My DEA handler, Johnny, and I were the first to show up for a team meeting in the parking lot at the DEA headquarters in Miami. That gave us some time to talk as we ate our lunch. Johnny knew that I was having a hard time with a case we were working on.
As I’ve said, during my four-and-a-half years as a confidential informant, I was able to protect from arrest all of my crew, but El Griego, because he kept calling my tapped phone and didn’t heed my veiled references to stop! His repeated calls, wanting to start up business again, put him in the crosshairs of the DEA, and I was forced to take him down.
It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but I didn’t have a choice. If I refused, my CI status would be history, and they would have put me in jail.
In the parking lot, Johnny handed me a bag of fries and said, “JJ, I know you’re beating yourself up, but if the shoe were on the other foot, I guarantee he would have done the same. Everyone eventually talks. If they don’t in the beginning, after sitting in jail for few days, suddenly they want to cooperate. One day in prison is equal to one year on the outside.”
Johnny took a bite of burger, and then continued, “Let me tell you a story. There was an old Cuban guy in Key West, Florida that we called The Fisherman because he fished out drugs every once in awhile, big catches, but we never could get him.
“We were tired of hearing his name pop up in other cases as the main supplier of the drugs. But he paid his taxes. He ran a clean respectable business for years, but we knew he was dirty, and although he hadn’t done any recent deals, we wanted him BAD to close older cases.
“So we approached his cousin in prison, who was serving 20 years, but had only been in prison for a couple of them. We made a deal with him to drop 10 years off his sentence and he could serve the remaining years in a minimum-security prison if he led us to the arrest of his cousin.
“He did. Within 6 months we arrested The Fisherman. He’s sitting in prison for the rest of his life for his past drug deals.”
I can’t say that the story made me feel much better at the time, but Johnny’s concern did.
Also, as I found over and over, no one is untouchable. The DEA knows of all the major players in the drug world. Everyone eventually gets caught.
Their favorite saying is “We’ll catch him later.” And that is no joke.
The complete story of The Fisherman will be in my forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.