Roger Reaves grew up a poor farm boy in Georgia and went from making ‘moonshine’ to becoming one of the most prolific smugglers of the 20th century. He covered six continents, transporting 20 ton ship loads of hash, tons of cocaine, and completed more than 100 sorties across the US border with plane loads of marijuana.
From Medellin Cartel kingpins Jorge Ochoa and Pablo Escobar to “Mr Nice” Howard Marks and the infamous Barry Seal, who was Rogers close friend and employee, his friends and associates spanned the globe.
He escaped from prison on five separate occasions; was shot down in both Mexico and Colombia; and tortured almost to death in a Mexican prison. Recently, he has been featured in National Geographic’s TV series, Australia’s Hardest Prison: Lockdown Oz, where he speaks of his current stay at the maximum-security Casuarina Prison.
Despite it all, Roger still has a twinkle in his eye as he recounts his life story. And, you have probably never heard of him… till now.
Exclusive Excerpts from Amazon #1 Most Read New Books: Smuggler by Roger Reaves
We took off at four a.m. and headed south. The grey haired gentleman had marked roughly where the strip was located on a chart. The ‘crop duster’ stood between Al and me, and it soon became plain he was as ‘lost as a loon.’ Everything looked the same, and I could only dead-reckon my position. When I figured we were in the vicinity, I flew a 20-mile grid trying to get out our location.
Around eight o’clock, I found the convergence of two rivers that matched the description, and from there the crop duster directed us on to what one might call a strip, if you used a lot of imagination. Termite nests stood blood red like 20-foot sentinels along both sides of the track. There were light impressions of tracks in the wiregrass, where other planes had landed but, hey, were barely visible and not recent.
A dozen irate white Colombians met us. Some had red hair and beards. Some were blonde with no beards. However, they all had one thing in common: they were armed to the teeth with AK-47’s, pistols and shotguns with banana clips, and they were yelling us to get the hell out of there.
There was a village ten or twelve miles to the north. We could get there before dark if we hurried. I picked up my suitcase and started off. Dan just stood there; I saw that he was crying. He said he couldn’t carry his suitcase. Such a huge strong man completely undone by fear was pathetic. I picked up his case and the three of us took turns carrying it.
The grass along the trail was as high as our heads. It was hot and muggy, and our clothes were soon soaked through. Biting insects covered us so thick that we inhaled them. We were in serious danger; over and above the usual. We were deep in guerrilla territory with a war raging between leftist rebels and the Colombian army. The guerrillas were kidnapping foreigners at will. If the soldiers saw us, they would most likely shoot us down rather than arrest us. Warplanes were circling just above the clouds.
As we hurried along the trail, the thought came to me with crystal clear clarity: We’re 500 miles from the coast and I’m 5,000 miles from home, deep in the southern Colombian jungle. If I don’t think very clearly and plan very carefully, I am not going to get home to Marie and the children.
“My name is Barry Seal.” He reached across Miriam, and we shook hands. On the two-hour trip to New Orleans, I learned he had been released from prison that morning, having spent over a year in prison for landing with a hundred kilos of cocaine in his plane…
In a few weeks, I called and invited him to Santa Barbara. I told him I was a smuggler and needed some help from time to time. We met for coffee and then headed over to my hanger to chat and walk around. We went for a flight in my favorite Aero Commander with Barry in the left seat. He handled the plane like he had been flying it for years, and I saw right off that he was a pro. When we got to 5,000 ft, he leveled off and said, “Let’s check this sweetheart out. Mind if I do a few maneuvers?”
Well, that was a pretty big plane to be doing aerobatics in, but of course I had to say, “Show me what you got…”
“Barry I am not going to say anything, so just tell me why I am here and what have you been doing?”
“Five years ago, I gave a DEA agent a handful of pills I picked up on San Andreas Island and told him I could buy millions more. That indictment was held over my head for years, but for one reason or another the feds kept putting on prosecuting. When it came right down to the five-year statute of limitations, they dropped it on me. I was found guilty and sentenced to ten years. There was also a life sentence waiting in Louisiana. I just couldn’t do it.”
Here, he stopped, put his fingers over his eyes and tears slid between them.
Barry wiped his eyes and continued. I was released on an appeal bond, went to Washington and knocked on the door of the attorney general, Edwin Meese. I told him that tons of cocaine was coming into the country every month, and if he would make a deal with me, I could catch the whole cartel. Meese didn’t believe me, so I went back the next day and tried again. Meese gave me an audience with Agent Jake Jacobson from Mississippi who thought I might be telling the truth. I told them everything, your part included, I got immunity for you and your family. You are under the protection of my umbrella if you co-operate.
The attorney had to come a long way and it would be Thursday morning before he could get there. He was dressed as usual in cords and a leather jacket with lots of character in the patina. After feeling him out a bit I said, “Thomas, I think I can get out of here. I will give you ten thousand dollars if you will pick me up several block away at such-and-such cross street and give me a ride to the border of Holland.”
“Don’t be silly, you cannot escape just like that,” and snapped his fingers. “This prison is fifty years old, only one person has escaped in all those years.”
“I know all that. Look, I will give you the ten thousand dollars if I make it or not, if you will only be there tomorrow at five o’clock.”
He thought a bit and said, “That is something of a strong bet on your part. Do you understand that they will shoot to kill? The guards in the towers are picked especially for that job and are highly trained.”
“I am well aware of the facts. If I am killed, you are not paid. Otherwise, you will make ten thousand dollars at five o’clock tomorrow. Do you agree?”
“It’s a deal. I will be there but I do not think you will.”
“Wonderful! What kind of car will you be driving?”
“A blue Volkswagen Combi”
“OK, make sure to take the license plates off the car or cover them with mud and be ready to get out of Lubeck.”
Back in my cell, I cut two heavy mop handles into four pieces and taped them together by pairs, attaching half the rope to each pair. I was ready.
All my contacts were out of commission. Robert was shot down while running away from the landing strip moments after I had taken off and was now in prison in Culiacán. Asiento, his older brother, was being hunted like a wild animal by every agency in Mexico with orders to shoot to kill. Their sister Dora, who ran a beauty salon on a rough dirt back street in Mazatlán, told me that Ramon, her 14-year-old brother, could find me a load since he had been working with his brother for years and knew everyone.
Ramon was a bright-eyed happy kid, a little small for his age, but wiry and street-wise. We loaded up in an old car and headed into the Sierra Madre Mountains looking for ‘the kind.’
Ramon brought a couple of other youngsters along to help. One was a pinched diced weasel looking character that I wouldn’t’ have trusted as far as I could throw a bull by the tail. He was the one who was supposed to have the load. We first went to have a look at what he had to offer, and it wasn’t up to the mark and I turned it down. He had a temper tantrum, stalked off and I thought, “good riddance.”
An American had been living for some years in this area growing excellent ‘sinsemilla’ (without seed) during the wet season, and I had seen a sample. It was a beautiful lime green with purple hairs and would bring five hundred dollars a pound instead of the sixty we were getting for the commercial grade. We walked and rode mules for several days before I agreed on a ton of good stuff and then returned to Mazatlán. I gave Dora sixty thousand dollars for the load, and she promised delivery to a Nayarit beach at daybreak, two days hence.
After a much-needed scrub at the Camino Real Hotel, I went down to the open air bag overlooking the Pacific and ordered a Bombay gin and tonic. It was getting on a happy hour and the place was filling up. A full moon was rising, a mariachi band was playing and pretty ladies were swaying solo to the music. To do my part I walked over to a cute brunette with freckles across her nose, bowed slightly and gave her my old corny line, “Pardon me, Ma’am. Do you happen to know a gentleman by the name Roger Reaves?”
She thought for a minute and said, “I don’t believe that I do.”
“Well let me introduce myself…”
“Your Honor, Mr. Reaves is not a drug dealer.
Your honor, he is not a drug trafficker.
Your honor, Mr. Reaves is a drug industrialist
Who has expand the globe
For a decade with an air force and navy of ships” — Federal Prosecutor Layn Phillips
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