KNOXVILLE, Iowa -- Paul Beck is a former tactical flight officer who operated a surveillance helicopter for the Los Angeles Police Department.
Although he retired in 1995, the now-Iowa resident still clearly remembers stories from his time on the job. One in particular details his experience with high-altitude surveillance activities.
Beck said he used to work off-duty for KABC News in Los Angeles, assisting with helicopter travel for traffic and weather reports. He eventually chose not to pursue a full-time position with the station, but still held on to some of the jackets bearing the news logo, which allowed him to discreetly conduct his surveillance business.
"You would put these things on and you’d go do a surveillance. You’d land to get fuel. You didn’t want anybody knowing what you were doing. They always thought you were a news helicopter, and they would buy off on this kind of stuff," said Beck. "You just kept your mouth shut, and we would go all over the place, gosh we went out of state. Wherever the crook went, we’d go."
A large portion of Beck's work at the time dealt with asset forfeiture.
"Did a lot of asset forfeiture. We seized anything. Especially cash. Cash was a big deal. At one point we had the largest cash seizure that had ever occurred with asset forfeiture, and it was a bungle," he said. "We watched some guys pick up a bunch of chemicals, making PCP. Went into a public storage facility over a weekend, on a Friday. Saturday night, the lead detective called me and I thought we were moving. And he said, 'no, you need to come down to Whiteman Airport, you're not going to believe this.'"
In addition to the materials being used to make the drug, detectives found two cars kept returning to the storage garage. After running them through the system, results showed one of the cars was connected to someone wanted in Florida for murder. Officials obtained a warrant to search the garage, and found pallets of shrink-wrapped $20 bills stacked from the floor to the ceiling--in six garages total.
“There was $130 million in twenty dollar bills. Think about this," said Beck. "Now you've heard of money laundering, this was money storage. You can't get rid of this stuff. That was the kind of stuff that we were doing."
Beck also worked for the LAPD during the O.J. Simpson White Bronco chase and L.A. riots.