The Drug Trafficker Resocialization Program
July 21, 2019 7:02 AM   Subscribe

“It became such a mess that the government as a whole just said f---ing bury this,” says Paul Craine, who was a DEA agent in Bogotá in the late ’90s. “If we try to unravel this, we’re going to have to prosecute FBI agents, DEA agents, prosecutors. It was so crazy, where do you even start?” ... “Without being presumptuous, I think I am one of the top money launderers who ever worked for the government,” Vega says. “But I have something that is called integrity.”
posted by chappell, ambrose (10 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Wow this is batshit.
posted by PMdixon at 8:02 AM on July 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

There are so many WTF moments in there that I don't even know where to start, but this might have been my favorite crazy side-note:

Tinsley retired from the DEA four years later and now runs a private security firm that calls itself “the first and only Judeo-Christian intelligence agency.”
posted by Dip Flash at 8:19 AM on July 21, 2019 [6 favorites]

He never told his family what he was up to, not even when one of his daughters, a child actress, was preparing to star in the movie Spy Kids. “My parents can’t be spies,” her character in the movie says when she learns about their double life. “They’re not cool enough.”

That's pretty amazing. Obviously he's a fairly terrible person, but that bit's remarkable.
posted by ambrosen at 9:42 AM on July 21, 2019 [4 favorites]

Vega tells me this is true, all of it. A few times during our talks, though, he hints that I shouldn’t necessarily take him at his word. “A story has three sides—your side, my side, and the truth,” Vega says. “And no one is lying.”

Interesting that this is what "they" chose to end the piece with. It gets at one of the things that made our current political situation so discomforting to so many, even before Trump had begun to enact his idiotic and inhumane policies.

We expect spin and self aggrandizement, especially from people in positions of power. We know how to deal with it to at least some extent. Trump and his followers, on the other hand, seem to reject reality entirely, yet appear to suffer no consequences. That has a powerful effect on people.
posted by wierdo at 11:34 AM on July 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

One of my minor complaints about the otherwise-excellent Breaking Bad was that they were way too insistent on showing the DEA in a flattering light, aside from their hiring and promoting Hank Schrader, that is. The way that the agency is shown in this story seems much closer to the truth.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:09 PM on July 21, 2019 [5 favorites]

Just wanted to make sure no one missed this gem about the DEA agent handling Vega: Tinsley retired from the DEA four years later and now runs a private security firm that calls itself “the first and only Judeo-Christian intelligence agency."
posted by grandiloquiet at 5:04 PM on July 21, 2019

lol ok now I see that Dip Flash already made sure of it
posted by grandiloquiet at 5:06 PM on July 21, 2019

He was in a tight spot financially—a flamboyant tax shelter promoter with two mischievous pet monkeys had scammed him out of most of the money he’d made selling the modeling agency.

Aw man, I hate when that happens.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 4:27 AM on July 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Like Columbo said, it's always the ones you least suspect — in this case, a flamboyant tax shelter promoter with two mischievous pet monkeys.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 7:10 AM on July 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

In 1989, President George H.W. Bush gave an Oval Office speech during which he held up a bag of crack and declared war on drug trafficking.

It's important to remember that this bit of theatre that provides the US drug policy backdrop for Vegas' story was entirely concocted.

The Washington Post, Friday, Sept. 22, 1989; Page A01:

White House speech-writers thought it was the perfect visual for President Bush's first prime-time address to the nation -- a dramatic prop that would show how the drug trade had spread to the president's own neighborhood.

"This is crack cocaine," Bush solemnly announced, holding up a plastic bag filled with a white chunky substance in his Sept. 5 speech on drug policy. It was "seized a few days ago in a park across the street from the White House . . . . It could easily have been heroin or PCP."

But obtaining the crack was no easy feat. To match the words crafted by the speech-writers, Drug Enforcement Administration agents lured a suspected District drug dealer to Lafayette Park four days before the speech so they could make what appears to have been the agency's first undercover crack buy in a park better known for its location across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House than for illegal drug activity, according to officials familiar with the case.

Dude with the monkeys wasn't the only grifter at work.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:47 AM on July 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

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