I had found out that he was living in Sarasota, Florida. The hearing was called as William J. Bennett, the Administration's director of drug control policy, was finishing a comprehensive strategy for the nation to fight illicit drugs. We have created a browser extension. In 1980, Max Mermelstein, an American associate of the Medellin Cartel, was introduced to Jon Roberts, who was in need of a direct supplier of cocaine into the United States. The story of Max's survival during the war years was an amazing one that he told in the Skala yizkor book. Mermelstein did more than any other American citizen to help bring the Colombian cocaine trade into this country. Max had just testified against Fabio Ochoa in federal court in Miami earlier that year and didn't seem eager to talk to me, so eventually I gave up. His older brother Osias was born in 1917. Gave Him $255,900 'Reward, "Ex-Trafficker Speaks of Ease Of Drug Runs", "Interagency Rivalries Said to Hinder Drug Fight : FBI, DEA Don't Trade Data, Ex-Trafficker Tells Senate Hearing", "Cocaine king Max Mermelstein came out of hiding for a screenwriter". Since turning informant he had been living under an assumed name in the United States Federal Witness Protection Program. , Jeff Leen, co-author to the Pulitzer prize-winning book Kings of Cocaine, devoted an entire chapter to Mermelstein and is the only professional reporter to ever interview him. In addition to the $20,000 in his glove compartment and .22-caliber Walther, the Federal Government confiscated $1.2 million in cash and property that Mr. Mermelstein had at his arrest. , Max Mermelstein lived under the alias Wes Barclay and worked as chief engineer for the Westgate Vacation Villas in Kissimmee, Florida.. , Mermelstein also traveled extensively to Colombia where he engaged all the leaders of Medellin Cartel including Pablo Escobar, Jorge Luis Ochoa, Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha and Carlos Lehder. "At the time, I thought it was unduly generous," he said last week, a few days after the sentencing. , In 1985 Max Mermelstein was arrested while driving near his home in Davie, Florida. Gerald Shur and his wife, Miriam, were forced into hiding for a year and a half until Escobar's death. There will be no visitation. One of those "friends" was Rafael Cardona Salazar, a.k.a. " He became a "weapon for the government". All Rights Reserved.  Within six years, he had catapulted a multimillion-dollar-a-year mom and pop cocaine industry into a multibillion-dollar-a-year trade. Skala survivor and community leader who passed away in 2018. His connections within the Medellin cartel are the highest. When I interviewed Mermelstein in 1987, he demanded that I buy him a speakerphone and a Mont Blanc pen. ", "The money was rolling in so fast and became such a problem because of its volume and bulk that just to make things go faster, we used to weigh it--you know, quick estimate. He and Clara celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary shortly before his death in 2017. In the words of James P. Walsh, the U.S. Attorney for Los Angeles, "Max Mermelstein was probably the single most valuable government witness in drug matters that this country has ever known." Trained as a mechanical engineer at the New York Institute of Technology and married to a Puerto Rican, he moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico with his wife, and worked as chief engineer for the Sheraton Hotel. You know I'm not in town a lot, but whatever it is you need, he'll take care of it. In a rage, Rafa shot him to death at close range. His testimony helped bring down the Medellin Cartel's distributors in Miami. Mermelstein testified at the trials of former kingpin Carlos Lehder and deposed former Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega, among other work as a witness while in WITSEC from 1987 until his death in 2008. Mermelstein began providing testimony in the indictments of Carlos Lehder, Rafael Cardona Salazar, Pablo Escobar, Jorge Luis Ochoa Vasquez, and testified against the three Colombians charged with the murder of Barry Seal. Max Mermelstein. Max Mermelstein (1 November 1942 – 12 September 2008) was a drug smuggler for the Medellín Cartel in the late 1970s and early 80s, who later became a key informant against the organization.  Fred Friedman, a former assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted Mermelstein in Los Angeles said "When they arrested him, he was driving his Jaguar, and it was like something out of Miami Vice. Gerald Shur, godfather of the Witness Protection Program (WITSEC), agreed to an unprecedented thirty-family-member relocation, making it the highest single relocation cost for one witness in the history of the WITSEC. So much so that Gerald Shur, creator of the Federal Witness Protection Program, went into hiding in his own program after the FBI arrested a German assassin who confessed he was contracted by Escobar to kidnap Shur's wife in exchange for Mermelstein's whereabouts. [page needed], In the late 1970s, the Colombian drug trade was in its infancy. Although his original surname was Weidenfeld, he changed it to Mermelstein to honor someone who helped save him during the Holocaust. He always was available to Skala researchers as a source of information about the town and its residents and was a valued mentor during the construction of the Skala website. Jewish journalist and interfaith advocate. He is behind a screen but his voice can be heard. They had two sons, Steven and Joshua, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. So we'd just package it up, weigh it, get a quick estimate of what we had and when we had time later we'd count it. Working mainly for Jorge Luis Ochoa through Rafa, Mermelstein not only became intimate with the operations of the dominant drug smuggling network at the time called the Medellín Cartel, but vastly improved them. After fellow drug trafficker Barry Seal agreed to testify against Jorge Ochoa, reputed leader of the Medellin cartel, Seal was "marked for death".  Mermelstein testified at the trial of Manuel Antonio Noriega that the U.S. government has paid him $255,900 in rewards and spent another $414,345 on living expenses for him and his family in exchange for information about former associates in the drug business. After accepting another job at the Princess Hotel in Freeport in the Bahamas, Max began his first limited criminal activity by creating an "underground pipeline" to help smuggle his wife's Colombian relatives and childhood friends into the United States. He was interviewed in a disguise in documentaries by PBS Frontline about the Cocaine Cartel associate George Jung, and about Pablo Escobar. A three million dollar contract was on his head after he turned informant in 1985 and remained until his death in 2008. , In an unexpected move, U.S. District Judge James M. Ideman ordered Mermelstein released after the two years he has served in prison since his arrest, declaring that he was sending "a message to Medellin, Colombia". ✪ Mickey Munday on ARTTALK With Susana Baker, ✪ The Secret Documentary full @ LA Gangs Documentary 2017 : Los Angeles Is Being TERRORIZED By RUTHLE. Fearing for his own life, Max continued to drive until they stopped to dispose of the body at a road shoulder. Fat and sleepy, he opened the front door. In the upper echelon, cocaine was the way to go. Out of an approved thirty members, sixteen elected to enter. The cartel refused to provide his million dollar bail, and facing a long prison sentence, he decided to turn informant and make a deal with the DEA. I bought him the speakerphone. His older brother Osias was born in 1917.
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