To Army Special Forces veteran Drew White, the plan to take over Venezuelan oil fields after overthrowing the government — being pitched by a troubled fellow former 10th Special Forces Group soldier — seemed too far-fetched to be believed.
Documents pitching the plan — obtained by Military Times — included letterhead from a Washington consultant firm, as well as the names and credentials of President Donald Trump’s longtime bodyguard and another billionaire financier, all of whom have denied involvement in the ill-fated adventure.
The Green Beret veteran at the center of the plot, former Sgt. 1st Class Jordan Goudreau, appeared to be shopping around for investors to back the paramilitary mission using a patchwork of documents, which included a wish list of military gear, including several aircraft, armored vehicles, hundreds of M4 carbines, PVS-14 night vision goggles, ballistic plates and helmets, several hydraulic breaching tools, ketamine and morphine.
White, now 34 and the owner of a successful Colorado Springs insurance firm, was a sergeant first class with 10th Group who served from 2005 to 2017 and received a Bronze Star, among other medals and commendations. He told Military Times that in August of 2019, he was approached by Goudreau with a scattershot proposal seeking investors for an operation designed to overthrow of regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
“I agreed to the meeting because he was an old friend,” White said in a recent interview. “He had an idea, so why not hear him out?”
The two Army veterans were previously business associates in a security company called Silvercorp USA, White said.
Goudreau “came out here with paperwork” to pitch the plot, White recalled. Goudreau was seeking $750 million for an operation to secure the Venezuelan oil fields after the overthrow of Venezuela’s government, White said. The operation, as described, was designed to turn a profit from the proceeds of oil sales once the new government was installed, White said.
White said that Goudreau implied that the scheme, first reported by the Associated Press, had the backing of the State Department.
“He said he had contacts in D.C.,” White said.
White spoke in depth for the first time to Military Times about his knowledge of the plot to overthrow the government in Caracas. A botched coup attempt earlier this month reportedly led to more than 100 arrests, including two former Green Berets — connected to Goudreau — who appeared on Venezuelan television confessing to a plan to seize the presidential palace, capture Maduro and bring him back to the United States.
The Trump administration has threatened military action against the Maduro regime for years but recently denied any involvement in the plot. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has also denied involvement.
“The United States government had nothing to do with what’s happened in Venezuela in the last few days,” Esper said during a Pentagon press briefing Tuesday afternoon.
Goudreau did not respond to contact attempts via telephone, text message and email. White, who said he is now fearful for his safety, said he was speaking with Military Times to present his side of the story.
Documents that White said were presented by Goudreau bear the names of several individuals, including Trump bodyguard Keith Schiller, businessman Roen Kraft and three members a consulting company in Washington called Global Governments Center. The massive paramilitary operation Goudreau pitched would be run by Silvercorp.
Silvercorp’s business records list White as the chief operating officer of the Melbourne, Florida, corporation founded by Goudreau in 2018. White said that Goudreau asked him to be the COO because of his extensive business experience.
Global Governments consultants named on the document declined to comment on its authenticity, but added that the firm is not involved with Goudreau’s business.
“Silvercorp has not been, nor is currently, a customer of Global Governments,” the firm said in a statement to Military Times Thursday. “We have no further comments at this time.”
White said Goudreau presented documents that included seven pages, dated April 1, 2019, that purported to be on Global Governments’ letterhead. The pitch document lists the personnel and equipment needed for a mission to prop up Venezuelan politician Juan Guaidó, an opposition leader who is recognized by the Trump administration as the legitimate president of the country.
The mission would aim to “mobilize essential assets and resources to transport humanitarian aid and perform tasks in line with the President Guaidó Plan Pais initiative for self-determination and provision of emergency services while the legitimacy of a new government establishes itself across Venezuela,” according to the documents.
The documents describe a large-scale operation that would require a multi-million dollar package of military equipment and weaponry, including an operations vessel, a heavy helicopter, a light helicopter and a light fixed-wing aircraft. In addition, the documents called for construction equipment, armored vehicles that could withstand both 7.62 and 5.56 mm ammunition, portable generators and field kitchen equipment.
Furthermore, Goudreau was seeking funding for 300 “soldiers,” 320 M4 carbines, 50,000 rounds of ammunition, medical supplies, satellite radio time, and enough food and water to last 30 days.
White said the meeting, which lasted about 30 minutes, took place in a Colorado Springs office with investors he would not name. The investment group, however, was not interested in proceeding based on the limited information Goudreau provided.
Despite the price tag on the documents coming in at a little over $5 million, White said Goudreau verbally pitched the $750 million figure to the potential investors. About 20 minutes into the meeting, the investors looked at each other befuddled, said White.
The pitch, White recalled, seemed preposterous. The documents presented, he added, did not seem to be legitimate.
“They were full of typos and not aligned properly. They didn’t seem real,” White said.
“I said to Jordan, ‘I have to meet with your contacts,’” said White. “'I have to see the legitimate contracts. You are asking for a large amount of money.’”
White said he and the other investors wanted to see a detailed contract for the operation, as well as establish direct contact with the individuals named in the documents.
The meeting eventually broke up with no action being taken, said White. In the months to follow, Goudreau would reach out to him from time to time asking for an update. But without directly talking with Goudreau’s purported contacts, or seeing a detailed contract, White said he and the other investors had no interest.
The first time White learned that Goudreau was really serious about acting on the plan was May 1, eight months after his meeting with Goudreau in Colorado, when White received a call from an Associated Press reporter asking questions about the plot.
An individual close to Keith Schiller, the president’s former body guard, told Military Times that Schiller is “livid that Goudreau may have used that unauthorized material" in the documents presented in Colorado.
Schiller, one of Trump’s close confidants from his years as a real estate developer in New York, did attend several meetings concerning Venezuela, according to the source close to Schiller who spoke on condition of anonymity.
In spring 2019, Schiller attended a breakfast sponsored by Global Governments in Washington, the source said.
During the breakfast, Schiller heard consultants at the firm pitch a Venezuela project that called for providing humanitarian aid and helping companies obtain business opportunities when Guaidó ultimately became president of Venezuela, a prospect that at the time seemed close at hand.
After the breakfast, Schiller learned that someone at Global Governments had placed his picture and biography on their website without his permission. He immediately requested that they remove it, which they did, according to the source.
Schiller attended a second meeting in mid-March, when Global Governments sought contacts who could help with security and logistics in the event of a transition to a Guaidó government. Someone who worked in private security told Schiller that Goudreau had done similar work in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, according to the person close to Schiller.
Schiller then brought Goudreau to a third — and allegedly final — meeting in Florida early in summer 2019.
The meeting was attended by businessmen involved in construction, airline and other industries, as well as people claiming to be associated with Guaidó. Schiller got the impression there that, rather than providing support for business opportunities, the meetings were mostly about fundraising for humanitarian aid. He cut ties with Goudreau after that, according to the source.
Schiller knew nothing about what happened afterwards, the source added, and did not know how Goudreau obtained the documents that have Schiller’s biography and picture.
The only other individual listed on the documents who does not appear on Global Governments’ website was Gary Compton, who is described as a senior adviser for oil and energy. Messages left at online accounts associated with his name were not returned.
The consultant firm Lucas Compton had a webpage that listed Compton’s biography and picture mirroring the documents obtained by Military Times. That web page has since been removed, only after screenshots of the page were taken by Military Times. The biography described Compton as a “counsel and lobbyist to energy magnate T. Boone Pickens for over twenty-five years,” and said he “served as Mr. Pickens’s point of contact in Washington, DC.”
Pickens, a Texas billionaire, was an early and prominent backer of Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016. He died in 2019.
A person familiar with the Lucas Compton firm said Gary Compton is not associated with the company and they are unfamiliar with his current business dealings.
Kraft, meanwhile, acknowledged meeting with Goudreau last year, but said discussions centered around humanitarian aid for Venezuela. He said in a phone interview with AP that he never gave Goudreau money and broke off all communications with him in October 2019, when it seemed Goudreau was intent on a military action, the AP reported.
Goudreau is now under federal investigation for arms trafficking, current and former U.S. law enforcement officials told AP.
The investigation is in its initial stages and it remains unclear if it will result in charges, according to a U.S. law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The federal probe stems from a frenzy of contradictory comments Goudreau has made since a small cadre of volunteer combatants linked to Goudreau launched a raid aimed at overthrowing Maduro on May 3.
Goudreau has emerged at the center of a plot hatched with a rebellious former Venezuelan Army general, Cliver Alcalá, to secretly train dozens of Venezuelan military deserters in secret camps in Colombia to carry out a swift operation against Maduro. The U.S. government has offered a $15 million reward for information leading to Maduro’s arrest or conviction. He was indicted by the Trump administration in March on charges of narcoterrorism.
The men involved in the overthrow attempt were being trained for combat at three rudimentary camps in Colombia with the help of Goudreau and his Florida-based company, Silvercorp USA, according to multiple Maduro opponents and aspiring freedom fighters who spoke to the AP. But the plot seemed doomed from the start because it lacked the support of the Trump administration and was infiltrated by Maduro’s vast, Cuban-trained intelligence network, the AP found.
The entire situation has left White shocked that his former business partner would go through with a plot that resulted in the capture of two of former Green Berets he served with, including a close friend.
“Maybe they were chasing that one-in-a-million shot, that golden BB," he wondered.
White said that he first met Goudreau in 2009 while they were both serving with the 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Carson, Colorado.
“He was an impressive guy,” said White. “A smart guy. An educated guy. A physical stud. A great shot, one of the best shots I’ve ever been around. He was just amazing. He was a good dude who you wanted on your team, that’s for sure.”
Army records show that Goudreau served on active duty as a special forces medical sergeant and indirect fire infantryman from 2001 to 2016. A LinkedIn account associated with Goudreau stated that he previously served in the Canadian Armed Forces for three years in the mid-1990s.
As a U.S. service member, Goudreau deployed to Iraq from November 2006 to April 2007 and from March 2010 to September 2010. He later deployed to Afghanistan from May 2011 to June 2011 and again from January 2014 to June 2014.
Goudreau received three Bronze Star medals, the Ranger Tab, Special Forces Tab, Combat Infantryman Badge and Parachutist Badge.
But Goudreau was also troubled.
The AP reported that “at the end of an otherwise distinguished military career, the Canadian-born Goudreau was investigated in 2013 for allegedly defrauding the Army of $62,000 in housing stipends. Goudreau said the investigation was closed with no charges.
However, a former Special Forces officer with direct knowledge of the situation said that Goudreau received what is known as a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand, or GOMOR, as a result of that incident, which prohibited Goudreau from further promotion in the Army.
White and the former Special Forces officer, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about Goudreau’s history, both say that Goudreau’s life unraveled after that.
The GOMAOR “ultimately led to Goudreau’s departure from the Army and he was in serious trouble after that,” said the former SF officer.
After leaving the Army in 2016, Goudreau “was unemployed for quite a while and couch surfing with friends until he wore out his welcome and was asked to leave,” the former SF officer said.
Sometime around 2017, the former SF officer said that after attempting to get Goudreau help through a veterans service organization, he “cut him off because [Goudreau] wasn’t ready to get counseling and help himself out of his predicaments.”
White said Goudreau “had a Harley and a hammock and was driving around, staying in KOA camps.”
Several months later, the former SF officer “reached out to him again and he was homeless living in a city park somewhere out west,” he said. “He was still belligerent and defiant. Shortly thereafter he was shot by his girlfriend and hospitalized.”
White confirmed that account, saying Goudreau reached out to White from a hospital in Las Vegas and said he was shot in the leg by his ex-girlfriend and required “extensive physical therapy.”
Silvercorp business Associate
The business known as Silvercorp USA Inc. was formed after Goudreau reached out to White with a business proposal sometime in 2018, White said.
Initially, the company was designed to hire former special forces troops and retired law enforcement personnel to provide security for schools to deter active shooters.
“He said, ‘hey man, you do well in business, I would like to have you on to guide me through the structuring of the company,’” said White.
White said Goudreau then asked him to be COO, and that he agreed.
At first the concept of providing school security “was actually getting traction,” but then the company “slowly transitioned to more of a global private security company,” said White.
The company’s website currently features videos of Goudreau and others on helicopters and other action scenes. It describes Silvercorp’s services as ranging “from securing technicians along the supply chain and worksites to protecting executives and celebrities in unstable locations, our prompt-response one-stop shop capability delivers the best services along the whole continuum of security risk management.”
White said his active involvement in the company only lasted a few months and ended as Silvercorp morphed its mission.
“For three or four months, we went hard to get contracts,” he said, adding that he doesn’t think Goudreau was able to secure any deals or had hired anyone to perform the duties.
“I thought it was dead,” said White, who hadn’t heard much from Goudreau until he called about the August 2019 meeting in Colorado.
White said that he hadn’t thought much about Goudreau’s wild pitch until getting the call from the Associated Press informing him about the plot and that his name was connected to Goudreau via the Florida public records.
White told Military Times that not only was he was surprised that Goudreau was actually serious, but that he was shocked to learn former Staff Sgt. Luke Denman, 34, and former Sgt. Airan Berry, 41, were involved as well. Both men were captured by Venezuelan authorities after the failed attack in early May.
Denman, 34, served on active duty as a special forces communications sergeant from 2006 to 2011, later serving in the Army Reserve until September 2014. He deployed to Iraq from March 2010 to September 2010. Denman received the Army Commendation Medal, Special Forces Tab, Combat Infantryman Badge and Parachutist Badge, Army records show.
Berry, 41, served on active duty as a special forces engineer sergeant from 1996 to 2013. He deployed to Iraq from March 2003 to June 2003; November 2004 to June 2005; and February 2007 to March 2007.
Berry received two Bronze Star medals, the Kosovo Campaign Medal, Ranger Tab, Special Forces Tab, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge, the Special Operations Diver and Special Operations Diving Supervisor Badges.
Maduro, the Venezuelan president, touted a video showing a scruffy-looking American divulging details about a failed invasion as proof Wednesday that U.S. authorities backed an alleged attempt to forcibly remove him from power, according to the AP.
The video featured Luke Denman on state television in which he claims he signed a contract with a Florida-based company to train rebel troops and carry out the assault in exchange for up to $100,000.
“I was helping Venezuelans take back control of their country,” he said.
Another video featured Berry saying he now knows his actions were illegal and he revealed the contract outlining the ill-fated mission he said was signed by coup ringleader Jordan Goudreau and Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, The Daily Mail reported.
Denman and Berry were detained Monday following what authorities described as a botched beach landing in the fishing village of Chuao. Both men are associated with Silvercorp USA.
White said he knows both men, and that Denman, in particular, was a close friend.
“I was surprised when I saw they had been captured,” said White. “I was in absolute shock. I am just surprised that anyone would think that this was a good idea. It’s incredible.”
Hearing his friends tell Venezuelan interrogators how little they were paid for the raid was puzzling, said White.
“'You did this for that little?’” White said he thought to himself. “They were sharp guys. Luke was an incredible Green Beret. I spent a lot of time with him in Iraq. He was a great soldier.”
But people “change when they get out. Some guys always feel like they have to be doing something after and maybe that played into why they wanted to do this," White said.
“Thankfully, I got out and live a boring life,” he added.
Or it was at least more under the radar than when the news broke about Goudreau and the raid.
Now, White said he fears for his safety.
“I obviously knew he had plan,” White said of Goudreau. “But it was like a friend at bar who said he could build a rocket and go to the moon. I brushed it off. I never thought he would go through with it. Venezuela is a country with a navy, an air force and a 130,000-man army.”
Correction: Roen Kraft’s business affiliation has been updated.
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq. Follow on Twitter @Kyle_Rempfer