A bad end for smugglers…..
Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale
This week I’d like to start things off a little differently and give you the scoop first. I was in Stillwater for Saturday’s men basketball game when OSU played Kansas State and I got to witness a team in action that I think has a shot at greatness this year. Look for the Pokes to go far in the NCAA tournament.
With that said, welcome back to part two of “a tale of murder.” The disappearance of the two young smugglers from Mexico who were just passing through wasn’t on anyone’s radar screen. The risk of arrest and/or death was just part of the business. Greed was common among the lower ranks of the smuggling trade and it was not unusual for mules to steal loads of pot from their employers.
Back in the late 1970s there were lots of American men with money looking to score some weed along the border. This story is about one of them. Although highly successful with legitimate businesses, he was drawn into the smuggling life by the challenge and excitement of operating outside the law. The two murdered smugglers might have been linked to him but given the size of his enterprise and the vast number of pot smugglers running the Mexican border during this period they could have just as easily been working for someone else.
His dad was a New York City banker who had made millions and raised his son with the best of everything. He attended private schools and a chauffer would pick him up every day and take him home. The boy was a gifted student and his father made sure he was also tutored in areas such as manners and etiquette that would prepare him for the privileged world he was expected to live in. As the family’s wealth grew trusts were established that ensured financial security for the boy and future heirs as well.
By the time the boy was in his thirties he was successful businessman in his own right and had also received quite a bit of money and other assets held by the trusts. His father had died and his mother was just barely hanging on in an assisted living facility in Manhattan. Like many other free spirits in the 1960s he ended up in Tucson, Arizona, looking for a different way of life. He fit right in there and after buying a showcase home for himself, he opened a construction company which bought and remodeled high end older homes and then re-sold them. Next, he set-up a travel agency specializing in high end tours for wealthy people. He created the itineraries himself and they always reflected his own wealth and taste. He purchased a steel company and a fleet of trucks to haul product back and forth across the U.S.-Mexico border. This acquisition was followed by the purchase of several smaller affiliated businesses. His travels often included trips to New York, Denver and Mexico and anywhere in-between that his growing empire seemed to take him. He flew on his own private Beechcraft King Air or his back up plane, a 1972 Cessna 421B.
Eventually his business interests took him to Santa Fe, New Mexico and then to Albuquerque. In Albuquerque he started a string of upscale restaurants and turned an empty warehouse into the hottest nightspot in town. For seven years his clubwas the undisputed king of night clubs in a city known for wild nightlife and for seven years he bought anything that caught his eye. From Tucson to Santa Fe, if he saw a house or a piece of land he liked he bought it. Every home was furnished with expensive antiques and fancy cars were parked in every garage.
He was also developing a strip mall near Albuquerque and had also bought out a Santa Fe film company so most of his time was spent on the move from home to home. It was around this time, in 1984, that the two men were killed in Washington county over a few pounds of pot. Their deaths wouldn’t have made a blip on the radar screen of this very successful man.
As the years went by his success in business was followed by two kids and a marriage that ended in divorce. Money was never a problem and he was always running in the fast lane until the summer of 2005. Then came a day that changed his life forever as well as the lives of twenty-one of his most trusted employees around the country. The authorities simultaneously arrested accomplices in New York City, Columbus, Ohio, Denver and Tucson including a man on a motorcycle who was carrying over a million dollars in cash and a nineteen year old girl who was intercepted on a commercial flight with close to two million dollars and jewelry in a large carry on suitcase.
It was the culmination of a four year federal drug investigation. When he was brought before a judge for a hearing after his arrest, the agents presented their case. Millions of dollars were being sent to various storage houses. His “employees” who ranged from motorcycle gang members to street hippies were estimated to be selling tons of marijuana. The task force had already confiscated 49 million dollars and expected to find more. There would be no bail bond and he would face a long trial.
After three years of haggling in a plea bargain he was sentenced to seventeen years in federal prison and he lost everything except the trust funds his father had set up for him years before. Today he sits in prison hoping for an early parole date. Now in his late sixties, 2023 would be his earliest possible release date. As for the people the police called his “gang”, most were jailed, some were released early when they cooperated with authorities and some like the two young smugglers, were never found.
Till next time, I’ll see ya down the road…..