By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
On the Wednesday in April 1988 that Kenneth E. Moore walked into his video store and asked to buy five kilos of cocaine, proprietor Sam Ferguson wasn't hurting for cash. Ferguson had met the Delray businessman through mutual acquaintances, and for the Liberty City shop owner it was no big thing, really, just a favor for friends.
Ferguson told Moore he could set up a deal for three keys at $15,000 per, made some calls, and a runner was dispatched to deliver the goods. When Moore returned to Magic City Record and Video Store with a brown leather satchel full of money, the three men gathered around the trunk of the buyer's car. But before the transaction could be consummated, Ferguson got a good look at the man in the passenger's seat of Moore's car and hesitated.
Aside from the fact that he was on the verge of facilitating a three-kilo sale, Ferguson had reason to be cautious. For one thing, his neighbors in Miami Lakes included some heavyweight dopers, and police surveillance was a constant near the house he shared with his wife Daisy and their four kids. Five days before, in fact, he had been pulled over by Metro-Dade Organized Crime Bureau agents who searched his Porsche 928 and found a Cobray M-11 machine gun, which Ferguson had intended to take with him to the video store to dispose of. The gun was unregistered.
Now, standing outside Magic City, Ferguson thought he recognized Moore's passenger as a man he'd seen before around the area, a man he felt pretty certain was a cop. He backed off. "Naw...naw...that's okay," he said to Moore. "I don't want to deal." They should take their business over to Fifteenth Avenue like everyone else, Ferguson said; the sale was off.
It turned out Ferguson's hunch was a good one, but it was a little too late. Kenneth E. Moore was actually an investigator for the Dade State Attorney's Office. His passenger, Nathaniel Veal, was an undercover City of Miami police officer. The two men were working with the FBI in a multiagency investigation of Ferguson, who eventually was charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine. That count, along with the firearm violation, was enough for a judge to sentence Ferguson in late 1989 to three years in federal prison.
"To be honest," the 30-year-old Ferguson says by phone from his cell in the Federal Correctional Institution at Sandstone, Minnesota, "I wasn't a street peddler. I felt I wasn't selling drugs to people per se, but that it was just another marketable item. I'm drug-free. I don't regret selling drugs. But if I hurt anyone, I do regret that. My goal was to make a little money and change my economic standing, not to be Sam the Big Drug Baron. If that was my standards, I wouldn't invest my money back in the community. I could just live large. I could never walk in a bank and obtain $50,000 to start a business. I put a $180,000 investment in Magic City. I could have bought a Rolls-Royce with that."
By the time he told Moore and Veal to take a hike to Fifteenth Avenue, Ferguson says, he was more than ready to turn his talents to other enterprises, to "go 100 percent legit." Besides Magic City Video, which was doing well after two years of operation, he was also running Magic City Car Care, as well as a teen disco, and working Thursday nights as a DJ at a popular nightclub, Mr. B's Lounge. "I was just a busy person," he recalls.
Before he was arrested and sent to prison, Ferguson undertook a fifth project that promised to be even more lucrative. In early 1989 he began working with a pair of talented seventeen-year-old rap singers, Charles Trahan and Leonerist Johnson. Over the course of only a few months, their musical ability combined with his business savvy engendered an LP and a video on MTV, and it seemed likely that the streets of inner-city Miami had produced yet another hip-hop success story.
The Brownsville-reared Ferguson had been involved in the music business since his days at Carol City High School in the late Seventies, when he'd worked with a business called Space Funk DJs, spinning records at parties, benefits, and sock hops. Ferguson later moved on to another outfit called Triple M DJs, run by his friend Norberto "Candyman" Morales. That venture generated annual revenues in the six-figure realm, Ferguson says, thanks to a simple formula: they charged a 50 percent fee. If an event drew 2000 people at five dollars a head, Triple M cleared $5000 for an evening's work.
But in 1987 Morales "fell into the wrong crowd," Ferguson says. "Some guys came to rob him, and they killed him." The same people, he believes, figured he might be out to avenge the death of his close friend and business associate. "They felt it was them or me," he says. And as he was leaving Mr. B's one night, a black Honda pulled up alongside him. Ferguson was shot twice, in the arm and leg.
"I made up my mind," says the six-foot-four, 250-pound inmate now, "that the street business wasn't for me. I wanted to find a group and make it in the music business."