Big Dope

Authorities must let the little guys go so they can focus on the major players


I've interviewed several dopers who were proclaimed triumphantly in headlines and breathlessly on television to be masterminds of international narcotics smuggling. They weren't. I interview these guys in Spanish, which usually is their second language. Their first is Otomí or Nahuatl, which are dialects of Aztec, or Quechua or Aymara, which are dialects of Inca.

Invariably these masterminds turn out to be mules hired on a one-time basis to haul dope from Miami or the Rio Grande valley to Jacksonville for a fee of $3,000-$5,000, half down, half C.O.D. All they know about the drug biz is that some guy named Pedro or Juancho gave them the down stroke and a burner phone and told them to drive a rusted heap to our fair city and await a call.

Hola, Jacksonville!

The dope they carry is not insignificant. In one case, it was 60 kilos of methamphetamine "de primera," which means 100 percent, fry-your-neurons pure. Sixty bricks are enough to explode the heads of every tweaker from the Jesse Street 'jects to the Georgia line. The feds grab these guys periodically, usually with some Jacksonville Sheriff's Office blue suits along to do chores. The resulting soundbite, with smiling lawmen and law ladies flanking the dope, has become a media staple that appears reliably each year, like Christmas and Halloween.

The perfidy of the FBI, DEA and police in trumpeting such seizures is not small. It gives the impression that the drug business has been disrupted, when it hasn't. By my calculation, the quantity of weed, pills, crystal, crack and black tar that it takes to buzz the 10 percent of Jacksonville that wants buzzing would fill a 40-foot shipping container — every day. The loss of 60 keys is retail shrinkage, like a few hams and a six-pack walking out the back door of a Walmart.

The FBI has been a publicity whore ever since J. Edgar Hoover got in cahoots with Hollywood to produce "G Men" with James Cagney. In the '60s TV series "The F.B.I.," the bureau had actual casting control and, under the tutelage of J. Edgar himself, elevated actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr. into the avatar of the bespoke-suited, handsomely tanned and immaculately barbered crime buster.

This flackery distracts from the excruciating and often boring work required to disrupt local distribution. So allow me to explain, ladies and gentlemen, how to bust local dope kings. I know how much cops and G-men like being told how to do their jobs, especially by an Ivy League literature puke, and I'm glad to do it.

So, badge buddies, next time you grab mules with a load, let 'em go. The mules can't ID the big guys, who are invariably outside the U.S. Ditto for their henchmen who receive the dope in containers rolling through the ports or over the Rio Grande, or in smaller loads from go-fast boats and semi-submersibles.

Mules are just drivers. The ones I interviewed took the job because they had wives with babies, worked crapola jobs like picking watermelons, and had never seen three large in one place except on TV. They're "fulanos," nobodies, and the only information they possess at the time of their arrests are a destination and a delivery time. That intel has the shelf-life of a flayed mullet in the July sun, but it's not valueless.

Next time you stop a dope-mobile driven by nervous Hispanic males at exactly the speed limit, don't dash for the TV cameras. Instead, sweat them for delivery time and place by threatening to leak that the drivers ratted, which would get their wives and children killed back in Miami, McAllen or Laredo. Maybe, you extract the numbers from their burner phone then slap a GPS tracker onto that jalopy.

No, there's no warrant for the GPS, but, of course, the mules consented. Wouldn't you with cops standing on your toes and shoving a baton into your balls? Sign here, "hijo de puta.

Now let 'em run, and quick like a bunny put watchers on the delivery spot. When the load drops, snap pics and note license plate numbers. Then follow, and follow … Over time, you will discover dope holes, corners, re-up guys and the check-cashing shops, used-car lots and banks that move the money. You'll discover the bent clerks who rent out the delivery vehicles.

Shed no tears for letting the dope roll. The next load is already on the road, and the load after that is cooking in the vats or ripening in the Sinaloa, Mexico, sun. In six months or so, you can map out the operation, then bust the local big cheese, his lieutenants, their women and their money movers. The jits will scatter, but they're bullshit busts, and who needs them?

The result, with periodic repetitions? The price of dope will go up slightly, the consumption will go down slightly, and civilization will improve slightly, right here,

In Crime City.

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