The New Mexican Connection

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Chris currently lives and works in New York City. He was 17 years old when this story took place. The following is derived from a recorded interview. The names of everyone in this story have been changed for obvious reasons.

The year was 2001. It was the day before Thanksgiving but otherwise a typical Wednesday morning during my senior year of high school. I had just arrived at school when my drug dealer/friend, Nate, called. He had a proposition for me and wanted to meet at his house.

I was in the middle of an important activity but agreed to head over when I finished. I hadn’t planned on attending the rest of my classes that day any way.

I was working on a scheme. Pepsi had launched this new lime flavored soda called Storm. They were promoting the drink by giving away prizes stamped on the bottom of bottle caps. You mail in the cap and they send you your prize. I was told that the soda machine in the main hall of my high school was being restocked that morning and contained a bottle cap for a brand new Xbox. I decided to buy every 20oz soda in the vending machine.

I was dealing drugs a bit and had some disposable cash. The machine was freshly stocked that morning. I figured there couldn’t be more than 100 bottles of soda in it. Each soda cost $1.25, I’d buy them all and get an Xbox for $125.

At this point in my life, I was doing a lot of cocaine. I was 6’ 2” and weighed 140 lbs. Classes began at 7:30am, I strolled in wearing sweatpants at 11am with two empty milk crates. I started buying sodas and soon a crowd gathered wondering what the hell I was up to.

I bought out the machine, opened every bottle, looked at all the caps, and of course found no winner. Furious, I stormed out of the building and put the milk crates in my trunk. I had about a hundred 20oz bottles of opened Storm soda. $125 down
the drain.

I bailed on school and drove over to Nate’s.

It’s worth noting real quick, that nothing I’m about to say is admirable or worth bragging about. This story shows my ignorance, stupidity, and youth.

That said, I happened to have a pretty decent car because I was dealing some drugs. I had installed 3 flat screen TVs, a PlayStation 2, and a stupid muffler tip that made a loud whistling noise as I drove. The car was a kind of fast and flashy.

I sped over to Nate’s. He laid out a few coke lines to keep me around and listen to his ludicrous plan. Talking a mile a minute, he explained that he knew a guy, through another guy, that knew a guy, who had a connection in Mexico.

Nate said, if we took a little journey down south, this guy’s Mexican connection would cross the border from Juarez into El Paso, TX. Then he’d drive an hour north to Las Cruces, NM and meet just us outside of town. We’d buy 5,000 ecstasy pills and some cocaine. The price was $8 a pill, making this a $40,000 deal.

I told him I wasn’t a raver and I had no interest in ecstasy.

He told me I’d get 200 pills, which I could sell for about $2,000. Also, he’d give me 2 ounces of pure Peruvian flake cocaine and $1,000 cash just for driving.

Las Cruces is two hours south of Albuquerque. It was 10am. I figured, I’ll be back by 4pm, a normal time to get home from school, what’s the harm? I’ll make 4 grand for an easy little trip and I’ve got plenty of soda for the ride down.

I said, “All right, I’m in.”

I wasn’t a hard sell.

We left his house and the first surprise was we had to pick up the friend of the friend, of the friend.

We drove to the South Valley and this guy hopped in my car. He was a Latino gentleman in his early 20’s named Jason. We hit the interstate and started snorting a shitload of cocaine while flying down the road.

As we approached Las Cruces, Jason got a call from his connection in Mexico. He said he couldn’t meet us in Las Cruces and if the deal was still going down, we had to drive further south to El Paso. He said he’d walk across the Mexican border and meet us at a hotel.

Just south of Las Cruces is an internal US border checkpoint. It’s designed to catch human traffickers, illegal immigrants, and drug smugglers who’ve already made it across the Mexican border. You have to stop, flash your license and answer a few bullshit questions, but if you raise suspicion they will search your car.

Going to El Paso meant we’d have to sneak the drugs through the checkpoint on our way back home to Albuquerque. I thought, this is not what I signed up for.

We stopped at a Subway to talk about it and eat, but we were all too coked up to have an appetite.

To connive me to go along, they threw in another $1,000 and Jason swore he’d carry every pill on his body. Also, if we got caught Jason would say that Nate and I knew nothing about the pills. Basically, he’d take the rap.

I didn’t believe him but I was high on cocaine and I was promised a lot more of it, plus money. It was only a slightly longer drive. I figured, What the hell? Let’s do it.

We drove to this shady hotel full of Day of the Dead art and weird, turquoise New Mexican folklore crap. It was the type of place that rented rooms by the half hour, a seedy joint in the worst part of El Paso. We got a room and waited for hours
and hours.

Finally, the Mexican guy called and said, “I can’t get a ride to the hotel, you have to come to the border. I’ll walk across and get in your car, and you’ll drive me back to the hotel.”

I’m not happy about this but think, what can I do now? I’m balls deep.

There was a Northface backpack in my trunk containing $40,000 in cash, a test kit for the ecstasy and cocaine, a scale, and 100 bottles of soda.

We drove to the border crossing and picked up this Mexican dude. He got in the car and put on a ski mask, which was weird because I’d already seen his face. I thought, well, this is a little creepy.

He looked like a Mexican drug cartel member. He was kind of chubby, with a half-beard and slicked back hair. He meant business with the ski mask and was bulging in odd places. I was a little surprised he made it across the border with the shitload of drugs he was carrying. Obviously, he was a pro and knew what he was doing.

Back at the hotel, he made us take off our shirts and pull our pants down to prove we weren’t wearing wires.

By now it was 9pm at night. We were supposed to have been home by 4pm. I started doing a lot more cocaine asking myself, what the hell am I doing?

After it was clear we weren’t wired, the deal started. Believe it or not everything went down smoothly.

The pills were in golf ball to baseball sized packages, wrapped in brown packing tape. The guy had them taped all over his body. We tested the pills and the cocaine, he counted the money, everyone was happy.

Before walking out, homeboy took the ski mask off and I saw his face again, which seemed to defeat the purpose.

He walked out the door. Then we came to horrible realization that we had 5,000 pills and a shitload of cocaine to smuggle across a US checkpoint.

 

by Skyler Swezy
by Skyler Swezy

 

We needed a plan. Should we go through the checkpoint late at night all strung out or wait for morning when it would be less suspicious? It was close to midnight on Thanksgiving. I was ignoring calls from my parents. They already thought I was a piece of shit and up to sketchy stuff, because I clearly was.

We had ripped open the packages to count and weigh everything, so we needed to rewrap the drugs. None of us geniuses had planned for this or anticipated going through the checkpoint. At about 1am, we found a convenience store and bought a shitload of baby powder, Vaseline, duct tape and Saran wrap. Apparently when wrapped right these prevented dogs from smelling drugs.

We spent the next hour sitting in my car while Jason taped the pills and coke to his body. The plan was to return that night because all of our families would miss us on Thanksgiving. If the checkpoint officer asked, we were returning from a college football game, Nate’s brother played for New Mexico State University (located in Las Cruces). There had been a game that night and we were heading home for Thanksgiving.

A decent story if you’re not telling it while strung out on cocaine.

Jason had a couple thousand pills taped in two layer sheets around his legs, from his thighs down to the bottom of his calves. He wrapped the remaining 2,000 pills into two racquet ball sized packages and taped them behind his nuts, against his thigh. This made him walk like he’d been ass-raped.

We went over our story a couple more times: If the checkpoint cops ask, Jason is a friend of a friend. We offered to give him a ride back to Albuquerque.

We approached the checkpoint with all these drugs, strung out of our minds. I thought, this is the best plan I’ve ever had in my life, because I’m the most confident man in the world when coked up.

Jason was in the back seat, all my tinted windows were rolled up. It was 2:30am when we hit the checkpoint. I thought, hopefully, they’re tired and just wave us through.

Suddenly, I was nervous as hell, but I thought, all right, I’m in a pretty decent car, I don’t look like a human trafficker, I don’t have a big minivan, I’m a white, wealthy looking kid with a nice car and in the passenger seat is another decent looking, young, white kid.

It’s important to note that Nate and I were both 17-years old. Jason, however, looked much older. He was 21.

I said, “All right guys, I’m the only one rolling down a window. Let me do all the talking. Don’t say a word unless spoken to. I’ll just tell them what were doing and we’ll be on our way.”

We pulled up to checkpoint, the officer walked out and said, “How you doing tonight?”

“Good,” I said.

“Where are you going this late?”

“We came down for the football game. We were hanging out with some friends and family but we need to get home to our immediate family in Albuquerque for Thanksgiving. So we’re making the trip home tonight.”

“Ok, do you have an ID?”

I gave him my ID and he’s stood there looking at it. Well, Jason, in a stroke of genius, decided to crack the ice a little. I heard the back window roll down. Then, the officer saw an older Latino guy stick his head out and say, “Hey officer, how’s your
night going?”

The officer looked at him, looked at me, looked at Nate, looked back at Jason, and said, “It will be a lot better when you pull your car over there and all three of you
get out.”

I thought, this won’t end well. What am I going to do? Floor the gas and try to out run them all the way back to Albuquerque? That’s not happening.

I pulled over and we all got out. I told myself, alright stick to the story, I have no idea he has anything on him. I don’t know the guy. Maybe they’ll just look in the car, be like,‘Wow that’s a lot of soda in the trunk. That’s kinda weird.’ And let us go home.

The officer’s first sentence was, “Mind if I run a dog on your car?”

Probably the worst thing to hear in this situation. What could I do?

I said, “Sure.”

Honest to God, straight out of a movie, the cop whistled and a German Shepherd ran out of a dog door in the side of the building. It stopped right between the officer’s legs and waited. He snapped his fingers, the dog jumped through the driver side window, moved into the back seat, jumped out of the back window, crawled underneath the car, ran back to the officer, and sat between his legs again. The dog looked up and barked twice. The cop said, “All three of you guys get inside
right now.”

The car was dusted in cocaine from us railing lines on the drive down.

We’d been sniffing off a tiny silver spoon clearly designed for cocaine and doing lines off the scale too. Flying down the freeway smoking cigarettes with the windows cracked, the coke had blown around.

Police dogs don’t need a shitload to pick up on. We looked like junkies, coked out of our minds at 3am. These cops busted dudes like us for a living. They weren’t
fucking idiots.

He walked us into a little office straight out of the 1970’s. Old computers, nothing had been updated, old metal filing cabinets everywhere. It looked like a shoddy operation.

They lined us against a wall and patted me down first. I was clean. They patted Nate down. He was clean. They started patting Jason down. Everything went fine until they reach between his crotch, he flinched and tightened his legs on the officer’s hand.

The cop said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. What was that?”

The officer reached down his pants, grabbed the packages of pills and ripped them out. Jason yelped because lord knows what came off with that duct tape. The cop slammed him against the wall and cuffed him.

I figured my best bet was to totally overreact. I rushed Jason, yelling and socked him in the face. I said, “I knew I should have never given you a fuckin’ ride! What
the fuck?”

He said, “Sorry, I did it for my family.”

Another officer slammed me to the ground and cuffed me.

As they took our mug shots I thought, I’m going to prison. They tossed us in a “holding cell”, which was a horrible metal dungeon. All steel from the benches to the walls.

It was cold as shit. There were six or seven Mexican guys in there. The officers hadn’t separated us, which gave us time to work on our story.

Nate told Jason that his friend had $25,000 in cash buried in his back yard to bail out anyone from his crew in trouble.

It was the biggest lie I’d ever heard. I almost laughed but thought, if it helps me get out of here, I’m cool with it.

I never confirmed or denied it, I just let Nate run with the lie. He felt like he still needed to sell Jason on taking the rap. He said, “Don’t worry, the minute I get home, I’ll bail you out. We have $25,000 and it’s all yours.”

Jason said, “Blame it all on me guys.”

The officers tore my car apart: removed the exhaust system, cut open the seats, ripped the glove box and dashboard panel off. They found the scale in the glove box. They thought the soda bottles were full of drugs. After testing it, they were really confused that it was just lemon-lime soda.

The Las Cruces DEA showed up. They had been asleep at home with their families and were pissed they had to get out of bed in the middle of the night. They interrogated each of us separately.

Our stories matched up so the DEA’s had two options. They could press charges on

two 17 year old, white kids who might have rich dads and lawyers or they could let the guy who’d been taped up with pills, who was an adult and a Mexican-American dual citizen, take the rap. They must have considered the second option a slam-dunk case, because they let Nate and I go.

Before we were released, Nate promised Jason $25,000 for bail again. I said I’d do what I could but didn’t promise anything.

The cops were nice enough to put the exhaust system back on my car and I started racing home. It was around 7am on Thanksgiving Day.

I made it home by 10am. I told my parents I’d gotten drunk and passed out at a friend’s house. They gave me the ripping of a lifetime, but that was about it.

The next day, I went to the house we had picked Jason up from. I brought $550. I knocked on the door and introduced myself to his brother and mother. I told them what happened and said, “Here is every penny to my name, I hope it helps.”

His mother cried. His brother thanked me. They hadn’t known he was in jail. Nate on the other hand, had gone home and immediately moved to another part of town. There was no $25,000 for bail buried in a backyard. He figured Jason would be in jail a long time.

Jason was sentenced to six years in prison for felony drug trafficking. He’d probably make parole in three with good behavior.

DID YOU EVER SEE JASON AGAIN?

Three years later, I was at a party at my girlfriend’s house. She called me over and said, “My friends just called, they’re coming over and Jason is with them. Do you want to leave?”

I said, “I certainly do.”

I walked out the door and straight into Jason. He slammed me against the wall, told me to open my mouth and dropped two hits of ecstasy onto my tongue.

He said, “My family told me what you did. Thank you. Where the fuck is Nate? There’s a bounty on his head.”

6 months later, I heard that Nate’s apartment was shot up. He wasn’t home. After that I heard he took off to Las Vegas or California.

Shortly after, I moved to New York, as far away from that shit as I could get.

WHEN DID YOU REALIZE YOUR CHOICES WERE BAD?

First, when I found out we had to cross through the checkpoint and meet the guy in El Paso. I got a horrible feeling, but greed and addiction were able to override my gut.

Second, the look on the officer’s face when Jason rolled down his window and asked how his night was going. Right then, I knew we were completely fucked.

WAIT, HOW DID THE INTERROGATION GO DOWN?

I mentioned earlier there was a scale in the car and it was covered in cocaine.

Nate and I asked ourselves, “How the hell are we going to explain that?”

It was sitting in the glove box covered in cocaine I couldn’t deny that I didn’t know it was there.

We decided that if asked about the scale, we’d immediately say we were coke addicts. They could charge us for contraband and call us pieces of shit, but that was better than admitting to drug trafficking. We would say we used the scale to make sure we don’t get ripped off.

They put us in separate interrogation rooms. DEAs are not jokers. My agent had a grey buzz cut and Oakley blades. He was a tough-looking guy with big muscles and baggy jeans.

He said, “You’re looking at 11 years. You were driving and you can’t be that dumb. You knew about the drugs.”

I denied it. Then he said, “Your buddy Nate told me you guys were going to get a good deal on the pills, if you gave this guy a ride.”

I kept telling him, “We just met the guy an hour before he got in my car. I had no idea about the drugs.”

He said, “How do you explain the scale?”

I said, “I’m addicted to cocaine. I want to make sure I don’t get ripped of when I
buy coke.”

And that was pretty much my interrogation. In the end, I think he let me off because I was 17. Also, he already had Jason who was taking the blame and confirming
my story.

They put Nate and I back in the cell. After an hour they said, “Clean up your acts and get the hell out of here.”

That was it.

WHAT MOTIVATED YOUR CHOICES?

I would say greed but clearly coke addiction played a large role.

WAS DANGER AN ATTRACTION?

Big time. I’m from a middle class family. I’m an adrenaline junkie. I got involved with that lifestyle because I liked having a cool car, I liked feeling like a badass, feeling kind of like a gangster.

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