Twenty killings a month gave the city the highest murder rate in the world. “He is probably the single most valuable government witness in drug matters in the country today. “In the language of ‘The Godfather,’ we made him an offer he couldn’t refuse,” Walsh said. With his past life excised from him, the prosecutor was the closest thing he had to a longtime friend. A kilogram is 2.2 pounds. The men began arguing, and Mermelstein’s friend pulled out a gun and shot the stranger. After turning rat and bringing it all to a crashing halt, Max had disappeared. They met outside Miami's Bayside Marketplace on a hot, breezy weekday afternoon. He maintained that the F.B.I. Federal prosecutors say it was the investigation into auto maker John Z. DeLorean’s alleged cocaine-dealing activities--charges on which he was ultimately acquitted--that led them to Mermelstein. Fat and sleepy, he opens the front door. Max chugged white chocolate mochas, his favorite drink, from Starbuck's. At Mr. Restrepo's trial, Mr. Mermelstein said that he had been involved in the illegal smuggling of aliens into the United States in the 1970's and that he was a cocaine trafficker in a ''small way'' in Miami from 1978 to 1981. The voice on the other end is low and husky, the product of a three-pack-a-day lifetime habit. He is covered in tacky gold jewelry and wears jeans and a worn polo. On a gold chain, he wears a pendant that had been passed down among Mermelstein men from Max's grandfather, welded with Yiddish family initials. How to vote. Thirty minutes into the hyperkinetic film, the former actor fidgets in his seat and considers walking out. Turns out he had emulated Dad more than he let on: He was charged with being the "U.S.-based organizer" of a Colombian-based coke smuggling ring. Walsh, who had argued for a 10-year sentence, was originally incensed. Roughly six years and 56 tons of cocaine later, reality surrounded Max in the form of siren-blaring vehicles belonging to several federal agencies and Broward County deputies. Federal prosecutors say Mermelstein became more and more involved with the cartel, working directly under Rafael Cardona Salazar, who reported to Jorge Ochoa in Medellin. "I had one thought in my head as I left the theater," Tabor recalls. Bearbeiten Rafael "Rafa" Cardona Salazar (* 1946; † 7. “Max figures he’s about to get killed, and he’s informed, you now work for me,” said one attorney, who asked not to be identified. #26 Others Were Indicted The cartel bosses instructed him when they wanted the money shipped to Colombia or Panama, Mr. Mermelstein testified. And every year or so, they would have to uproot their false lives and start new ones. He insisted on carrying a gun, even though the conditions of his lifetime probation forbade it. The loner with the dry sense of humor named his new companion simply Cat. He is as "bald as an egg," Tabor would remember, except for the ash-gray mustache clinging to his upper lip. He ordered a copy of The Man Who Made It Snow, Max's out-of-print memoir written with authors Richard Smitten and Robin Moore five years after Mermelstein entered the Witness Protection Program, and was thoroughly convinced of its cinematic potential. Probably the only crony Max didn't have a chance to sell out in his conversations with Gregorie was Rafa Cardona Salazar. He offered to buy the prosecutor lunch and explain his search. Using budget special effects to augment footage of drug busts and murder scenes, Cocaine Cowboys isn't your typical PBS-style documentary. Fearing for his own life, Max continued to drive until they stopped to dispose of the body at a road shoulder. ©2020 New Times BPB, LLC. They subsisted on room service, Chinese food, and a delivery from Longhorn Steakhouse. The way he talked about him, you'd think Max was a member of the family.". Contact Us, After being arrested in Los Angeles on drug conspiracy charges in 1985, Mr. Mermelstein pleaded guilty and entered the Federal Witness Protection Program. He had heard of only one other story involving an ethnic outsider bringing down a criminal organization from within. Kingston, who had moved to South Beach to be closer to his ailing mother-in-law, had written a couple of movies. Fearing for his own life, Max continued to drive until they stopped to dispose of the body at a road shoulder. California’s November election will feature 12 statewide ballot measures. To his neighbors, Max Mermelstein was an engineer and a businessman, a husband and father, a man who lived quietly and comfortably in a secluded suburban ranch house in Florida’s Broward County on the $30,000 a year he earned in consulting fees. Tabor had come home only to lose his shirt — and could soon lose his family's condo, he says. ", Max spent many hours in the next five days in that conference room as Tabor's tape recorder rolled. Before his death, Max told Tabor what had happened to him in Witness Protection. But for Tabor, locating the ex-smuggler was becoming more necessity than dream. He described the cartel as a ''loose coalition where everyone has his own speciality, does his own thing for the good of everybody.''. The daughter was also bequeathed $800, according to Wes Barclay's will, which was filed in Franklin County Court in Kentucky. "I'll give Max your info, but he probably won't talk to you, and if he does, good luck, because he might just make you cough up your first born," Tabor recalls Gregorie warning him. Then 31, Luis had been living opulently in a Miami Beach condo, keeping nothing in his own name. The United States Attorney in Connecticut, Stanley A. Twardy Jr., said in an interview that Mr. Restrepo is the first person to be tried under the Federal law. After one session with Tabor, Max headed to the oncologist's office. Federal law-enforcement officials, in interviews, provided information about the background of Mr. Mermelstein who is now in hiding with his family. On the screen, superspliced interviews with two former smugglers tell the story of the cocaine avalanche that in the 1980s turned South Florida into a bullet-riddled Little Medellin. The lawyer, however, asserted that Mr. Restrepo had made no attempt to conceal that he was buying and selling money. 5/13 It is all here. Support Us Max would say later that he had only one thought in his head: I'm next. About 20 relatives attended the ceremony. Other than that, Max Mermelstein, the Jewish smuggler who pioneered the cocaine pipeline from Medellin to South Florida, is nowhere in the film. In Gregorie's dusty files were letters from professional suitors who had been summarily rejected, ranging from 60 Minutes producers to Time magazine editors.
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