WASHINGTON -- Rep. Curt Weldon has found "intrigue and mystery" but few answers in the five years he's been investigating his nephew's death in the suspicious crash of an ex-U.S. military cargo plane in Angola.

Now, the same aviation broker who bought that plane from the Navy 10 years ago is emerging as a key figure in a federal probe of questionable aircraft deals involving C-130 transport planes under contract to fight fires for the Forest Service.

The pending criminal case in Arizona has stirred up more intrigue, including allegations that some of the Forest Service planes flew missions for the CIA during the off season.

"There is definitely a huge story here," said Weldon, a Republican from Pennsylvania.

"In my opinion, there is a much bigger web here. I don't know if the government is trying to cover it up because it involves the CIA or the Defense Department or what," he said in a Thursday interview with The Associated Press.

The broker, former Medford, Ore., resident Roy D. Reagan, and Fred Fuchs, former director of the Forest Service aviation program, are scheduled to be arraigned on theft and conspiracy charges this week in U.S. District Court in Tucson, Ariz.

In June, they were accused in a federal grand jury indictment of conspiring to illegally secure $28 million worth of surplus military aircraft and place them in the hands of private contractors beginning in the late 1980s.

They are accused of making false statements to the Defense Department, committing mail and wire fraud, and accepting payments in transferring 28 government planes to contractors working for the Forest Service.

Among the issues to be resolved by that case is ownership of the planes, which remains in question. The government contends they remain Forest Service property and that the planes never belonged to the contractors because the ownership titles were transferred illegally.

"What was alleged in the indictment was that these were government-owned aircraft," said Claire Lefkowitz, assistant U.S. attorney in Tucson.

"The title was transferred fraudulently, without authority. The exchange agreements were illegal to begin with," she said.

Weldon said he found indications of CIA involvement in his investigation of events leading to the death of his nephew, former Air Force pilot Robert Weldon II, and three other American crew members who died in the 1991 Angola crash.

Federal Aviation Administration records obtained by AP show Reagan bought that plane, a C-130, from the Navy in October 1986.

But acting as a middle man just as he allegedly did for the Forest Service contractors, Reagan kept the bill of sale only 29 days before reselling the plane to another aviation company, which in turn sold it to another that Weldon says had ties to the CIA.

Weldon said he hopes the Arizona case will shed some new light on the Forest Service operation as well as the crash in Angola. The case could go to trial before the end of the year.

"I'm a senior member of the (House) National Security Committee and never to my satisfaction have we had an answer as to what was going on," the congressman said.

"It absolutely needs to have a public airing through the court process where the appropriate discovery can take place."

In addition to Reagan's ties to the plane in Angola, the indictment mentions the name of a longtime Reagan business associate, James P. Ross, who had previous involvement with a plane that figured prominently in the Iran-Contra affair.

Ross' name is on a 1983 FAA document as the inspector who verified the airworthiness of a C-123 cargo plane later was shot down in Nicaragua while secretly hauling supplies to the U.S.-backed Contra rebels in 1986.

Eugene Hasenfus, who was the only crew member to survive the crash and was captured by the Sandinistas, said he believed he was working on a CIA-sanctioned mission at the time.

More recently, Ross, a pilot, helped Reagan deliver planes to at least one of the Forest Service contractors in California, Hemet Valley Flying Service, according to a deposition from a former flying-service mechanic.

Court documents in a related bankruptcy case involving Hemet Valley Flying Service show that Reagan and two Forest Service contractors were making plans to sell some of the Forest Service's C-130s to the French government for $6.5 million each.

Lefkowtiz said federal prosecutors are familiar with the bankruptcy proceeding but refused to comment on whether it had any bearing on her criminal case.

In a February 1993 memo to the State Department, the Forest Service maintained that selling any of the C-130s overseas would be illegal without an export license approved by the State Department, because the planes remained on a restricted munitions list.

Since then, the Justice Department, the Forest Service and the General Services Administration, the government's property manager, have been at odds over who actually owns the airplanes -- the contractors or the Forest Service.

"I suspect you won't get agreement on the facts," Lefkowitz told the AP last month.

Historically, the Air Force has provided used military aircraft to the Forest Service to fight fires. Under a special exchange program, the Forest Service gave its planes to private contractors in return for historical planes that were to be displayed at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.

But the museum director said the so-called historical planes were virtually worthless. And the program came under scrutiny in 1991, when two Forest Service airplanes under contract to fight forest fires turned up hauling cargo for pay after the Persian Gulf War in Kuwait.

The office of the Agriculture Department inspector general concluded in a 1992 audit that several Forest Service contractors were abusing the program, attempting to sell aircraft for non-firefighting purposes and selling old aircraft parts for profit.

Reagan arranged most of the plane swaps and made more than $1 million in reselling four of the aircraft, the audit said.

About the time the planes showed up in Kuwait, a 1991 memo obtained by the AP shows the Air Force was demanding the Forest Service provide proof that all classified equipment, including a "bomb release rack system," had been removed from the C-130s before they were transferred to the private contractors.

During a congressional review in 1992, Rep. Charlie Rose, D-N.C., said he believed the planes in Kuwait were on a covert mission for the CIA.

Little more was heard about the case until September 1995, when the GSA ordered the Forest Service to confiscate the planes, saying the aircraft had been used illegally for purposes other than firefighting.

In June, the indictments were handed up against Reagan and Fuchs.

Weldon said CIA officials admitted to him that a man involved with the plane that crashed had been a CIA operative, but not at the time of the crash in Angola.

"I have never really been able to get straight answers about what they were doing," he said.