Kingpin: Jon Roberts

Mj 618_348_kingpin jon roberts
Photograph by Jamie Chung

Shortly after Jon Roberts, the convicted drug smuggler profiled in the 2006 documentary ‘Cocaine Cowboys,’ invited me to stay at his house to work on his memoir, I woke to the sound of gunfire. I was in the guest room of the home, nestled in the ritzy lake section of Hollywood, Florida. Moments later, Roberts entered the hall, wearing shorts and an open shirt that revealed an almost freakishly ripped physique, especially given his age, 61 at that time, in 2009. “Nothing to worry about,” Roberts said, sweating profusely from his face. “Just some birds.”

He explained that a flock had descended on him – perhaps even initiated some sort of coordinated attack – while he shook out his bedroom carpet on the balcony overlooking the lake. The gunfire I heard was his attempt to scare them off. The birds, he believed, were “Satan throwing me a sign. That would be him saying, ‘Hey, bro. This is to remind you I got my eye on you. You’ll be mine soon.’ ”

Some 15 years earlier, Roberts had been a fugitive, having fled Miami after the U.S. government tagged him the “American representative” of the Medellín cartel. Roberts and his partners had created a veritable FedEx of drug smuggling. They employed secret airfields, listening posts to eavesdrop on government communications, and infrared homing beacons to track air drops. For nearly a decade, they evaded the authorities. The government conservatively estimates that Roberts and his crew were responsible for $15 billion worth of cocaine that entered the U.S. in the 1980s.

After doing a stretch in federal prison, Roberts returned to Florida and lived in obscurity until the release of ‘Cocaine Cowboys’ turned him into a surprise celebrity. Roberts was caught off guard when his attendance at a Miami Heat game was announced and drew a standing ovation from the crowd. The documentary had spun Miami’s cocaine-fueled decade of mayhem into a mythic tale of outlaw glory, and Roberts was a charismatic presence, speaking in a streetwise but genial voice even as he told of beatings and murders he’d had a hand in. Soon Paramount was negotiating for his story rights, and Mark Wahlberg was angling to play him.

After I arrived at his Florida home to work on the book, Roberts proved to be an attentive host, a charming storyteller, a fantastic cook, and an utterly disturbing human being. It wasn’t just the early-morning soliloquies on Satan or the guns with silencers sealed in plastic bags and buried not far from his house, which he made sure to show me – “in case I ever tell you I need one, you can dig them out with your fingers” – that were so jarring. It was also the principles he laid out to me for the book – principles that had made him effective not only as a criminal but also as a topflight racehorse owner and trainer and, earlier in his life, a Manhattan nightclub impresario. The secret to his success, he explained, lay in a diagnosis once given to him by a mental health specialist. “I’m a sociopath. Most of the time I’ve been on this Earth, I’ve had no regard for human life. In my world, that was an advantage. Inflicting pain and using fear were tools I used to get my way.”

Roberts was born with the surname Riccobono. His father, an illegal immigrant from Sicily with ties to America’s first truly national Mafia leader, Lucky Luciano, was a midlevel capo who ran gambling and loan-sharking operations out of black bars in New Jersey. When Jon turned five or six, his father began taking him on collection rounds. “My dad put me in back while he and his bodyguard drove around looking for deadbeats who owed him money.” The boy internalized what he saw. “My dad always hit people with objects – a bat, brass knuckles, the end of his gun. His main philosophy of life was ‘Evil is stronger than good. If you need more power in a situation, pick the most evil way, and you will come out on top.’ ”

As if to illustrate his point, Roberts’s father shot a man to death in front of him – not as part of a crime operation, but simply because the victim would not get out of his way on the street. His father was deported in the late 1950s during a federal crackdown on the Mafia, and his mother changed Jon’s last name to Roberts to sever his ties with his father’s legacy. A short while later, his mother died. An orphan at 13, Roberts was raised briefly by his stepfather, but when he proved unruly, he was placed in a boys home.

Though it was his father who gave him his guiding philosophy on the power of evil, it was a loose-knit gang of mostly Italian teenagers in Teaneck, New Jersey, who introduced him to the thrills of street violence. I’ll let Jon describe that period of his life in his own words.

Jon Roberts: In the early ’60s, people were square. Kids were into the Beach Boys. I didn’t want to run around like a Beach Boy. I dressed weird. I wore suede boots with points, velvet pants. I wore a beret. I carried an umbrella. The umbrella looked good, and I sharpened the tip so I could stab people with it. I was 13, and that’s how I thought.

The only guys who understood me were a group of older kids, 15 to 17, who ran around Teaneck. They called themselves the Outcasts. Some had pachuco tattoos like Mexican gangs, but the Outcasts were never a true gang. Several of the kids had fathers in the Mafia, and none of us wanted to be part of an organization. The Mafia seemed to us like joining IBM. The Outcasts were all about not having rules.

The main thing for the Outcasts when I started with them was fighting. They liked to fight the football players or go to popular kids’ parties and beat them up. Dominic was the Outcast who taught me to fight. His belief was: To give a beating, you got to take a beating. You learn to take pain so it doesn’t make you curl up or run. We’d go in his basement, and all the Outcasts would beat the shit out of me. They beat me with their hands, with pool cues, belts, chair legs. Then they taught me how to use those tools properly.

Bat fighting was the big one. Once you get your guy on the ground, the first thing you need to do is reverse your grip. Point the bat down like you’re grinding herbs in a mortar and pestle. Pump it up and down on the person. Focus on taking out the knees, elbows, and hands. After that, they ain’t running. Now you can take your time cracking their ribs, busting their balls – anything you want. When you got a bat, you’re king.

As drugs came more into our world, we started robbing people. We went after drug buyers and sellers because people doing illegal things can’t report you to the police. We’d find a guy and tell him, “We can get you weed, but we need to drive to see the guy who has it.” Soon as our victim gets in the car and we start driving, we tell him to hand over his money. Then we throw him out of the car.

After a while, we changed up how we robbed people. Teaneck was a small town, and the guy you robbed might see you again. So we did a setup where I would make it look like I was being robbed, too. One of the Outcasts brought a black kid into our group, Freddy. He was perfect to play the guy who would pretend to rob us; nobody would think a bunch of Italians were partners with a black kid.

For our first rip-off with Freddy, I convinced a guy that I could get him a thousand dollars’ worth of heroin. When I pick him up, I have Petey, one of the Outcasts, in the back carrying an empty bag that we say has the heroin in it. Petey acts uptight and says he won’t open the bag until I drive to a safe place. I take us to a woods in Fort Lee. The plan is, Freddy is supposed to jump out of the trees with a shotgun and rob us. But when I pull up, no Freddy.

I pretend to accidentally honk the horn. Freddy finally runs out of the woods with his shotgun. He is supposed to get in the car, so people don’t call the cops, but he is too excited. I have to roll down the window and tell him, “Hey, bro, could you get in the car?”

Luckily the guy we’re robbing is so scared he don’t notice. As soon as Freddy gets in, this guy hands him his money. But Freddy starts to get out before he takes Petey’s bag. I turn to Petey and say, “This robber’s really fucked up. Give him your bag so he don’t get angry and shoot us.” Freddy takes the hint. He grabs Petey’s bag and jumps out of the car.

The next day I call the guy and say, “I’m sorry, man.” I tell him I’m gonna sell him heroin at a discount so he can earn back the money he lost. He is so grateful, he agrees to meet me with $500 to buy more. I pick him up that afternoon. This time I have Dominic with me. He doesn’t want to go through no complicated bullshit. As soon as the guy gets in the car, he beats the shit out of him, takes his money, and throws him from the car. That was the end of our business relationship.

Evan Wright: Despite the Outcasts’ disdain for the Mafia, when one of Roberts’s Italian uncles gave him work collecting from people who owed money to the mob, he brought in his friends to help. Their overzealousness – they tied a man to a chair and severely beat him – resulted in Roberts’s arrest, for kidnapping and attempted murder, in 1965. Roberts, who was 17, was offered a chance to join the Army in exchange for the charges being dropped.

He was sent to Vietnam, where he served on a long-range reconnaissance-patrol team whose job was to hunt and kill North Vietnamese soldiers. Roberts warmed to the work. “My first firefight was the biggest kick I’d ever had in my life,” he told me. His team was selected to parachute into Cambodia to assassinate political leaders and committed, according to Roberts, a variety of atrocities, including hanging uncooperative Viet Cong from trees and skinning them alive. But then Roberts was gravely injured in an errant U.S. Army artillery strike and returned home with a metal plate in his head.

His Mafia uncles rewarded him with a plum job, taking over Manhattan gay bars, called bottle clubs, which in the late 1960s were being converted into discos. The Mafia wanted a piece of the action, and Roberts not only obliged but also became involved in managing clubs like Salvation and Sanctuary that sparked the reign of disco in the 1970s.

Jon Roberts: When I came up with the idea of getting into the nightclub business, Carlo Gambino gave me one of his top guys to work with, Andy Benfante. Andy was trusted. For six years he had worked as Carlo Gambino’s personal driver and bodyguard. Now we were cut loose to find good businesses to take a piece of. Andy was nearly 30 when we started. I was not yet 21.

Andy called himself the “new breed of Italian.” He didn’t dress like other soldiers. He wore open silk shirts, expensive shoes, gold chains, nice watches. He was partying in the clubs, fucking a young blonde one day, a young brunette the next. He liked Motown music and rock, like I did. As soon as we started working together, Andy took me to a shop called Granny Takes a Trip. It was a crazy place where rock stars went. It sold everything – wild, psychedelic silk pullovers, cashmere sweaters, velvet pants. Andy turned me on to a guy there who made custom boots by measuring your whole leg. The boots he made you were skintight and went up past your knees. The heels must have been four inches. Normal wiseguys looked at Andy and me like we were nuts. But Andy didn’t give a fuck what anybody thought.

We took pieces of half a dozen nightclubs by 1969. We’d send in our guys to start fights and approach the owner a week or two later and inform him we could fix his problems if he took us in as partners. The problem was the clubs we took over died after we got them. There were only a few promoters in New York who could make a club a success, and we needed to get one on our side.

We got in with Bradley Pierce through a partner of his who was just a real bad guy. Bradley was the scenemaker in Manhattan. He had a mailing list of celebrities who’d come to his openings. He had long, curly blond hair and walked around like Jesus spouting peace and love, but he was a genius who could make any club go. Bradley was shrewd. One of his tricks was getting certain girls to follow him – a group of fashion models who did whatever he told them. He would say, “Come to this club for a week or two, and drink your brains out.” If a club was dying a little, his army of models would make it hot again. Bradley had other tricks, too. He told us, “I don’t care if the club is empty inside. Always keep a line of people outside waiting to get in.”

Everybody came to our clubs. Mick Jagger, Teddy Kennedy, Johnny Carson. That freak artist Andy Warhol and his crowd used to come in all the time. Bruce Lee was one of the nicest people I met in our clubs. He wasn’t famous yet and he was small, but you could see the way he carried himself he was in phenomenal condition. After I saw his movies, I realized I probably couldn’t have taken that guy with a baseball bat.

When we had parties at the clubs, Andy and me started spiking the punch with LSD. We’d have these old mustached wiseguys show up, and we thought it was hilarious to get them high on acid. At one of these parties, we dumped handfuls of LSD blotter paper into the punch. “This is going to be the funniest shit ever,” Andy said. No old wiseguys came, but Ed Sullivan showed up. First thing he did was take a cup of LSD punch. He walked around chatting like normal. Then his face got a wild look. He grabbed at something in the air that didn’t exist and held the walls with his hands. We sent a whore over to ask what he was feeling. He went paranoid on her. He yelled, “Who are you?” He stepped closer and put his hand on her tit. He started twisting it like a doorknob. Andy and me got a brainstorm: If we could get Ed Sullivan fucking the whore on film, we could blackmail him. I told her to take him into the back room. Me and Andy peeked in. The whore took her tits out of her shirt so Sullivan could play with them, but when she tried to get him undressed, he freaked. He went into the corner and started crying.

In the summer, Andy and I did what everybody else did in the club world: We left the city. We found an incredible old farmhouse on the water on Fire Island that we got for nothing because the owner was a degenerate gambler who was into my uncle for a lot of money. After we got friendly with Jimi Hendrix – he played the opening party at one of our clubs, Salvation – we’d bring him out there to get away from it all. A few times, we took Jimi waterskiing off the back of my Donzi speedboat. He liked getting out and doing things physically, even when he was stoned. One time, Jimi’s out there – no life vest on – and he falls off the skis. He’s in the water thrashing around. I swing the boat past and throw him the rope. It’s floating a couple of feet from his hands, but he’s waving his arms like crazy. Suddenly, I’m wondering if he can even swim. Andy has to jump in the water and swim the rope over to him, because, Jesus Christ, if this guy died while out with us, what a headache that would have been.

I had some good times with Jimi, but he was a disaster on water skis.

Evan Wright: Following a 1970 ‘New York Times’ story that linked Roberts to the murder of a disco promoter, he became entangled, though not necessarily directly involved, in the murder of a New York fashion model who had planned to testify against one of his friends in a heroin-trafficking case, and in the death of a cop, who some claimed had been taking payoffs from Roberts’s Mafia associates. None of these homicides resulted in charges being filed against Roberts, but, as he put it, “the heat was all over me. The Gambino family wanted me gone from New York.”

Roberts landed in Miami and lay low by working as a gardener and dog trainer. To make ends meet, he started ripping off drug dealers, as he’d done in his youth. But when he robbed a couple of sellers working for a homicidal, cross-eyed Cuban coke dealer by the name of Albert San Pedro, his life changed. He met San Pedro for a possible showdown, and instead they became partners. Roberts began moving the Cuban’s coke at the Palm Bay Club, a private Miami Beach yacht and tennis club. He formed fast relationships with celebrities from the club, like actor James Caan, bonding over a shared passion for his coke. And through his friendship with Dolphins running back Mercury Morris, Roberts became the unofficial supplier of choice to the NFL, hosting cocaine- and whore-packed blowouts at his home for the likes of O.J. Simpson and, on the eve of their 1979 Super Bowl win, a significant portion of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ starting lineup.

It was during this period that Roberts began running with a young Miami-based mafioso named Gary Teriaca, who soon got him back in the business of murder. When Teriaca’s younger brother was shot to death during a drunken dispute with a patron at a Miami steakhouse, Roberts stepped in to help get revenge. Complicating the matter was the fact that Teriaca’s little brother had been shot by a man named Richard Schwartz, whose stepfather was the legendary mob figure Meyer Lansky. According to Roberts, he met with Lansky, then in his 80s and living in Miami Beach, to obtain his permission to murder his stepson. “He knew his stepson brought this on himself by shooting Gary’s little brother. Nobody wanted to kill Richard Schwartz, but we had to make things right.”

Roberts’s account of the murder of Richard Schwartz amounts to a confession for his role as accessory. In 1993, Roberts was given immunity for the crime in exchange for agreeing to testify against one of his accomplices.

Jon Roberts: In an ideal world, you want to murder somebody in private. It’s safer that way. But Richard Schwartz must have at least suspected somebody was going to kill him, and when a person’s expecting to be murdered, it’s harder to get close to him in private. On the street, you’ve got witnesses. Unexpected things can go wrong. The one advantage of shooting somebody in the open is that’s where they least expect it. Another advantage we had was that Richard Schwartz was stupid. He parked his car every morning at the same time behind his restaurant in Bay Harbor, off Miami Beach.

There was a dock 75 feet away. We could put a boat there and use it to dispose of the weapon. The first thing you want to do when you shoot somebody is get rid of your weapon. I can’t emphasize this enough. Eliminate the gun, and your life will be a lot easier.

Albert San Pedro, my partner in the coke business, gave me his best bodyguard to do the shooting. He was a kid in his mid-20s. He was quiet, not the biggest guy, but he carried himself well. His name was Ricky. When I talked to Ricky about doing the job, he got very excited. He told me he was going to dress up in disguise for the hit – put on a tourist shirt, wear a fake beard – and I got a sinking feeling. I thought, This kid has watched too many spy movies. But, boy, did he prove me wrong.

We killed Richard on a weekday. Gary Teriaca and I docked my Cigarette racing boat before 9 in the morning. We knew Richard would be pulling up in the lot at any minute. We brought some fishing gear and goofed around on the boat, like we were getting ready for an outing. Then, boom, boom. Not 30 seconds later, Ricky came down the path. He had on the tourist shirt and a Panama hat. He carried a shopping bag from the Bal Harbour mall, with the gun inside. When he got a few steps from my boat, I saw a little smile on Ricky’s face.

Gary stuck his arm up and waved, like he wanted Ricky to throw him the weapon. Ricky was almost close enough to hand it over, but he threw it. Gary was so high he dropped the gun into the water. I was pissed. The water’s not deep, but we had to push the boat back from the dock so Gary could dive in and get it. While we’re doing our Three Stooges act on the boat, we start to hear sirens and then this godawful screaming. Some girl was just yelling her guts out in the parking lot. At least we knew Ricky must have done the job right.

Ten miles out in Biscayne Bay, Gary dropped the gun into the bottom of the ocean. He opened a bottle of Johnnie Walker and started whooping and pumping his fist, like we’d won the big game. I heard that Richard Schwartz’s teenage daughter was the first to find him after he got his face blown off. I wasn’t glad for her, but I hope Richard Schwartz felt good for what he made us do.

Evan Wright: Roberts’s coke-dealing career received a significant boost when he met Fabito Ochoa, the 21-year-old son of Medellín cartel founder Don Ochoa. The cartel was still in its infancy, and Fabito had come to Miami to help grow the family’s business. The Ochoas were looking for people to help move their coke – to import it and distribute it – and Roberts was eager to help out.

Jon Roberts: The first time I met Fabito, he showed up at my house in Coral Gables [Florida] in a Rolls-Royce convertible. He had a little-kid face that probably couldn’t grow three beard hairs. His bodyguard, Pancho, opened the car door, and Fabito pulled a flask out of his jacket. “Bebe, bebe, bebe” – drink, drink, drink – he said.

It tasted like I’d swallowed a Molotov cocktail. My whole chest was on fire. What he’d given me was aguardiente. They drink it in Colombia like Gatorade. I’m coughing and dying, and Fabito laughs. He pats my back and says, “Let’s go have some fun.”

Fabito and me spent months forming a relationship. We’d meet at my Coral Gables place and do lines of coke and go to clubs. Pancho always came with us. One afternoon Fabito shows up alone. He says, “Come. You and me, we’re going to go party the way I like to party.”

We get into his convertible and drive to the University of Miami. Fabito parks by a lecture hall. He looks at his watch and says, “Five more minutes.”

Five minutes come, and all of a sudden hundreds of students pour out of the lecture hall. They must have had a class that mostly girls take, like nursing or poetry, because we had dozens of 18- and 19-year-old girls streaming past. Fabito looks at me and says, “Watch.”

He takes a bag of Quaaludes from his glove box. He pulls out a pill and holds it up. All these girls stop and watch. “Quaalude,” he says. That’s the only word in English he knew, and it was all he needed. He throws the bag of pills in the air. It rains Quaaludes in our car. The girls start jumping in to grab them. It would be like if you went fishing and the tuna jumped into your boat. He fills the car with college girls and says to me – in Spanish – “Now, let’s go fuck these bitches.”

Fabito drives to an apartment tower near the Omni, a high-end mall they’d just built in Miami. The girls are already pilled-out by the time we get up to his apartment. It is a nice place high up with a view. The only furnishings are a couple of couches, a stereo, and a blender in the kitchen. Fabito goes right to the blender and mixes ice, booze, and fistfuls of Quaaludes. The girls drink down the knockout cocktails, while we all laugh and listen to disco music.

Half an hour later everybody’s nude, having a good time, when one of these doped-up college girls opens her eyes wide and says, “I want to go back to school.”

She crawls over to one of her girlfriends and says, “Let’s go.”

Fabito says, “I’m gonna help this girl out of here.”

This girl is so stoned, she don’t know where she is. Fabito picks her up and carries her out to the balcony. I think he’s going to give her some fresh air, but he takes her to the railing.

Fabito says, “Jon, is it okay if I throw her off?”

“Bro, are you nuts?”

“Nobody will know. I can do anything.”

“Okay, Fabito. You’re the host. It’s your house. If you want to throw the girl off the balcony, knock yourself out.”

Fabito drops the girl onto the railing. Her naked ass is hanging out over 10 stories of air. The only thing keeping her from flipping backward is her arms holding Fabito’s neck. I guess he took pity on her because he yanked her forward onto the terrace. She hit so hard, the floor shook. I’m sure she woke up later with a big bruise, not knowing how she got it or how lucky she was to have it.

Fabito’s mind was clear. He says, “Let’s go. I’ll have Pancho come over and clean up the girls.”

Soon as we get in Fabito’s car, he says, “Jon, I like you. You understand the kind of person I am.”

What happened that night built trust between us. Fabito saw I wouldn’t have judged him if he’d thrown the girl off the building. I would have been uptight about being tied to a murder. But I had no heart for the girl. Fabito knew how I was now.

For the first time, we talked business. Fabito says, “I’m going to tell you who I am. I’m the guy that’s going to get you all the coke you ever needed.”

Evan Wright: Roberts impressed Fabito early on by paying off nearly a half-dozen police in the tiny municipality of North Bay Village, next door to Miami Beach. Under Roberts’s influence, the cops not only helped unload coke shipments from the Medellín cartel at the police docks, they also provided their own homes as stash houses. “There is no place safer to store your coke than a cop’s house,” Roberts observed. Eventually, his police cohorts ended up in federal prison, but by then Roberts had moved on and up.

To launder money, he founded a racehorse stable and, to his surprise, began dominating at tracks across the country. He built a rambling ranch north of Miami that he shared with a Ford Agency model he was dating, exotic birds, a cougar that slept in his bed, and a Doberman attack dog with gold fangs – though Roberts explains, “I didn’t put them in for looks. My dog broke his fangs in a fight with an alligator, and I had a cokehead dentist build him the gold implants.”

Roberts’s secret weapon in running the cartel’s smuggling operations was an unassuming, self-admitted Florida redneck named Mickey Munday, who was a self-taught technical genius. Says Roberts: “I dealt with the people – Pablo Escobar, the Ochoas, the guys in the street – but Mickey made it all work.” Munday ran the network of airfields, radio rooms, and dozens of planes, boats, and specially modified smuggling vehicles that defied the U.S. government’s “war on drugs” for the better part of a decade.

Mickey didn’t belong in my world. He didn’t do cocaine. He didn’t swear. He used Boy Scout words like “gee whiz.” He lived with his mom. He’ll tell you he had his own apartment, but there was no furniture in it. For a while he had a skinny little girlfriend. The two of them would ride up on Mickey’s motorcycle and step off in their matching white jeans and their blond hair. They looked like they might have been out hunting unicorns together. You’d never imagine this guy was the technical mastermind of the Medellín cartel. But that was part of his true genius.

Mickey had two mottoes: “If it rolls, floats, or flies, I can make it go faster” and “You can never have too much horsepower.” He made his own smuggling boats, cars, and planes. He’d customized this green Continental for my partner, Max. It was an ugly piece-of-shit Lincoln with a landau top – vinyl over the roof – like old people drove back then. But when you opened the trunk, it was so deep you could have stood a midget in there and closed the lid. Mickey had deepened it by taking out the gas tank and hiding it under the backseat. The engine was a blown-out monster, and the car had special air shocks that jacked up the rear when you put a load in it. It could drive with a half-ton of cocaine and look normal.

Mickey had all kinds of tricks. He would run tourist flights from Miami to the Bahamas. He’d pay girls to go on chartered tours. He and his pilot would dress in uniforms and fly these girls to a luxury hotel. When the girls checked in, Mickey and the pilot would fly out and smuggle drugs for four days. Then they’d clean the plane, put on their uniforms, pick up the girls, and fly them back to Miami. Nobody ever inspected the planes because they were part of a legitimate tour company.

Sometimes the Colombians would put thousands of kilos of coke on a fishing trawler and send it into the Gulf of Mexico. Then we’d send speedboats out to unload it. Mickey built boats that were so ugly, I guarantee you, no girl would get on them, with or without Quaaludes. But he put huge engines in them and secret cargo holds. Mickey was so sure of his creations that one time, when he was driving in a load of coke and saw a Coast Guard boat having engine trouble, he threw the guys a line and towed them in. This with a half-ton onboard.

What put us over the top was Mickey’s listening in on government radios. He recorded them 24 hours a day. We knew when the Customs Service and Coast Guard were sending patrols and where. If they were going south, we went north. If one day they were looking for a red smuggling plane, we made sure to fly only green planes. And Mickey put spotters everywhere. He had people watching Homestead Air Base, where the Customs Service flew its jets, to tell us how many were in the sky. He had people watching their docks.

One of the greatest things Mickey did was situate secret landing fields in the last place anybody expected them: government property. Mickey landed most of our coke at old Nike missile bases that the Air Force had abandoned in the 1970s. What a twisted guy. We were almost unbeatable together. Almost.

Evan Wright: In smuggling drugs, Roberts told me, he had found his true life passion: “It was beating the U.S. government. That got me off harder than anything I’d ever done. I was never addicted to coke, but I definitely got hooked on smuggling it.” That addiction, of course, would lead to his downfall. Even after his indictment for cocaine trafficking in the mid-1980s, he and Mickey continued to make fools of the federal government. Both evaded arrest and lived as fugitives for the better part of a decade. After Roberts’s capture in 1992, his prison sentence of three years was itself a mockery of American justice.

Despite being a self-confessed sociopath, Roberts claims he doesn’t want his son, whom he fathered in 2000, to turn out like he did. Which is one of his reasons for telling his life story. “The important thing,” he told me, “is my son will know the truth about me.”

He adds, “Just because I love my son doesn’t make me a good person. If there is a heaven and hell, I know where I’m going. I anticipate that here on Earth, I will not have a pleasant time dying. I’m going to suffer because of what I’ve done to people in life. But I’m not worried. When I get to hell, I expect Satan will take good care of me. I’ve worked for him my whole life.”

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