American Desperado: My Life--From Mafia Soldier to Cocaine Cowboy to Secret Government Asset
Jon Roberts, Evan Wright
In 2008 veteran journalist Evan Wright, acclaimed for his New York Times bestselling book Generation Kill and co-writer of the Emmy-winning HBO series it spawned, began a series of conversations with super-criminal Jon Roberts, star of the fabulously successful documentary Cocaine Cowboys. Those conversations would last three years, during which time Wright came to realize that Roberts was much more than the de-facto “transportation chief” of the Medellin Cartel during the 1980s, much more than a facilitator of a national drug epidemic. As Wright’s tape recorder whirred and Roberts unburdened himself of hundreds of jaw-dropping tales, it became clear that perhaps no one in history had broken so many laws with such willful abandon.
Roberts, in fact, seemed to be a prodigy of criminality – but one with a remarkable self-awareness and a fierce desire to protect his son from following the same path.
American Desperado is Roberts’ no-holds-barred account of being born into Mafia royalty, witnessing his first murder at the age of seven, becoming a hunter-assassin in Vietnam, returning to New York to become -- at age 22 -- one of the city’s leading nightclub impresarios, then journeying to Miami where in a few short years he would rise to become the Medellin Cartel’s most effective smuggler.
But that’s just half the tale.
The roster of Roberts’ friends and acquaintances reads like a Who’s Who of the latter half of the 20th century and includes everyone from Jimi Hendrix, Richard Pryor, and O.J. Simpson to Carlo Gambino, Meyer Lansky, and Manuel Noriega.
Nothing if not colorful, Roberts surrounded himself with beautiful women, drove his souped-up street car at a top speed of 180 miles per hour, shared his bed with a 200-pound cougar, and employed a 6”6” professional wrestler called “The Thing” as his bodyguard. Ultimately, Roberts became so powerful that he attracted the attention of the Republican Party’s leadership, was wooed by them, and even was co-opted by the CIA for which he carried out its secret agenda.
Scrupulously documented and relentlessly propulsive, this collaboration between a bloodhound journalist and one of the most audacious criminals ever is like no other crime book you’ve ever read. Jon Roberts may be the only criminal who changed the course of American history.
From the Hardcover edition.
redneck. Sunglasses. A bushy mustache. An Adam’s apple like a fist. I play it cool. Lee and I both have fake licenses. I hand mine over to the cop. He asks my name, and I tell him whatever name was on my fake license. He asks Lee a couple of questions, and being a southern boy, Lee is very good with the cop, saying, “Yes, sir. No, sir.” The cop asks what we’re doing up in Yeehaw. I tell him I’m test-driving a car that a guy in Miami souped up, and I wanted to ride her on a long-distance trip.
spot. I was loyal to Bobby and Gary. We’d had good times together. But the fact was, Albert was the guy buying coke from the Cartel, and I was with the Cartel. Albert was my customer—not Bobby and Gary—and the customer is always right. On top of this, Albert had more force on the street than Bobby. I told Albert, “If you want to get rid of Gary and Bobby, bring in an outsider.” Albert had liked Joe Da Costa, my dog guy, ever since he’d sold Albert his dog, Sarge. Joe was also a shooter. I went
poor asshole to death for fun. Then, as the boat got closer, I saw it was being chased by an alligator who was biting the guy’s feet. Bryan was trying to fight it off. He ran that boat up to the edge of the canal and dragged the guy from the water. Shelton’s asshole buddy was screaming, “My toes, my toes!” Bryan holds him up with one hand like a fish. His one foot is chewed to pieces. “Bro, forget your toes. You don’t got no foot.” I laughed my ass off. This man set a good example for
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of the gardenia is un-fucking-real. In my backyard I had a little pool. Beyond that I had all of Biscayne Bay. I put in a dock and a boatlift and got my first Cigarette racing boat—a beautiful maroon and gold 28, with twin engines. I got into diving for conch and for lobsters. Some mornings I’d wake up before the sun and drive my boat to the Bahamas. If the sea was flat, I could make it there in ninety minutes. In Bimini there was a bakery where they made bread that was out of this fucking