Why you should care
Because there are real-life stories behind every drug war.
It was just another sweltering Thursday in June. Nothing out of the ordinary, just the beginning of another hot day in California. I was in bed, alone. Naked. I flipped through channels until I crossed paths with the Law & Order crew on TBS. The stale air and humidity were making me drowsy, and it wasn’t long before I drifted off, only to be awakened by a commotion outside. Part of my dream, I thought.
But the thundering noise from the living room was not a dream, as the door came off the frame and landed on the dining room glass table, smashing it. Both tumbled to the floor, blasted across the room by a metal battering ram. All of which I saw as I stumbled toward this explosion of wood, plaster and glass, only to be met by screaming flak jacketed and helmeted dickheads who are pointing their semiautomatic rifles, shotguns and pistols at my face.
Anyone who tells you they’re not frightened when a gun is shoved in their face? A fucking liar. I had seven of them on me as I was thrown to the floor and cuffed. I was repeatedly asked questions at a very high decibel level as chaos kicked in all around me and I couldn’t really answer. I was in shock.
I thought this was a dream, it can’t be happening. I had been thinking I was too smart for this shit. I took all the precautions: I didn’t sell to anyone in person, and I wasn’t flashy. How the fuck did they find me? All these thoughts whirred around in my tiny little brain, along with the realization that this was really happening and I was in deep shit. They let me get dressed. I say “they” because every agency on the planet was there: the FBI, DEA, ICE, Homeland Security, Menlo Park Police Department and the Palo Alto Police Department.
The items they were seeking? Right out in the open. I thought I was so under the radar I had nothing to fear. But $235,000 worth of drugs, mostly steroids, were taken from my apartment that day. An apartment that was now ransacked. They clearly took a perverse pleasure in fucking all my stuff up. I’m not talking about TVs or electronics. I’m talking about every food container thrown on the floor, every book thrown on the floor, the garbage can in the kitchen emptied out on—you got it—the floor.
But I wasn’t angry at them. It was me, the dumbshit, I was mad at. Why did I not do what I planned on doing and move all the stuff to a secure location? Would it have mattered? Were they watching me? Who the fuck knows? In retrospect I saw them and I knew that it was out of the ordinary for a white van to be parked on a quiet tree-lined street in the suburbs, day after day. It really didn’t blend with the BMWs, Benzes and Porsches that are so much a part of the Silicon Valley landscape. But I chose to not listen to my gut and gone about my daily routine for the previous two months. Every day I dropped off between 10 to 30 packages for shipping at my local post office. And every day I collected money that I didn’t know where to put. Business was good.
At the police station, my blood pressure rose to stroking-out levels and I was rushed to the emergency room only to be humiliated by being handcuffed to the bed. I had planned ahead though and had a good lawyer retained and money set aside, one of the few smart moves I had made. The pisser was the cops wanted me to roll over on someone, but who do you roll over on if you are the top dog?
Yeah, not that I would, but there wasn’t anyone to sacrifice anyway. Am I gonna roll over on myself? I was it: the end all to the start of it all. And fuck you if you think you wouldn’t roll over on someone. Someone either set me up or made a big mistake in sending me a huge package from overseas. A package I didn’t know was coming, didn’t want, nor did I order. So screw you if you think I wouldn’t give whoever was involved with that up. That fucker just fucked my world.
And I knew I was facing some time, but I knew if I could keep the case from becoming a federal case, I could get off with probation and get my life back. They were calling me a kingpin, I later heard. I laughed out loud and even though a part of you is flattered in some fucked-up way, you realize that this is not a joke. This is very real and I’m no kingpin. No, I’m a hardworking guy who had to suddenly pay for my mother’s dementia care every month.
That was my goal: just to make something extra so I can pay for her dementia care facility. I didn’t wake up one day and say to myself, “You know what? I own my own business. It’s successful, but I really want to make a mark by being a drug dealer.” No, that did not happen. Ever. It was a weird confluence, clusterfuck, black hole of events that led me to this kingpin status I now was accused of. It started innocently enough, but the money turned the corner and hundred-dollar bills began to rain from the sky.
And yes, when I started making money — and lots of it — I couldn’t just stop. One more month, I kept saying, and one more month turned into two months and two months turned into three years. I had a business to run, and this slinging steroids and stuff kept me busy. I wasn’t sleeping. I was stressed, I was angry, I was a mess. And I couldn’t launder money fast enough, because if you get to the point where you make lots of cash, you can’t just dump it in your bank. You can’t just hide it in the house and I didn’t, thank God, because that’s an additional charge, and they also get to keep it. You also can’t just buy shit because they will take that too.
Like the fact that before they hit my house, they cleaned out my bank accounts: $50,000 gone. I was lucky that I didn’t have guns or any flashy cars at the time, because that would have been gone too. Gold jewelry? Gone. Computers seized, cameras taken, phones gone. Add all that up.
This was a life-changing moment. Death, illness and so on didn’t really prepare me for the rest of my life as much as this incident and the four years that followed it up to now. What can you do or say that will scare me at this point? I had guns in my face, I was facing up to 20 years in federal prison and conspiracy charges that carry mandatory sentences. The feds have money and time, and they will play dirty to get a conviction. And the sentencing guidelines are so archaic and severe that you have to plead guilty to avoid any possibility of getting completely screwed.
I mean, I’ve seen people walking out of a federal courthouse with seven-year sentences and they were ecstatic. Seven years in prison? I’d kill myself. Screw rehabilitation, screw “doing the time and not letting it do you” bullshit, screw it all. No way I can sit in prison, so I decided to help the feds. How? By speaking in a program that helps people get out of this lifestyle and find new meaning in their lives. So from a conspiracy, manufacturing, destruction of evidence and the MDMA charge, I pleaded to one count of sales with intent to distribute, which, with mandatory sentencing guidelines, getting the MDMA charge dropped was huge.
Corny as it sounds, I really became a man that day back in 2012. Screw the money I lost. That can be made again, legally. How do I get my loved ones back? My mother passed away in a haze of misery and agony, and I was helpless to do anything about it. The very thing I worked my ass off to alleviate I could not do shit about. Try dealing with that guilt. I lost my business, some friends and eventually my wife, my home, my everything.
And through it all I remain upbeat because I clawed back and I’m doing things the right way. I’m helping people instead of shoving dope in their mouth holes. I have never felt better about myself and my life, and I actually look forward to each morning. I know I’m a better person and a damn stronger one. I now think about the world a little more, the people around me, instead of me me me.
Listen, I’m not trying to change you or make you feel bad. All I’m trying to do is get you to once in a while do something selfless, something that benefits someone you don’t know, someone you never met, someone you may never see again. Try it … you might like it. So you want to be a drug dealer? Good luck. Mine is a cautionary tale. A tale from which I emerged stronger and wiser and, I’m hoping, better. Even if, strangely enough, I wouldn’t change anything really.