The Federal Reserve Banks are responsible for collecting old worn-out money and distributing new money to banks and other institutions.
The branch in Miami, Florida, was responsible for exchanging these currencies with Central and South America. To do this, they used commercial airlines.
This is how it worked: the old money came in the belly of the plane. New money went out on separate flights. Sometimes when flights came in really late with old currency, there was opportunity for a heist.
The new money was sent in see-through plastics bags — as though The Federal Reserve was daring bad employees to take it! However, the money isn’t good until it’s activated, and the US treasury doesn’t do that until it arrives at its final bank destination.
So, the old currency is actually more valuable to the criminal since it could be more easily spent privately among friends. Of course, those serial numbers are being traced too, so eventually, the criminal would get caught.
In the middle of 2006, when I was DEA confidential informant, I was approached by the U.S. postal inspector, with whom I had an excellent rapport. As you’ll read in my book, I always found what the postal inspector was looking for, which was why he came to me again.
The inspector told me that the night before, $5 million in old currency had been stolen from a late-night flight from Brazil. If I gave them information of the whereabouts of the money and the individuals involved, I would get a reward of 25% of the amount that was recovered!
This was something I could have done. I knew all the crews that liked to steal old currency, so all I would have to do is look to see who was working that flight. That would have taken me straight to the source. But I was in a tight spot!
As you will read in my book, by that point, el Griego, my partner in crime, had blown my cover. Also, despite what he would claim, I didn’t want to implicate anyone I worked with. In the four-and-a-half years I was a CI, I was able to protect everyone there but him. (That’s another story.)
So I turned down the opportunity to make $1.25 million.
Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.