FCM – U.S. Customs Agent

A Story involving a Former WWII Intrepid Crew Member.

The Smugglers of Misery – Part I

As the nation (still) watches in alarm, young America is being victimized by a massive drug-smuggling industry. Here is how it operates – and what is being done to stop it

 1969…smugglers deluged the United States with an estimated 300 tons of illegal drugs, an incredible increase in the traffic of more than 500 % in just 3 years. The contraband – marijuana, heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, barbiturates – came in by land, sea and air, in false-bottom suitcases, in hollowed-out surfboards, in babies’ diapers. When it was finally sold on the streets it brought the purveyors well over a billion dollars.

Trying to stem the daily flow of drugs across our borders and beaches is the awesome task of federal Customs officials. Their adversaries are a shrewd and tenacious legion, ranging from Mafia dons to respected diplomats, from South American gangsters to European financiers. And the methods they employ are sophisticated and ever-changing. “One thing is certain”, says Assistant Treasury Secretary Eugene T. Rossides, who directs the government’s efforts against the smugglers. “Without these highly professional, rightly organized rings of narcotics smugglers, the United States would have little or no drug problem.” Federal Customs Commissioner Myles Ambrose supplies the statistics: 90% of the marijuana used in this country domes from abroad, 100% of the opium, cocaine and heroin, substantial quantities of amphetamines, barbiturates and other synthetic drugs.

How do such vast quantities of dangerous drugs enter the country? What kind of profits do the big-time smugglers reap? What are their ties to organized crime? What is being done to deter these brokers of misery?

Seeking answers to these basic questions, I traveled from Miami to New York, from Tijuana to Montreal, probing the shadowy world of illicit narcotics. To understand this world, it is necessary to look at each drug separately.

 Marijuana by the Ton.

80% of the marijuana used in this country originates in Mexico, where peons from it on small plots, carry it to town by donkey and sell it for perhaps $4 a kilo (2.2 lbs). The marijuana leaves are then packed in one-kilo cellophane packages, and stored until transported up Mexico’s highways to points along the Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California borders.

Much of it winds up in Tijuana, the wide-open border town just below San Diego, Because of Tijuana’s heavy international traffic – more than 100,000 people cross the border every day – most of the college students, hippies and others who buy small amounts of marijuana there manage to get through Customs without being caught, But they account for only a small percentage of the Mexican marijuana smuggled into this country.

Most of it is brought in by big-money professionals. In his new book, The Smugglers, author Timothy Green tells of a top Tijuana dealer who currently sends two or three cars into the United States every day, each carrying more than 300 lbs of “grass” hidden in gas tanks, secret panels or customized upholstery. He buys the marijuana for $12,000 a ton and delivers it in San Diego for $65,000, in Los Angeles for $100,000 and in San Francisco for $200,000. Local pushers then break down the kilo bricks into ounce bags, which sell for $25 to $35, and into individual cigarettes – which usually go for 50 cents to a dollar apiece. Thus a kilo of marijuana, purchase originally in Mexico for $4, can bring more than $1000 once it reaches big-city slums or college campuses.

 SeeThe Smugglers of Misery – Part II’

 Source: The Reader’s Digest, April 1970, by William Schulz


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