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
At age 57, Jon Roberts is a wiry fellow whose rugged mug has been whittled by time and prison into a caricature of the two-bit New York hood he once was. Over the years, his features shaggy brows over deep-set brown eyes and a large nose have strengthened and become more prominent. His gray hair, once a bushy dark brown, is pulled back tightly in a ponytail.
Pilot Mickey Munday has described Roberts, his former business partner, as sharp but flamboyant. "I wanna say I didn't like him first time I met him. He was driving this black Mercedes two-door that's got drug dealer written all over it. He just looked like somebody that I don't want to have anything to do with."
Well, a couple of decades ago, Munday overcame his apprehension and the pair formed a profitable alliance with the Medellín cartel, eventually distributing more than two billion dollars' worth of cocaine before they were betrayed by a former friend and government informant. On September 20, 1986, a federal raid busted their business. Eventually Roberts went to prison for ten years. Munday fled but was later caught and imprisoned for seven years.
Their story is depicted in Cocaine Cowboys, a fascinating new documentary by local filmmakers Alfred Spellman and Billy Corben, which New Times recently viewed. A portion of Roberts's account is excerpted below. It traces his rise from a New Yorker fleeing his past in the early Seventies to a life as a small-time dealer and then a large wholesale mover of cocaine. It ends with a middle-age felon telling war stories. Here, then, in Roberts's own words:
I was born in New York, and I got involved with a group of Italians from New York they were actually part of a Mafia family. We opened about four or five nightclubs that became very big, and we were doing really well.
One day they just came in, the police. We had no idea why they were there. And then they told us that our partner [had been] found out on the Long Island Expressway. He had been killed, and he had like eleven bullet holes in him. So who knows what happened. The best thing I could think of at this time was let me get away from all this heat. So I moved down here and started into the cocaine business.
Miami back then was the South. It was like Alabama. There was no money here. There were no big buildings. Downtown was pretty barren. Miami Beach, it was a lot of old people sitting around on rocking chairs waiting to die. It was a whole different world down here back then. Like a virgin city. It was wide-open back then.
In the Seventies, when I first came down here, everybody was smuggling pot. The Colombians realized they had a gold mine here, and when they were sending all this pot, they would send a few kilos of coke. In the beginning it was very small. They would bring them in a suitcase, and they would get extremely high prices for it.
I met a Cuban man out in Hialeah. His name was Albert San Pedro. Most Cubans got what they got from the Colombians because the Colombians controlled everything. Albert would front me a quarter of a pound and he would give me like three or four days. Then I would bring him the money back and he'd give me another quarter of a pound.
I used to pay him somewhere around about $800 an ounce back in the Seventies. It wasn't of any quality, but a lot of people didn't know the difference. People would see these big rocks and they'd think, Wow, this is great shit.
My clients weren't what you would think they'd be, like these street people. It was real-estate people down here. I had lawyers, I had doctors. They were called weekend warriors. During the week, they wouldn't do anything, but on the weekend, they'd just go from Friday night till Sunday and do this stuff.
Each guy would introduce me to another friend. So eventually it went from four ounces to eight ounces to twelve to sixteen. Within a month, I was selling probably two, three kilos a week, just to these doctors and friends. When I came from New York, I came down here with $650 in my pocket. I was making $20,000 to $30,000 a week back then just off of this little trade.
I had met a stewardess. This stewardess worked for National Airlines at the time. So we would send coke with the stewardess. She would go from here to San Francisco. We were sending him anywhere from five to ten kilos a week. I was getting, back then, money at the time. I mean, you're starting to get into two, three hundred thousand.
I started meeting guys Mercury Morris, who was a great running back for the Dolphins who also went to jail, so it's no secret. I remember the week of the Super Bowl, when Dallas played Pittsburgh here. Two nights before, I've got the whole front line of the Pittsburgh Steelers in my house. They all sat down and: "Come on, come on. Break the shit out. Break the shit out."