Around 7 a.m. last Wednesday, four agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration walked into the team dormitory at the Washington Redskins' training camp in Carlisle, Pa., and knocked on the door of Charles Casserly, an assistant general manager.
"They were looking for (Coach) Joe Gibbs or (General Manager) Bobby Beathard," Casserly said. "They said it was a serious matter. Both Joe and Bobby were gone . . . so I went to the cafeteria and got Richie Petitbon (assistant head coach)."
Two agents and Petitbon walked upstairs to a room occupied by safety Tony Peters and running back Clarence Harmon. Harmon already had gone to breakfast; Peters was still inside.
Petitbon knocked on the door and Peters answered. The DEA agents asked him to come downstairs to Beathard's room. There, they informed Peters he was under arrest, charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine.
Moments later, Peters was in a DEA car headed for Harrisburg, Pa., for a hearing before a magistrate. When he left Carlisle, he was in handcuffs.
"Everything was smooth," said Petitbon. "It happened so fast. It left everyone in shock."
That shock still hasn't worn off. Peters' arrest stunned teammates, friends and club officials, who had no advance warning that Peters was even under investigation. At 30, after eight years in the National Football League, Peters was at his peak. In 1982, he made the Pro Bowl for the first time and was a key member of the Redskins' Super Bowl-winning team. In the offseason, he signed a four-year, $1 million contract that he said gave him financial security for life.
"When he was out here (at his birthplace, Pauls Valley, Okla.) for a day in his honor this spring, he was on cloud nine," said Bobby Proctor, Peters' secondary coach at the University of Oklahoma. "He is a first-class citizen. He was a role model for so many people out here. I loved him; I have a picture of him on my office wall. This really sets you on your heels."
Peters is accused of having taken $3,000 from a DEA undercover agent in return for helping set up two cocaine sales in Northern Virginia earlier this summer. He is currently free on a $50,000 unsecured bond. Peters has not been available for comment.
Also arrested and charged in the investigation, which involved the sale of $115,000 worth of cocaine, are Charles Bray of Toronto, Peters' half-brother and a former player for the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League; Bray's brother, Douglas, of Toronto; Thomas Peter Shaw Valanidas, a $17,000-a-year high school teacher in Calvert County; William H. Burns of Drum Point, Md.; Ronald Kirby Wood, residence unknown, and Jorge Alberto Robert of Miami. Jose Cebada, an Argentinian who lives in New York, is being sought in connection with the complaint, which was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.
If the allegations in the complaint are true, questions are raised: Why would Peters, star athlete, father of four children, a hero in a town where football players are revered, become involved in cocaine trafficking? Why would he risk throwing away the rest of his career (he faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $25,000 fine or both) for $3,000? Was he involved in the transactions because of family ties, as some speculate? Was he a cocaine user who needed money to fund his drug purchases?
"There was no hint he was in any kind of trouble," said Petitbon, who has been Peters' coach since 1979, when Peters was traded to the Redskins from Cleveland. "If he was using cocaine, or if he was doing anything wrong, you didn't know it. He worked very hard, he was having a very good training camp."
Peters appeared to be in excellent financial shape. He received a signing bonus of about $50,000 for agreeing to a new contract. He received $70,000 as his share of the Redskins' playoff money. He was paid another $10,000 for making the Pro Bowl. Even the players union strike last fall didn't reduce his income. For playing in nine games, he received $64,692 (his 1982 salary was $115,000); he also received $60,000 (called "money now") as part of the NFL agreement with the players union.
In late July, Peters and his wife Jewell bought a $145,000 house built on a $15,400 lot they owned in a Chantilly subdivision. They obtained a $125,000 mortgage from American Home Funding in Annandale. The deed was recorded a day before his arrest.
When Peters joined the Redskins, team sources said he often asked for loans amounting to about one-third of his then-$100,000 salary. The Redskins directed him to George Mason Bank in Fairfax. Bank officials declined to comment. However, sources say he has since paid off all loans to the bank.
Around the time he took the loans out, the Peter Pan Preschool Center he and his wife operated in Norman, Okla., went out of business.
The day-care center was licensed originally to Peters and then, on renewal, to his wife. According to an Oklahoma state official, the center was closed Aug. 28, 1981, after state inspectors found the center unoccupied. Two Redskin players said in interviews that Peters told them the center had gone bankrupt, although there is no record of a bankruptcy petition in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City. Peters has sinced moved from Norman to live year-round in suburban Virginia.
Peters worked one offseason as a salesman in the Foot Locker store in the Fair Oaks Mall. He helped organize the Redskins' basketball team during the past offseason. Teammates describe him as an avid golfer and devoted family man who spent most of the two-month players strike babysitting his children.
What led to Peters' arrest on charges of cocaine trafficking is not clear. But following are the government's allegations involving Peters, according to the court complaint and law enforcement officials:
The DEA said the trail leading to Peters began in June 1982, when an undercover agent in Canada met Charles Bray, a 275-pound bar bouncer and owner of a Toronto health club. Both Bray and Peters were born in Pauls Valley, a city of 9,000 people, 50 miles south of Oklahoma City.
The agent, posing as a drug buyer in Toronto, became acquainted with Bray. Bray agreed to help him find drug suppliers. Bray later told the undercover agent in Canada that he had a drug source in Washington, D.C., whom he identified as Peters. The next month, Bray indicated Peters was "ready to do business."
On Oct. 26, Bray produced a clear plastic bag containing about one gram of cocaine, which he said came from Peters. In April, after delays caused by Peters' NFL-related duties, the agent telephoned Peters directly from Canada. Peters confirmed he had supplied the sample. The two men spoke "on numerous occasions" in later days to discuss the deal, with Peters saying his sources were not available until June 28 or 29.
On June 28, the Canadian undercover agent, Ronald Nicholson, and DEA undercover agent Michael Pavlick, who was posing as Nicholson's financier, went to the Key Bridge Marriott in Rosslyn. There they met Peters, who introduced Wood as "the man who would do the deal." At Vittorio's restaurant in Georgetown, the four discussed the sale of one pound of cocaine for $30,000-$32,000. A half-pound was purchased the next day; Peters was not present.
On July 5, Pavlick met Peters for drinks in Limerick's Restaurant in Falls Church, where Pavlick paid Peters $1,000 for his part in setting up the sale. Peters told Pavlick he wanted "to participate in future and larger transactions."
After another sale of one pound of cocaine for $34,000, Pavlick and Peters met July 19, again at Limerick's, to discuss payment for that transaction. Peters told Pavlick that he would not be able to collect the money for some time because he would be in training camp. On July 30, the two men met again at Bogart's, a Fairfax City restaurant. Pavlick gave Peters $2,000 as a fee for the $34,000 sale.
The federal complaint specifies that Peters knew only Wood and Bray. But federal officials say they believe Peters was acquainted with some, if not all, of the other five accused conspirators. They say they believe he had known Wood for "some time" before a June 28 meeting at the Key Bridge Marriott, during which Peters allegedly introduced undercover agents to Wood. They say the two men were on familiar terms at that meeting.
Wood, 38, who allegedly was present at all three drug sales named in the complaint, has been unable to make his $50,000 bond and remains in D.C. Jail. He was arrested Tuesday night after allegedly making a 2 1/2-pound, $64,000 cocaine sale to undercover DEA agents. Federal officials believe he once operated his own landscaping business.
Burns, after his arraignment, described himself as an unemployed electrician who has a daughter and is engaged to be married. Burns, 29, said he recognized only one name among the other alleged conspirators, Valanidas, for whom he had worked, in Burns's words, as a "gentleman's gentleman," buying his groceries, taking care of his children, driving his car. Burns said he did not know Peters.
On July 6, Burns was arrested along with Valanidas in room 700 of the Holiday Inn at 2101 Wisconsin Ave. after 310 grams (there are 28.35 grams to the ounce) of white powder was allegedly delivered to federal agents in another room. Those agents said they found a loaded automatic pistol in a briefcase in room 700. Burns and Valanidas were charged with distribution of cocaine after that arrest and freed on personal recognizance.
Federal agents say Burns functioned as a driver and lookout in the July 19 sale of a pound of cocaine, allegedly by Wood and Cebada, to undercover agents. After the sale, the complaint says Burns drove Wood and Cebada to the airport.
Valanidas, 35, who teaches industrial arts at Calvert County High School, is a University of Maryland graduate. At his bond hearing on the July 6 arrest, he said he was married with two children. He allegedly was carrying a briefcase in which a half-pound of cocaine was delivered to agents on June 29.
Cebada, 35, is an Argentinian who lives in Corona, N.Y. Authorities went to his apartment there Wednesday but he was not there and is still at large. Agents say he helped count the money after one of the alleged sales.
Robert, 35, another Argentinian, lives in Miami, where he says he is a self-employed truck driver. He allegedly arrived at National Airport Aug. 2 carrying 2.5 pounds of cocaine that was sold to undercover agents at the Hospitality House in Crystal City.
Tony Vagnozzi, general manager of Limerick's Restaurant, said that two weeks before Peters was arrested he sat briefly with Peters and two other men, apparently undercover agents, on the afternoon the complaint alleges there was a discussion about Peters' fee for arranging the sales.
"He (Peters) had his new Super Bowl ring and he even let me try it on," Vagnozzi said. "I've known (Tony) for about a year and half. I've had dinner with him and his wife. If you had walked in here . . . and told me one of the 'Skins was heavy in drugs, Tony would have been way, way down on my list."
Although league sources say that NFL Security classifies the Redskins as one of the league's "cleanest" teams in terms of suspected drug usage, an NFL source familiar with the league's drug problems says "there are no clean teams in the NFL. I know that."
"What happens with addiction is that it's an emotional illness," he said. "It's a relationship that supercedes all other relationships--family, God, everything. It's a progressive illness. The experience of that first high never leaves them. It's a behavior modification that supercedes everything in your life.
" . . . If a person is dependent on the stuff, he'll do anything. Selling is taking a hell of a chance, but statistics I've seen tell you that 60 percent of cocaine users usually sell to finance their own habits."
Team sources say the Redskins were concerned about Peters before the 1981 season, when he reported to a minicamp weighing 175 pounds (he normally weighs 205) and looking drawn. But since then, they have had no complaints about his health. "Things were upbeat for him," Petitbon said.
Things were upbeat, too, in Pauls Valley until the news of the arrests of Peters and Bray broke. On May 10, during Tony Peters Day, he was presented the keys to the city and there were skits representing high points in his life. One of the actors was his daughter Tiffany, 10. "Three months ago, you couldn't get people to shut up about Tony Peters," said Graig Walsh, sports editor of the Pauls Valley Daily Democrat. "For the past three days, you can't get anyone to say a word."
Peters and two of his brothers, Terry and Karl, played for Oklahoma. Bray, who once known as "Baby Beef," attended Central Oklahoma State, then was an all-star offensive guard in the Continental League before moving on to the CFL in 1968. As a member of the Argonauts, he twice was all-CFL and played on the 1971 team that lost in the final of the Grey Cup. Joe Theismann of the Redskins was the starting quarterback on that team.
"I remember Charlie, but I didn't know much about him as a person," Theismann said. "It was as much a surprise to me hearing about Charlie as it was hearing about Tony . . . Tony was a good friend. We played cards together. I think if any guy on this team was sniffing it, it would show in his play. If you do artificial things to your body, your body will change, either through weight loss, glassy eyes or whatever."
Redskin officials are fearful Peters' trial will open new wounds, possibly revealing names of drug users on the team.
What also angers them is that Peters is accused of being involved in trafficking after the start of training camp. Federal authorities say Peters met with an undercover agent in Fairfax City on July 30 and received a $2,000 payment. Earlier that day, in Carlisle, Peters had participated in a scrimmage against the Baltimore Colts.
Also contributing to this story were Washington Post staff writers John Burgess, Gary Pomerantz and Dave Kindred and special correspondent Les Whittington.