Pushkin. Previously on Deep Cover, it was the spring of 1985, Ned Timmins had been working undercover with bikers in the Detroit area for roughly three years.
He thought he was close to finding something big to infiltrating a smuggling ring. Supposedly, it was importing huge amounts of marijuana. And now he had a lead on someone who might be directly involved, a part time car salesman who went by the nickname Shyne.
We're looking at what he has, a house of cards and everything and no source of income, and then we're pulling phone records, bank records and everything and huge deposits of, you know, 50, 60 thousand at a time, then thought he might have enough to try and flip shine.
The FBI knows a lot, but a lot of it is a game to try to ferret out the information you need. When you throw down the FBI badge and credentials, it horrifies guilty people. What Ned needed was an in an introduction, and as Ned recalls it, another one of his biker informants came up with the solution. They would all get together and have a chili cook off so you could cook the meanest bowl of chili con carnie because apparently Shine loved to cook.
So this would be a sort of informal Iron Chef competition. Ned says his other biker, his informant, set the whole thing up.
Basically, he tells Shine as at this guy's house and he makes the most incredible chili. And it's better than your shine or shines like bull. Fucking shit is better than mine. We'll have a cookoff.
And this is also exactly how it all goes down in the novel. Shine had taken the Chile challenge seriously, Ned could smell the rich, peppery aromas from out in the neatly trimmed front yard. Every man has something he's proud of, the deck he built, the way he cooks a steak, how well tune is. Carburettors are pushing. It was his chili.
In the novel, Ned describes Shine as a Jackal, a guy with bright, intelligent eyes and a body that looked ready to bite fast and hard. Ned knocks on the door of Shine's house, so we get in there and bullshit around and I see that in the kitchen is a regular size shotgun shotgun above the door, er 15 in one corner, guns all over the place.
At this point, Ned says he's still very much in character, just playing the role of Ed Thomas, the badass biker who just stopped by to cook some chili and down some brewskies. He's just waiting for the right moment. When everyone is relaxed, guard's down.
We go about an hour and we're sitting in the kitchen. And I said, well, it's time to make a move. I just took my creds out of my pocket and laid them on the table and said, China, I'm an FBI agent. I'm going to send you away for life. I'm going to take this motherfucking house. I'm going to take your cars. I won't take any money you got in the bank. You're not going to have a fucking penny and you play ball with me.
Are all this has gone all of it. Ned says that it took shine time to come around, but eventually, after many hours of hemming and hawing, he agreed to cooperate to switch sides and start working for the FBI, but not necessarily because Ned won him over with his tough talk or his badge shine.
I found out he had his own agenda and that agenda had everything to do with one crucial detail.
It was obvious if you just looked at the guy, he'd been shot in the right thigh and took a probably eight inch circular chunk of meat out of his leg and some of the bones were shorter. He had to wear a shoe with a big lift. And so he limped to quite a bit.
So, yeah, the jackal, the wild predatory dog in real life, he was partially disabled because turns out someone had almost killed him. And when Ned showed up, Shyne was looking for an escape. I'm Jake Halpern, and this is deep cover. Episode three Elderado. Shane was hurt badly in the shooting. He was in a coma, intubated, just lying there. Shane's son, Adam, who was 15 at the time, still remembers it all every day after school was kind of a death watch because he was in the hospital for a long time.
Mom picked up from school, just it became routine. So now we're sitting here a couple hours and hours a day and that went on for a long time. His father eventually came to but he was in the hospital for three months before he finally was ready to go home. Well, not home exactly. As Shane gets ready to leave the hospital, he decides they can't go back to Melvindale, the working class factory town where they lived. And as Adam remembers it, dad had come up with a bold new plan.
We were better off getting out of there. That was the way it was presented to us kids like, hey, you know, we know you're leaving all your friends that you've known forever, but we need to get out of here. So they decided to relocate.
They found a place where the family could lay low, escape the trouble that was brewing in Detroit.
They moved to Clarkston, a rural hamlet surrounded by lakes about 40 miles north of Detroit.
It would be great if we could ask Shine how he remembers all of this going down, but remember, he's deceased. He got cancer in the 90s and passed away, so we can't ask him. But we did get our hands on about six hundred pages of court testimony, all shine under oath, telling his side of the story and the story that emerges.
Well, it's not entirely consistent with Ned's version of events. Shine says he was actually looking for Ned, that he had heard about an agent he could trust from Toby Anderson, the violent country western singer. Remember, that shines older brother. And he vouches for Ned in his testimony and says he was looking for Ned because he was scared, scared of his bosses. He suspected it was one of them who had him shot, Shane says, and the court records.
It seemed to me like the group was out of control. They were smuggling cocaine more and more frequently, and I was afraid I was going to get shot again. That's the reason I went to Ned Timmins, not because of fear of going to jail. Slowly, Shane started to tell Ned about the group, as he called it, the smugglers, and said it was a large operation involving countless people across many states and he was in charge of security.
His job was to use that mysterious briefcase with the voice stress analyzer, his portable lie detector, to vet every single would be employee if this were true. Shine was the linchpin, the one guy who knew everyone. There was just one problem. Shane hated being an informant. He didn't feel good about it. And it wasn't the person that he was, but knew it was what he had to do to stay the family.
I was aware of the stress he was going through. I was aware of how much it hurt them. These were his friends. These are the guys that went to Texas and fish bass with. These are the guys he traveled with. And, you know, they were like a team. He's trading them in and he's getting you basically. Yes. You're his new best friend. That's what you had to do. You had to get whatever information you could out of them.
And during this time with Shane, do you think that he considers you his friend? Yeah, I think so.
On one hand, he was a total crazy drunk and drug addict, wild man. On the other hand, he always wanted to protect his family. Something happens to me. You got to take care of my family. And did you take that seriously? Yeah. One of the things that Ned was most curious about was a rumor that somewhere in Detroit there was a massive warehouse that smugglers were using to distribute their drugs.
The place sounded mythic. The Eldorado of stash houses and shined basically tells Ned, yep, that warehouse it's ours.
Yeah, Shane discussed the warehouse with me and he said, Here, I'll show you. And we went and identified it.
Shine was quickly proving his worth. He knew all about this warehouse because the guy who ran it was his boss. And Shane tells me about this guy, Mike Vogel. You know, Shane said that Vogel was controlling most of the weed going into University of Michigan now and then had a direct lead on him and he put him under surveillance.
After the break, I tracked down Mike Vogel, the mastermind behind Detroit's legendary drug warehouse.
Think about how would how would you feel if you could buy anything you wanted to?
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Hi there, I'm Michael Lewis, host of Against the Rules, and we're back for our second season, we're talking about coaches. It wasn't that long ago that we only had coaches in sports, but now there are life coaches and coaches. You can even hire a coach to improve your online dating performance and your charisma. But coaching has become an odd source of unfairness.
Who has access to these coaches and who doesn't find against the rules wherever you listen brought to you by Pushkin Industries. I meet Mike Vogel at a house in a quaint town outside of Detroit. Mike greets me at the door. He's an older guy and moves slowly, almost seems like he has a limp, but not meek. Not at all. More like an old bear. Not as fast as he used to be. But, hey, don't mess with him.
He grabs a cup of coffee, lights a cigarette and just starts talking. But before we get into his life as a criminal mastermind, he tells me that I have to understand where he started out, not with marijuana, but with groceries.
You got to remember way before all this, I worked for my father, OK? And I ran the frozen food and receiving docs for his company, OK? And that's when I learned about wholesale distribution.
Yeah. Prior to being a big time drug distributor, he was moving large quantities of frozen peas.
In my father's warehouse was a two and a half city blocks long, full of dry goods, full of canned goods and a freezer that was 50000 square feet.
He was a grocery guy and that's how he became an expert in inventory, specifically his father's tracking system that used paper receipts with carbon copies. You know, almost like what you'd get at the dry cleaners.
Mike grows up in the grocery business. One of 10 kids goes to Catholic school, says he was a reasonably good student in college. Mike likes to party and hang out with girls, smoke some pot at heart, though. He's a business guy. He doesn't want to get caught and he wants to protect himself by learning more about who might be up against. So he decides to do some homework. He starts volunteering for the police.
My job was to watch the parking lot, quote unquote, I want to know the codes, I want to see how they were, how they acted. And police are not they're not as smart as everybody thinks, you know, they're just doing their job.
This whole experience only builds Mike's confidence, makes him think he can up his game, start dealing on a larger scale.
Pretty soon, he's buying 500 pounds of marijuana down in Florida, loading it into the trunk of his Pontiac Bonneville and driving it up to Michigan, where he sells it to smaller dealers.
I knew him from high school. All Catholic central bodies, and he just keeps on expanding.
I knew how to build, you have to have the product before you can do it. So what you have to do is have a constant supply. And that's what I had. I was a constant supply.
Like any smart businessman, he had multiple suppliers, eventually big suppliers, some would bring the marijuana in by plane to a small airport in northern Michigan or a grassy strip down in Kentucky. Others brought it in by boat to secret landing sites down south and then brought up north by truck. Then Mike Vogel needed somewhere to put it. He would store the product in the big warehouse at an eight mile mike, the grocery guy.
He understood that when it came to selling produce, whether it was marijuana or, you know, Brussels sprouts, the key to profits was moving large quantities quickly and efficiently.
Last but not least, he developed a network of trusted buyers who each had their own territory, for instance, college campuses like University of Michigan and almost like a big retail chain. He used his muscle to push out competitors.
I had in such a way that I really control the marijuana industry in Michigan, in Ann Arbor and all the rest. I'd hear of someone else bring in a load. I just bring in stuff and reduce my prices so they could. One guy I heard he was selling stuff for three 10. I started online at 285 and I always had good product.
All of this sounds like stuff out of a classic business school textbook, right? Sell large quantities so even slim profit margins can pay off. Keep your inventory moving, your competitors emerge and sell them. Even if you lose some money, it's worth it to maintain control of the market. I mean, this guy could be your classic Midwestern CEO, which he kind of was. But all of this has to be done in complete secrecy. For example, most buyers didn't even know where his big warehouse was when they came to make a pickup.
He'd have them go to a rendezvous point like some truck stop. Then one of Mike's trusted drivers would take the buyer's vehicle to the warehouse, loaded up with pot and then head back to the truck stop for the handoff. They didn't have to know her by location. Nobody needed to know that unless you're a fucking thief and you're going to try to steal it. Which would have been a tragedy on a lot of different levels. You can't allow anybody to steal from you.
Mike's business, it was going very well, his nephew, Matt Vogel, a teenager at the time, remembers how he loved going to visit Uncle Mike.
They bought a Frank Lloyd Wright style house in Milford on twenty five acres, 30 acres.
But it wasn't just the classy architecture that intrigued young Matt one time and one of the back bedrooms.
I remember opening the door. There was so much money in there was just stacked in boxes and twenties and hundreds. You could smell it. Money has a very distinct odor. And there was just so much of it, you could you could smell it to complete an adrenaline rush. Have you ever seen that much money? And, you know, it's just sitting there and you can literally take it. And it'd be a long time before somebody figured it out.
Matt says that hanging out with his uncle was always an adventure. He never knew where he might take you. So I got a call. We're going to go to the Super Bowl. If Uncle Mike were thinking, oh, this is great. So my mom dropped me off at the Pontiac airport.
In fact, they saw George Bush senior, who was vice president at the time, land at Pontiac Airport and hop into his motorcade, causing an epic traffic jam. But, Mike, he wasn't going to wait any traffic or deal with parking.
I'm thinking, what's the deal? Well, we're going to take a helicopter. That's what you do. But that was that lifestyle that they didn't care. I mean, who flies to the Super Bowl because you don't want to deal with parking?
Once they were at the game, Uncle Mike, he seemed to love having little Matt around go.
Might be like, oh, give me a drink, give me a hundred dollar bill. I'd literally go up to the bar at 16 in a silver nominated movie, stars walking around a Super Bowl, buy him a drink or whatever it cost. He never asked for the change he must have at home with two thousand dollars in my pocket. Of course, two grand was nothing to Uncle Mike. Nothing.
Think about how would how would you feel if you could buy anything you wanted to? You could go buy a Lear jet or you could buy this or buy that by an island if you want. You know, it's a great feeling. There are no rules for the wealthy. And none just think it's stupid. This is the guy that the FBI and U.S. attorney general had conjectured about, a marijuana tycoon, a man with closets that literally looked like Scrooge McDuck vault.
But here's the funny thing about Mike Vogel, right. For him, the money came so fast and easy that eventually he says he kind of grew tired of it.
Jake, I'm going to tell you something. It was a stressful, tough business to run on my own because I basically was involved in smuggling in the distribution of it and then having to get the money back out. I mean, it took a lot from me. I was I was sick of this fucking business. And it wasn't just exhaustion. It was the paranoia, too. He wondered who might be stealing from him, who would rat on him because he would just take one one person for everything to crumble.
It was right around this time that Mike got a call from his partner, the guy who actually smuggled the dope into the U.S., he had very good news. The next shipment, codenamed Bulldog, would be 10 times the usual amount, 300000 pounds of marijuana.
Mike Vogel, he freaked out.
How the hell do you bring in three thousand pounds? Expect how to distribute it, how to get the money. It was just too much to compound his fears.
Mike got a tip from a trusted friend, another smuggler, a guy who knew things. And this guy tells him the bulldog shipment has been compromised. The feds know about it. This suggested there was a rat.
I became really distrustful of shine. OK, really distrustful. Shine and Mike Vogel have been working together for a while at this point, Shine vetted everyone with his lie detector machine. So if there was a rat, he had somehow slipped that shot. Unless, of course, the rat was shy.
You know, once you've been in that business and you're always worry about what's going on around you, I'm not a dumb person and he just didn't fit.
This bout of paranoia occurred around the same time as Bulldog, well over a year before Shane actually flips. So at the time, Shane was not an informant. And he basically tells his boss, look, there's no way our smuggling ring has been compromised. Shane remembered this conversation and actually recounted it at trial. I'm just going to read to a bit from the court transcripts, Shane. I told him there was no way in the world there could have been any type of infiltration.
I had tested everybody. And Michael said, you're either a cop or they paid you off. And I said, well, I'm neither. I told them they could test me. Prosecutor Did he shine? Yes. PROSECUTOR Did anyone interpret that test shine? Well, he interpreted I had to chart it for him, but it did take place. PROSECUTOR Did you pass? Shane?
Yes, I'm here. They told me if I flunked, I was dead. But it didn't matter, Mike Vogel couldn't shake off his suspicions, and so he bailed on the operation. He walked away from the three hundred thousand pound load, what was arguably one of the largest loads of marijuana in U.S. history.
In the months to come, Michael will continue to nurse's suspicions about Shyne, it was like once this idea had wormed its way into his mind, he just couldn't let it go.
And then one day, towards the end of 1983, a member of Mike's outfit blasts shine with a shotgun at close range, almost kills him.
This is how Shyne ends up in the hospital in a coma with his son sitting by his side. And this is why Shyne walks with a limp for the rest of his life in reporting this out.
I've heard so many different versions of why I'm shocked. No one can agree. Some claim was just a stupid quarrel that got out of hand. For his part, Mike Vogel denies that he had anything to do with this, though he did speak with the shooter and told him, well, the problem with you is you're a bad fucking shot.
I had killed the son of a bitch. You can still hear a bit of rage in his voice all these years later, it just kind of flares up and Shane talks about Mike's temper, too, says that sometimes Mike seem to become unhinged, that he was acting irrationally. He said that Mike was, quote, turning into a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde character. There's still a little Jekyll and Hyde in him.
I caught a glimpse of this myself when I visited Mike Vogel at his house. He was, for the most part, very cordial and welcoming, consummate Dr. Jekyll. And then one afternoon showed up with Matt Vogel, his nephew. And I got kind of weird. Mike seemed to think that me and Matt, his own nephew, were conspiring against him somehow when we first arrived. Don't fuck with me, seriously, it's like as I said, when you guys walked in and you said that you guys had gotten together and I was thinking about the other night, I said, you know what?
In the olden days, I would have just called Dale and another couple bikers and 20. What happens if you keep on going the way you're going?
That's kind of disturbing. Why?
I would only be disturbing if you were in the trunk of a car and you're going to some other place field and you get out and they beat the fuck out of here and leave you there. Matt and I just kind of looked at each other, was Uncle Mike serious here? I mean, didn't seem like he was joking. And then just like that, Mike was back to being Dr. Jekyll.
Friendly, thoughtful, intelligent. Mike may have been an intimidating figure, but Shyne, it turns out, had taken measures to protect himself. He had dirt on his boss, incriminating evidence, rental car receipts, hotel records and other evidence. He even bugged a hotel room in Tampa and surreptitiously made recordings of Mike Vogel talking later on at trial.
Shine discuss this. Here he is in the transcripts talking about all the evidence he had shine. I refer to them as my ace in the hole, you know, in case Vogel made any more threats on my life. And I told them I had documentation to back up my credibility. I could corroborate certain times and dates of smuggling.
Prosecutor You threatened Voegele that you had documentation shine Yes.
In the end, Mike Vogels paranoia, it may have been justified. Either that or it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Like he was so worried that Shane was an informant, so certain that this was true, that he accused him of being a rat, made him take his own lie detector test, even wished him dead in front of others. And all of this seemed to spook shine so badly, it sent him right into the open arms of the FBI coming up and discovers that shine. He has far more secrets to tell, secrets that lead them both on a bit of a wild goose chase very far from Detroit.
Hello, Tim Harford here with news cautionary tales has returned with a special mini season as the world has found itself turned upside down. I've been searching for insight from the great crimes, catastrophes and fiascos of the past in the hope that they will teach us something about the challenges we face today. As always, there is tragedy, heroism and lessons to learn. As I weave together history and the latest social science, you'll witness the scramble to evacuate as great waves wash away.
Whole cities sit in a crowded cabaret as flames creep closer and closer to the auditorium and visit the plague hit town, where people calmly await death so their neighbors will live. And behind it all, a question.
Should we have seen the pandemic coming?
Subscribe to cautionary tales in Apple podcasts or wherever you listen from Pushkin Industries. Hey there, I'm Ashleigh Ford, host of the Chronicles of Now podcast Chronicles of Now commissions, amazing authors like Roxane Gay, Colum McCann, Carmen Maria Machado and Curtis Sittenfeld to write short fiction inspired by the headlines.
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Ned and the FBI, they didn't go after Vogul right away, as big as Voegele was, as impressive as he was, he was just the distributor.
And if you really wanted to understand how drugs were coming into the country and try to shut it down, then you didn't just go after the distributor. You wanted the smugglers, the supply chain, the financiers, the whole megillah.
The FBI prides itself on and working the entire case, however long it takes to get everybody not just to grab a kilo or a bale or, you know, seize a couple of cars or something. Their game plan is to get the whole organization.
Plus, if not arrested Voegele, then that would tip off the other players in the organization. NED He was still an undercover investigation mode.
He had just begun to tap into what Shane knew. Remember, Shane was the guy who uses lie detector machine to vet everyone.
I mean, basically he was the one man, H.R. department of a national drug ring.
But getting Shane to divulge all that information, well, that was not so easy.
You asked him a question and he'd be forthright on it, but again, you couldn't you know, you knew you only had so long with him and he would just, like, overheat.
Ned says he'd do whatever he could to get inside of Shane's head. For example, he'd take him fishing so Shane would relax. They'd have a few beers. And sometimes Ned says he'd even try to speak with a Texas drawl when they chatted because Shane apparently had a soft spot for Texans.
And I say, come on, shine. You know, let's have another beer. I think my bass was two inches bigger than yours. And and he would he would get Pettys not. Let me measure that. You get to get the measure. And then, you know, we we've got to measure that fish. I think my fish was bigger from the outside, at least Ned and Shine.
They seemed like they were really tight nets partner at the office lineis than in the vicious he picked up on this.
He and Ned were probably fairly identical to each other, had the same qualities and same gift of gab. That's why probably Ned was able to convince him to flip. The difference between one and the other is one's involved in illegal activity and the other one's involved in law enforcement activity. But the personalities almost match identical.
But Ned says he was just acting, that it was all fake, in other words, he was just doing his job and doing it well, trying to get as close to this guy as he could, building, I guess you'd call it intimacy. Or maybe it was more like emotional manipulation in any case. Ned says that the effort of doing this day in and day out, it started to wear on him.
I think it's almost a form of PTSD. You're so psychologically involved with these people. And as such, you know, you're solving problems for their family, for their kids, for their relatives, whatever. You know, they're bringing every problem to you and you have to solve it within the rules of the FBI. These two guys, they needed each other, Nedd needed Shine to make his case and shine, oh, you know, he needed Ned to help him and his family find a way out and escape.
In a way, it was your classic symbiotic relationship. But honestly, I think it was more than this. Shane and Ned shared something. There was a strange symmetry to their lives. Ned was that dude living near the country club who'd grown a Fu Manchu mustache, learned to ride a Harley and was passing as a biker with access to meth. Shane was a clever criminal from the working class streets of Melvindale, who was now laying low in the suburbs.
Passing is just another guy with a dead, but they were both essentially undercover agents, but not identical. They were mirror images of one another.
And then one day, Shine really starts to talk, we got our hands on an FBI report that cataloged everything he told Net in one session they had together Shine charts out the whole network, giving that an organized chart of the whole company.
He tells them locations shared in hotels in Tampa, Florida, a house in Slidell, Louisiana, places in Ohio, Kentucky, Boston, Detroit, and he confirms the size of some of their loads.
Twenty seven thousand pounds. Thirty five thousand pounds. Three hundred thousand pounds. And then he had names for Nedd.
Allegedly. Those involved included an American diplomat, a Texas billionaire, a Teamster executive. The list went on and on. She knew everyone from the ship captains to the guy working the radios to the offloads. Shine basically tells Nedd, if you can stop this organization, you're going to stop most of the marijuana coming into the United States. I was excited. I knew it was a massive operation and I knew that we had the key to the safety deposit box to open it all up.
Shane also tells Ned in so many words, I know how the smugglers did it. I know what boats they used. I know where the secret offload sites were. I knew how it all works because I was there on the ground when some of these ships came in. I know the whole system. So Ned and Shine, they started taking some trips together and they go deep into the swamps, North Carolina, to the marshy inlets that pirates once used.
Next time a deep cover he called me have just shoot the book. He said, you know, the place has some lost boys unload some pot.
But I says, Oh yeah, he was dressed for a disco flared pants. He had a shirt that was silk and it was open to his sternum. He had gold chains. All of these are items you don't wear on an open book. Carteret County. Deep cover is produced by Jacob Smith and edited by Karen Takuji, our story editor is Jack Hitt. Original music in our theme was composed by Louis Scarra and Flon Williams is our engineer. Fact Checking by Amy Gaines.
Mia Lobell is Pushkin's executive producer. Ned's novel is read by Walton Goggins special thanks to Julia Barton, Heather Fain, Carly Migliore, Lee Tom A Lot, Maya Karnig, Eric Sandler, Peggy Taylor, Kadija Holland, Zooey Gwinn and Jacob Weisberg at Pushkin Industries Special. Thanks also to Jeff Singer at Stowaway Entertainment. I'm Jake Halpern.