Your Influence Counts ... Use It! The SPOTLIGHT by Liberty Lobby

Reprinted from, home of The SPOTLIGHT archive

Clinton Crony Dishonored in Death

  • You know about the gold and drug connection, you haven't heard the whole story of M. Larry Lawrence.
By Fred Blahut

In Washington, the discredited M. Larry Lawrence was one of many well-heeled "Friends of Bill," Reportedly he gave $10 million to the Democratic Party and various Democratic entities.

In the hinterlands, Lawrence is known as the man kicked out of Arlington National Cemetery, having faked Merchant Marine service during World War II. But in San Diego, California, the ex-ambassador (and non-Merchant Mariner) was the man with enough clout to avoid prosecution -- even investigation -- in a mob-linked gold and drugs operation that stretches back some 30.

According to SPOTLIGHT sources interviewed in San Diego, all of whom spoke to this populist newspaper with the understanding of anonymity, Lawrence was connected to an ex-mayor, current mayor, drug money launderer and previously deceased tycoon -- just to name a few.

"The national media portrays Lawrence as a 'civic benefactor,'" said one source, a man who closely follows local development for business reasons. "But if you examine the projects he was involved in, you'll find out that he was a 'Lawrence benefactor.'"

According to the Washington Post, in San Diego, "Lawrence was known as a political bigwig who got what he wanted." But "that isn't the half of it," said one source to the SPOTLIGHT.

Years ago, before making national headlines, Lawrence was one of three principals in a company called Yuba Natural Resources. According to promotional material put out by the company, Yuba intended to dredge the Sacramento River for gold tailings.

It seems that int the last century, some gold refining and/or separation was done near the mines. The tailings were dumped into the Sacramento River. But lots of gold that can now be extracted using modern methods was left in the tailings, and a fortune lay on the river bottom, waiting to be dredged up.
At least that was the story put out by Lawrence and his two partners, Richard Silberman and Robert Peterson.

"How much gold did they take out?" The SPOTLIGHT asked an "insider" source, a southern California businessman.

"That's just the question that the FBI should have asked," our source replied. No one knows how much gold -- if any = was actually taken from the river bed.

Well, then where did the money come from?


Silberman was the target of an FBI investigation of Mafia money laundering and illegal narcotics activities. And he was heard bragging that "for 30 years" he had been laundering drug money for the mob. One of the companies he admitted to using for laundering the cash was Yuba Natural Resources. In 1989, Silberman was indicted on charges of trying to launder cocaine money with reputed organized crime figure Chris Petti.

At the time Silberman went to jail, he was married to San Diego Board of Supervisors Chairman (now San Diego Mayor) Susan Golding, who is currently a candidate for the Senate. She divorced him. Peterson, meanwhile, had been married to another (but former) San Diego Mayor Maureen O'Connor, at the same time Golding was chairman of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

Silberman, a democrat, served as secretary of business, transportation and housing during the administration of the then-Gov. Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown Jr.
At the time of Lawrence's disinterment state Sen. Larry Sterling(R-San Diego) said of him: Lawrence "has made an enormous contribution to the people of San Diego and nothing can take that away."

But a female SPOTLIGHT source, a long-time San Diego area resident, described him as a "member of a ruling clique; they did things for themselves, not for the people."

According to an affidavit signed by an undercover FBI agent, as part of a federal "sting" operation, Silberman, Petti and two other men conducted financial transactions worth $300,000 in cash -- purported profits of Colombian drug traffickers, according to the affidavit.

The FBI sting operation that netted Silberman and the others began in 1986 with an investigation into the activities of Petti, a long-time reputed mobster, who was suspected of carrying out extortion activities for the Chicago La Cosa Nostra.

As part of the "sting," $100,000 was delivered to Silberman's associates in November 1988, according to the FBI affidavit. The money allegedly was converted into stock of Yuba American gold, a subsidiary of Yuba National Resources, for later trade into cash on the Canadian market. The company, a subsidiary of Standard Prudential Corp. Before May 1, 1974, was inactive from 1974 until 1977 when it again sought to develop its mineral holdings.

In 1983, Silberman led a San Diego investment group to buy 44 percent of Yuba's stock from Marvin Kratter of Las Vegas. The company's main asset was 10,000 acres of land along the Yuba River about 40 miles north of Sacramento.
Silberman took over management of the company in 1983 and directed development of a project to recover silica quartz rock. In 1984, Dow corning corp. Signed a five-year contract for silica quartz rock, a major component of glass and ceramics.

Meanwhile, Yuba Natural Resources installed a gold recovery operation in the silica process, and, in a joint venture with another company, took on additional debt to expand its gold dredging.

But we can go back even further in the Lawrence-Peterson-Silberman alliance. They were all involved with the Kroc family in McDonald's franchises, sold out and created Jack in the box. Then they sold out and formed a bank.

After the bank, they got together for Yuba Natural Resources.

Then came the FBI investigation and the indictment of Silberman. Out on bail pending trial, he disappeared just three days before his scheduled court appearance. Local newspapers headlined the event, but didn't happen to mention his business partner, "Friend of Bill" Lawrence.

Silberman was later found in an upper room of a Las Vegas hotel, suffering from an overdose of sleeping pills. "It was suggested locally that he was threatened by the mob, tried to take his own life, then changed his mind," said one source. "Nothing was ever proved one way or the other."

Rushed to a hospital, his life was saved. Meanwhile, He "copped a plea" to a lesser charge and served some time in a "country club" federal facility in northern California.

While Silberman was an active partner of Lawrence, he served in various state appointed offices, courtesy of the California democratic machine. He was known as the "father of I-15" an important local highway.

"Why isn't anyone questioning Lawrence's connection to Silberman and Peterson?" one source asked then, and no one is asking now, even when Lawrence has been discredited."

When Lawrence first got to town, he was broke, SPOTLIGHT sources indicated. Then he "married money," and used his wife's family's financing to purchase San Diego's famous Hotel de Coronado.

Originally, he filed plans that indicated he purchased the hotel to tear it down, but then refurbished it, "contrary to code," said one SPOTLIGHT source.

Other people who knew Lawrence had a variety of opinions and anecdotes which they related to various news sources, including:

  • From former Rep. Lionel Van Deerlin (D-Calif.): Lawrence could get on the phone and shake down $100,000 at a pop. I told former democratic presidential nominee Michael S. Dukakis at a fun-raiser at Lawrence's hotel, "You got prime rib from Larry, while I got chipped beef on toast.
  • Unidentified "White House official": Lawrence was a charlatan who had told a lie so often he "internalized it to the point where he believed it. It's about a guy who was a billionaire and an ambassador who made up his life and got away with it until the end. He was a charming rogue."
  • George Mitrovich, president of the City Club of San Diego and a long time Democratic political operative: "He had the courage of his convictions. He would tell you what he thought and would take public positions." He was always "in your face."

Said one SPOTLIGHT source: "The story around town [San Diego] is that Mrs Lawrence was advised to dig him [Lawrence] up and move him quickly, before the investigation went any further. His connections with politicians and mobsters is well known here, but I don't see any mention of that on the TV news.'