The war on drugs is still America’s longest and most expensive war. With billions spent yearly at home and abroad to contain the problem, the addiction mess in the streets and drug overdose deaths are not the best gift from the government. Is the government losing the war on drugs? Compromise may be a necessary sacrifice in battle, but some these Complacency cases may have protected some people worse than Pablo Escobar.
1. Rayful Edmond III
Convincing the government to reduce a life sentence to anything less is hard as is but this kingpin got it for his mother and himself. With a million dollars a week crack sales profit and hit crimes, Rayful is still considered Washington’s greatest ever dug trafficker. He had strong connections with Colombian suppliers as well as a stable market at home, and he created an empire supported by his family. His conviction came after one of Washington’s most heavily guarded hearings in American history. The case was heard by undisclosed jurors and concluded by convincing the judges to give him two lifetimes behind bars.
Running a drug empire in Washington is difficult and has always been even in the late 80s, but Raymond did it successfully as a free man and as a prisoner. Most lawyers will look at Raymond as the father of reduced sentences for snitching. He cut his 2-lifetime sentence to a sweet life in witness protection by working with law enforcement to catch Colombia linked drug traffickers in sting operations.
2. Lucas Frank
The famous witch of Harlem that cheated death one time too many including a 70-year prison sentence. Lucas Frank is known for using US servicemen to create networks to high-quality heroin suppliers from Thailand and using caskets of their dead colleagues to bring the merchandise home. Circumstances worked in his favor from the death of his Narco boss, The Vietnam war and a large extended family that helped enlarge his empire. He thrived as a criminal becoming a very wealthy man and as a drug trafficker to grow very famous. He allegedly supplied over 12 tons a week of Heroine and made millions in profit. He became the king of Blue magic in Harlem. Trafficking also linked him to hundreds of organized crimes in Harlem.
The federal government in 1975 made connections between Lucas and major heroin shipments from Thailand and gave him 40 years. The state of New Jersey slapped him with another 30 years for Narco law violations. Lucas turned the cards by helping the government make 100 arrests convincing the government that his 5/70 served time was enough for his correction. His drug earned millions were seized by the feds, but he retains respect in the criminal underworld.
3. Devis Rivera Maradiaga
When talking about Honduras state-sponsored drug trafficking, the Riveras were the most prominent names and in this business big names come with a vast carnage. Rivera confessed to 78 counts of murder, but the DOJ gave this Narco king immunity in exchange for bigger fish. The US government wanted to get to the root of billions of dollars in cocaine supply from Honduras which were spiraling out of control.
Bad Rivera turned US savior when he told government officials the details of his role in the state-sponsored trafficking ring. He would soon implicate Porfirio Lobo the former president and his son as the biggest sponsors of his trade. He brought evidence naming the two as the beneficiaries of the scheme including a $400 million payment to avoid extradition and get local operation security. With such large fish in the frying pan, Riveras 78 murder counts were too small for the frying pan, at least for the time.
4. Oscar Danilo Brandon
Possibly the luckiest Nicaraguan drug trafficker to land in the American prison system in its entire history. He wasn’t; he had more to offer, not just a body behind bars. He used his profits to support the American cause in Nicaragua; the DEA had more use for him too. He used returns from his illegal arms and drug sales to strengthen the Contra rebels who were being backed by the CIA. In the controversial crack cocaine case implicating the CIA to the Narco trade, Garry Webb put Oscar Danilo at the center of the action.
The CIA later successfully denied involvement in Congress again, but the DEA had enough on Danilo. They then confirmed him as an informant. Selling coke and illegal arms will get you 10 to life in any federal court case, but he got away with a couple of months. He was later utilized by the DEA to close in on bigger fish which included some famous Americans. He was used in a sting operation to grab Freeway Ricky Ross (The drug trafficker Ross not the rapper Ross). Ross was given life in prison for 100kg while Danilo walked after 48 months.
5. The Flores Brothers
El Chapo was the biggest win from these two snitches. Sinaloa had to go, and the government needed a hold on the bosses to achieve this. There was no better way to enter Sinaloa than use the Local street-level distributors handling 2 tons a week of coke for the cartel. No one knew how El Chapo Guzman and Vasquez-Hernandez moved coke so successfully until these two brought details of a fleet of 747s with no seats making uncountable trips with Coke. They Acted in a sting operation with 276 kilos of coke to help arrest Alfredo Hernandez then known as El Chapo`s greatest ally.
Pedro and Margarito Flores became the most significant government informants recording conversations and providing details to help track Sinaloa bosses. They faced certain death for snitching, so a reduced sentence was well deserved. The twins had so much to offer that the government allowed them to keep $300 000 each for their families upkeep while they were put in witness protection. Their father wasn’t so lucky though, the cartel caught up with him, and he paid for his sons’ sins. So, despite the 14 years given instead of life sentences, they paid for their crimes in many other ways. They are the only Sinaloa snitches that got stitches and not red lead spots.
6. Manuel Noriega
Noriega had nine lives which saw him survive through the hardest years of the cold war. Other Central American leaders were not so lucky. However, the Reagan administration gave him his 10th life by looking the other way for so long. Cooperation with the Reagan presidency saw him hit the list of the richest men in Panama from cocaine and illegal arms sales. Everything worked in Noriega’s favor at the time especially the cold war which heightened anticommunist operations in Central America. Panama turned into the best ally option for the US when Noriega offered to help defeat the Sandinistas. With the promise to train and arm the Contra rebel troops and support American policies in Central America, DEA evidence on his trafficking operations was dismissed by the CIA.
The relationship later turned sour when the government couldn’t handle the shame anymore, but much damage was already done. Operation Just Cause in 1989 which saw 25000 American troops invade Panama to grab the first de facto leader of a state ever forcefully detained and tried in the US. However, the arrest came a few years too late. Noriega was already tied to millions of dollars in drug trafficking revenue to the US with several lives lost including American soldiers and innocent civilians.
7. Afghan Mujahedeen Rebels
The US has many regrets for Afghanistan. The war on Opium was as important as fighting the communists. The war against the Soviet Red Army was so crucial for the CIA that the future of a war-free Afghanistan was not considered and never achieved. When interviewed years later, the officers only had one regret, we won the battle but lost the war.
The opium field surge and the funny twist of Afghanistan from a war zone to a Narco State are primarily associated with the CIA and Pakistan ISA officers looking the other way as the rebels turned to opium and Heroin to fund arms purchases and recruitments.
The photos of US Marines protecting vast opium fields preceded the escalation of this saga. Continued denial by the CIA became harder when the UN reports in 1986 showed an alarming rise in heroin addict numbers in Pakistan and the west wasn’t any better. The CIA was later even accused of collaborating with American air to move heroin westwards for the rebels. The director then denied it in Congress. By now, Afghanistan was controlling 60% of US heroin supply and 80% of the European street level supply.
8. Juma Haji Khan
Khan was at some point accused of being the most significant trafficker of opium and Heroin in Afghanistan. The government also accused him of cooperating with the Taliban before his 2008 arrest. These accusations lay Khan in the middle of a trail of bodies and lots of dirty cash all running the wrong businesses. He was arrested in Jakarta, and the charges against him were enough to put him on death row. The Obama administration praised his arrest as the beginning of an end to the two long wars the government is now fighting in Afghanistan.
Khan must have, however, proven to be the answer, or maybe an essential player in winning the only war America seems to be losing at home. The fight against drugs. The files of his arrest and early release were classified, and he walked after serving less than ten years in prison. Either the government grew a soft spot for terror and trafficking crimes or the middle easts biggest drug lord had some candies to offer the Trump administration. Either way, the government looked the other way.
This was the famous terrorist arm of the Iranian government. Hezbollah expanded over the years getting stronger members including parliamentarians and cabinet members within the government. With that power, they would soon be tasked with funding Irans nuclear ambitions and this required lots of cash. Their sources rapidly expanded to trafficking over $1bn worth of cocaine and Heroin to the west. The market was large, but even with the raging war between the Islamic republic and the US, Hezbollah was daring enough to invade the lucrative US streets which still account for the most massive Narco consumption globally.
Project Cassandra then tasked with tracking and documenting Hezbollah trafficking operations did their homework and presented evidence. However, their job came in the way of the long-anticipated Iranian Nuclear deal which would be disrupted with any interference with Hezbollah. Having found a way of striking a middle ground with Iran Obama would not let it go even with a billion reasons in cash to hit hard on Hezbollah kingpins. The Lebanese bank that helped in the trafficking would also refuse to cooperate in aiding the terrorist trafficker’s shutdown. Sweet Cassandra ended up as a dead report on DOJ shelves.
10. The Sinaloa Cartel
It would be the last cartel in the government’s possible partner list, but then, Jesus Vicente Zambada spilled the beans in 2010 when he was brought to Chicago to answer for his role in Sinaloa. He later claimed that being the head of logistics and the son of EL Mayo, the then Cartel boss, he was also a boss in his capacity and subject to the same immunity given to the cartel bosses. It would later emerge the other bosses were El Mayo and El Chapo. Loya Castro then Sinaloa lawyer was just about to make things harder for the law enforcement agencies. Castro produced documents that contained an agreement between the DOJ and the Sinaloa bosses keeping them safe from prosecution as long as they informed on rival cartels.
It was extremely shaming for the government considering the loss of 70,000 lives associated with the cartel. No one would expect the biggest army in the war on drugs in bed with the largest cartel on the planet. The controversial agreement associated with the cartel’s protection from 2000 to 2012 seems to be the father of Sinaloa glory days which casts doubt on whether there was a worse trafficker that needed takedown compared to Sinaloa. The cartel was supplying tons and tons of coke every week to the US making them the largest supplier at the time.