By Wayne Thomas | Chicago Daily Tribune
9 June 1949
Air Force and Federal investigators in Springfield are seeking $50,000 or more in state and private funds allegedly misused over a period of 2 1/2 years by the recently deposed commanding officer of Illinois Wing, Civil Air Patrol. A Federal injunction directing the ex-CAP Colonel – Gordon A. DaCosta, longtime state statistical department employee to cooperate with the investigators was issued by Judge Charles G. Briggle of Federal District Court in Springfield 10 days ago, it was learned here yesterday.
The investigation, which has been quietly under way for more than eight weeks, followed the arrival in Springfield of two Air Force officers sent from Washington to inquire into the peculiar circumstances of CAP administration in Illinois
Charge He Paid Self Salary
Some of the actions of Col DaCosta included, the Air Force has informed Judge Briggle the following:
1) Payment to himself of a $600 a month salary from state appropriations to CAP, in violation of both Federal and state regulations concerning this organization which is not permitted to have salaried officers.
2) Purchase of a $1905 Buick automobile for his personal use and retention of the keys to this car to date from CAP funds.
3) Charging of CAP members, including a number of high school and grade school children throughout the state, thousands of dollars for freight and handling of Federal war surplus training material, including airplanes, radios and other expensive items that were given without cost to Illinois Wing.
4) Destruction of the CAP air strip at Springfield by having a farmer plow deep furrows across this authorized state and Federal airport. This action almost cost destruction of a small airplane and serious injury to an Air Force officer who attempted to use it shortly afterward.
5) Refusal to turn over complete bankbooks, canceled checks and other records, despite orders of Judge Briggle.
Each of the 40 Civil Air Patrol squadrons in Illinois and smaller units within these squadrons have been asked to submit to the United States Attorney’s office in Springfield and to the newly appointed CAP leadership a full accounting of dues, contributions and other payments made to state headquarters of CAP during the period Col Gordon A. DaCosta, Springfield payroller, was Colonel and Illinois Wing Commander.
This action was when CAP and Air Force officers, working with Assistant United States Attorney Marks Alexander in Springfield, found that records of these transactions are not available. They reported to Judge Charles G. Briggle of federal District court in Springfield that no accounting sheets, books or other ledgers in which these sums were registered have been turned over to them by Col DaCosta, who was removed from his command here last April by Air Force order.
Col DaCosta Under Injunction
Col DaCosta, still a state department of education and aeronautics employee, is under federal injunction to cooperate with CAP, Air Force representatives and the United States attorney s investigators. He also is subject to Judge Briggle’s ruling on a demand for a full accounting on all funds and property in his custody during 2 1/2 Years he was state wing commander. More than $50,000 is involved, according to best estimates now possible, Air Force representatives have indicated.
“I was certainly surprised,” said Alexander at Springfield yesterday, “at the lack of records. But this is not a Federal office. The CAP was a volunteer civilian agency and we know of the people engaged in it gave freely of their time and efforts, and it was not on too business- like a basis.
“I will say that if, as Col DaCosta claims, he has turned over all his records, canceled checks and books to us, he should have kept far more detailed accounts. We are getting the reports from the individual units all over the state to build up the blank in financial background that now exists.”
Not Entitled To CAP Salary
At Springfield, Col DaCosta insisted he has done no wrong. He asserted that he has been paid only from state funds, not Civil Air Patrol allocations. Under CAP regulations an officer is not entitled to a salary. He said he felt himself well qualified to lead the Civil Air Patrol despite the fact that he never qualified for other than a limited private flying license which now is ineffective.
Despite his removal in April as wing commander, Col DaCosta and his wife continued to live on the federal ordnance post at Springfield in an apartment built in the CAP headquarters building until he had the CAP landing field plowed up, as charged before Judge Briggle.
Capt Harold C. Daily, the Air Force officer as liaison to CAP for Illinois narrowly escaped an accident when he attempted to land on the plowed strip. Immediately after Daily reported the incident Col DaCosta was ordered off the depot.
Admits Ploughing Field
“I had big X’s plowed in that field,” said Col DaCosta, “because I had been relieved as commanding officer and under the law was no longer responsible for it. My removal left nobody responsible and under Illinois laws a field left in such a condition must be closed. Everybody knows that a field with an X on it is a closed airport.”
Among the list of items for which particular search is being made among Col DaCosta’s fragmentary books is an accounting of the distribution of $2,500 profits made from the CAP Air Show In Chicago two years ago. According to the new CAP staff, none of these funds ever appeared in central headquarters spending.
A CAP accountant is making an inventory of tons of equipment including training aids and electronic supplies as critical as radar and communications items which have been held by DaCosta at Springfield. This material, the CAP told Judge Briggle, was sup- posed to be distributed to CAP squadrons for immediate training and this will be done as soon as the inventory is completed.
Springfield, IL – Col Gordon A. DaCosta of Champaign, former Illinois Wing Commander of the Federal Civil Air Patrol, admitted today in United States District court that he planned and attempted to divert to himself properties and funds of the air agency.
In approving a stipulation in which the admission was made, Judge Charles G. Briggle observed that there was no thought that anybody has waived any rights to criminal proceedings. He did not elaborate and District Attorney Howard Doyle refused to comment.
Col DaCosta, 45, a state pay-roller for many years and never in military service, was deposed 13 months ago as Commander of the Illinois Wing of the CAP and was charged with misusing funds and property of the agency.
Climaxes Two Day Hearing
After months of denying the charges, Col DaCosta’s admission climaxed a two day court hearing of a suit filed by the CAP a year ago charging him with not turning back federal property in his custody when he was ousted.
Attorneys for Col DaCosta and the government met most of today to effect an out of court settlement which was made known by the defendant s stipulation in court. Col DaCosta’s admission of the truth of the charges in the governments suit included the following: His plan and attempt to use two private state corporations which he also headed the State Civil Air Patrol and the Illinois Sky Patrol to divest the Federal CAP of its money and properties and to transfer title to the private corporations and to himself personally.