by R.T. Lawton
Just so you know, we don't always run around trying to buy contraband. Sometimes, we offer to sell it to the other side. That's called a reverse. So, let's go back a few years and visit one of the closets in my memory.
There we were, sitting in the office, drinking coffee and catching up on paperwork. The Rule of Thumb is approximately eight hours of paperwork for every successful hour on the street. Even with the advent of computers, we killed a lot of trees.
Anyway, the office phone rings. It's U.S. Customs down in Florida. They've got three snuggler's trunks just arrived from Nepal. Seems Customs drilled the trunks and found all the trunk walls were lined on the inside with thin, flat packages of black hashish which was then covered over with thick decorative paper to make them look like part of the interior wall. The agents were getting ready to deliver one trunk to an address in Miami, but the other two were coming to a city in our Division. Would we like to do simultaneous deliveries? Oh, you bet.
On the designated day, my partner and I watch two trunks get delivered to a residence in our jurisdiction. We wait the guessed appropriate amount of time and then hit the house with a search warrant. Boy, was Mom surprised. She had no idea her Sonny Boy was involved in this kind of stuff. Last she'd heard, Sonny was back from Nepal and was visiting friends in Miami.
During the search warrant, we seize two trunks with drill holes in their exterior and hashish concealed inside their walls. We also recover two letters of intent to purchase from a couple of out of town buyers. Ah, time for me to drag out the bag of shadows and illusions. We're in business.
Attaching a rubber suction cup wire to my undercover phone (the other end plugs into my tape recorder), I telephone Intent to Purchase #1 in Nebraska and explain that Sonny Boy is currently busy in Florida, however he has conveniently appointed me to sell his recently arrived inventory. How many pounds would #1 care to purchase? I quote him the current price from a national underground magazine which any civilian can acquire from his local bookstore racks. He agrees to buy XX pounds of the product. I say I'll be in touch soon. Unfortunately, when I call him back hours later, #1 has suddenly relocated to an unknown location with no forwarding address. It appears that when Sonny Boy opened his smuggler trunk in Miami, he quickly detected the drill holes and thus hastily departed via the back door just before Customs crashed through the front. Sonny Boy was now in the wind, but must have taken a few minutes along the way to place a frantic phone call to Nebraska. That was one bird we wouldn't get.
My second call goes to Buyer #2 in Iowa. Yep, he would like to purchase several pounds of the black hashish. We agree on price, although truth be known, I'd have let him bargain me down even more. What do I care about alleged profit? It's not like the money will actually go into my pocket. I tell him I'll meet him at a certain time in a certain bar in Des Moines. He is to let me know what clothes he will be wearing so I can recognize him, and he is to sit at the bar so I can easily find him. The other side loves this paranoid spy stuff. The deal is set.
Because Des Moines comes under the jurisdiction of another office, I then call our Des Moines office and explain the situation. Would one of their agents like to play the part of a hash seller? Of course they would, it's like getting a free case to add to their quarterly statistics. Later, I hear how it went.
The undercover agent shows up at the designated bar. Buyer #2 is dressed as he said he would. They meet. The agent introduces himself using the undercover name I gave to #2 on the phone. First words out of Buyer #2's mouth are: "Man, your voice sounds different over the phone."
They rehash the price of hash and desired amount to ensure everyone agrees. They do. Buyer #2 has the purchase money stashed with a buddy out in a car in the parking lot. Conveniently, our alleged Seller (the undercover) has the correct amount of hashish with his own buddy (another federal agent) stashed out in a car in the same parking lot.
Buyer #2 insists on seeing the hashish before he produces the money. Wise move, could be a rip-off. Our alleged Seller insists on seeing the cash before they go any further. Our side also wants to ensure it isn't a rip-off. They compromise. Buyer #2 will go to the Seller's car to view the hashish while the Seller's Buddy will go to the other car to see the money.
In the Seller's car (a federal undercover vehicle), the Buyer is handed a wrapped package from a stack of packages in the back seat. Buyer #2 unwraps the package he is given and looks at the contents. Confusion crosses his face. "I thought you said it was black hash from Nepal," he blurts out.
Turns out that Blond Lebanese from an old closed out case was the only hashish the Des Moines office could get their hands on with such short notice for this street theater production. "Nah," says the undercover agent, "I told you on the phone that it was Blond Lebanese."
Now this is a bald faced lie because I definitely told Buyer #2 the stuff was black hashish, but then users of drugs tend to have memory problems from time to time so he let's it go.
Buyer#2 sniffs the brick he's holding and decides he can sell this stuff anyway. He signals his buddy in the other car to show the money. As soon as the second undercover agent sees the cash, guns come out. Buyer #2 and his accomplice are quickly arrested, plus all their money is seized along with their vehicle.
About this time, you're probably starting to wonder about that stack of alleged hashish packages in the back seat of the government vehicle. Well, once again because of short notice, the Des Moines office could only get their hands on one pound of Blond Lebanese Hash, so all the other packages were merely wrapped up telephone books to look good. As I mentioned in another blog, we tend to operate in an area of Blue Smoke and Mirrors.
So folks, when you look at all the signs which should have triggered #2's paranoia radar, you can see why this type of contraband is sometimes referred to as DOPE.
Have a good day.