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