The Mermelstein Files: The Cocaine King's Letter to Nancy Reagan

This week, New Times published "I, Max," a feature story revealing what became of former Medellin Cartel master-smuggler Max Mermelstein after he decided to cooperate with feds and entered the Witness Protection Program. We've obtained documents, many of them never before published, related to the underground informant.

In February, 1987, Max Mermelstein was in the secret Witness Unit at the Federal Correctional Institution in Otisville, New York. He was awaiting sentencing for his role in the transport of 56 tons of cocaine into the United States, and had already begun his legendary cooperation that would help feds indict such cocaine legends as Pablo Escobar, Panamanian Gen. Manuel Noriega, and flamboyant mega-trafficker Carlos Lehder.

That's when he wrote this letter to First Lady Nancy Reagan in response to her "Just Say No" campaign against drugs. As tenderly as possible, Max let her know that her sloganeering wasn't exactly crippling the cocaine trade: "The campaign which you have started is excellent but it is just a beginning and is barely scratching the surface of the problem in the country, and not even touching it where it must be hit its hardest. I am referring to Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru."

It's not known whether he received any response from the White House. After the jump, read the original letter in its entirety.


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