Saturday, June 3, 2023

Q&A with Kenneth Foard McCallion




Kenneth Foard McCallion is the author of the new book The Marseille Connection. His other books include Saving the World One Case at a Time. He is a civil litigator and an adjunct professor at Cardozo Law School in New York City.


Q: What inspired you to write The Marseille Connection, and how did you first learn about Patricia Richardson?


A: As a young federal prosecutor during the 1970s and 1980s, I played a minor role in the federal government’s “War on Drugs,” originally launched by the Nixon administration and continued by both Republican and Democratic administrations.


Over the span of a decade, billions of dollars in taxpayers’ money were spent on increased law enforcement manpower, sophisticated equipment, as well as payments to a vast network of undercover informants and operatives.


However, virtually all of the federal government’s efforts in its “War On Drugs” were focused on stopping the flow of narcotics from Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, with little or no effort to halt the flow of pure white heroin being refined in Marseille, France, and distributed throughout North America and globally by the French-Corsican organized crime group known as the Unione Corse.

An investigation by NYPD detectives arrested some low-level French narcotics traffickers who were attempting to bring a large shipment of narcotics into the U.S., but none of the higher–ups in the French–Corsican organization that supplied the heroin through the established Marseille channels were ever prosecuted or even publicly identified.


Many years later I started doing research for a book on the history of U.S. narcotics enforcement, which led me back to the question of why the Unione Corse seemed to have been given a “free pass” by U.S. and French law enforcement agencies supposedly engaged in an international War on Drugs.


It took me several years of research to find the answer, which is that the U.S. and the French government had entered into a “hands–off” agreement in 1947 with the French–Corsican organized crime syndicate based in Marseille in return for the Unione Corse’s assistance in breaking the labor strike in Marseille.


Over several years of research, I realized I had enough content to write The Marseille Connection, which also delves into the life of Patricia Richardson, who was a top-ranking member of Unione Corse. Among other things, Patricia was the subject of a 1975 article by The New York Times entitled The Model, the Drug Ring And the Big Evidence Hunt. Her life and rise to power within Unione Corse make for a fascinating (and factual) tale.


Q: How did you research the book, and what did you learn that especially surprised you?


A: To conduct research for the book I first looked to public records related to congressional and state legislative investigations of the Unione Corse and its narcotics trafficking operations in the U.S.


Though these investigations had largely fizzled out, there was the one New York Times article from 1975 and I attempted to build off of the research done for that piece, which had reported that “a swarm of local, state, federal and international police agencies, along with a United States Senator and an Albany committee, have been racing each other for more than two months in pursuit of a spurned husband’s bizarre tale of an international drug ring.”


The Times article elaborated: “Spurred by post-Watergate fears of a cover–up and tantalized by an unlikely cast of characters that includes European millionaires, Caribbean jet-setters, the Nixon White House and a gorgeous model, the investigators are about to hold unusual public hearings into the affair....”


Incredibly, the New York State Senate archives and other public sources in Albany and New York did not have copies of the hearing records or the final report. Nor could these records be found among Senator Buckley’s records or anywhere else where we searched.


It soon became clear that this was not a case of inadvertence or mistake. Extensive public records like this do not just disappear. Clearly, someone or something did not want these records to be publicly available, so they had been “disappeared” or “deep sixed,” to use the parlance popular at the time of the Watergate investigation.

The National Archive records relating to Paul-Louis Weiller, Richardson, and other critical players in this drama had also gone missing, although some of the filing cards on Weiller and others had been overlooked and were still available.


Not to be deterred, I and a few intrepid researchers assisting me gained access to previously unavailable diaries, records, and witnesses and were able to piece together the “back story” of the leadership of the Unione Corse and its tangled web of crime with President Nixon smack dab in the middle.


Q: How would you describe Richard Nixon's connections to the narcotics organization?


A: Two of the kingpins in the Unione Corse organization – Paul-Louis Weiller and Patricia Richardson – provided Richard Nixon with $2 million in much-needed cash to win the 1968 presidential election by a razor-thin margin. The book also uncovers conclusive evidence that Unione Corse, through its leadership and affiliated ex-Nazis and fascists, gained unrestricted access to the Nixon White House and the entire federal administration.


And finally, it was the Nixon team’s unholy alliance with the French-Corsican mob and their unsavory cohorts that was the major precipitating factor in Nixon’s decision to authorize the Watergate break-in of the Democratic National Committee offices, which Nixon had been led to believe held documents linking him to cash payoffs from the Unione Corse, Howard Hughes, and others.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?


A: I hope the information revealed in this book will give readers a new perspective into a tumultuous and transformative time in U.S. history and help them to better understand some of the policies from the beginning of the “War on Drugs” era. Like me, I imagine many readers will be absolutely stunned to find out just how politically motivated and corrupt the Nixon presidency really was.


Additionally, I hope readers will enjoy the fascinating story of Patricia Richardson, the beautiful woman who rose through Unione Corse to become one of its top-ranking members. Her dramatic story truly is one for the history books.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am working on another historical thriller about the untold back story that led us to the Watergate break-in and fall of Richard Nixon. I am also working with a potential screenwriter and producer who have seen the ARC for The Marseille Connection and think that there is a movie there, or an historical docudrama. All very exciting.


I am also working on a book called Legal 911, which is about some of the more interesting cases that I work on for the New York City Bar Association Legal Referral Service, where I (and some other attorneys) filed dozens of calls each day that come in on a legal hotline with a wide range of urgent legal issues.


It would be something like the legal equivalent of the New Amsterdam cable series, except that instead of a hospital emergency setting, we would be in a legal emergency center, fielding phone calls and then if necessary, quickly preparing emergency motion papers to be filed with the courts on an expedited and emergency basis.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: You can view an excerpt from The Marseille Connection for free on my website at and the book is available for preorder through Amazon.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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