The FBI's dossier on Chávez was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which contains provisions that allowed the FBI to withhold portions of the documents from public view. Indeed, many parts—and in some cases, entire pages—have been excised from the files. Nevertheless, the collection provides a compelling window into the efforts of the farmworker movement, as well as the values and methods of the FBI itself.
In April 1974, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Sacramento field office continued its limited investigation into break-ins at the offices of the United Farm Workers (UFW) in California. On March 21, Jerry Cohen, legal counsel for the UFW, had been contacted by a Fred Schwartz (also referred to as "Charles Schwartz" and later identified as Jerome Ducote of San Jose), who implicated local growers in the robberies and asked the UFW to pay $35,000 in exchange for documents stolen from UFW offices. After Cohen contacted the Civil Rights Division, a limited civil right investigation was opened on March 28 to determine whether the break-ins constituted a violation of the UFW's rights.
Documents dated March 31, April 1, and April 2 include summary reports of Cohen's contacts with Schwartz as he attempted to sell stolen UFW documents and information on Schwartz/Ducote collected by the FBI.
According to an April 8 communiqué from the Sacramento FBI field office, their attempts to interview Ducote were postponed until he met with the Santa Clara County assistant district attorney, Dennis Lempert. An April 10 report outlined the Sacramento field office's communication with Lempert, who described Ducote as a "con man." The report also noted that Lempret was considering filing grand theft charges against Ducote for a lending scheme, in which he collected $6,000 by claiming to raise money to pay farm workers.
In a document dated April 19, the San Francisco field office recounted another attempt to interview Ducote by contacting his lawyer, Hal Chapman. The document described Chapman's request for immunity from local and federal prosecution for his client in exchange for information involving politicians and other unidentified persons.
An April 22 teletype included the FBI director's instructions to cease efforts to interview Ducote and to refer Chapman directly to the Civil Rights Division.