James Gonzalez has passed away on December 21, 2013

To All the Bloggers,

James Gonzalez has passed away on December 21, 2013. He died of pneumonia. He will be missed very much. We pray he is now in the Glory of God.

Thank you all for being supportive. We hope his book gets published and everyone will read his story.

Posted in Uncategorized

Leaving Miami

When I started working with the DEA, I really tried to change my ways. But I kept finding myself in the same dark place with the same people, doing the exact same things (drinking and drugs), which were leading me to the brink of death.

I knew I had a good soul, but I was easily influenced by the world I lived in. With nothing or no one to lean on, I realized that I had to do something dramatic to save myself.

I also knew that I couldn’t defeat my demons in one day, that to do so wouldn’t be a sprint, but an old-fashioned marathon.

In 2007, the DEA saw that I was struggling after learning about the rape of my daughter, which had occurred the year before, and they released me. I had another six months until the statute of limitations was up on my drug case, but they let me go with their good wishes for my emotional health.

Then I made the hardest decision of my life. I knew that I needed to get out of Miami, that it was literally killing me, and I asked my wife Penny to please, let’s go. Let’s get out of Miami. But she didn’t want to leave her parents. She wouldn’t go.

So I decided to leave Miami without her and without my kids.

This tore at me, especially leaving my little muffin, my youngest daughter. My other daughers and sons were big enough to handle the distance, I thought.

I beat myself up about that decision all the time, but the truth is, like the flight attendant says, you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you can assist another, even your own child.

I can’t say that things improved much when I settled in the north. My health got worse. I’ve dealt with one thing after another over the years since I moved away, including anxiety attacks, panic attacks, major depression, seizures, you name it. I’ve been on a roller coaster ride for almost a decade. It seemed that everything I did still went terribly wrong.

I call it karma as I believe that I deserved it. I pray, like with the DEA, to be released from that soon.

Things are looking up. The seeds that I’ve been planting for years are beginning to sprout. The way I act and feel today is different.

I recently visited my favorite aunt and uncle in Miami, and they had so much love for me. It’s really amazing to feel true love. I have mentor/sisters who are just amazingly spiritual, incredible women. Love has come knocking on my heart again. I have great and responsible friends, who are my brothers. I have found my tranquility, and a patient inner peace.

And I have you. I have so appreciated your feedback and support. Thank you for reading my blog and being part of my healing.

Video | Posted on by

Parental Guidance

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Parental Guidance

PG stands for Parental Guidance suggested, which is a guideline from the movie industry, letting parents know that they might want to pay a little extra attention to whether their child should watch the film. In real life parenting, there are very few guidelines. As they say, no one gets a guidebook when their child is born. Love, common sense, and the role modeling of one’s own parents provide the only roadmap. When those elements are missing or skewed, the children suffer, and so do the generations down the line.
My parents were not good role models as parents, in fact, there wasn’t much parenting going on at all. Without going into the details right now, let me just say that I never would do to my children what my parents did to me.
Don’t get me wrong. I made many mistakes, as a recent visit from my oldest son made painfully clear. But I did try to be a good parent. I don’t know that my own parents can say that—or would say that, if they were being honest.
My first marriage ended in a nasty divorce. The details are in my memoir, but, basically, to end the battle and keep a home for our children, I signed the divorce papers without reading them. This was foolish because it gave my ex 80% of my income, as well as the house, actions that eventually led me to make an even more foolish decision to smuggle drugs through Miami International Airport. I chose a short-term peace for a long-term nightmare and train wreck.
When my son visited this month, I was so happy just to be a dad again. For the first few days, we just shared good times together, and then we had a heart-to-heart. He had a lot of issues, and he was hurt. Yes, his mother made it hard for me to be a father—for instance, by refusing to get a job so that I could quit one of my two full-time jobs in order to spend some time with the kids as well.
After the divorce, though, it was mostly on me. I was using drugs and smuggling drugs, and I wasn’t there for my kids. I should’ve been there! But I stood away! Looking back, I think I was ashamed of myself and my behavior, and I didn’t want them to suffer like I had when I was a child, by exposing them to alcohol and drugs. Of course, the answer was to STOP the behaviors, get help for my addiction, and be there for them. To really put them first.
Some things in life, you just cannot fix. There’s nothing I can do now but take responsibility for my actions, try to make amends, pray that my children forgive me, and hope that they can be better parents to their own offspring.

Posted in ABC news, Acceptanve, Actors, Adverting, African American writers, Alarming, America, Ana Curry, Anderson Cooper, Argentina, Australia, Beauty, Blogging, books, Books Reviews, Brad Pitt, Brail, break the chain, Britain, Bruce Willis, California, Canada, Canadian Book, CBS news, Chicago, Childhood, China, Civil Rights, Clint Eastwood, CNN news, Coming Out, Cooking, craft, Crime, Crime/Drama, criticism, Culture, Current Events, DEA, Demographics, Denmark, Denver, Denzel Washington, Depression, Di Caprio, Drug Bust, Dwayne Johnson, Egypt, Ellen Degenenes, Emotion, England, English Literature, Entertainment, Ethics, Event, Faith, Fashion, FBI, Film, Filmmaking, Firstpost, Five-Minute-friday, Fox news, France, free=write-friday, Friday, George Clooney, Gerald Butler, Germany, Globalization, God, Grief, Growing Up, Happy Friday, Headlines, International Affairs, Internet, Ireland, Italy, James Cameron, Japan, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Journalism, Kevin Costner, language, Lgbt, Life, Literary Agents, Literature, long story, Los Angeles, Manhattan, Manners, Mark Wahlberg, Marketing, Matt Damon, Media, Medicine, Memior, Men, montreal, Moscow, Motivation, Movie, Movies, Music, NBC news, networking, neuroscience, New York City, New Zealand, News, Norway, Phillippines, Pitt Bull, Politics, Postaday, publishers, Publishing, Reading, Religion, San Francisco, shortstory, Social Media, Spain, Spirituality, Starbuck, storytelling, Sweden, Television, The new york times, Tourism, Travel, truth& Rumors, Turkey, Uncategorized, unresolved grief, wall street journal, Weekday, Weekend, Wine, Women, Work, Writing | 1 Comment

Special Agent Johnny.. My handler

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CAST OF CHARACTERS

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to introduce you to the cast of characters in my forthcoming book about my years as a drug smuggler and then a confidential informant for the DEA. (To protect their identity their names have been changed.)

“Johnny” was one of my two handlers at the DEA. That means he was responsible for supervising me. He really took me under his wing and wanted me to succeed. That may sound funny to you, but it’s true.

I always want to do my best no matter who I am working with. Johnny saw that in me, and he and everyone at the DEA really showed me how to be a better man. I’m grateful to them for that.

Johnny is an undercover agent. He’s the guy who wears a ski mask when the
news cameras come out to hide his identity.

The ladies loved Johnny, because he looked like the actor Johnny Depp, but he was a loyal family man. He liked the heat of the moment, the action. He was confident, street smart, well trained. He was as serious as you can be, but he was a prankster as well.

I once asked him, “Why the pranks?”

He said, “Our job is very dangerous. Humor makes the moment more bearable!”

Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

Posted in ABC news, Acceptanve, Actors, Adverting, African American writers, Alarming, America, Ana Curry, Anderson Cooper, Argentina, Australia, Beauty, Blogging, books, Books Reviews, Brad Pitt, Brail, break the chain, Britain, Bruce Willis, California, Canada, Canadian Book, CBS news, Chicago, Childhood, China, Civil Rights, Clint Eastwood, CNN news, Coming Out, Cooking, craft, Crime, Crime/Drama, criticism, Culture, Current Events, DEA, Demographics, Denmark, Denver, Denzel Washington, Depression, Di Caprio, Drug Bust, Dwayne Johnson, Egypt, Ellen Degenenes, Emotion, England, English Literature, Entertainment, Ethics, Event, Faith, Fashion, FBI, Film, Filmmaking, Firstpost, Five-Minute-friday, Fox news, France, free=write-friday, Friday, George Clooney, Gerald Butler, Germany, Globalization, God, Grief, Growing Up, Happy Friday, Headlines, International Affairs, Internet, Ireland, Italy, James Cameron, Japan, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Journalism, Kevin Costner, language, Lgbt, Life, Literary Agents, Literature, long story, Los Angeles, Manhattan, Manners, Mark Wahlberg, Marketing, Matt Damon, Media, Medicine, Memior, Men, montreal, Moscow, Motivation, Movie, Movies, Music, NBC news, networking, neuroscience, New York City, New Zealand, News, Norway, Phillippines, Pitt Bull, Politics, Postaday, publishers, Publishing, Reading, Religion, San Francisco, shortstory, Social Media, Spain, Spirituality, Starbuck, storytelling, Sweden, Television, The new york times, Tourism, Travel, truth& Rumors, Turkey, Uncategorized, unresolved grief, wall street journal, Weekday, Weekend, Wine, Women, Work, Writing | 11 Comments

Special Agent David My Handler

Special Agent david

The Cast of Characters
David was my other DEA handler.
David was an investigator. He gathered the facts and administered the cases I helped with. Don’t get me wrong, he was as tough as they come.
David chewed tobacco and listened to country music and, yes, drove a pick-up truck. He was a good ol’ boy — with a military background.
A natural leader, he was very professional and a nutcracker, if you know what I mean. He was tall and slim and looked a little like David Morse, the actor, but with less hair. Yes, at times I felt as though I were in a movie, but with no retakes!
The very week I became an informant for the DEA, David received the top cop award — DEA Special Agent of the Year!
At first David was not responsive to me — I was just another CI. But as we worked together to bring in serious cases, and he saw my will to do the right thing, he lightened up. We even became good friends. David is a supervisor now.  I once asked David, “What did you do to earn such a prestigious award?”
David replied, “I did my job!”

Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

Posted in ABC news, Acceptanve, Actors, Adverting, African American writers, Alarming, America, Ana Curry, Anderson Cooper, Argentina, Australia, Beauty, Blogging, books, Books Reviews, Brad Pitt, Brail, break the chain, Britain, Bruce Willis, California, Canada, Canadian Book, CBS news, Chicago, Childhood, China, Civil Rights, Clint Eastwood, CNN news, Coming Out, Cooking, craft, Crime, Crime/Drama, criticism, Culture, Current Events, DEA, Demographics, Denmark, Denver, Denzel Washington, Depression, Di Caprio, Drug Bust, Dwayne Johnson, Egypt, Ellen Degenenes, Emotion, England, English Literature, Entertainment, Ethics, Event, Faith, Fashion, FBI, Film, Filmmaking, Firstpost, Five-Minute-friday, Fox news, France, free=write-friday, Friday, George Clooney, Gerald Butler, Germany, Globalization, God, Grief, Growing Up, Happy Friday, Headlines, International Affairs, Internet, Ireland, Italy, James Cameron, Japan, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Journalism, Kevin Costner, language, Lgbt, Life, Literary Agents, Literature, long story, Los Angeles, Manhattan, Manners, Mark Wahlberg, Marketing, Matt Damon, Media, Medicine, Memior, Men, montreal, Moscow, Motivation, Movie, Movies, Music, NBC news, networking, neuroscience, New York City, New Zealand, News, Norway, Phillippines, Pitt Bull, Politics, Postaday, publishers, Publishing, Reading, Religion, San Francisco, shortstory, Social Media, Spain, Spirituality, Starbuck, storytelling, Sweden, Television, The new york times, Tourism, Travel, truth& Rumors, Turkey, Uncategorized, unresolved grief, wall street journal, Weekday, Weekend, Wine, Women, Work, Writing | 7 Comments

“Family’s Award”

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Hello, bloggers, it’s been awhile. I hope you all are enjoying your summer.

In the short period of time that I have been on WordPress, I have found a home where I can talk from my heart and not be judged. At the end of the day, we are just human, surrounded by land and water.

It’s such an honor to be nominated for the Family Award. If you know my story, you can imagine that for me to be a part of anything that has to do with “family” is extra special and rewarding.

Thank you for all of your comments and hugs! They are most appreciated and needed.

And a big thank you to Brad Clark at

http://rbclark.wordpress.com/2013/07/23/wordpress-family-award/ for the award. I am grateful. You rock, brother!

When a good thing touches us, we need to pass it forward. So here are my 10 nominees for the Family Award:

Here are the rules and my 10 Nominees:

1 Display the award logo on your blog

2 Link back to the person who nominated you.

3 Nominate 10 others you see as having an impact on your WordPress experience and family

4 Let your 10 family members know you have awarded them

5 that’s it, just please pick 10 people who have taken you as a friend, and spread the LOVE

Here are my 10 nominees:

bearspawprint.wordpress.com
charlypriest.wordpress.com
herbirthmarks.wordpress.com
dadialogues.wordpress.com
athletictouch.wordpress.com
wildinvirginia.wordpress.com
loveandanthropology.wordpress.com
faith1stministries.wordpress.com
kimberlyakinola.wordpress.com
knottyp.wordpress.com

Posted in ABC news, Acceptanve, Actors, Adverting, African American writers, Alarming, America, Ana Curry, Anderson Cooper, Argentina, Australia, Beauty, Blogging, books, Books Reviews, Brad Pitt, Brail, break the chain, Britain, Bruce Willis, California, Canada, Canadian Book, CBS news, Chicago, Childhood, China, Civil Rights, Clint Eastwood, CNN news, Coming Out, Cooking, craft, Crime, Crime/Drama, criticism, Culture, Current Events, DEA, Demographics, Denmark, Denver, Denzel Washington, Depression, Di Caprio, Drug Bust, Dwayne Johnson, Egypt, Ellen Degenenes, Emotion, England, English Literature, Entertainment, Ethics, Event, Faith, Fashion, FBI, Film, Filmmaking, Firstpost, Five-Minute-friday, Fox news, France, free=write-friday, Friday, George Clooney, Gerald Butler, Germany, Globalization, God, Grief, Growing Up, Happy Friday, Headlines, International Affairs, Internet, Ireland, Italy, James Cameron, Japan, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Journalism, Kevin Costner, language, Lgbt, Life, Literary Agents, Literature, long story, Los Angeles, Manhattan, Manners, Mark Wahlberg, Marketing, Matt Damon, Media, Medicine, Memior, Men, montreal, Moscow, Motivation, Movie, Movies, Music, NBC news, networking, neuroscience, New York City, New Zealand, News, Norway, Phillippines, Pitt Bull, Politics, Postaday, publishers, Publishing, Reading, Religion, San Francisco, shortstory, Social Media, Spain, Spirituality, Starbuck, storytelling, Sweden, Television, The new york times, Tourism, Travel, truth& Rumors, Turkey, Uncategorized, unresolved grief, wall street journal, Weekday, Weekend, Wine, Women, Work, Writing

“About” The Baggage Handler

about

Why, Do i think I’m the baggage handler.

I made the impossible “EASY” in both Worlds!

Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

Posted in ABC news, Acceptanve, Actors, Adverting, African American writers, Alarming, America, Ana Curry, Anderson Cooper, Argentina, Australia, Beauty, Blogging, books, Books Reviews, Brad Pitt, Brail, break the chain, Britain, Bruce Willis, California, Canada, Canadian Book, CBS news, Chicago, Childhood, China, Civil Rights, Clint Eastwood, CNN news, Coming Out, Cooking, craft, Crime, Crime/Drama, criticism, Culture, Current Events, DEA, Demographics, Denmark, Denver, Denzel Washington, Depression, Di Caprio, Drug Bust, Dwayne Johnson, Egypt, Ellen Degenenes, Emotion, England, English Literature, Entertainment, Ethics, Event, Faith, Fashion, FBI, Film, Filmmaking, Firstpost, Five-Minute-friday, Fox news, France, free=write-friday, Friday, George Clooney, Gerald Butler, Germany, Globalization, God, Grief, Growing Up, Happy Friday, Headlines, International Affairs, Internet, Ireland, Italy, James Cameron, Japan, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Journalism, Kevin Costner, language, Lgbt, Life, Literary Agents, Literature, long story, Los Angeles, Manhattan, Manners, Mark Wahlberg, Marketing, Matt Damon, Media, Medicine, Memior, Men, montreal, Moscow, Motivation, Movie, Movies, Music, NBC news, networking, neuroscience, New York City, New Zealand, News, Norway, Phillippines, Pitt Bull, Politics, Postaday, publishers, Publishing, Reading, Religion, San Francisco, shortstory, Social Media, Spain, Spirituality, Starbuck, storytelling, Sweden, Television, The new york times, Tourism, Travel, truth& Rumors, Turkey, Uncategorized, unresolved grief, wall street journal, Weekday, Weekend, Wine, Women, Work, Writing | 2 Comments

Rock Bottom

Rock Bottom

Rock Bottom

Delinquency starts at home, not in the streets.
Growing up, I saw my mother, on a nightly basis, drink herself to shame with all-night, loud parties filled with men.
Things didn’t improve much after my brother and I moved in with our father. It was with him and his male lover where I first encountered drugs. (It’s my opinion that the man who lived with us for 10 years was his lover. However, to this day, my father will not admit to that nor has he come out. As I told him a few years ago, if you’re gay, be gay, be happy. Don’t hide who you are. To my knowledge, he has not taken my advice.)
One day when I was a freshman in high school, I found cocaine in one of my father’s drawers. That same year, his lover started offering me drugs and was very aggressive about it. He told me that I should try them with him so that someone else wouldn’t take advantage of me. He practically shoved them in my face, but I always resisted. I saw what substance abuse had done to my mother.
My resistance lasted until age 18 when I tried marijuana. And then when I was 21 or 22, during a Mike Tyson fight, I started taking drugs with my brother. It began casually, only while watching the pay-per-view Tyson fights. But soon it escalated to every Friday night after work at my brother’s business, where we would talk about the hardship of our childhood.
After my brother was murdered when I was 27, I didn’t grieve for four years. I was numb. And then reality hit, I realized I was never going to hear from him ever again, and the tears and heartache began.
In a misguided attempt to get through the pain, ironically, I turned into my parents. I imitated what I had seen at home and started abusing drugs and alcohol. I also associated drinking and drugs with the good times I had had with my brother, so in a twisted way, when I was abusing drugs, I felt closer to him.
Drugs and alcohol numbed the pain for a while, but took much more from me than they ever gave. And like every recovering addict knows, you have to hit rock bottom in order to climb back up to get your sanity and get hold of your life again.
Today, I can honestly say that the party is over and it is time for me to grow up and face life. I look forward to future opportunities to share and help people who are struggling with chemical dependency.
The complete story of my alcohol and drug addition will be in my memoir.

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Debriefing

image by Iris
In my last blog, I told you about how I was busted in a Walmart parking lot for trafficking in cocaine and then taken to their conclave for questioning.

They were trying to get information out of me about my Colombian cartel and American accomplices.

Being questioned by the DEA is intimidating. Six black-vested agents with guns and me in a tiny conference room, the size of a bathroom. They were trying to bully me and overpower me to get me to tell them the truth. While only two agents asked the questions, they all worked together, upping the pressure and the ante for hours.

Someone had set me up, and I was pretty sure it was Mano, my cartel connection, so when he had the misfortune of calling during my interview, I flipped, and told them the truth.

That call actually saved me, because Mano proposed another deal, this time to move 30 kilos—a significant amount of cocaine—which suddenly made me valuable to the DEA.

So even though they didn’t know or trust me, they then started getting me ready for my first job as a confidential informant.

That doesn’t mean they eased up on me. In fact, for the first full year, my debriefings were hell, like colonoscopies without anesthesia.

In the tiny room, Special Agent Johnny, who eventually became my handler, leaned in. “If you even think of double-crossing us and running or if you get any of the agents hurt, we’re going to hunt you down to the ends of the earth and you will pay dearly!”

This was no act. He was serious.

After a while, Special Agent Tom told me to call my wife and tell her to come down with my passport. They said that might relax me a little, but that didn’t exactly work.

Penny, my second wife, was thirteen years my junior. She was pretty, Cuban-Chinese with small, delicate features, except for prominent front teeth, which she exposed in a big smile aimed at Johnny.

I guess she didn’t understand the part that I had been detained because, in addition to not taking this seriously at all, she showed up wearing every single piece of jewelry I had ever given to her. Her 5’2” thin frame seemed weighed down by it.

“I see what you spend your money on,” Tom smirked.

She was there for a moment, and then left, taking our marriage with her.

The DEA never offered me a deal. They just said, “Do the right thing.” And I did.

For the next four and a half years, I was bait. I worked hard for the DEA, getting drugs off the street, earning their trust bit by bit, and keeping myself out of jail.

The complete story of my debriefing and years as confidential informant will be in my forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

Posted in ABC news, Acceptanve, Actors, Adverting, African American writers, Alarming, America, Ana Curry, Anderson Cooper, Argentina, Australia, Beauty, Blogging, books, Books Reviews, Brad Pitt, Brail, break the chain, Britain, Bruce Willis, California, Canada, Canadian Book, CBS news, Chicago, Childhood, China, Civil Rights, Clint Eastwood, CNN news, Coming Out, Cooking, craft, Crime, Crime/Drama, criticism, Culture, Current Events, DEA, Demographics, Denmark, Denver, Denzel Washington, Depression, Di Caprio, Drug Bust, Dwayne Johnson, Egypt, Ellen Degenenes, Emotion, England, English Literature, Entertainment, Ethics, Event, Faith, Fashion, FBI, Film, Filmmaking, Firstpost, Five-Minute-friday, Fox news, France, free=write-friday, Friday, George Clooney, Gerald Butler, Germany, Globalization, God, Grief, Growing Up, Happy Friday, Headlines, International Affairs, Internet, Ireland, Italy, James Cameron, Japan, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Journalism, Kevin Costner, language, Lgbt, Life, Literary Agents, Literature, long story, Los Angeles, Manhattan, Manners, Mark Wahlberg, Marketing, Matt Damon, Media, Medicine, Memior, Men, montreal, Moscow, Motivation, Movie, Movies, Music, NBC news, networking, neuroscience, New York City, New Zealand, News, Norway, Phillippines, Pitt Bull, Politics, Postaday, publishers, Publishing, Reading, Religion, San Francisco, shortstory, Social Media, Spain, Spirituality, Starbuck, storytelling, Sweden, Television, The new york times, Tourism, Travel, truth& Rumors, Turkey, Uncategorized, unresolved grief, wall street journal, Weekday, Weekend, Wine, Women, Work, Writing | 1 Comment

I Flipped

DEA

I was in a crowded parking lot at Walmart on a typical-for-Miami, hot and humid day. As I opened my SUV to complete a drug deal, suddenly I was surrounded by seven unmarked cars with their silent, flashing lights, and just as many DEA agents pointed guns at my head.

“FREEZE DEA,” I heard someone say.

I froze. Then someone grabbed me from beyond and knocked me to the ground, his knee was pressed hard into my neck.

They put handcuffs on me and picked me up, all in one motion. I landed on my feet, but wavered.

All of this happened in about 30 seconds.

I was disoriented, in shock, still dazed, although reality was starting to set in.

In waves, thoughts moved through my mind, “This is not good. I’m in deep shit.” And then, “Who did this to me?”

They took me in the back of a car to a grey building with a high chainlink fence with barbed-wire circles on top.

No one said a word to me as they led me to a very small room, the size of a bathroom. My thoughts were now about what my children would think of me and if I would ever see them again.

There’s a saying that no one is sorry until they get caught. And that’s true. But by then, sorry is too little, and much too late.

After emptying my pockets, taking pictures, and then leaving me alone in the holding cell for a while, I was eventually taken to a small conference room where agents David and Johnny were waiting.

Johnny, who eventually became my handler, never said a word during that first meeting.

David said, “You’re in a big trouble. It’s best that you cooperate. We know about you!”

I knew I was big trouble, but I didn’t know what they knew, so I lied. I said that I was picking up the bag for a friend.

After listening awhile to my B.S., Special Agent Steven leaned in, “Listen, your window of opportunity is running out. You have a decision to make. You can cooperate or you can go to jail. It’s all up to you.”

In the background, I could hear the ringer of my phone.

In the short amount of time I’d had to think, I had figured it had to be Mano who’d set me up. And so, in that moment, I decided: If I was losing my freedom, so was he.

“You’ve got 60 seconds,” Special Agent Steven said.

In my memoir, The Baggage Handler, I tell the full story about how I flipped and became a confidential informant.

A special note and a request. As you know, I have spent much of my life swimming with sharks. I’m now almost done with the manuscript of The Baggage Handler, and I’m looking for a good home. I want a literary agent who’s great and honest and hard-working. Who sees the commercial value in this, yes, but just as importantly, appreciates what I’m trying to do and values that just as much. If you know of someone like that, I would be very grateful if you sent him or her my way or let me know. JJ

Posted in ABC news, Adverting, African American writers, Alarming, America, Ana Curry, Anderson Cooper, Argentina, Australia, Beauty, Blogging, books, Books Reviews, Brad Pitt, Brail, break the chain, Britain, Bruce Willis, California, Canada, Canadian Book, CBS news, Chicago, Childhood, China, Civil Rights, Clint Eastwood, CNN news, Coming Out, Cooking, craft, Crime, Crime/Drama, criticism, Culture, Current Events, DEA, Demographics, Denmark, Denver, Denzel Washington, Depression, Di Caprio, Drug Bust, Dwayne Johnson, Egypt, Ellen Degenenes, Emotion, England, English Literature, Entertainment, Ethics, Event, Faith, Fashion, FBI, Film, Filmmaking, Firstpost, Five-Minute-friday, Fox news, France, free=write-friday, Friday, George Clooney, Gerald Butler, Germany, Globalization, God, Grief, Growing Up, Happy Friday, Headlines, International Affairs, Internet, Ireland, Italy, James Cameron, Japan, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Journalism, Kevin Costner, language, Lgbt, Life, Literary Agents, Literature, long story, Los Angeles, Manhattan, Manners, Mark Wahlberg, Marketing, Matt Damon, Media, Medicine, Memior, Men, montreal, Moscow, Motivation, Movie, Movies, Music, NBC news, networking, neuroscience, New York City, New Zealand, News, Norway, Phillippines, Pitt Bull, Politics, Postaday, publishers, Publishing, Reading, Religion, San Francisco, shortstory, Social Media, Spain, Spirituality, Starbuck, storytelling, Sweden, Television, The new york times, Tourism, Travel, truth& Rumors, Turkey, Uncategorized, unresolved grief, wall street journal, Weekday, Weekend, Wine, Women, Work, Writing

“The Very Inspiring Blogger Award”

wpid-very-inspiring-blogger-award

Joseyphina, thank you for nominating me. I appreciate it very much. And I really believe that everyone on wordpress.com has something special and inspiring to say.

Life have given me a lot of valuable lessons, and these phrases are in my thoughts daily…

My actions caused me to lose everything that I love.

My reaction is to love everything that I can.

The Baggage Handler

Posted in Acceptanve, Actors, Adverting, Alarming, America, Ana Curry, Anderson Cooper, Argentina, Australia, Beauty, Blogging, books, Books Reviews, Brad Pitt, Brail, break the chain, Bruce Willis, California, Canada, Canadian Book, Chicago, Childhood, China, Civil Rights, Clint Eastwood, Coming Out, Cooking, craft, Crime, Crime/Drama, criticism, Culture, Current Events, Demographics, Denmark, Denver, Denzel Washington, Depression, Di Caprio, Drug Bust, Dwayne Johnson, Egypt, Ellen Degenenes, Emotion, England, English Literature, Entertainment, Ethics, Event, Faith, Fashion, Film, Filmmaking, France, George Clooney, Gerald Butler, Germany, Globalization, God, Grief, Growing Up, Headlines, International Affairs, Internet, Ireland, Italy, James Cameron, Japan, Journalism, Kevin Costner, language, Lgbt, Life, Literary Agents, Literature, long story, Los Angeles, Manhattan, Manners, Mark Wahlberg, Marketing, Matt Damon, Media, Medicine, Memior, Men, Moscow, Motivation, Movie, Movies, Music, networking, neuroscience, New York City, New Zealand, News, Norway, Phillippines, Pitt Bull, Politics, Publishing, Reading, Religion, San Francisco, shortstory, Social Media, Spain, Spirituality, Starbuck, storytelling, Sweden, Television, Tourism, Travel, truth& Rumors, Uncategorized, unresolved grief, Wine, Women, Work, Writing

We Broke the Chain

Breaking the Chain 0151br-logo-web

http://onebillionrising.org/livestream/entry/earlier-washington-square-park-new-york-city#.UR_K5Zg4I8I.email

“This is my favorite blog” I’ll be back next week JJ

One out of three women will be beaten or raped in her lifetime. There’s something terribly wrong with humanity!
Fact! We all come from women!
Fact! No means No!
Fact! Women are equal to Men!

A female friend of mine who knows that my daughter was raped recommended the “Break the Chain” dance, a worldwide event held on Valentine’s Day, inviting women and men to DANCE, RISE UP, AND DEMAND an end to this violence. And what better day than the day of LOVE to do so. So I said YES! I am going to dance for my daughter!
The day my oldest daughter was born I felt something different inside of me. It’s as though I got a feminine side and became more aware and understood the female.

If my first-born is reading this blog, please know that I feel more love for you than even the day you were born. It’s an out-of-this-world kind of love. I don’t want you to hurt anymore, and I want you to let go of the pain you secretly carry because you’re not alone. And I want to let go of the anger and guilt that I have been carrying for years and finally heal as well.

At the event, the smiles and energy of those beautiful and fearless women were inspiring. They stood up for themselves and their sisters around the world.

As a father and a victim of abuse myself, I know that each one of those women went through hell. And I saw my daughter in every one of them. They gave me hope and they made their point that nothing is going to keep them down.

When we all started to dance, sing and cheer to the “break the chain” song, we all became “ONE,” lifting our soul to be healed and to create a better life.

It was so moving and powerful that we all danced again!

As I was leaving, I was interviewed for the documentary that’s being made about the event, “She’s Beautiful BUT she’s Angry.” I usually get nervous doing that kind of thing, but I didn’t. My heart did all of talking!

Special Note: My daughter is earning her master’s degree this coming May and has been accepted to Harvard to do her doctorate. I’m very proud of her. She broke the chain!

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” The Interesting Blog Award “

interesting-blog-award

First, let me thank Katie Sullivan : http://wp.me/p3oWn1-3V for nominating me for The Interesting Blog Award. As a follower of her blog, I definitely see why she was nominated, and I’m honored she finds my blog interesting as well.

For this award, I’m supposed to list five random facts about myself, nominate five other blogs, answer five questions and then ask five questions of my nominees. Here we go!

Here are my five very interesting nominees:

1 straightthroughmyeyes.wordpress.com

2 bookblog.wambui-bahati.com

3 factorymaid.wordpress.com

4 lateralloveraustralia.com

5 brunchforeverymeal.com

And here are the five random facts about myself:

1. My favorite dessert is a piece of carrot cake with a mountain of whipped cream on top. It’s a very rare treat, since I’ve lost 60 pounds over the past six months!

2. I’m very romantic. And single….

3. I like to sleep with socks on since I get cold feet.

4. I’m in the best shape of my life. (See #1 above!)

5. Music is my serenity. It keeps me going….

Now, answering Katie Sullivan’s questions:

1.What’s your all time favorite movie?

“A Walk to Remember” starring Mandy Moore and Shane West. I would love to witness a miracle or be one!

2. Who’s your favorite Author?

Cynthia Lamb. She wrote Brigid’s Charge, which is a novel about her ancestor who was accused of birthing the Jersey Devil. The imagination and the facts are so real it’s amazing. She’s a great storyteller. And this book is way better than the Twilight series, in my opinion.

3. Who is your favorite character, can be from a book, movie, or TV?

Robin Williams in the movie “Mrs. Doubtfire.” I loved the scene where Robin, as Mrs. Doubtfire, throws an orange at Pierce Brosnan’s head. With a straight face and in her high-pitched, crackly voice, she says, “Oh, no, it looks like a drive-by fruiting.”

4. White chocolate or dark chocolate. I’m not a chocolate lover, but if I had to choose, it would be white chocolate because it’s easier on my stomach. Dark is too rich for me. But I still would eat a chocolate-covered strawberry.

5. If you could do one thing without any repercussion, what would it be?

I live in the City so…park my damn car wherever I damn well want!

Now, I have to ask five questions for my nominees to answer. I’m going to have fun with this.

1. Someone special to your heart has shown up out of the blue and they’re very hungry.

All you have are 3 eggs that have been in your fridge for 2 months, one plain yogurt and a can of corn. What would you prepare?

2. You’re walking and accidentally knock over a dozen Hell’s Angels motorcycles. They are not happy with you! What would you do?

3. What was your worst job ever? And why?

4. Tell something about yourself that only a couple of people know?

5. What’s the worst gift you have gotten? And from whom?

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Santeria

Santeria-Animal-Sacrificesanteria 2santeria 1

First and foremost, I respect all religions. What I’m revealing today is only about my own experience. I’m not saying it’s everyone’s experience.

My father, like many Cubans, practiced Santeria, which has its roots in Yoruba, a religion that slaves brought from Africa. Because they weren’t allowed to practice their religion, it was hidden behind, and eventually influenced by, Roman Catholism. However, in my many homes growing up, there were no signs of the Christianity. No Bibles or pictures of Jesus.

There were, though, many symbols of Santeria. In the kitchen on top of the cabinets were vases and jars full of sugar, honey and coins, to bring in money. Behind the front door were a brown coconut with a cigar half smoked and an expresso coffee cup on a plate. (I have no idea why.)

In the freezer next to the food were coffee cans that had little pieces of paper with names written on them. When I asked my father about the cans in the freezer, he said, “Those individuals are being cooled down.”

My father was a career criminal and I guess he needed all the help he could get.

As I was connecting to the Colombia cartels, I knew the consequences would be great if I got caught. I didn’t have a crystal ball per se, but I had Maria.

She was pretty famous tarot reader in Miami with a background in Santeria. Her claim was that she could prevent or fix any problem, and her client list included an executive secretary from the White House, whom I met, lawyers, doctors, high ranking Miami city officials, and, she said, priests. She also saw a number of drug dealers.

Drug dealers all have the same problem: “I want it Now!” They’re impatient, always looking for short cuts, and that’s what Maria seemed to promise. Whether the client wanted LOVE, MONEY, a JOB, or help with a LEGAL PROBLEM, she could get it for them, she said. But as I learned the hard way, short cuts don’t work.

I saw Maria a few times and she always told me that my road was clear but that a tall women with long brown hair would get me into trouble, so stay away from her. Then she gave me a protector to always carry with me.

Since The Golden Rules that Pedro taught me said don’t do drug business with women, I thought I was in the clear on that. But desperate circumstances got the better of me, and it was a female confidential informant who brought me down.

The complete story of my experiences with Santeria and getting busted will be in my forthcoming memoir.

P.S. My own beliefs have always been Christian. As soon as I could drive a car, I went to church to open that channel with the Lord because I knew in my heart it was the right place for me to be.

Posted in Acceptanve, Actors, Adverting, Alarming, America, Ana Curry, Anderson Cooper, Australia, Beauty, Blogging, books, Books Reviews, Brad Pitt, Brail, break the chain, Bruce Willis, California, Canada, Canadian Book, Chicago, Childhood, China, Civil Rights, Clint Eastwood, Coming Out, Cooking, craft, Crime, Crime/Drama, criticism, Culture, Current Events, Demographics, Denmark, Denver, Denzel Washington, Depression, Di Caprio, Drug Bust, Dwayne Johnson, Egypt, Emotion, England, English Literature, Entertainment, Ethics, Event, Faith, Fashion, Film, Filmmaking, France, George Clooney, Gerald Butler, Germany, Globalization, God, Grief, Growing Up, Headlines, International Affairs, Internet, Ireland, Italy, James Cameron, Japan, Journalism, Kevin Costner, language, Lgbt, Life, Literature, long story, Los Angeles, Manhattan, Manners, Mark Wahlberg, Marketing, Matt Damon, Media, Medicine, Memior, Men, Moscow, Motivation, Movie, Movies, Music, networking, neuroscience, New York City, New Zealand, News, Norway, Phillippines, Pitt Bull, Politics, Publishing, Reading, Religion, San Francisco, shortstory, Social Media, Spain, Spirituality, Starbuck, storytelling, Sweden, Television, Tourism, Travel, truth& Rumors, Uncategorized, unresolved grief, Wine, Women, Work, Writing | 19 Comments

“Sunshine Award”

SUNSHINE AWARD

I’m excited and I’m stunned. Another award has come knocking on my door! I would like to thank Spasmostar http://spasmostar.wordpress.com for nominating my blog for The Sunshine Award. I’m truly honored.

It really has been an amazing year so far, thanks to you all. I so appreciate all the kindness and unconditional LOVE…….The Baggage Handler

As part of the nomination, I was asked to answer 10 random questions about myself.

1. What is your favorite season? Summer. I miss the heat (and beat) of Miami.

2. What is your favorite dinner food? Freshly made vegetable soup. It’s healthy, warm and delicious.

3. What is your wakie-wakie in the morning? Hot tea (with sugar and milk)

4. What is your weakness? My two divorces! My failed marriages.

5. What is your strongest point? I’m able to read between the lines.

6. Do you like to cook or bake? Cook. They say cooking is an art and baking is a science. I always was better at art than science.

7. What was your favorite cartoon as a kid? Bugs Bunny. I still watch it.

8.What is your favorite fatty food? French fries. I know I shouldn’t…

9. What do you like to wear on special occasion? A slim-fit suit with a tie

10. What would be your idea place to live? Hawaii. That was the plan. Make a million with the drugs, move to Hawaii. I should have known that would never work out. Still, one day, perhaps, legitimately, I’ll get there. Ahola, baby!!

Posted in Acceptanve, Actors, Adverting, Alarming, America, Ana Curry, Anderson Cooper, Australia, Beauty, Blogging, books, Books Reviews, Brad Pitt, Brail, break the chain, Bruce Willis, California, Canada, Canadian Book, Chicago, Childhood, China, Civil Rights, Clint Eastwood, Coming Out, Cooking, craft, Crime, Crime/Drama, criticism, Culture, Current Events, Demographics, Denmark, Denver, Denzel Washington, Depression, Di Caprio, Drug Bust, Dwayne Johnson, Egypt, Ellen Degenenes, Emotion, England, English Literature, Entertainment, Ethics, Event, Fashion, Film, Filmmaking, France, George Clooney, Gerald Butler, Germany, Globalization, God, Grief, Growing Up, Headlines, International Affairs, Internet, Ireland, Italy, James Cameron, Japan, Journalism, Kevin Costner, language, Lgbt, Life, Literature, long story, Los Angeles, Manhattan, Manners, Mark Wahlberg, Marketing, Matt Damon, Medicine, Memior, Men, Moscow, Motivation, Movie, Movies, Music, networking, neuroscience, New York City, New Zealand, News, Norway, Pitt Bull, Politics, Publishing, Reading, Religion, San Francisco, shortstory, Social Media, Spain, Spirituality, Starbuck, storytelling, Sweden, Television, Tourism, Travel, truth& Rumors, Uncategorized, unresolved grief, Wine, Women, Work, Writing | 10 Comments

Old Currency is Still a Big Hit

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The Federal Reserve Banks are responsible for collecting old worn-out money and distributing new money to banks and other institutions.
       The branch in Miami, Florida, was responsible for exchanging these currencies with Central and South America. To do this, they used commercial airlines.
       This is how it worked: the old money came in the belly of the plane. New money went out on separate flights. Sometimes when flights came in really late with old currency, there was opportunity for a heist.
       The new money was sent in see-through plastics bags — as though The Federal Reserve was daring bad employees to take it! However, the money isn’t good until it’s activated, and the US treasury doesn’t do that until it arrives at its final bank destination.
       So, the old currency is actually more valuable to the criminal since it could be more easily spent privately among friends. Of course, those serial numbers are being traced too, so eventually, the criminal would get caught.
       In the middle of 2006, when I was DEA confidential informant, I was approached by the U.S. postal inspector, with whom I had an excellent rapport. As you’ll read in my book, I always found what the postal inspector was looking for, which was why he came to me again.
       The inspector told me that the night before, $5 million in old currency had been stolen from a late-night flight from Brazil. If I gave them information of the whereabouts of the money and the individuals involved, I would get a reward of 25% of the amount that was recovered!
       This was something I could have done. I knew all the crews that liked to steal old currency, so all I would have to do is look to see who was working that flight. That would have taken me straight to the source. But I was in a tight spot!
       As you will read in my book, by that point, el Griego, my partner in crime, had blown my cover. Also, despite what he would claim, I didn’t want to implicate anyone I worked with. In the four-and-a-half years I was a CI, I was able to protect everyone there but him. (That’s another story.)
       So I turned down the opportunity to make $1.25 million.

Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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Crazy Cuban

crazyman

Crazy Cuban

In a rare phone call from Special Agent Steve, the leader of the DEA team that I served as a confidential informant, he said, “JJ, I’m throwing a bone your way.”

This meant he was giving me the opportunity to prove, again, that the DEA should continue to rely upon me and keep me out of jail for drug smuggling.

Then he proceeded to ask me to find out everything I could about a particular cargo airline they had their eye on. What kind of planes did they use? How many times a day did they come in from Bogota and Caracas?

Then he said, “JJ, if you were going to put drugs on this airline, when would you do it?”

After a few weeks of investigating, I decided that the best time to smuggle drugs was the 4 a.m. flight from Caracas on a Tuesday or Wednesday because the plane would practically be empty, and that flight used a wide-body plane, where cargo is in containers, not loaded by hand, so there would be less of an opportunity for others to steal the product.

About four months after I gave my report, they were ready to make their move, and my handler called me, telling me to come in immediately, wearing my American Airlines uniform and airport ID. I told work I was sick and was at the DEA office in 30 minutes.

The whole team was there, all suited up in their bulletproof vests and with guns in their holsters. In the room was also a young CI named “Flaco,” whose eyes were wandering around the room, looking as scared as I had years before.

The plan was to insert me into the case. I was the guy that Flaco had used to move the drugs out of the airport, and I was to tell his Cuban contact that US customs had confiscated the drugs and the 25 kilos were gone. This was a loss of $500K!

I was supposed to offer to work for free to make things right and get him to send more drugs. I was also supposed to try to get the Cuban to give up his source in Caracas.

I’d done similar things before, but I wanted to know how angry Flaco’s contact would be. I never have been a tough guy. I’m the baggage handler. I get things done, and I never hurt anyone while doing it. I wanted to know exactly what I would be walking into.

Flaco said that the Cuban would be very upset, even madder than if I’d been cheating with his wife.

That didn’t make me feel better, but I’d dealt with that kind of anger before—hell, I grew up with it—so I thought I could reason with him. What actually bothered me more was Flaco. As we were driving to the location, I could see him changing colors. It was his first undercover case, and he was driving very slowly. I was concerned that he was going to blow our cover—whether accidentally or on purpose, I didn’t know.

I had been trained to recognize if a suspect is wearing a gun, but I didn’t even get the chance. As soon as we arrived at the restaurant where we were meeting, the crazy Cuban attacked me, threatening my life and hitting me. As he turned, I saw his gun and knew there was no way I could do my job. I’d be lucky at that point to get out alive.

Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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“Dimelo”

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Rookies, fresh from Farm! –the DEA training facility in Virgina

When I was a CI (confidential informant), during a weekly debriefing with my DEA handlers, a dozen rookie agents, fresh from completing their training at the Virgina academy, filed into the small room.

A new task force was being formed to combat the growing meth and Ecstasy problem. In south Florida these new agents were going to go after the small fish, which would eventually lead them to the bigger fish.

Over the next few months, these rookies practiced on me how to debrief a CI. They did a great job, but they were so young and so white. One reminded me of Justin Bieber and another of Ron Howard when he was Opie.

One of my handlers, Johnny, asked me what I thought about the new guys.

I said, “They’re very white for Miami! And they look like cops from a mile away. Like they just came from the farm.”

Johnny laughed and said, “I know, but we know where to place them!”

Given the DEA’s 99% conviction rate, I’m sure he was right.

Later, in front of the rookies group, I was asked what the most important things are that a CI should be told to do.

I said:

— Never waste the DEA’s manpower time.

— Never lie or make a false statement to try to get yourself out of trouble. Informants have to prove what they’re saying through audio and video.

— No entrapment!

My handlers, David and Johnny, smiled, but I had one more thing to add. I looked at each of the new agents, then said:

“My handlers do this to me all the time. Never ask a CI what time they can come in for debriefing. Don’t let them make their own schedule. Tell them, ‘I need you to come in after work or when ever.’ As the agents, you create a schedule for your CI.”

Both of my handlers started laughing out loud — as though I didn’t know how to read between the lines! But that’s why I was so successful with them. We had a mutual respect, great communication, and they knew I sincerely wanted to redeem myself. They asked for my opinion, and trusted and believed in my judgment.

I also taught them all how to speak Spanish Cuban-style. They all said “Dimelo?” which means, “What’s up?”

Imagine a bunch of white guys saying, “Dimelo?”

It was so cool to hear!
Excerpted from my forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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Beautiful Blogger Award

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What a wonderful week! First, I’m nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award, and then when I share my fondest memories, as requested for the award, Jenness Johnston http://jennessjohnston78.wordpress.com/ nominates me for the Beautiful Blogger Award! Jenness, your appreciation of my sharing these real things in my life means so much to me.

I am grateful to all of you for acknowledging my attempt to amend my past through my writing. I have been praying for those dark days to leave my life for good. And all of you great bloggers and readers out there lighten my spirit with your kind words and forgiving hearts. This is only confirmation that I’m on the right track to getting my life back and being an example to all those who are stuck in their life. God bless you all…JJ

For the award, I was asked to give 7 random facts about me. Here they are:

1. I have two plants. One looks a little like a palm tree, and I call it “Cher,” because it has a long, slender stem and a lot of long leaves. The other is short and stopped growing. Of course, that’s “Sonny.” When I talk to them every morning, their leaves respond to the sound of my voice.

2. I recently became a vegetarian. I’m working my way to turning vegan.

3. I also recently found some good friends that I can count on. They gave me the nickname “Cuba.” Yes, probably because my parents are from there, but I don’t really look it. I’m a white boy with blue eyes who grew up speaking Spanish, and I can dance salsa.

4. I enjoy running. It gives me a sense of freedom.

5. In the summer in the late afternoon, I open my bathroom window, turn off the light, turn up the mellow music and take the most relaxing shower ever.

6. After everything that has happened in my life, I have learned to appreciate the simple and humble again.

I can’t think of a seventh, so I’ll just close with this:

To all you amazing and wonderful moms out there, Happy Mother’s Day! You make the world beautiful. JJ

I’ll be back in two weeks with a new blog. You all rock!

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” Versatile Blogger Award “

versatile-blogger

I would like to thank Shruti Srinivasan, http://anushrusrini.wordpress.com/author/anushrusrini/, for nominating my blog, The Baggage Handler, for The Versatile Blogger award. To be recognized by such an awesome site is truly an honor. I gratefully accept the nomination.

It feels as though my journey hasn’t even begun, yet all of your positive feedback and the outlook you’ve given me in your posts have given me a stronger voice as I talk about the corruption that happens in our airports. Thank you so much for that.

Warmest Regards,

The Baggage Handler Aka…JJ

For the award, I was asked to provide six of my fondest memories:

1. The first time I kissed a girl. I was 11, and I had my eyes closed. The second time, I peeked. The third time the most beautiful eyes stared back at me. I will never forget her or that moment.

2. I love to dance! When I was little, my uncle used to give me five dollars to dance in front of the family. I did it, but I was shy. When I got older, I became a salsa instructor just for fun.

3. I also love baseball. When I was a kid, my favorite player was Tom Seaver #41, pitcher for the New York Mets. Before he was pitching a game, I would go buy a slice of pizza and an RC cola and go home and watch him pitch. “Go Mets!”

4. When I was 5, my brother, Albert, showed me how to tie my sneakers. It took me an hour to learn, and then I was off to the races.

5. My sweet and sour moments were watching my children smile without their front teeth. They grow up so fast. I was their tooth fairy, and I still have all of their teeth.

6. When my children were young, I was working 16 hours a day, so I hardly got to see them. After I fell asleep, they would sometimes all crawl into bed and cuddle in with me, like a giant puppy pile. I’d wake up and just listen to them breathing. They did that because they missed me. Now, I miss them!

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El Jefe

el jefe

colombia-panama-pipeline

colombia-panama-pipeline

El Jefe was the boss of our operation.

I met him once in Bogota, Colombia, and I spoke to him four times on the phone. I don’t know very much about him — because I didn’t ask. Asking isn’t something you did. He was a man of mystery and planned to keep it that way.

He was well-connected in the Colombian government, had influence with the army generals, and connections all over the world.

Once when we had to move our operation from Venezuela to Panama, and we needed merchandise ASAP, within 24 hours the boss had 1000 kilos of cocaine in Panama ready to be shipped.

When I worked with him, he was in his early 40s, 5′ 10” and weighed about 165 lbs. His hair was thin and black with cruel streaks of grey.

He was soft-spoken with a calm personality, but never took “no” for an answer.

El Jefe appreciated my work and once said to me, “You’re always welcome in Colombia. Stay as long as you like. Your money is no good here.”

I felt as though he had just given me the keys to the country.

Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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“Stuffed Flowers”

Stuff Flowers

These are LD3 container

These are LD3 container

How the Cartels Bring Their Drugs in Through U.S. Airports

Baggage used to be the most popular way to bring in drugs, but due to the reforms in airport security after 911 that is more difficult, but people still try. To work, it has to be the perfect set-up, and, even then, it might work once or twice but eventually they will get burned. There are just too many informants working in the airports for them to get away with it for long.

Cargo, however, is still viable, since it’s not policed as heavily. Crooked employees of established companies keep an eagle eye and identify how often various routes are inspected by Customs and Homeland Security.

A popular method of bringing in drugs is the “Piggyback Ride.” You place a small box of drugs inside a bigger box and ship that. As soon as employees have the opportunity, they take out the small box and seal up the bigger one. Then, it’s as though no one had ever touched the box.

Drugs are also placed inside the liners of cargo containers and inside pallets of things like fresh fish, engines, and truck tires — all of which would also help disguise the smell.

How do you take the drugs out of the warehouse? All you need is a driver with a flat-bed truck and fake invoices. Put the drugs in the company truck, drive a mile up the street, where your partner in crime is waiting for the exchange. The drugs change hands, and everyone drives off in different directions.If criminals get spooked and think the authorities are on to them, they will abandon their cargo.

In 1991 at American Airlines, a customer didn’t pick up his rose cargo after 10 days, so it was eventually dumped in the large waste container, as was normal at the time. A few employees noticed that the flowers were still alive and decided to grab some but got more than they expected. Cocaine had been shipped with the flowers. Soon there was a rush to get the free flowers (or was it the drugs?…). (A kilo of cocaine had a street value of about $22,000 – $24,000.) Eventually Customs found out and thereafter all international waste was dumped in a special container in a secure area. However, cocaine may still be coming in on roses. So if you ever buy flowers in Miami, don’t get too close or you might get more than you bargained for!

Interesting note: because of the measures put into place after the anthrax tragedy in 2001, it is nearly impossible to ship drugs in packages through the mail.

You’ll be able to read more about how the cartels shipped their drugs in my forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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Money Flights

old-suitcase-full-of-money

Money Flights

In a recent blog, I talked about the two types of airline personnel who steal from passengers: the professionals who target other criminals and the morons who target everyday passengers.

The professionals profile their victims. If you paid cash for your ticket on the same day as your flight, there’s a good chance you’re moving drugs and/or money, so you might never see your bags again. Homeland Security actually uses the same system today to profile potential risk passengers.

The professionals were especially watching for passengers going to: Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Panama, Port-Au-Prince, Santo Domingo, and, in the States, Los Angeles, NYC, and Miami. Why? Because they are the biggest suppliers of drugs to the United States. The drugs come in. How do you get the payment home? Often in luggage. (Although, since I knew about the profiling, I always urged my cartel contacts to bring it home in other ways.)

Before 911, security at Miami International was a joke. There was a lot of money to be made in the drug trade, and many of the workers were cashing in. Certain flights were well-known to be “money flights,” either because drugs were easily moved on those flights or a passenger had been profiled and there was likely to be drugs and/or money on board. The crew chief coordinator was in on it and would move in his “professional” crew to take advantage. There were actually fist-fights in the locker room as people battled over territory.

My first involvement with the money flights was not by design. In 1997, I was new at my job as Crew Chief in the outbound room, overseeing domestic and international flights. I was aware of the trafficking of currency and, one night, a crew member asked if I would send my workers on break and let his crew “close out” the flight from Bogota. Did I know what he was doing? Probably, but I respected him, so I turned a blind eye. All I cared about was him gettting the paperwork to me on time.

About a week later, the same guy asked me to meet with him in his car. He pressed a button and a secret compartment opened. A vacuum-sealed plastic bag fell to the floor.

“This is your cut,” he said.

I picked it up. There were a lot of Benjamins in there. I stared at it, thinking about how it would give me breathing room during the messy break-up with my wife, Maya. I took the money. And that was the beginning of the end for me. My values and, eventually, my freedom came to a full stop.

The complete story of my time smuggling drugs for a Colombia cartel and working as a DEA confidential informant will be in my forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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Old School Blue-Collar Workers

Boeing-707-123B-N7501A-American-Airlines-Astrojet-Flagship

In this blog, I’ve told you about my being a drug smuggler and confidential informant and some of my painful upbringing, but I haven’t addressed my early, happy days at American before I got into trouble.

Also, my last blog about luggage thieves really hit a nerve, so I wanted to show that there are also good, hard-working people in the airline industry.

I was hired by American Airlines in the late 80’s and immediate found a home. I was a part-time employee with a 4-hour shift working weekends and making $5.77 an hour. Not much, I know, but it was better than working for my criminal father.

I started at the Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena Airport, now called Bob Hope Airport. The old-timers, with an average of 25 years or more with the company, took me under their wing, taking the time to teach me how to work around aircraft correctly and safely. They taught me to treat the equipment and passengers’ personal belonging as if they were my own. They really cared about how we looked to the passengers watching us through the airplane windows.

My first week on the job the workers played practical jokes on me. On my second day of work, “Jorge” was the first to greet me in the break room. He told me that my shift was changed to the evening, and that I should go home. Five minutes after I got home, my crew chief called and told me to get my butt back to work. Good one, Jorge.

The next day I was in the break room with Jorge and picked up the sports page. Within a few minutes it lit up like a Christmas tree. It was on fire! And there was Jorge, with his cigarette, the cause of it all, dying of laughter.

I got him back on my fourth day. He was eating a sandwich and I told him that the big boss was looking for him in the other break room. While he was gone, I ate the rest of his sandwich. That ended his reign of terror and we became good friends.

Within 14 months, I was upgraded to a full-time employee at LAX. And after I transferred to Miami International Airport I was promoted to Crew Chief, where I helped managed 1000 employees a day. I covered all the holes and when the supervisor and manager went on vacation, I covered their positions too. I was offered their jobs but declined because they weren’t Union. By this point, I was also working as a Skycap and promoted to Skycap captain, so I was plenty busy, as I’ve told you before.

That success was possible because the old-timers trained me to properly care for my workplace and my co-workers. I regret that I later betrayed that trust. It was truly an honor and a pleasure to work with them.

I would like to thank American Airlines for the opportunities they gave me and apologize for my criminal behavior. While it’s true that some of their choices allowed smuggling to flourish, that was not their intent, and we who participated are responsible….JJ Gonzalez

The complete story of my time on the ramp will be in my forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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Luggage Thieves

luggage thieves

Watch Your Bags!

There are two types of luggage thieves: the professional and the moron.

The professional works like a ghost. I’ve seen a pro open, search, and close a bag within 40 seconds. These guys are really fast and sometimes work with other people, sticking together to get the most lucrative shifts.

Their tool is a small double-edged knife that is NOT sharp, because, if it were, it would cut through the bag and leave marks. The knife doubles as your luggage keys!

The law-abiding passenger doesn’t have much to fear from the professionals. They steal things no one is going to place a claim on, such as cash on its way to being laundered, drugs, old currency, valuable freight like gold coins or whole shipments of Rolex watches, and the odd opportunity that arises because of multiple gate changes due to weather.

Before they even open a bag, the pro will bang it a few times to release the odor of any money. When a lot of money is together, it reeks.

The moron is the one who will ruin your vacation or business trip. He’ll steal your video camera after a family vacation, your jewelry, digital camera, computer, credit cards — anything that has value. I’ve even seen them steal clothes and shoes! They’ll also go through the US Mail looking for cash, and also steal cargo.

They’ll work in teams as well. In the belly of the aircraft, one guy will steal from your bags while the other two are loading the airplane. It was so prevalent when I worked at MIA in the 1990s and 2000s, that if you ever flew out of M.I.A. during that time, most likely your bags were breached.

TSA has improved the situation, but it still happens. Just ask Kim Kardashian. In May 2012, while on a British Airways flight, thieves stole from her luggage.

Morons usually are feeding some kind of addiction such as gambling or drugs, or they have a financial problem. Their desperation makes them sloppy and careless sometimes, so they eventually get caught.

Why I Call Them Morons

Once a moron was going through luggage like he had a mission, very quickly and seemingly without guilt, and his airport ID fell inside one of the bags he was searching. When the passenger arrived home and opened his bag, he found that items were missing, but also found a Miami International Airport ID. The following day American Airlines fired the bad employee. A week later United Airlines hired him….

If you want to ask me questions on traveling, fire away……….JJ

The complete story of The Luggage Thieves will be in my forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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” Liebster Award”

Liebster Award

I am so proud to have been nominated for the Liebster award. It’s a big honor and I want to thank everyone involved in this process. Soon everyone around the world will be in tune with my past life. It’s gratifying that people are responding to what I’m writing. It’s taught me that forgiveness really exists in the world.

The Baggage Handler AKA JJ

Below are the questions and my answers

1. If you could have one song as the theme song for your life, which song would it be? Let’s stay together by Al Green

2. Do you believe that it is better to have loved and lost than to never loved at all? Yes, because you need to find the right person. Once you do, you will never look back.

3. What can always bring a smile to your face? A baby’s laughter or smile 🙂

4. Words you live by? TCB! Taking care of business

5. Biggest fear? Being in a dark place in LIFE again…

6. What is your favorite book? The Bible! It’s helped me with my panic attacks.

7. What do you believe are your three best qualities? Loyalty, honesty, sense of humor

8. If you could have any super power what would it be? To be able through my book to HELP/HEAL an individual from their past or present or future mistakes. Like it never happened or will happen

9. If you could marry a movie star would you? Who? Yes, Rachel McAdams. She’s an amazing woman and she has natural beauty!Movie stars tend to forget where they have been. If I have to read to her like the role she played in THE NOTEBOOK with Ryan Gosling, I would read to her so she wouldn’t forget where we’re GOING….

10. What is the most important thing life has taught you? Never Quit!! It’s never over till it’s over. I may get knocked down but I will get up again and again. I’ll get up till I get it right and be me!

11. What is your funniest childhood story of yourself? When I hit my brother Albert with a tomato from across the street. It went through a bus window and then out the other side and hit him in the face. :))) I miss playing basketball with my big brother Albert, who was killed at 28 many years ago. 😦

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Fisherman

Fisherman

The Fisherman

My DEA handler, Johnny, and I were the first to show up for a team meeting in the parking lot at the DEA headquarters in Miami. That gave us some time to talk as we ate our lunch. Johnny knew that I was having a hard time with a case we were working on.

As I’ve said, during my four-and-a-half years as a confidential informant, I was able to protect from arrest all of my crew, but El Griego, because he kept calling my tapped phone and didn’t heed my veiled references to stop! His repeated calls, wanting to start up business again, put him in the crosshairs of the DEA, and I was forced to take him down.

It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but I didn’t have a choice. If I refused, my CI status would be history, and they would have put me in jail.

In the parking lot, Johnny handed me a bag of fries and said, “JJ, I know you’re beating yourself up, but if the shoe were on the other foot, I guarantee he would have done the same. Everyone eventually talks. If they don’t in the beginning, after sitting in jail for few days, suddenly they want to cooperate. One day in prison is equal to one year on the outside.”

Johnny took a bite of burger, and then continued, “Let me tell you a story. There was an old Cuban guy in Key West, Florida that we called The Fisherman because he fished out drugs every once in awhile, big catches, but we never could get him.

“We were tired of hearing his name pop up in other cases as the main supplier of the drugs. But he paid his taxes. He ran a clean respectable business for years, but we knew he was dirty, and although he hadn’t done any recent deals, we wanted him BAD to close older cases.

“So we approached his cousin in prison, who was serving 20 years, but had only been in prison for a couple of them. We made a deal with him to drop 10 years off his sentence and he could serve the remaining years in a minimum-security prison if he led us to the arrest of his cousin.

“He did. Within 6 months we arrested The Fisherman. He’s sitting in prison for the rest of his life for his past drug deals.”

I can’t say that the story made me feel much better at the time, but Johnny’s concern did.

Also, as I found over and over, no one is untouchable. The DEA knows of all the major players in the drug world. Everyone eventually gets caught.

Their favorite saying is “We’ll catch him later.” And that is no joke.

The complete story of The Fisherman will be in my forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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South Beach Colombianos

South Beach

The first thing the DEA asked of me, as a confidential informant, was not to change my cellular number. Well, from out of the blue, a Colombian guy I’d known for years, Lalo, and never suspected of any type of drugs dealings, called me on the cell and told me he could bring product (cocaine) from Colombia.

As is the protocol, I called my handlers. Then I set up a meeting with Lalo in South Beach (Miami) near his business, and then he set up a meeting with me and his guy Alejandro, whom I also knew.

It took 10 months for this case to develop because there were some problems. Alejandro’s contact was his cousin, Maximo, who was from the Medellin Colombia cartel, and they wanted to send one kilo to see if the plan worked, to test my ability. Well, I worked for an international DEA team, which dealt with 10 kilos and up. Also, after many conversations with Maximo, we changed the location to Caracas. (Ninety percent of my cases came out of Venezuela.)

Rather than sending only one kilo, I came up with the idea of sending a suitcase with clothes and a newspaper. We just pretended it was cocaine and went through the same procedures. It worked. Maximo was convinced I could get the job done, so the next trip he sent 10 kilos of cocaine, which I brought into the country, like I did before I became a CI.

The DEA confiscated the drugs at the airport when the plane landed from Caracas. Then they gave me ten kilos of fake cocaine, which they call “shack,” to complete the transaction.

Alejandro had wanted half of the product to sell and then give me my money, but the DEA wanted the cash upfront. I charged $2,500 a kilo x 10 = $25,000.

It had taken them six weeks to get the cash together, but they did, so when I brought the “shack” to Alejandro, he brought $25,000 to a parking lot in South Beach, and Special Agent Pete took him down. Alejandro flipped right away because he had a past with the DEA, which I didn’t know about. He had been caught before.

Now Alejandro was to take the fake cocaine to his people, Maximo’s nephew Juan, but he was really nervous and couldn’t handle it. so, on the way home, my handler called me and asked me to help. David wanted me to meet Maximo newhew and I went to meet Juan alone with the 10 fake kilos.

When Juan was arrested, he started crying and yelling and asking God for help in Spanish. He was so loud that the whole shopping center came out to see what was happening!

Like I have said, you are only SORRY when you get caught. And that includes me!

Special Note: I asked the DEA to buy drugs (in other cases too), which would enable us to reach deeper into the cartels, but I was told NO, it’s not in the budget! We need to change this budget problem because, instead of catching the same people over and over again, we could chop the tree down and kill the roots. This is my opinion… JJ The baggage handler

P.S. It was Special Agent Pete’s first case. We got real drugs off the street and cash at the exchange, as well as a ton of leads!

P.P.S. Lalo, Alejandro and Juan were arrested. Alejandro became a CI, Lalo went to jail for five years. Juan also became a CI.

Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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Entrapment

                      Entrapment

Definition: when a defendant claims that he or she would not have broken the law if not tricked into doing so by law enforcement officials.

“Entrapment never happens,” DEA special agent Steve told me once. “There is too much at stake.”

In fact, the DEA’s federal conviction rate is almost 99% because of the agents’ ability to produce a concrete case and connect the dots. They do it, in part, by avoiding any whiff of entrapment.

The protocol was to meet the suspect more than once and keep the conversations similar, and never have any communication with the suspect that wasn’t recorded by the DEA.

In my first two cases, DEA special agent Steve told me to always be aware of the issue of entrapment and avoid it. He told me to zip it, to talk less, and listen more. Let the suspect engage me with the drug deal. Be more like a reporter. Ask a question. Let the suspect answer. Let him incriminate himself.

That way it’s crystal clear that the suspect chose to engage in a drug deal — and, later, he can’t cry foul and get away with it

Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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The Golden Rules

            The Golden Rules

He who has the Gold makes the  rules!

“Breaking Bad”

Once I decided to break bad, I wanted to learn from someone wise, someone who’d been smuggling drugs for a long period of time.  My friend and co-worker Pedro was the best candidate. He had discipline and patience and the right connections. He taught me the following golden rules.
Ladies, beware, you may be offended. If you know me, you know that I love and respect women, so offense is not my intention. Consider these rules to be saying you’re too good for the drug business.

“The Golden Rules”

1. Don’t make it a career! No one has ever safely retired from it.

2. Never sell drugs on the street or door to door. You expose yourself to everyone.

3. Never use from your own supply. You won’t be able to think straight.

4. Never do business with a women. Women don’t belong in this arena.

5. Never take cash on the day of the exchange of drugs. Always the next day.

6. Never be desperate to make a drug deal. If something doesn’t smell right, walk away.

I broke most of the rules, and that’s why I got caught!

Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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“El Maestro”

Characters of The Baggage HandlerEnglish: American Airlines Boeing 777 at Galeã...

Pedro El Maestro / The teacher

Pedro recruited me and taught me the drug trade.
Pedro was born in Cuba and came to the United States at a young age. He spent most of his life in New York City where he ran a  street numbers lottery “la bolitas” and also sold stolen merchandise for low cost. He was always looking to make a quick buck.
When I worked with him, he was in his mid-50s, short with a medium build. He looked a lot like Mr. Magoo!  His sentences were mix of Spanish and English — which would make my brain freeze!
Pedro and I met at American Airlines but worked in different departments. One day we got to talking and he offered me a job. For years I had resisted all such offers, but, for reasons I’ll explain later, I was vulnerable to the lure of the quick buck myself, so this time I said yes.
I was to be the middleman and explained to Pedro that I needed to be free to make all the decisions on the operation, and he said fine.
I gave him the nickname el gato / the cat, because he popped up unexpected all the time during operations or had other friends look in. I’d told Pedro that the more people who knew about the shipment the more likely the merchandise was going to get stolen.
Finally, he got it and backed off and let me handle things my way.
Things went pretty well for a while.

Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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Undercover


PRAY FOR THE BEST, EXPECT THE WORST
This was DEA Special Agent David’s favorite quote.

Although certainly better than going to jail, being a confidential informant was no cake walk. I was thrown into the fire.

First, when CIs go undercover, they don’t have a bullet-proof vest or a handgun. We just have our bare skin and our wits.

2. We get the debriefed once and if don’t do or say what the DEA agents want to hear, there’s no do-over! Bye-bye, you go to jail. After my second case, the DEA saw that I could handle myself well and I was given the green light to bring in cases, which I did. I wanted to make amends and help get dangerous drugs off the street.

3. Sometimes when I was meeting with suspects, things could change quickly. I was wired, so the DEA was listening to what was happening. If the suspect wasn’t saying what the DEA wanted to hear, I’d get a call during the meeting, and the agent would tell me what to say to the suspect. I had to do this without the suspect getting suspicious!

4. You always have to be aware of your surroundings! And notice if the suspect is carry a gun. If he is, you have relay the message to the agents for their safety. They’re not in the room with you, usually they’re outside listening from a van or cars.

The bottom line is I could have been killed or kicked out of the program at any point. I’m not complaining! I’m grateful for the opportunity, but it’s also the truth that CIs risk their lives to right their wrongs.

Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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JJ Gonzalez “The Baggage Handler”

I was an American Airlines employee for 20 years,  a ramp worker (the guys with the ear muffs) and  also a Skycap before I turned bad — helping a Columbia Cartel  smuggle drugs through Miami International Airport.  I got caught and then became a DEA informant, where I did my best to make up for my past mistakes for nearly five years.

English: Concourse D, Miami International Airp...

I’m coming out soon with a book about the Cartel,  drugs, the DEA and the theft of passengers’ personal belongings  by airline workers.
I’m exposing the whole trade to protect you. I’m also seeking to redeem my mistakes.
This blog is part of that process. The baggage handler

Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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“El Griego”

Cast of Characters from my forthcoming book,
The Baggage Handler: El griego
El griego was the third piece of our drug operation.
(The others were Mano and myself.)
Mano shipped the drugs from Venezuela to the U.S. El griego received the merchandise at Miami International Airport. I picked it up and delivered it. Within 24 hours everyone was paid and satisfied. My job was to keep everyone happy and under control.
El griego was Greek but was born and raised in Miami. He was 42 when we worked together, 5’9″, solid build, and spoke Greek and Spanish, in addition to English. He had a short temper, probably because he was addicted to marijuana. When he didn’t smoke, we had a very long day.
I got the blame for El griego’s bust, but it was his own damn fault. I tried to protect him, like I did the rest of my team — none of whom were ever arrested — and told everyone not to call me (my phones were tapped). But El griego didn’t listen. He kept calling, saying he wanted to do another job. I did everything but come out and tell him that my phones were tapped, but he just didn’t get it.
My DEA team was an international team so they weren’t interested in local boys like El griego, but finally, after many such calls, they got suspicious about me — wondering if I was still in the game and double-crossing them, which I wasn’t.
To prove that I wasn’t, and avoid going to jail, they made me do the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with since my brother’s death. They made me take my friend down.
It Killed me to do it, and the fall-outfrom it hurts me to this day.

Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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Special Agent Steve “Team Leader”

Cast of Characters:

DEA Special Agent Steve, Leader of our International Team.
Agent Steve was a natural leader with a commanding presence. He was the planner, street smart,  a no-nonsense kind of guy. He wore his gun like Dirty Harry and had a “make my day” attitude toward perps.

Drug Enforcement Administration special agents

Drug Enforcement Administration special agents (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He is from New England, short and stocky, with blue eyes, light brown hair, and a light complexion.  Agent Steve and I hit it off well from the beginning. Perhaps because he had been a cop for such a long time, he knew I didn’t belong in this situation, but he was going to teach me something my parents never taught me. That is, you’re responsible for your actions and  you will make this right! He gave me a chance to redeem myself, and I didn’t let him down.  He also literally saved my life. If it weren’t for him, I would be six feet under. More on that in the book.  One time when he was putting on his gear and we were about to meet a suspect, I was holding my cell phone in my hand. He said, “JJ, CIs have been shot for holding their cell in that manner. If you don’t need it, keep it put away! I said, “Copy that” and immediately put it my pocket!  Before Steve left for a promotion in Washington D.C., he looked me in the eye and shook my hand and said, “JJ, you can work with me any time. If you need anything you call me. You have done excellent work for the DEA, a good job, and you got yourself out of this mess.”
I’m grateful to Agent Steve and others on the team, not just for saving my life, but for giving me mine back, for teaching me how to take responsibility and be a man.

Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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The Satellite TV Guy

direct tv 3The Satellite TV Guy

Mano, my contact with the Colombia cartel, and I were hanging out at my home when the installer for a satellite TV company showed up.

We all hit it off right away. El Gordo was a heavy-set guy with a great sense of humor. After he installed my satellite TV, he asked if we wanted any recreational drugs (weed, coke), and we declined. He had no idea at the time what we did for a living!

But el Gordo was the kind of person who would get you whatever you wanted, so I kept his number around.

One day I had to pick up kilos of cocaine for Mano at a shopping mall in another county, so I offered el Gordo $5,000 to drive me there in his van. The philosophy that got me through my drug smuggling days was “business as usual.” I was always looking for ways to blend in, to not be noticed, to get in and out quickly. So I had el Gordo bring me a work t-shirt so that to anyone looking, I was just The Satellite TV Guy.

The pick up went off without a hitch, and el Gordo asked if he could sell the product for me. The kilos were already spoken for, I told him, but maybe next time.

There was a next time, and more times after that until el Gordo fell with other dominos in a DEA sting.

Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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Captain of the Cartel “Mano”

Bogota...

Introducing the “Cartel”

“Mano” was my Colombia connection! He was a Captain in a Colombia cartel.

He was born in Bogota, Colombia, which makes him a “Bogotano.” When I worked with him, he was in his early thirties. Despite being short and stocky, he was intimidating in appearance and had a quiet but demanding personality. His stance was, Show me the money!

At a young age Mano brought drugs into the U.S. in his stomach, getting past customs by swallowing balloons full of heroin, which he sold in the streets of the U.S. for huge profits.

I once asked Mano if he ever met Pablo Escobar, the Medellín Cartel drug lord.

Mano said the closest he ever got to meeting Escobar was a time he took a trip to Medellin, Colombia for some fun.

He said, “A short time after I arrived, I got a visit at my hotel room from

Pablo Escobar’s men, asking me to leave quickly or else. Mr. Escobar doesn’t like strangers in his city!”

Any time Mano saw anything affiliated with the police, he would glance over to me and say, “Primo, alli va ‘el enemigo de la progress’!” which means: “Cousin, there goes ‘the enemy of progress’!”

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The Bad Mechanic

The Bad Mechanic

The Bad Mechanic

Tim was a Lexus dealer service manager, who always gave me first class service. One day we got to talking and he told me that his father was in jail for dealing large amounts of cocaine and that he had his father’s connections.

As they say: “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

I figure he saw what I was driving and how I was dressed and who I worked for (American Airlines) and got the feeling I might be interested.

As time passed, I learned that he was a lady’s man and that he could find whatever you were looking for in the black market. Eventually he opened his own Lexus repair shop and took all of his clients.

As I’ve said in this blog, I was a drug smuggler turned DEA confidential informant. When I was still working with the Colombia cartel, after one job, I ended up with extra “product” (cocaine).

Mano, my contact with the cartel, asked me if I knew of anyone who could move the extra 11 kilos.

I didn’t want to get mixed up with dealing drugs on the street, so they sat at my house for three weeks while I figured out what to do. Finally, I decided to give Tim a chance to move them.

He blew it (so to speak), giving it to a friend who took off. 11 kilos @ $20K each = $220K gone!

The shit hit the fan. Mano flew to Miami and Tim was scared. On the spot, he gave him a new Toyota Corolla and got him the rest of the money within three days. You don’t want to steal, even by accident, from the cartel!

Four years later, after I had become a CI, Tim called me out of the blue, saying he wanted to make up for what happened with the lost 11 kilos and that he had a good connection with ecstasy who could get as much as I want.

My phone was tapped, so I had no choice but to call my handler; although, by this point I really wanted to get drugs off the street.

Johnny and I worked the case together. We busted the bad mechanic, who then flipped (as most do) and became a CI himself.

A couple of years ago, I called Johnny and in our conversation asked about Tim. Johnny said he was still working for the DEA as a CI and doing a great job.

As I learned after I flipped, confidential informants are everywhere. If you’re dealing drugs, you’ve dealt with one. That means eventually you will get caught.

Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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The One That Got Away

My baby love  Alexandrathe One's that got away 2The One That Got Away

Perfect girl at the wrong time in life. It’s all about the timing!

Penny was my first true love. I was a decade older and much more experienced than she. Our first year together was the most romantic time of our lives. We just connected, deeply, and the memory of that year kept us together through the later years. We both thought we would go back to that special time, but we never did.

I was working with the Colombia Cartel when we met. To be honest, I was not supposed to fall in love. I had a plan. I was making a million dollars, then getting out. I should have known that would fail.

Penny eventually found out about my drug trade and, as you’ll read in the book, she accepted me for who I was.

She thought that after I finished as a CI (confidential informant) with the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) that our lives would be the same, but it wouldn’t, because I’m a marked man. We had a little girl to think of. I had to protect her and all of my children. I was afraid to even take them to the ice cream parlor for fear of someone taking a shot at me.

I wanted Penny and our daughter, Alexandria, to move with me far away from Miami, but Penny wasn’t mature to understand how deep and dangerous the situation was. She wouldn’t come. She said, “I am not leaving my family.” I thought I was her family.

Eventually, I had a breakdown, as I talked about last time, and I left Miami. It killed me to go, but if I had stayed in Miami, I would be dead.

Excerpted from my forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

Alex, all of this is Daddy’s fault. I’m totally responsible for not being in your daily life. I’m truly sorry, my angel, please forgive me! You’ll forever be my princess.

In honor and respect of my daughter, Alexandra, this blog is dedicated to her.

PS. That’s me in the picture. (JJ) The Baggage Handler!

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What Broke Me

HappinessA hug from GODWhat Broke Me

In April of 2006 my daughter told me that a year before, a new member of her family had raped her in her bedroom in the middle of the day. She finally told me because the predator was harassing her mother, my ex-wife, and her boyfriend. She needed my help to put a stop to it, and I did.

That same month, my wife and I had a daughter, and my emotions were all over the place. Every time I took care of her, I felt helpless and my heart ached for what my daughter had gone through. I blamed myself for letting that big bad wolf into her life.

My daughter’s rape broke me — something that the Colombia Cartel and the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency)
didn’t do. I just couldn’t forgive myself for not protecting her.

(Although this was not in my thoughts at the time, I’m told that my daughter’s rape probably also triggered my own pain at being molested as a child.)

I ended up in the hospital in Sept. of that year with major panic and anxiety attacks and depression, which continue to this day. I had pneumonia twice in one year. The second one left me with a hole in my left lung. I had a slip and fall accident that broke my right wrist and herniated my fourth and fifth back disc. I also had a cancer scare for a year when doctors found a 2-inch ball in my colon.

Today, I’m happy to say that my health is better. My panic and anxiety attacks are less frequent and severe, I’m recovering from the fall, and I don’t have cancer. I’m choosing better people in my life. And, I’m trying to forgive myself for not being there for my children.

I’m making lemonade with the many lemons of my past, and finally letting go of all of those dark memories that keep me from LIFE.

Excerpted from my forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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The United States Postal Service and American Airlines

U.S. Postal LogoThe United States Postal Service and American Airlines
   The United States Postal Service uses all major carriers to deliver their mail across the United States and to other countries.
   After 911, due to the anthrax situation, the federal government added safety devices and more dogs to sniff the mail, and most of the mail now goes through x-ray machines. It’s very difficult to send anything illegal or harmful through the US mail these days, but people still try, and 99% eventually get caught. (They’re always inside jobs.)
   The mail has priority over the airline’s cargo, but not the passengers’ bags. When I was with American, after the plane landed, the airline had one hour to get the mail to the US or international postal area at the airport or face a fine. As I’ve said, American was growing faster us mailthan anyone could keep up, and mail would get left out in the rain, sometimes for hours. American lost the mail contract a few times.

 

Also, as I explain in the book, bad employees steal high value mail — things like watches and cameras and other items that are insured. I helped the postal inspector catch perpetrators and suggested better safeguards, and the situation is improved.

But there’s still a problem with regular mail. People frequently send cash in letters to their families in poor countries and vice versa. The bad employees actually feel the envelopes, looking for cash, and then hold them up to the sunlight or the light in the belly of the plane to try to see the money. When they find it, they steal it.

So, don’t think you can send cash and get away with it. The truth is, you probably can’t.

Someone is out there, just waiting for your fat envelope.

Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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American Airline Cargo

Drugs in Cargocargo 5

When I first got to Miami International Airport in September of 1990, AA Cargo was the most notorious  place for drugs and thefts. Cocaine was brought in by the tons on our planes. High-value items like Rolex watches, gold coins, computers, guns etc. were stolen like a walk in a park. It was very easy!
I had a friend, Anna, who had worked at Burbank Airport, where I first started my career. I will never forget her  kindness and friendship, which was unconditional.
One day I ran into her in Miami, where she now worked in cargo.
She said, “Cargo is the most dysfunctional place I have ever worked in my 25 years of employment. The merchandises comes in one door and goes out the other door in a flash. It’s shameful and ridiculous.”
She went on to say that the theft rate was close to 90%.
Today, I can say A.A. Cargo has gotten much better since 911. Everything  is processed better and surveillance is in place. The DEA is also well aware cargo 6  that bad employees work in cargo.
However, there are still a lot of ways to get around the security. This is what I can help fix. I Can Weed out Those bad employees!

Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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T.S.A. @ Miami International Airport

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                How to Protect Yourself from Theft
Overall, T.S.A., the Transportation Security Administration, does a good job, but theft still occurs. Below are some tips to keep you and your belongings safe:
• Listen to T.S.A.’s instructions and rules and keep your cool at all times. Don’t get belligerent with them!
Keep your valuables close to you and where you can see them. If you get patted down and you don’t like who is doing it, request a supervisor or someone else.
• Most theft occurs when carry-on baggage, full of valuables, like a laptop or jewelry, has to be checked at the gate. This can be for an oversized bag or if there’s not enough room in the overhead bins. The gate agent checks your carryon and, you as a passenger, have no choice but to do what they ask of you.
This where it gets interesting. The agent tags your bags and sends it down a large tube that attaches to the gate stairs where it is then loaded on to the plane. This is usually at the last minute, and bad employees may be profiling your bag, ready to steal from it or take the whole bag.
The tricky part is the airlines wouldn’t know where the theft took place. Was it at the station where your trip began or where you landed? They just don’t know.

I do know how to fix that problem, but for now, you, as a passenger, should keep your valuables on your person. Don’t “take a chance” by bringing on an oversized bag. You may end up losing more in the long run

Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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SkyCap @ Miami International Airport

skycap5Skycapping at Miami International Airport

Skycaps are the first to greet and acknowledge the passengers in any airport. They’re the porters outside the doors of the airport, but they’re not airline employees. They work for tips mostly, and are the hardest working people in the industry.

I was a part-time skycap off and on for 16 years. I also trained the new hires in how to greet passengers, check in the bags and do whatever was necessary to get the bags to their proper destinations.

When I worked at Miami International, there was always problems with the baggage systems because the airport was too small for the volume of daily passengers and bags. It could take two hours after arriving in Miami to claim your bags!

I did my best to improve the situation, learned every trick in the book, and had connections in the tickets counter and on the ramp. If you got me as your skycap, your bag would be on your plane, no matter what. When others have made mistakes, I’ve run through the airport with bags to get them on the plane. Before 911, as long as it stayed below the weight limit, my customers could ship anything anywhere in the world — and they did.

Unfortunately, baggage handling, in general, is the most corrupt area in any airport, and that’s still true. The corruption start at curbside and ends on the ramp. That’s the pipeline where I met the Columbia Cartel.

Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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Money Laundering

                                 Money   Laundering
There’s a saying in Spanish “no jugar con dinero de gringo,” which means “don’t mess with the white man’s money.” If you do, you’ll encounter the secret service right away!
This may sound odd, but the most difficult part of my job was handling the cash. I had a machine to count it, but $50,000 in cash is heavy, it reeks of cocaine, and it has to be laundered, which means: made to look legitimate.
Before the Money Laundering Control Act of 1986, this was more easily done. You could deposit a million dollars in a regular bank or withdraw large sums without raising any questions. In fact, banks and wire services were unwitting accomplices to the Colombia cartel.
Cash was also sent through airport luggage, where it was sometimes intercepted by workers. At Miami International, there was a whole crew who “profiled” luggage that was likely to hold illegal cash. They made a lot of money, as I’ll show you in the book.
To launder money from illegal activities, you just paid cash for something expensive: commercial or residential real state, sports cars, boats. In the old days, no one would say a damn thing. The person who helped you launder the money typically took fees ranging from 6% – 10%.
Now, the transactions are a bit more sophisticated. Let’s say you are a drug lord in the US. based out of Columbia and
you’re sitting on 2 million dollars. To launder it, you call your compadre back home and ask if he needs any heavy equipment
or trucks, somethings expensive. You then pay for it, ship it to Colombia, and arrange for a third party to get the funds from your compadre to reimburse you.
That’s just one example. Ask and I’ll tell you more!

Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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“Unresolved Grief”

Albert an me

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Unresolved grief and my brother Albert, who was killed at age 28.

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Albert was 10 months older than I am, and the only stability in my life. He had tried to give me a happy childhood, which was a challenge in our chaotic household.
Unlike our parents, Albert never forgot my important days. When there wasn’t anything to eat at home, he always found
a way to provide. He was my HERO!
Losing someone you deeply love and cherish at a young age is terrifying. I got mad at God. Why with all the bad things happening in my home, did God take the only person who really cared about me?
When you lose an important and significant person in your life, your days become difficult and less meaningful, nothing seems to matter. Unresolved grief can change your judgment of life.
I was depressed for years after he was killed, then finally got the courage to deal with his loss. You can said I finally grew up. It was not easy, but it had to be done.
There will never be another connection like the one I had with my brother. But now I see life clearer and have more understanding. We have to keep surviving and learning until we reach our final destination and cross over and meet again. 🙂
I’m dedicating my book The Baggage Handler to Albert, so he can know that no matter how bad it got for me and how often I got kicked to the ground, and how often I kicked myself to the ground, I kept getting up — just like he showed me when I was young.
He often said, “Jimbo, don’t ever quit!”
And I never Will

Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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My Wife Maya

Cast of Characters:

My wife Maya

Maya and I met in high school. She was always nice to me, but after my freshman year, when I left to go to a Las Vegas high school because of my father’s wheeling and dealing, I didn’t see her again until after we both graduated.
We got married at a young age, too young, and had children. We were in over our heads. We cared for each other, but, for me, it wasn’t that everlasting love.
In 90’s, after my brother Albert was killed, my priorities changed. After someone you deeply love dies, your life changes. You want to spend time with the people you really love, because you just don’t know how long they will be around or how long you will.
I wanted to spend more time with our children. Maya wanted to maintain our lifestyle.
I was working long hours at American and missed a lot of my daughter’s dance recitals and my son’s t-ball games. I just wanted to be a DAD, so I asked Maya to get a part time job, so I could cut back, and, with my seniority, we could make it and keep the kids in private school.
Maya’s answer was, “I didn’t come to Miami to work!”
I was shocked and hurt. I had just lost the most important person in my world, and she wouldn’t give me the space or time to grieve.
That’s when world war 3 started. It left me broke and broken, apart from my children…and led me to crime.

Excerpted from the forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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