My experience as a former cocaine trafficker is certainly dated.
In August of 1987, I was arrested for leading a scheme that distributed cocaine between Miami and Seattle. For those crimes I received a sentence of 45 years.
On August 13, 2012, I was released from prison. So any information I provide goes back decades, from the bad decisions I made during a reckless youth.
I was not a drug abuser. Nor was I well versed in the criminal way of life. I grew up as an entitled kid in North Seattle without much in the way of discipline or the virtues that others would associate with good character.
Instead, I was greedy, interested in making a quick buck. When the movie “Scarface” came out, I decided to try my hand at cocaine trafficking.
I approached others I knew who used cocaine. That was a time before crack, a time when cocaine was somewhat of a glamorous drug among young urban professionals. Since I knew many people who used cocaine socially, I made some inquiries about how much it cost. Simple calculations convinced me that there was profit to be made.
I convinced myself that if I could get others to transport and store the cocaine, I would limit my exposure to law enforcement.I was wrong.
With a better understanding of the market, I was able to make some calculations. A gram of cocaine sold for about $US100 back then, while a kilogram, back then, sold for about $US27,000 in Miami. Since there were 1,000 grams in a kilogram, I calculated that a kilogram could return a very high profit. Further, by purchasing in kilogram quantities, opportunities existed to dilute the purity, bringing a higher return on investment.
It would take a lot of work to distribute a gram quantities. A better strategy, I thought, would be to distribute in kilogram quantities to other dealers. That approach would lessen my exposure to arrest, as well.
After concluding that I could purchase kilograms in Miami for $US27,000, and that I could sell them in other cities for between $US35,000 to $US40,000, I made the bad decision to pursue the venture.
I hired friends to meet me in Miami. They would drive to destination cities where I found customers who would buy it. From the proceeds, I paid the people in the supply chain along the way and reaped tens of thousands in proceeds from the efforts.
As a consequence of my hiring others to transport and store the cocaine, I exposed myself to charges of being a “kingpin.”
After a jury convicted me, my judge imposed a sentence of 45 years. That was the consequence of my bad decisions.
The San Francisco Chronicle recently published a story that described my journey and the link follows: http://www.sfgate.com/default/ar…
During the time that I served, I’ve read that cartels became much more influential, controlling the supply chain and escalating levels of violence. I wouldn’t know anything about that now, as I’ve been away from society for a quarter century.
Editor’s note: This answer originally appeared in Quora, in answer to the question, “Cocaine: How does the cocaine industry work (in the States)?” We have republished the answer with permission from its author. Santos’s book can be purchased online here.
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