Former Trafficker Story
The following story is from a friend who used to live in Summit County, Colorado, before he was arrested for trafficking. Now that he has served his time and now that weed is legal here in Colorado, he elected to share one of his stories. Here it is, as he wrote it.
The Traveling Circus
by H.T. (Ex-illegal dealer and trafficker)
In order to successfully move a couple of thousand pounds of weed from Arizona to Detroit and New York City as frequently as once a month, a number of factors need to be considered. The first thing, undoubtedly, is you don’t want to get caught. Especially when it’s a game of cat and mouse, and your people are the mice with all the cheese.
It’s not as simple as loading a truck with the weed and hitting the open highway. You have to spend money in order to make a lot of it, and you simply can’t skimp if you value your freedom. That means putting together two teams of decoy drivers, picking the right inconspicuous couple to drive the actual “package,” getting all the right vehicles in place, and hoping the people you work with are people you can trust. Since the team was essentially comprised of a group of misfits, people who were comfortable living on the edge, I called them my Traveling Circus.
The couple driving the package was usually paid $100 per pound. That’s a couple of hundred thousand dollars for driving four ten-hour days, or roughly $2500 an hour, each. Coupled with all the other expenses, each trip would generally cost over a quarter of a million dollars. And it was not unusual to do that as often as once a month. On the other hand, we stood to double our investment once the weed hit New York.
Back when we were getting high-grade commercial product from one of the cartels in Mexico, we could expect to pay anywhere from $500–$1000 multiplied by two thousand pounds (depending on the seasonal availability, quality, and the whims of the supplier). This meant we owed some not-so-very-nice guys a million or two for every load.
For each load of weed, we generally had to move the money back to the cartel in two separate loads. They didn’t like to wait very long for it, so as soon as we had a million or so, it needed to hit the road. Oftentimes we were delivering shipments of cash across the country, from the east to the southwest, every few weeks. We couldn’t simply wire the money, so that presented yet another challenge: getting cash from New York City and Detroit to Arizona without losing it to law enforcement that was constantly on the lookout for cash couriers. In states like Kansas, they fund their departments with the money they confiscate in “traffic” stops. If you can’t prove where you got it, they get to keep it. Consequently, moving quantities of cash and product through these states required meticulous planning and execution of many moving parts. On top of that, money is bulky, heavy, and generally an inconvenient pain in the ass. Sounds absolutely ridiculous, but it’s never given to you in hundred dollar bills, so a million dollars in mostly twenties is well over a hundred pounds. You don’t leave it in the car or hand it off to the bellman (who would undoubtedly wonder why your luggage is so damn heavy). Instead, you’re lugging it into hotels along the way and babysitting it rather than going out to a nice dinner. You’re always on edge, always looking over your shoulder, always aware that the proverbial shoe could drop at any time during the trip.
If I were traveling across the country with more than a million dollars, I would have a decoy car and driver(s) in a rented Lincoln with New York plates. This was especially attractive to lawmen in some of the hardest states: Kansas, Nebraska, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. We could count on the Lincolns being pulled over in these places. Since they all bordered or were near Colorado, I often drove the cash in my Jeep sporting Colorado plates. Every few cars traveling in those states had similar plates, and Jeeps were as common as Subarus in the state.
My Jeep fit right in. This allowed us to move more comfortably through these states with the cash. When we did our weed runs, the aim was to remain as inconspicuous as possible. Hence, on those runs, the “package” (usually weighing in at a hefty two thousand pounds) was sure to travel in a trailer attached to an SUV, both with Colorado plates.
The weed runs would require the circus to hit the road. This would involve the two Lincolns, my Jeep as the “mission control,” and the package in a trailer being pulled by a new Suburban or Excursion (which broke down twice). For this, the decoys would be rented Lincolns with Arizona plates. Not inconspicuous at all. More often than not, the moment a decoy crossed into any of the bordering states, it would be pulled over within a matter of minutes. That’s why we’d have two Lincolns, so we wouldn’t be slowed down too much when one was on the side of the road getting searched. An added bonus was that if a Lincoln was pulled over, it gave us time for a lunch break while we waited for them to catch up to us. The targeted decoy would never do anything to actually justify a traffic stop, but simply driving a rented Lincoln with Arizona plates was usually sufficient cause for the troopers. More often than not, to increase our odds, we’d pair a white guy with a black girl, or vice versa, to catch their possibly racist eye. Finally, we would only drive during daylight hours, so the troopers would be more enticed by what we had put in front of them. Once pulled over, the decoys would always be asked to consent to a search of the vehicle. Refusing only took longer, since the troopers would then call out a canine unit. This would inevitably result in the dog “reacting,” giving the officers “grounds for a search.” Usually they’d ask the drivers to wait in the back of the cruiser while they conducted their search. All of this “switch and bait” kept the troopers busy, allowing the rest of the circus to travel unnoticed. One particularly funny incident happened when we were driving a “package” to New York. Just as we crossed into Nebraska, my lead decoy got pulled over. On this particular instance, my friend Mr. M wanted to have a little fun with the state patrol. Sitting in the back seat of the cruiser, knowing that they were being recorded, Mr. M said to his companion, “Look at the way that trooper’s leaning in right behind the other one. You know they fuck! That one’s the bottom, and the guy that looks like he’s grinding on him, he’s the top. I’d sure like to see them going at it.” Once the search concluded, they asked my team to wait back in their rented vehicle while they listened to the recording, hoping to find something incriminating. Instead, they got to hear Mr. M spewing a rather graphic description of their homosexual activities. One red-faced officer came back to Mr. M’s window, yelling while pointing his finger in his face, “Get the fuck out of my state and don’t let me catch you here again!” And, of course, by this time, the product was dozens of miles down the road.
I was retelling that story to a group of friends over lunch one day in Breckenridge. I was surprised that Mr. M barely remembered it. It was probably because of all the run-ins and near misses he had over the course of our hundreds of thousands of miles across this great land of ours.
And no, we never got caught. We were just told on.
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