I recently had an enlightening conversation with an inmate here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp. He's in the middle of a long sentence for drug related charges. He's smart, universally well liked and talented, but he's experienced a side of American life unknown to me. I've paraphrased below his answers to some of the many questions I asked him.
Q: What illegal drugs did you sell? A: We sold cocaine and marijuana only--recreational drugs. We never sold heroin, meth, or any of the opioids, as they are so addictive.
Q: How did it work?
A: The cartel got the drugs into Mexico. Then someone would go to Mexico and bring them into the United States. That was usually me. The farther away from the border, the higher the transportation costs and higher street value. For example, the street value in Chicago was considerably higher than in Austin. We didn't sell to street vendors, though. We sold to other distributors in various parts of the country.
Q: What was the most money you ever made in one transaction? A: The most I received in one sale was $2 million cash; that's gross, not my net profit.
Q: What were your costs? A: There were costs at every distribution phase in addition to the production costs. For example, I had to pay people in order to get out of Mexico. Also the cartel got a cut at every level. If I left them out of any step along the way, they would kill me. With only a few exceptions, though, everyone we dealt with was honest and dependable. The rules were clearly defined and obeyed.
Q: Did you have a preference on what you sold? A: Clearly marijuana was more profitable than cocaine, so that was my preference.
Q: Was it really a family business? A: Yes, my father got me into the business when I was 15. That's why I never finished high school. He did a 10 year sentence in federal prison. During that time, we never spoke. I haven't spoken to him during my sentence either. It's just a cost of doing business.
Q: Where is your dad now? A He's out of prison, still in the family business, but in Mexico where it's much safer to operate.
Q: Will you go back into the family business? A: Probably not, but if I do, it will be in Mexico.
Q: What's the worst thing that ever happened? A: Other than getting caught, I had money stolen once after being followed. Thankfully I had already paid the cartel.
Q: Did you ever use drugs? A: I never did until I was 34 when I tried meth and became addicted almost immediately. My girlfriend was addicted to opioid painkillers.
Q: What was the best part of being in the family business? A: I was always meeting very beautiful, impressive and available women.