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VIEWPoint By Stephen Ondich, Commercial Forest Products

What I learned from cocaine trafficking in South Florida Re-assess your business even in high times est you think this is not happening in your organization, The first thing I recommend to anyone writing an article is to avoid a boring title. Although I’ve yet to see the other articles in this fine publication, mine is likely the only one referencing narcotics. Don’t forget to circle back and read the more conventionally-titled articles at a later time. Recently, I watched Cocaine Cowboys, a compelling documentary on the emergence, growth and subsequent decline of the cocaine trade in South Florida during the 1970s and 1980s. At that time, I was a pre-teen growing up in suburban South Florida. Spoiler alert: I was not a 10-year-old drug dealer, but I was there. Seeing news clips from the documentary brought back memories. Things that seem really odd to me now were not that unusual at the time: packages of abandoned drugs washing up on the beaches, violent shoot-outs taking place in broad daylight, neighbors being arrested for trafficking. Maybe I’m jaded but instead of being shocked by the criminal violence, my attention was drawn instead to the ancillary people featured in those clips—the bystanders, real estate agents, jewelers, car salespeople, etc. The documentary focuses on a roughly 10-year window during which a tidal wave of drugs flooded into the Sunshine State, largely unchecked. Florida law enforcement agencies were massively unprepared for the emerging cocaine trade of the 1970s. Drug importers astutely identified Florida as a prime landing zone with hundreds of miles of unprotected coastal landing areas. Local police in popular oceanfront areas were used to dealing with drunk and disorderly college students, not clandestine drug shipments. Police departments in rural areas were even less prepared. Imagine Andy of Mayberry being reassigned to security duty in Kabul. There were jurisdictional turf wars and cooperation between local, state and federal enforcement agencies was lacking. The cartels took full advantage of this quagmire. Law enforcement spent the better part of a decade trying to formulate an effective coordinated strategy

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to combat cocaine trafficking. The film features current interviews with former smugglers. A common problem was laundering the piles of cash generated from drug sales. Unlike today, large cash transactions were not monitored closely by the government. Traffickers buried boxes of cash in their yards, stuffed bills behind the wallboards of their homes, and used cash to buy just about anything. High-dollar purchases meant more laundering per transaction. If you needed to get rid of $100,000 in 1978, you didn’t just buy a car, you bought the most expensive Porsche on the lot. In the 1970s, the overall United States economy was mired in a recession, while the micro-economy of South Florida was booming. In retrospect, it’s obvious why. The drug launderers engaged in a 10-year spending orgy that focused on premium brands and high-dollar cash transactions. While blue collar workers in the Rust Belt were struggling to buy rationed gas for their Pintos, Ferrari dealerships in Florida were sold out of inventory. The same scenario unfolded in jewelry stores, banks and real estate Building-Products.com

The Merchant February 2018  

February 2018 edition of The Merchant Magazine, monthly magazine for lumber & building material dealers & distributors in the western U.S.

The Merchant February 2018  

February 2018 edition of The Merchant Magazine, monthly magazine for lumber & building material dealers & distributors in the western U.S.