Ronald Lister, Orange County’s Cracked-Up Cop

Ronald Lister, Orange County’s Cracked-Up Cop

Ronald Lister, Orange County’s Cracked-Up Cop

Gary Webb’s “Dark Alliance” article, which attempted to pull back the veil on the mid-1980’s Southern California crack cocaine explosion, was populated by a plethora of seemingly larger-than-life characters. Among them was Ronald J. Lister, an ex-cop turned private security specialist who claimed he worked for and consequently was protected by the Central Intelligence Agency. While Lister’s relationship to the CIA proved tenuous (at best), he nevertheless played a significant role in the devastating influx of crack cocaine into Southern California during the 1980’s.

Pre-Dealing Days

Lister began his career as a Military Policeman during the Vietnam conflict. After returning to the United States, he got a job as an officer for the Maywood Police Department before transferring to the Laguna Beach Police Department, where he worked as a burglary detective. Before leaving the LBPD, Lister launched Pyramid International Security Consultants, Inc., a Newport Beach-based security firm, in 1979.

Pyramid International Security Consultants, Inc.

Lister’s company was investigated by the FBI five times between 1983 and 1985, and was given a neutrality violation in 1983 for selling weapons to El Salvador. It was around this time that Lister met Oscar Danilo Blandón. Blandón was strongly invested in sending money to the Counterrevolutionary (Contra) forces fighting the new regime in his native Nicaragua, and in order to fund this endeavor, he had begun selling considerable amounts of cocaine. Soon, he and Lister were in league together.

Uzis & Police Scramblers

Lister kept Blandón well-supplied with weapons and cutting-edge technology that facilitated evasion of the police. Blandón passed this technology to his South Central Los Angeles connection, “Freeway” Rick Ross, a notorious Southern California crack cocaine dealer. Soon, Uzis and police radios flooded the streets, and Ross would listen to the chatter of police busting other dealers as he counted his money.

The Attempted Police Raid

One October evening in 1986, authorities made a concerted attempt to eradicate Southern California’s crack problem. Thanks to multiple search warrant affidavits, police were able to search dozens of locations across Southern California. This included two properties owned by Lister: his mountain retreat in Crestline, and his home in Mission Viejo.

When police arrived at Lister’s home, they found him dressed in a bathrobe and drinking a cup of coffee. As the officers conducted their search of his home, Lister taunted them, stating that he “knew people in the CIA” and that if they continued their search, he could “make a single phone call” that would “force them to leave.”

However police were unable to locate any drugs during the raid, leading them to conclude that someone had tipped the dealers off. What they reportedly did find was photos of Lister with Contra soldiers and military training videos, but most of the seized paperwork inexplicably vanished from the Sheriff’s evidence room a few days later.

Turning Informant

Lister would not evade authorities for much longer. He was arrested for attempting to sell two kilos of cocaine to a prostitute at a boat party in 1988. Unfortunately for Lister, the prostitute was actually a DEA agent, and he was arrested. Two days later, Lister was released from prison after agreeing to turn informant.

However, two years afterward, police found that Lister was again engaging in illegal activity. He was arrested in connection with a San Diego cocaine distribution ring and sentenced to 97 months in prison followed by 60 months of probation.

Help Me, CIA, You’re My Only Hope

Facing time in prison, Lister balked. He appealed his conviction and sought a lighter sentence in light of his cooperation with the government. Lister claimed he offered information to the FBI that they were “excited” about, and insisted that he had worked with a “major Central American cartel.” While he couldn’t escape all of his charges, his desperate attempt to escape the consequences of his actions did successfully abolish a charge of tax evasion. In 1996, Lister was released from prison three years early, thanks in part to his completion of an addiction recovery program.

Enduring Skepticism

In 1988, the Justice Department noted that a particular FBI Special Agent was convinced that Lister and Blandón had been in league together with the CIA. However, few other people remain convinced. Most simply dismiss Lister’s claims as the hyperbolic ramblings of a chronic self-aggrandizer. The Captain of the Laguna Beach Police Department remembered Lister as “a bag full of hot air.” Lister would later backtrack on his claims of CIA association, first denying he ever said such a thing at all, and then claiming that he had just made up the connection in an attempt to scare police away from him.

For their part, the CIA made an unprecedented unequivocal denial of any involvement with Ronald Lister. Today, Lister’s whereabouts are unknown, and he has refused to speak to the press regarding his involvement with the crack epidemic of the 1980’s.

Get the Tools You Need to Overcome Addiction

Do you struggle with dependence on drugs or alcohol? At one of the qualified drug rehab centers featured in the Intervention Association’s network, you can find the tools you need to attain your goal of recovery. Contact us today and find a substance abuse treatment facility that can help you overcome your addiction.

Posted in Blog

Will Insurance cover rehab?

Close Bitnami banner