.
More Heritage Front files were stored on his computer.
Wolfgang had started dealing drugs after leaving the Sandstone
Correctional Institution in Minnesota, where he'd served two years for
his crimes as a mercenary. Keith was a regular customer. He'd called on
his cellphone early that afternoon and said he wanted to come over to
buy cocaine, but it was a lie. By the time he got to Wolfgang's
apartment, his head was spinning. He'd been drinking hard liquor,
gulping Tylenol 3s and snorting coke. On top of that, he was in
methadone withdrawal. He was shaking like an old man.
Wolfgang let Keith in to the apartment and went to get the cocaine, but
when he turned his back, Deroux reached in to his flight bag and pulled
out the Rohm .22.
"Are you alone?" Keith said.
"Ya," Wolfgang responded, with the German accent he had never quite
"I don't believe you," Keith said.
He ordered Wolfgang into the bedroom and told him to open the closet
door, to make sure nobody was hiding inside. Keith was inspecting the
closet, satisfying himself that it was really empty, when Wolfgang
bolted. Keith opened fire but he was a lousy shot and, even at 55,
Wolfgang was too quick for the quivering hand of an addict.
The first bullet hit the wall by the front door.
The second was also a miss. It sailed through the open doorway and into
Wolfgang ran for the stairwell.
He turned to look back just as Keith pulled the trigger one more time.
The bullet struck Wolfgang in the chest but it didn't kill him and he
kept running. He was almost at the stairs when Keith got off one last
shot. It hit Wolfgang square in the back of the skull. He fell face down
on the carpet.
It all happened quickly. Wolfgang did not have time to think about who
might have sent Keith to kill him, and there was no shortage of
candidates, seeing as he had spent his entire adult life militantly
taunting, provoking, offending and plotting.
The FBI terrorism section's file on Wolfgang notes his travels to Libya,
involvement in the Aryan Nations and the National Socialist Party of
Canada, illegal weapons, drug trafficking and his use of false
identities, but the most remarkable entries concern his mercenary
Wolfgang and a Texas soldier of fortune-type named Mike Perdue had once
organized a military coup on the island of Dominica, a country probably
best known today as the setting for Johnny Depp's Pirates of the
Caribbean films. On Nov. 3, 1978, Dominica became the Western
hemisphere's 30th nation. At the Independence Day ceremony in the
capital, Roseau, Prime Minister Patrick John, the opposition leader
Eugenia Charles and Princess Margaret watched as the Union Jack came
down and up went the flag of Dominica, a circle of stars surrounding a
Sisserou parrot. Centuries of French and British colonial rule were over
but Dominica's troubles were only beginning.
Within months, Wolfgang and Perdue were working on a plan to invade the
island. They called it a strike against communism, but their motives
were mainly financial. They military intervention. It is also the story
of two federal undercover agents from New Orleans and their confidential
informant, who stumbled on to the biggest case of their lives.
It costs money to make war. You have to buy weapons and ammunition, hire
mercenaries and pay their room and board and transportation expenses.
Even in a country as small as Dominica, the bills pile up. Mike Perdue
and Wolfgang Droege were not rich men. They were both jobless. They
didn't have the money to finance a military expedition. They needed
investors. They needed to find people who not only had money, but who
would be willing to sink it in to a country they had probably wanted to
steal the country and turn it in to a crooks' paradise. The North
American far-right wing was involved, along with the Mob and financiers
in Las Vegas and Mississippi. So was the island's ex-prime minister, his
army chiefs and a gang of Rastafarian guerrillas. Some believe the CIA
was in on it, too.
It was one of the most audacious heists ever attempted, and until now
the true story behind it has never been fully told.
This is the story of that coup. It is the story of how a Texan kicked
out of the U. S. Marines and a militant Canadian Nazi teamed up to
topple a Third World government for profit, adventure and power. It is a
story about the Cold War, greed, revolutionary politics and the morality
of foreign never heard of, for a mission that was clearly not above
board and that might not even succeed.
So they went to Las Vegas.
It was a logical choice. Part of the evolving plan was to turn Dominica
into a gambling haven. Once he secured the island, Perdue was going to
build casinos and bring in foreign tourists. The profits would be split
between the government, the mercenaries and their investors.
Carlton Van Gorder was a veteran in the gaming industry. He met Droege
and Perdue at the Vegas airport and dropped them at a motel for the
night. The next day, Van Gorder took them to meet a few men who had
money to invest. "We probably spent four or five hours with them," Van
Gorder recalled in an interview. The meeting did not go well. "We
decided we wouldn't have anything to do with them. They were a little on
the shady side," Van Gorder says. "I mean, anyone who talks about
toppling a government, they aren't the type of people you go in to
business with." But a gaming executive named Tommy Thompson agreed to
meet them in Memphis.
For all their similarities, Perdue and Droege were an unlikely
partnership. Perdue was a hustler. The only thing that seemed to get him
excited was money. Droege was dogmatic. He was deeply into white power.
He cared about the money, but partly because he thought it would help
advance his cause. To that extent, in Vegas, where it was all about
money, Droege was just a prop. Perdue did the talking while Wolfgang,
with his Klan credentials and David Duke connections, sanctified the
invasion as a political act.
Perdue was trying to lure investors by promising big profits but he was
also appealing to their sense of patriotism. He talked about how the
Cubans had tried to bring aid to the island after a hurricane, and how
the citizens of Dominica had flown American flags in a protest against
the communists. Painting the island red helped Perdue sell his plot.
Mercenaries often dress up their profiteering and adventurism in the
language of politics, telling each other they are fighting corruption
and dictatorship. Maybe it helps them sleep at night but in the end,
they are soldiers of fortune, like bank robbers or car thieves, only
with more ambition. They steal entire countries.
The heist that Perdue was planning was going to be very profitable -- if
it all worked out. Dominica was by no means a wealthy place, but imagine
the money you could make if you had the run of your own country? In
exchange for staging a coup that would return the former prime minister,
Patrick John, to power, Perdue and his band of mercenaries were going to
own the prime minister and his island.
They could build casinos. They could cut down the trees and sell them
off. They could sell drugs and guns. They could print themselves
diplomatic passports and commit crimes around the world with immunity.
Who was going to stop them? They would be their own sovereign, criminal
from Bayou of Pigs: The True Story of an Audacious Plot to Turn a
Tropical Island into a Criminal Paradise, published by John Wiley &
If the mercenaries were going to take over a country, they would need
weapons. So they turned to a gun-obsessed mobster from Toronto
Charles Yanover had a nightclub on Yonge Street
in Toronto called Cooper's. He was known to some as Chuck The Bike, because
he once owned City Custom Cycle and sold motorcycles to outlaw bikers.
But guns were his specialty. He knew all about them, how they worked, how to
get them, how to smuggle them. He would sell them to anyone, even American
white supremacists. Some say he was obsessed with guns. He also knew a thing
or two about explosives.
As the head of a branch of the mob, Yanover had his own soldiers. He had
been in and out of prisons since the age of 25. A prison shrink called him
opportunistic and egocentric. His police file identified his as an
international arms dealer and mercenary.
He was accused of attempting to control construction unions and orchestrated
the Jan. 9, 1980, bombing of the Arviv Disco on Bloor Street, Toronto's most
Yanover was just out of prison when the Toronto far-right leader Don
Andrews, whom he had met through a mafia acquaintance, introduced him to
Wolfgang Droege. "Yanover and Wolf hit it off because they were both gun
nuts," Andrews recalls.
Later, Droege came by Yanover's club and told him about the Dominica coup.
"You know who I am?" Yanover said.
"You know what you're asking me to do?"
"Are you prepared to pay me?"
Yanover had just sunk $50,000 into his nightclub and bought a second
Cadillac. He was hard up for cash but he knew all about Droege's Nazi
"You know I'm Jewish?" Yanover said. "If I catch you putting swastikas on
synagogues, I'll come after you."
It was not Yanover's first foray into the mercenary world. In 1977, he had
trained a team of British mercenaries preparing to assassinate the president
of Togo. He spent months on the project before it was scuttled when the
president was warned of the plot. Upon his return to Canada, Yanover was
questioned about his involvement but claimed he had only visited Togo as a
tourist and consultant. He was never charged.
Droege said he needed guns, explosives and reconnaissance photos. Yanover
said he'd do it if the money was right. "If you think I'm going to put any
of my own money into this, you're crazy," he said.
Yanover's first impression of Mike Perdue was that he was physically strong
but not too bright. Perdue explained the details of the invasion, which he
called Operation Red Dog, and said he was stockpiling military assault
rifles and had already bought 5,000 rounds of ammunition.
Perdue asked Yanover if he would fly to the island to see whether he thought
the coup was feasible. He wanted Yanover to assess the readiness of the
local forces and check out the government installations. Perdue wanted the
benefit of the mobster's observations and firearms expertise.
Yanover said if the coup succeeded he wanted to be minister of defense, or
at least a major in the Dominica Defense Force. Perdue said the best he
could offer was colonel. Yanover accepted but he insisted on having his
uniform tailor-made in Paris by Pierre Cardin. He wanted one with gold
Wolfgang drove Yanover to the Toronto airport. They flew to Antigua and took
the British West Indies Airways turbo-prop plane to Dominica. On the drive
to Roseau, Yanover studied the roads, looking for infiltration and
exfiltration routes and sizing up the state security forces.
The next morning, they got in the car and headed out to spy on the island.
Yanover took photos of the harbor, the airstrip and Government House, and at
night he returned repeatedly to the police headquarters. It was a
rectangular compound with a courtyard in the middle. Not that defensible, he
thought. Being a gun fanatic, he took note of the firearms he saw in the
hands of the police officers: .38s and 9-mm handguns, .303 rifles, SLRs and
SMGs. The police force numbered around 130 personnel.
Now that he saw the place, Yanover thought it was ridiculous that a bunch of
white supremacist mercenaries believed they could take over. At the same
time, he believed a coup was militarily feasible. Most of the police were
unarmed. Yanover was confident that he could have taken police headquarters
on his own with a couple of handguns. The problem was, what next? How could
you possibly rule the country, short of state terror and brute force?
The room at the Toronto Ramada Inn was a mess of maps and photographs. They
were scattered all over the floor. There were dozens of views of the port,
police station and Government House. Chuck Yanover and his partner Mikey
were showing Mike Perdue the reconnaissance photos they had taken on the
island. One of Yanover's pictures showed a lone guard, asleep on a bench
outside police headquarters. They had a good laugh over that. Capturing the
station was going to be easy, they said.
"You know," Droege said, "to me, I love the adventure, the excitement of it.
I consider myself a little bit of a rebel in society. And, like, I'm not
content to have a nine-to-five job. I want to live a real life, you know, I
want excitement and adventure in my life. And you know, that's what I'm
getting and I'm also, of course, going to benefit financially from it, which
will afford me a good life. I hope I'll be fixed for the rest of my life
"We're going to pull it off," Perdue said. "If they don't arrest me for the
next four days, it's all over."
Plotting to kill the old lady
‘When one goes into the market for soldiers what
is the response likely to be?” the legendary mercenary Colonel Mike Hoare
wrote in his memoir. “Is there a reserve of would-be soldiers lying dormant
in the community at any one time waiting for just such an opportunity as
this? And what type of men are they likely to be?”
Once his mercenaries landed at Rockaway Beach in Dominica, Mike Perdue
wanted a strong soldier at his side, someone who had done this before. When
he looked at his roster of recruits, he wasn’t sure he had one yet. And then
a letter arrived in the mail from Oklahoma City. Christopher Billy Anderson
had served briefly in the U.S. Air Force and had later worked as a sheriff’s
deputy in Kansas and Oklahoma before becoming chief of police in Kiowa,
Kansas. “A nice little town,” he called it.
But a bad decision had ended his law enforcement career. Six years later,
Anderson was 41, with a wife, Rebecca, a 20-year-old son and two daughters,
aged 10 and 13. He earned $4.90 an hour driving a yellow school bus and
swabbing the hallways at Western Heights High School in Oklahoma City. To
make extra money, he did contract security work on the side. He’d been hired
to break people out of jails in Mexico. He’d rescued a man’s daughter from a
commune. He also did personal security work, bodyguarding. He says he did a
bit of work for friends in the CIA as well, but he won’t talk about that.
Anderson subscribed to the newsletter Le Mercenaire. He always checked the
classified section, and when his latest issue arrived he read about a job
that was offering good money for security work in the Caribbean. The ad was
vague, but he figured it would only cost him the price of a postage stamp to
find out more.
When Mike Perdue got Anderson’s letter, he called him up and invited him on
an all-expenses paid trip to Texas. They met at the airport and went to
Perdue’s house. “He had a fairly nice house in Houston,” Anderson recalls.
“I don’t know if he rented it or owned it, but he had a guy living there
with him.” After meeting Mike’s roommate, Ron Cox, Anderson wondered if
Perdue might be homosexual. The house was in a part of Houston known for its
gay community. Anderson noticed the zebra skin rug in the living room.
Perdue said he’d brought it back from the Bush War in Rhodesia. “He told me
he’d been a mercenary in Africa,” Anderson says. “One thing that sticks in
my mind, he said, ‘Well, I do like my comforts.’”
They went to a motel and Perdue paid for a room. Perdue introduced himself
as a former sergeant in the Marine Corps and a Vietnam vet. He listed off
his medals. And then he started the mercenary sales pitch: “He told me that
the north end of the island was literally infested with communism,” Anderson
says. “He left me with the impression that [Prime Minister Eugenia] Charles’
government was kind of leaning pro-communist.” There was going to be a coup,
Perdue said, and he was hiring advisors. There would be minor resistance, he
“I would like to have a bloodless coup,” Perdue told him, but, “who is to
know what will happen in a situation like this?”
Although Perdue never said outright that it was a CIA-backed operation, he
dropped hints. He mentioned his military experience and his “friends” in the
State Department. “He planted in me in a roundabout way the seed of
suspicion,” Anderson says, “where I suspicioned possibly that the CIA might
be involved in this.” Perdue chose his words carefully. He said the U.S.
Navy wanted to build a submarine base on the island. He said the CIA would
be “interested” in what they were doing. Anderson realized that could mean
any number of things, but one interpretation was that the CIA was somehow
involved, which meant that this was a U.S. government sanctioned coup
“You’ll get $3,000 for going in,” Mike said. “About a month or so
afterwards, you’ll get your $15,000 for staying with me.”
If Anderson agreed to stay on for the full five years as a First Sergeant in
the Dominica Defense Force, he would also get one-sixth of Nortic
Enterprises, the company that was going to develop the island’s economy.
“I’ve got a five-year contract,” Perdue said. “We’ll be in an advisory
position. This is their country, so we respect their laws.”
Anderson said he was interested, so they went over the photocopied maps and
the hand-drawn assault diagram of the police station. Perdue said he wanted
Anderson to be his wingman in Red Dog One, one of the three mercenary teams
that were going to storm the island. Together, the two of them would capture
the charge office at police headquarters.
“If you’re in it for the money, the adventure, and to fight communism, to
prevent expansion of communism in the Caribbean,” Perdue told him, “you’re
Anderson wasn’t an ideologue. He had nothing to do with the Ku Klux Klan or
anything like it. For him, this was a chance to make money. He thought
Perdue was businesslike; he seemed like he knew what he was doing, like he
had done this before.
Anderson said he wanted $30,000 up front and another $30,000 upon completion
of the mission. “That’s the way I work,” he said.
“Ok,” Perdue said. “When you leave to come down here for the operation, when
you report in here, I’ll have $30,000 transferred to your account.”
Anderson spent the night at the motel in Houston at Perdue’s expense and
flew back to Oklahoma in the morning to quit his job at the school and get
ready for the mission.
One thing bothered him, though. The Prime Minister was going to be killed.
She and her staff were going to be rounded up, stood against a wall and
“That’s exactly what he was going to do,” Anderson said in an interview. “He
was going to kill that old lady down there.”