They were trying to get information out of me about my Colombian cartel and American accomplices.
Being questioned by the DEA is intimidating. Six black-vested agents with guns and me in a tiny conference room, the size of a bathroom. They were trying to bully me and overpower me to get me to tell them the truth. While only two agents asked the questions, they all worked together, upping the pressure and the ante for hours.
Someone had set me up, and I was pretty sure it was Mano, my cartel connection, so when he had the misfortune of calling during my interview, I flipped, and told them the truth.
That call actually saved me, because Mano proposed another deal, this time to move 30 kilos—a significant amount of cocaine—which suddenly made me valuable to the DEA.
So even though they didn’t know or trust me, they then started getting me ready for my first job as a confidential informant.
That doesn’t mean they eased up on me. In fact, for the first full year, my debriefings were hell, like colonoscopies without anesthesia.
In the tiny room, Special Agent Johnny, who eventually became my handler, leaned in. “If you even think of double-crossing us and running or if you get any of the agents hurt, we’re going to hunt you down to the ends of the earth and you will pay dearly!”
This was no act. He was serious.
After a while, Special Agent Tom told me to call my wife and tell her to come down with my passport. They said that might relax me a little, but that didn’t exactly work.
Penny, my second wife, was thirteen years my junior. She was pretty, Cuban-Chinese with small, delicate features, except for prominent front teeth, which she exposed in a big smile aimed at Johnny.
I guess she didn’t understand the part that I had been detained because, in addition to not taking this seriously at all, she showed up wearing every single piece of jewelry I had ever given to her. Her 5’4” thin frame seemed weighed down by it.
“I see what you spend your money on,” Tom smirked.
She was there for a moment, and then left, taking our marriage with her.
The DEA never offered me a deal. They just said, “Do the right thing.” And I did.
For the next four and a half years, I was bait. I worked hard for the DEA, getting drugs off the street, earning their trust bit by bit, and keeping myself out of jail.
The complete story of my debriefing and years as confidential informant will be in my forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.