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The Omaha Federal Credit Union Scandal: The Fall of a Rising Political Figure and His Potential Links to Pedophilia
The Johnny Gosch case was starting to go cold in September 1990. There were no new leads, no new sightings, and the Gosches were fighting to keep Johnny?s disappearance fresh in people?s minds.
But that was the month that the case took a turn that, to the Gosches, anyway, broke the case wide open.
Johnny?s parents tied their boy?s disappearance to a pedophile sex ring conspiracy almost immediately after it happened, but that theory exploded like napalm when a lawyer and former state senator named John DeCamp came forward with new information.
Some Background: The Franklin Credit Union Scandal
DeCamp was a lawyer for a man named Paul Bonacci, an alleged victim of a supposed child sex ring that was linked to a scandal involving the Franklin Federal Credit Union in Omaha.
John DeCamp ? Source: Omaha.com
In 1988, the credit union crumbled after it came to light that its director, Lawrence E. King, Jr., a rising star in the Republican party at the time, had embezzled nearly $40 million from the credit union.
But many claimed there was much more to the scandal than run-of-the-mill corruption and embezzlement. Politicians will be politicians, but this was far more nefarious. There were rumors that some of the most prominent figures in Omaha had attended depraved parties in which teenage prostitutes were offered to attendees.
Lawrence E. King, Jr. ? Source: SpirituallySmart.com
A handful of young people accused King of arranging for them to be auctioned off for sex, flying them to the coast for the aforementioned parties, and giving them drugs and alcohol to make them more compliant.
In the end, investigators found no evidence that King had done any of these things, nor was he criminally charged with doing them. But some lawmakers claimed the allegations came from reliable sources and deserved further investigation, including then-Nebraska state Senator Loran Schmit, who was tasked with digging deeper into the scandal.
Schmit is quoted as saying:
I don?t know if the witnesses are telling the whole truth or part of the truth, but they appear credible to me. I?d rather cut my arm off than find that these allegations are all true, not just because of the alleged perpetrators, but because if true, there has been a series of heinous crimes against children here for a long time.
Schmit accused the Omaha police, the FBI, and the state attorney general of being ?lax? in pursuing the truth. And here is where the real conspiracy starts because, as you will come to find out, King?s accusers alleged that they were prostituted to people in the upper echelons of government ? including the FBI ? who would stop at nothing to try and cover up the truth.
It was June 1988 when the Nebraska Foster Care Review Board, described by the Washington Post as an agency that monitors the placements of thousands of children in Nebraska, received a report from a social worker at a mental hospital in Omaha alleging child sexual abuse.
The board approached the Omaha police and the state attorney general to request that they look into possible ?child exploitation,? a ?child prostitution ring,? and ?inappropriate activities by Larry King.?
It seems that a teenage girl alleged that she was made to sit naked at parties where men had sexual contact with her, although penetration was not allowed. Another girl alleged that she had witnessed a murder.
One of the witnesses passed four polygraph tests, yet lawmen investigators refused to take action, according to Dennis Carlson, former vice chairman of the board and now an official with the Nebraska State Bar Association. The lawmen denied this, of course, saying they spent hundreds of hours investigating the claims, but they lacked ?sufficient corroboration.?
The case was eventually passed off to a new counsel and a new investigator, and in December of that year, three new witnesses, all in their early 20?s, came forward and provided investigators with 21 hours of videotaped testimony in which they described being physically and sexually abused as minors.
The new witnesses further described lurid sex parties and named two dozen people who had either abused them or, at the very least, attended the parties. All of the accused denied their involvement.
Interestingly, one of the accused, former World-Herald columnist Peter Citron, was arrested on unrelated charges of sexually assaulting two children.
It was also alleged that King got many of the teens he prostituted from Boys Town, a famed Catholic home for troubled youth in Omaha.
When a grand jury was assembled to determine whether the allegations of child abuse should move forward, it concluded that the allegations were lies concocted by a bitter former employee of Boys Town who had been terminated.
Loran Schmit did not accept this conclusion, however, and said that the grand jury?s report was ?a strange document.?
Two of the accusers who provided taped interviews, Paul Bonacci and Alisha Owen, were indicted on state perjury charges. Owen was convicted and sentenced to 9?15 years in prison. Prosecutors dropped the charges against Bonacci because he was already in prison on child sex abuse charges.
Paul BonacciAlisha Owen
Bonacci went on to file a lawsuit against King in civil court. King didn?t bother to respond to the lawsuit, so a judge entered a default judgment of $1 million against King, saying it was a ?fair amount? for mental and physical injuries endured at the hands of King. The remark seems to suggest the judge believed at least some of Bonacci?s claims that King forced him into child pornography and other forms of sexual abuse.
Bonacci has never seen a dime of the money.
Paul Bonacci?s Alleged Link to the Johnny Gosch Abduction
John DeCamp first approached Noreen and John Sr. after he read a transcript of Paul Bonacci?s interview with a psychiatrist that referenced an ?incident? involving a paperboy in Iowa. The details were so similar to those of the Johnny Gosch case that DeCamp went to the library to confirm Bonacci?s claims.
The date provided by Bonacci matched the date of the Johnny Gosch abduction.
In 1990, John Sr. was stunned when DeCamp called the Gosch home, claiming that Bonacci had confessed to helping abduct Johnny. John Sr. did not initially inform Noreen of this new information.
As you can imagine, John Sr. wasn?t sure what to make of the phone call, but he agreed to visit the prison where Bonacci was being held to listen to the young man?s story.
When John Jr. arrived at the prison, he asked Bonacci if he knew who he was. Bonacci reportedly replied:
You look like ? it can?t be ? the eyes, you look like Johnny Gosch.
John Sr. walked away from the encounter feeling confident that Bonacci was telling the truth, or at least that?s what was reported. But just to be sure, John Sr. hired Roy Stephens, an Omaha-based private investigator, to take a closer look at Bonacci?s story.
Hundreds of hours of interviews with Bonacci revealed the following ?facts?:
- A man named ?Emilio? made his living by abducting and selling children.
- ?Emilio? preferred to kidnap kids who were close to their families, because ?he likes to hurt people.?
- ?Emilio? brought Bonacci to Des Moines to help him abduct Johnny Gosch.
- ?Emilio? was the driver of the blue Ford Fairmont that witnesses described stopping to ask Johnny and the other paperboys for directions. Bonacci was in the backseat. His job was to hold Johnny down after he was shoved in the car.
- Two other individuals implicated Bonacci in the abduction, including one man who was a local contact in Des Moines.
- The night before Johnny?s abduction, ?Emilio? and Bonacci spent the night at a hotel in Des Moines.
- Bonacci was the first person to molest Johnny Gosch on camera, which he was forced to do.
Noreen did not learn about Paul Bonacci until March 1991, when Roy Stephens contacted her. Stephens traveled to Des Moines to show the embattled mother Bonacci?s taped interviews, and Noreen was astonished to see her husband on the tapes, looking bored and disinterested. In fact, at one point, he was seen on camera falling asleep.
You can view his ill-timed snooze in this 2011 episode of the Lifetime show ?Vanished with Beth Holloway.?
Liar, Lunatic, or Legitimate?
Bonacci seemed sincere and legit, but years of getting their hopes up only to have them smashed to smithereens had made the Gosches dubious. The couple, now struggling to hold their marriage together, decided to test the validity of Bonacci?s claims.
The Gosches gave Stephens a photo of a Des Moines man (the local contact), whom the family suspected was involved in Johnny?s abduction, for Bonacci to look at. He was provided no identifying information apart from the photo. To make things extra challenging for Bonacci, Stephens placed the image in a lineup of a dozen different photos.
Bonacci not only picked the man?s face out of the lineup, but he also gave his name and identified him as the local contact who came to the hotel the night before the abduction with a photo of Johnny to show the kidnappers which child they were to abduct.
The man ? the local contact who had been under suspicion for years ? was Sam Soda.
What Happened to Johnny?
In October 1991, Bonacci finally told the Gosches what really happened to their son ? according to him, anyway. Many people don?t believe the story, but it should be noted that Bonacci did not stand to gain anything by sharing the account.
- The day before the abduction, ?Emilio? ? the ringleader ? took Bonacci from Omaha to a hotel in Des Moines. Bonacci said he first met ?Emilio? when he was just a young boy living in Iowa. At the hotel, Bonacci and ?Emilio? met Sam Soda and a man named ?Tony.?
- At the hotel, Sam Soda showed ?Emilio? a spread of photos of local paperboys, and how much money he could make off of each one. ?Emilio? was particularly interested in Johnny, so he set his photo aside.
- In the wee morning hours of September 5, 1982, Bonacci, Sam Soda, ?Emilio,? and ?Tony? went to go kidnap Johnny. Bonacci was in the backseat of the blue Ford Fairmont, driven by ?Emilio.?
- ?Emilio? and Bonacci spotted Johnny, stopped, and threw Johnny in the car. Bonacci was instructed to hold Johnny down and chloroform him.
- An unconscious Johnny was transferred between the two other vehicles, driven by ?Tony? and Sam Soda.
- The men and the young boy stopped to get a drink in Council Bluffs, Iowa, then Johnny was driven to a farmhouse near Sioux City.
- The terrified and tearful boy was locked in a windowless room for at least a week, according to Bonacci, but was eventually transferred to and held captive in Colorado.
- Bonacci did not see Johnny again until 1986.
When a crime has been committed, the police always hold back nuggets of information. This allows them to test whether an individual is a viable suspect or not. If that person knows details that were never released to the public, it?s a good sign that he or she is telling the truth.
The Gosches were convinced of Paul Bonacci?s legitimacy because he was able to provide details not released by law enforcement.
- Bonacci was able to identify various scars and marks on Johnny?s body. He also knew that Johnny stuttered when he got nervous.
- Noreen was a yoga instructor, and Bonacci knew that Johnny frequently accompanied her to work.
- After Johnny?s abduction, a neighbor of the Gosches informed Noreen and John Sr. that the suspect had snapped a photo of Johnny. This, too, was never publicized. Bonacci knew that a third party had photographed Johnny, and the description of the photo brought to the motel the night before the abduction matched the location where the photo of Johnny was taken.
- Bonacci identified Sam Soda from a lineup and knew his first name was ?Sam.?
- The Gosches initially thought only one car was involved in Johnny?s abduction, but public reports and the findings of public investigators indicated that multiple vehicles were involved, including a van. The van was reportedly parked on the street, its motor running. A car eventually pulled up, and the passengers of the car transferred a large, sheet-covered object into the van. After that, both vehicles drove away. Bonacci knew these details and stated that the large object was Johnny?s limp body. Additionally, Bonacci claimed that ?Sam? was parked in a station wagon near the site of the abduction. Now, this next detail will send shivers up your spine: the Iowa DMV confirmed that Sam Soda owned a vehicle matching the description of the station wagon. You can listen to Noreen discuss the matter in this interview with Ted Gunderson, below.
- Bonacci?s claim that Johnny was taken to Colorado was considered a bit suspect at first, but in the summer of 1991 that all changed when family friends of the Gosches were dining at a Mexican restaurant in Denver and spotted ?Johnny Gosch was here? written on the bathroom wall. This led Roy Stephens to travel to Colorado to get a good look at the restaurant. He took photos of the exterior of the restaurant, as well as the bathroom wall. Bonacci was shown the pictures and accurately described the inside of the establishment. He said that he, Johnny, and another boy were painting their nails, and that they wrote on the bathroom walls with the nail polish. Indeed, ?Johnny Gosch was here? was written in red nail polish. You can hear about this in Noreen?s own words in this 1992 Faith Daniels interview.
- Bonacci had a stash of letters which he claimed were sent to him in prison by former members of the Franklin ring. These letters mentioned ?JG,? which Bonacci said referred to Johnny Gosch. One letter discussed Johnny?s message on the bathroom wall of the Mexican restaurant, stating:
I remember the restaurant in Colorado we painted are nails and I wrote on the wall with JG.
The letters also mentioned ?Emilio,? someone named ?the Col,? and alluded to the abductions of Eugene Martin and Marc Allen, as well as how ?JG was not the only boy we got from DM.?
It just gets weirder?
This conspiracy theory was about to get even more chilling and downright bizarre.
According to Bonacci, ?the Col,? or the Colonel, was a man named Michael Aquino.
Aquino, who was, at the time, the spitting image of a slightly creepier and much older version of Eddie Munster, was a career officer in the U.S. Army, specializing in psychological warfare. He served as Lieutenant Colonel in military intelligence.
Eddie Munster ? Source: The Munster WikiMichael Aquino ? Source: The National Paranormal Society
Oh yeah, and he?s a satanist. But he isn?t just your run-of-the-mill satanist (whatever that is), he is an ordained Satanic priest, and is the founder and leader of the Temple of Set. His wife, Lilith Sinclair, is also a Satanic cult leader. In fact, Aquino was a follower of Anton LaVey, founder of The Church of Satan.
If you want to go down a never-ending rabbit hole, this story will take you into all sorts of incredibly strange and disturbing conspiracy theories, including the Illuminati, the New World Order, etc., but let?s stick to the Johnny Gosch case. Cool?
In our final installment, we will discuss suspicions concerning John Sr.?s involvement in Johnny?s abduction, and we will analyze some of the details of this story.