Robert Mazur was an undercover federal agent famous for staging a fake wedding, inviting the biggest coke lords and drug bankers in the world to his bachelor party, and arresting them when they showed up.
As mafia leader Bob Musella, he infiltrated the cocaine banking underworld, where black market blood money is laundered fresh and delivered internationally.
Now, his story is going to AMC, where Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) is pretending to be him, pretending to be his undercover persona. You can also read the whole story in his book, The Infiltrator -- also the name of the movie, which is going to be shot in Tampa. Here's what Mazur had to say about torching bodies, evils in banking, and cocaine money.
Tell us a bit about your background?
Robert Mazur: I'm Italian from Staten Island, NYC. In my book, I explain that members of my family worked for Lucky Luciano during Prohibition. They were involved in helping move booze all over the Northeast. My first job was on the docks of New York. So I had a good street insight.
What is your history with Miami?
I lived in Miami. I had a home on Key Biscayne. An undercover house. And my principal connection to Miami was in money laundering for a dirty bank that was right on Brickell. Miami is the crossroads for the international drug trade and that's where I did a lot of business.
How did you establish your cover as Robert Musella, the Italian mobster?
I did undercover training for a year and a half and put together one of the more sophisticated fronts in long term undercover. With the help of three informants, two of who were connected to a Mafia crime family in New York. And one based out of Medellín, Colombia. And with their help I got embedded in a brokerage business, a private air charter with a Cessna Citation, a jewelry chain with over 70 locations on the east coast, and a seat on the New York Stock Exchange with a full fledged office at 120 Broadway.
We'd meet Colombian drug guys in Miami, fly the Citation to Peterborough Airport, have a limo waiting, cross the George Washington bridge, get out at Wall Street, where I had a 40-person brokerage firm, and stand there on the floor of the Stock Exchange answering their questions.
Did you ever see anyone killed?
No. But I was once contracted to kidnap and kill someone. There was a guy in Medellín who took me in and treated me like a son he never had. His name was Robert. He was a major transporter of cocaine all over the world. His partner was Fabio Ochoa and he worked with a guy named Rafael Salazar, who everybody called Rafa. Rafa had some problems and got whacked. He was frickin' crazy. Roberto had the unusual occurrence of people he had problems with showing up dead.
He told me about some Mexican trafficker in Chicago that owed him like 400 grand. I had a couple Italian guys in Chicago working undercover picking up cash for me there, so Roberto said, "You got the people who could take care of this for me?" I knew the going rate for a hit was half the debt, and told him it would be $200,000. He gave me the name and location, and said to kidnap and if he ultimately didn't pay, whack him. I had to talk my way out of that.
What's the worst story you heard?
My principal, Gerardo Moncada, managed at the time 60 percent of Escobar's routes. It was ultimately determined that he was siphoning cash from the organization and had floor to ceiling piles of it in the basement of his home in Medellín. Escobar had Moncada and his brother dragged in, stripped down, and hung up by their ankles, then took blowtorches to them and burned the skin off their entire bodies. A horrific death.
You were in an operation to take down a dirty bank?
Yes BCCI, which was the seventh largest bank in the world, and considered the dirtiest bank ever. I don't share that view. Unfortunately, there's clear proof that serious financial institutions even here in the U.S. solicit deposits from the underworld. But if you don't have at least a million in liquid cash, they won't even look at you. My first meeting with them was in the Tampa branch. I said, "I want you to understand my needs. I'm a financial adviser for a Colombian gentleman who has massive revenue in the U.S. and my job is to help them quietly get it out of the U.S. So we're looking for assistance to be assured we can do so without attracting the attention of the U.S. government." He said, "I understand the black market. Panama is the most secure for the kind of money you've got." And that was our first conversation.
Later I met 12 senior bankers, people that managed continents and hundreds of branches. They were open and bold. And I recorded about 1,200 conversations between high level drug traffickers and bankers involved in the money laundering process. The private clients division had interesting customers. From drug dealers, to terrorists, to intelligence agencies, and big name politicians. My financial adviser -- his father was at one time head of CIA in Pakistan. A 40 percent bank shareholder was a former head of Saudi intelligence. And because I got him to open up, I found he was the principal financial advisor for Manuel Noriega, which was critical in obtaining records substantiating the moving of tens of millions of dollars.
He also shared with me that he was managing funds for the CIA and was helping them move money to the Middle East to help finance arms purchases for the Mujaheddin, which later became involved with Taliban. They were also involved with the Iran Contra Affair in helping to arm the Contras to fight the Sandinistas.
It is a very strange world to break through. Like having crawled through a portal of reality into the underworld and found a massive empire whose huge impact is unbeknownst to us in almost every walk of daily life.
Did you snort a lot of cocaine?
Absolutely not. Here was my profile in the eyes of the traffickers: under the radar. People at the level I was at in the drug business were college educated and spoke two, three, and four languages. They could have been in Fortune 500 companies. And they eliminated anybody that broke protocol or drew attention. It wasn't very common that people at that level tolerate drug use. It was all about multi-ton shipments of cocaine and laundering hundreds of millions of dollars.
In the first six months of the undercover operation, our street manager would get delivered cash pickups for 25 keys worth of coke, one or two million dollars at a time in Chicago, L.A., New York, Houston, Detroit, Miami; $20 million a month from eight cities, for $160 million a month.
In the beginning, my partner was a Puerto Rican who carried a lot of street cred. He was the front man. I was his boss, the guy in the shadows who would meet nobody and only worked with his own family of U.S. Italian Americans. So after six months, they all wanted to meet me. You would have thought I was captain of the cheerleaders. They were dying to get next to me. When I met with them I said, "Listen. What I do with the family is my bread and butter. This is dessert. If this works, we can do a lot, but I gotta be convinced that you don't bring the heat. Let's slowly begin to work together and see if we can make a lot of money."
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