Happy Scribe Logo

Transcript

Proofread by 0 readers
Proofread
[00:00:06]

Pushkin. A question was nagging me, who killed truth, this truth problem? It isn't just bad, it's deadly. I'm Jill Lepore and I'm a historian at Harvard and a staff writer at The New Yorker. I spent a lot of time trying to solve mysteries like this one, so I decided to start a podcast. It's called The Last Archive. I'll tell 10 stories from the last 100 years, A History of America and of our arguments about truth and evidence.

[00:00:35]

The last archive brought to you by Pushkin Industries. Previously on Deep Cover, Ned Timmins was finally getting somewhere. His big breakthrough came in the spring of 1985 when Clinton shined, Anderson flipped. Shine was in charge of vetting everyone in the smuggling network.

[00:00:58]

I know it was a massive operation and I knew that we, you know, had the key to the safety deposit box to open it all up.

[00:01:08]

She pointed to a spot on the North Carolina coast where he said his bosses had smuggled marijuana into the country. So they'd picked up the phone and called the FBI down in Wilmington, North Carolina, ask them if they have any intel on drug smugglers who were using shrimp boats. They tell them, yeah, actually, we had this one case in particular involving an abandoned drug boat, a ghost ship.

[00:01:35]

Ned quickly begins to realize that so many of the answers he's seeking about the ghost ship, the smugglers, their system are right in Beaufort, North Carolina, perfectly camouflaged in the underbrush.

[00:01:49]

Well, we're heading out of Bofur right now. We're actually going Highway 70 east.

[00:01:54]

It's about a 20 minute ride to battle 15, 20 minute ride. So, yeah, you'll get to see a little bit of a country.

[00:02:02]

That's Carl Cannon Jr. He's a big strapping guy with this epic beard. The word swashbuckling suits him well. Khazaal local guy born and bred in Beaufort. He's showing me around the area. And if you can picture a map of the United States, we're on this little marshy spit of land that sticks out from North Carolina into the Atlantic Ocean. This whole area is just a tangle of overlapping inlets and waterways, a giant aquatic maze, really. This is where INED and Shine came back in the 1980s.

[00:02:36]

It was just one of many trips they took together across the country to gather evidence. I went down to Beaufort to retrace the steps.

[00:02:44]

So as you can tell, like I say, the stuff's getting dense. You sell these little canals that come up in these little areas.

[00:02:52]

This is North River to our right. We're headed to Back Creek to the very spot where the ghost ship was supposed to unload its cargo if everything had gone according to plan, you know, as you can see now, the trees are starting to thicken, which is pretty typical for most of our country roads in areas, you know, inland and coastal.

[00:03:11]

You're basically going across several places that are basically wide open, either swamps or wooded swamps, much like you have an Everglades.

[00:03:21]

The little road that we're driving on, it eventually ends at the water's edge.

[00:03:30]

Take this baby eagle. Sounds like Karl and I get out and walk along the shore for a bit. The vegetation is dense, insanely thick. Karl starts pointing down the shore at what looks like just another clump of overgrown bushes.

[00:03:49]

They would have come up through the canal, which is the darker side of trees. You can't see the entrance because it's kind of disappears. I can't I can't see it at all from here now. It's just I can tell by the bodyline of the woods where it's where the opening is, but you can kind of see a drop and then another drop. That drop is where that creek is. As I looked out on this vast watery expanse, I started to get it started to see it.

[00:04:15]

So you had a spot with enough boat traffic that a decent sized ship would not attract attention. But then you also had a maze of coves and inlets where that same boat could suddenly disappear. It was perfectly concealed, invisible, really. Clearly, someone knew what they were doing. I'm Jake Halpern, and this is deep cover. Episode for the gentleman smuggler. There are a few things to know about my local guide, Carl. First off, he has a not so secret identity, meaning to be Captain Carl Cannon Junior.

[00:05:22]

I portray Blackbeard.

[00:05:24]

Yep. Carl is a pirate, great actor.

[00:05:28]

Now it looks green is a place I've heard, too. Well, pirates go when they don't go to hell with girls who are pretty and the beer is all free and those bottles over hanging from every tree rub me up in legal skins.

[00:05:47]

And Carl volunteers at the local museum.

[00:05:50]

He became Blackbeard because he had the one major job requirement, his beard. It was born kind of dangling down his chest. He was already braiding it to people would tell him, hey, you look like Blackbeard.

[00:06:04]

And then came the job opening.

[00:06:08]

Because the former Blackbeard kind of might have fall from grace, so to speak, and he was dismissed by the museum fall from grace.

[00:06:18]

What do you mean? He was doing some things that wasn't thought to be quite family friendly, appropriate, you might say that he was had a side job that that he was performing as Blackbeard and a funny kind of, you know, adult manner. He was doing adult parties. Karl is kind of the mascot of Beaufort, North Carolina, because the place now sells itself as Pirate Town, USA and every other storefront, you'll see a skull and crossbones, the Jolly Roger flag.

[00:06:54]

But Carl is not just some random Marine actor. His family has lived here for generations. And he says that the ghost ship wound up here precisely because of this pirate legacy. And these pirates, they tended to come and go depending on the boom and bust cycle of the local fishing economy.

[00:07:12]

Carl remembers how after a few bad shrimp seasons, some fresh faces showed up in town, some of the drug cartel folks came in and just gently started asking question around some of the fish market and boat owners and then encouraged them to get their friends to come together and basically present it to them.

[00:07:33]

Around town, they had secret meetings. It was all word of mouth. My dad was made an offer the same way one of his friends came to him, he said, got a deal for you that had bought a boat in 74, had mostly paid it off, but has all commercial fishermen find out a couple more seasons.

[00:07:53]

You need new engine or something happens.

[00:07:56]

They offer my dad if he would come make a certain amount of runs for him, run out me a mother ship, come back and go up into the bays and unload away from prying eyes.

[00:08:06]

Carl says his dad, he never went to any of these meetings, never took the offer. But a lot of people the Carl knew did.

[00:08:14]

So, you know, the temptation was there and they knew that they knew the temptation was there that they could offer to pay someone's boat off, you know, when it's very much your boats paid for and you'll never see us again.

[00:08:26]

So this is Pirate Town, USA, a place where pirates and smugglers have been playing their trade for, well, centuries. And this only made me wonder more what exactly went wrong with the ghost ship.

[00:08:38]

If these smugglers were such probes and this setting was so perfect, what the hell happened? Why was the ship abandoned? Twenty nine thousand pounds of drugs in the hold. To find out, I visited Doug McCullough, who at the time was the first assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of North Carolina. He still lives in Beaufort. We met down at the harbor just as a storm was coming in.

[00:09:07]

Some wind up here. Looks like there's some weather coming in here. So where are we where we're standing in both for downtown Beaufort.

[00:09:13]

We're on it. Doug points out to the spot where the ghost ship first appeared on the horizon as it was coming in from C.. And there was another boat with it to a small skiff, almost like a guide boat leading it in. That came through this narrow passageway known as Beaufort Inlet and dug kind of pointed out to me in the distance. And there's something else that Doug wants to show me.

[00:09:35]

As you and I look out, there's an island right in front of us.

[00:09:40]

And then over the top of that island, you can see a big flagpole with the American flag. And that's at the U.S. Coast Guard station.

[00:09:47]

That station was here back in 82. In fact, that night, two Coast Guard men known as coasties noticed the shrimper and the little guy boat coming in through the inlet. And both vessels appeared to be drifting out of the channel. They were just a bit off course. So the coasties went out to investigate. First they pull up alongside the little guide boat and in it they see someone who was clearly not a fisherman. He was dressed for a disco.

[00:10:17]

This is the 80s, remember, Saturday Night Fever, flared pants. He had a shirt that was silk and it was open to his sternum. He had gold chains. He had the stacked heeled shoes and all these items you don't wear on an open boat in Carteret County.

[00:10:34]

The coasties knew something wasn't right. Eventually they decide they want to check out the shrimp boat, too. It has since pulled up alongside a nearby fuel dock. So one of the coasties boards the shrimp boat and makes a move to go down below deck.

[00:10:49]

He said he was going to inspect the hold and that's when he heard a shotgun rack around. Makes a very distinctive chunk sound. And anybody who's ever been around a gun has heard that sound, would recognize it immediately.

[00:11:01]

The coast is back away and go to get help. A short while later, the police show up the shrimp boat still there, but its crew has fled from the outside.

[00:11:11]

It was it had its nets and it had the boom and and the other accoutrements that you would expect on a shrimper. It's only when you got inside that you saw things that didn't match. All that remained was the cargo, 29000 pounds of pot. They had a few early leads, names that turned out to be bogus, all dead ends, the story made headlines in part because the feds had almost nothing on the ship except that it was there.

[00:11:44]

What was like a ghost was the fact that we didn't get any people at that time. You know, everybody got away. It was a very frustrating investigation because Casey just sat on the shelf for almost three years.

[00:11:57]

All law enforcement agencies just kind of moved on. And we were all just in a state of waiting until Ned Timmons contacted the nearest FBI office to Wilmington. And he says, I've got the witness you're going to need.

[00:12:10]

And that witness was shine. If we had to turn one person, this is a guy we wanted, so after Ned calls down to the Wilmington office, Ned and Shine make their trip down to North Carolina. They meet with Doug McCullough. But that's not all. Shane also takes Ned on a little swamp tour to a hidden cabin that the smugglers used.

[00:12:34]

They just left it. They just stole mattresses all over and coffee and stale food and they just got the hell out of there. And whoever owned the cabin never came back either.

[00:12:45]

So far, Shane Story was checking out and Ned was slowly building his case.

[00:12:50]

We're out in the swamp. We're identifying where they stayed, where they rented cars, the hotels, they stayed in motels. Any tracks that we can establish evidence that that these specific people were there.

[00:13:04]

Shane explains that everything, every last detail was orchestrated by the syndicate's master smuggler, a guy who went by the name Skip.

[00:13:19]

He says this Skipp character, he was so sure of himself that just six months after the ghost ship was captured, he tried it again, dared to pull off the exact same operation, same route, same offloading site, used another shrimp boat, only bigger this time. And it worked. Basically, China explains why you guys were scratching your heads over the mystery of the ghost ship. We doubled down and slipped another shipment right under your noses.

[00:13:50]

Skip was so confident of his system of the camouflage that he had created that he was unfazed by the loss of a single ship. So not a fiasco, but a tiny glitch in the system. They'd steered a bad course into the harbor and they'd let a guy on board who shouldn't have been there. Remember the guy in the disco outfit? Yeah, him.

[00:14:10]

It's a mistake they wouldn't make again because Skip, he was a perfectionist.

[00:14:16]

Coming up after the break, I tracked down the legendary Skip, turns out his real name is Steven Kalish and he lives in a beautiful mansion in Hawaii. 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.

[00:15:05]

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.

[00:15:29]

Should we have seen the pandemic coming?

[00:15:33]

Subscribe to cautionary tales in Apple podcasts or wherever you listen from Pushkin Industries. These days, it's harder than ever to lead a happier life, but I've found that if you really want to find happiness, you should look for answers in evidence based science.

[00:15:50]

I'm Dr. Lori Santo's, a professor at Yale University.

[00:15:53]

In my podcast, The Happiness Lab, I discussed how the latest research on the science of well-being can change the way you think about happiness. We tackle topics like how to deal with loneliness and how you two can get over your complaining.

[00:16:05]

You can find the happiness lab wherever you listen to your podcasts. So I'm in my rental car heading out to the house of Stephen Caliche, who back in the 80s was a master smuggler, the guy sneaking in tons and tons of marijuana into the U.S.. Looking for a big house with a red roof. Oh, wow. That's going to be as beautiful as a big house with a red roof. Eventually I pull into this big gate, you know, one of those opposing things with a keypad on the side.

[00:16:44]

So I punch in the code that Stephen texted me.

[00:16:49]

And then there goes. Kate is opening. OK, the kingdom is open. I pull up to the house, it's this mansion with a perfect view of the Pacific. I mean, imagine the last scene in the Hollywood movie where the hero lands.

[00:17:08]

Well, very well. This is the place. So get out of the car. And I see him.

[00:17:15]

Skip, a.k.a. Stephen Caliche, hired you to see you.

[00:17:23]

And I got to tell you, at 67, he's this really handsome guy with a perfect tan, a ponytail and a trim, muscular physique. And almost right away, he takes me to the stables on his estate because, well, he's got to feed his horses.

[00:17:40]

You nice seven starts preparing their meal, which starts off simply enough. So this is flaxseed for their coach. Now, I don't know if you've ever seen someone feed horses, but I can promise you that's not what's going on here. I see Stephen mix at least half a dozen different, pretty obscure seeming ingredients with such precision.

[00:18:07]

It's like I'm watching a world class pharmacists prepare a highly complicated drug and this is organic help, which has minerals in it. This is Pokaski. It's organic. It's made here on the island. It's like a probiotic. And they get this in the morning. In the evening, I feed him about seven, 15 in the morning, in about four thirty in the afternoon.

[00:18:38]

And just watching you feed your horses gives me a little bit of sense of your organizational nature.

[00:18:44]

I like things to be in their place. It makes life easier. Yeah.

[00:18:48]

Did you have some version of that philosophy when you're running your your smuggling business 100 percent and was all about being organized and having plans in place and backup plans and backup plan? Always, always, always.

[00:19:06]

As we walk through the stables, Stephen explains to me that there is a very deliberate feeding sequence based on where the horses are in the pecking order.

[00:19:16]

Archie's number one, Dane is number two, ginormous number three guy quarter horse is number four.

[00:19:30]

How do how do you see that pecking order like they figure it out? Do you think that's true of people to to some extent?

[00:19:38]

Well, yeah, there is. I mean, some people are natural born leaders and some people are or not. But I was a natural born I was a born leader growing up. I was always the leader, but the neighborhood kids, I had a paper up from the time I was 12 years old to about 15, and I had the neighborhood kids working for me. Later, when he was in high school, he made headlines when he organized a protest in front of the state capitol in Austin, his cause, marijuana.

[00:20:14]

In a newspaper article that I found, Steven is identified as the leader of the, quote, beautiful People's Republic, and he makes the case for decriminalization. Meanwhile, back at home, his father, an arch conservative, wasn't too happy. His dad was a heavy drinker who sometimes beat him.

[00:20:35]

Stephen ran away to California for a time, taking and selling LSD, but he eventually came back to Texas and re enrolled in high school. He live with some friends to support himself. He started selling pot and found out he was good at it and he was even better at teaching others how to follow his lead.

[00:20:53]

Basically, I started buying a few pounds of pot and breaking it up and then letting my friends sell it to their friends.

[00:21:00]

So while still in high school, he created his own multilevel marketing scheme, the way Avon sells perfume, only its weed.

[00:21:09]

Eventually, the market grew and I was buying more pot and selling more pot. I finished my junior year at Bilour High School and by that time I was making a couple thousand dollars a month.

[00:21:23]

Steven eventually expands his efforts, begin smuggling larger quantities of weed in from Mexico across the Rio Grande, and then he ups his game again. He teams up with some Colombians and starts using shrimp boats to bring in even bigger loads to a small marina in Texas. At this point, he's in his late 20s. And then in 1979, a guy at the marina they were using turned out to be an informant. So Stephen gets indicted and is facing a four year sentence.

[00:21:53]

He was out on a federal appeal bond when he made the biggest decision of his life. I got some fake it together, I got a birth certificate of a deceased person and got a passport in the name of Thomas Franklin and flew down to the Cayman Islands.

[00:22:17]

And he just pretty much vanished, making himself a fugitive in the coming years, law enforcement occasionally got wind of this guy who went by so many different names, Mr. Franklin, Frank, William Brown, Steven Sloane, and simply Skip and this skip character, he flickered on and off the radar of law enforcement like a UFO.

[00:22:44]

And with time, he became kind of a legend.

[00:22:46]

People called him the gentleman smuggler, Roy Froggie, the detective down in Louisiana who had investigated one of Schipp ships. He heard about it. They said he never wore a gun, that he was not violent, that he was really smart, really organized, very intelligent, good with the ladies. If he had been in the military, he'd probably be a general, good organizer. He had a really professional army of drug smugglers that he was supervising.

[00:23:16]

And as it turns out, around this time, the FBI was also getting interested in this Schipp character.

[00:23:22]

We heard this name Skip, and apparently we realize this skip was a pretty pretty much a shaker and a mover in the organization that Stan Jacobson, an FBI agent down in Tampa who had been on Skip's trail for some time.

[00:23:36]

Skip's name kept coming up in various drug investigations, but he was a master at eluding the authorities, beginning with that nickname. It's very frustrating because, you know, you go to have a major player and I'm sure there are a lot of people named Skip in the country. So, you know, trying to find out who that was because he maintained a pretty low profile. I mean, this guy, he wasn't out there like, you know, like a mafia don sometimes like to like the sound of their own press.

[00:24:07]

He may have kept a low profile, been anonymous, but they knew that he was no ordinary smuggler.

[00:24:13]

We weren't dealing with someone who robbed the bank. And, you know, with a note, we were dealing with a major operator. If he had been in a major news corporation, he'd have probably been a CEO.

[00:24:29]

Stephen Kalish should become almost invisible, which was basically his entire business model, staying under the radar, making sure everything was unseen.

[00:24:39]

He didn't hire speedboats to make deliveries or get planes to drop bales from the sky for a fishing village like Beaufort, North Carolina.

[00:24:47]

He leased shrimp trawlers and just motored right up to the offload site.

[00:24:52]

He had his own crew, but he also used the locals, the folks that felt most at home there and had the right vibe. Guys like Bobby Webb, a local Vietnam vet who was looking for work.

[00:25:05]

Vietnam did something to me. You know, we got adrenaline and, you know, you live with adrenaline and it kind of changes you. It makes you take chances that you wouldn't take before. Bobby was a gunner in Vietnam on a small 50 foot aluminum vessel known as a swift boat. Twenty four hours a day, 12 hours on, 12 hours off. And by the time that Skipp met him, he was still Jonesy for that adrenaline. Oh, yeah, the excitement because, you know, you were on that boat, had to 50 caliber machine guns, a 50 caliber on this side, a 50 caliber on this side.

[00:25:45]

And sometimes I am 60 in the wheelhouse. And we always had two and 14 shooting guns. You know, one of us had to run about what the other shoot the damn guns, shoot and decide. What's that feel like? Oh, it doesn't like it when you do it. It doesn't like it. Bobby was the perfect guy for the job, a gutsy dude with the resume of a modern day pirate. It makes sense why Stephen would want guys like this.

[00:26:17]

I mean, why not go right to the folks who hunted and fish this land for generations, the guys who may have been the very descendants of Blackbeard's own men? Bobby remembers being approached by a guy who worked for Skip.

[00:26:30]

Skip had an army of advance men. He used them kind of like a movie director would use a location scout. They traveled the country looking for possible sites. One of them reached out to Bobby.

[00:26:41]

He called me up just to shoot the boom.

[00:26:45]

He said, Bobby, you know, place some Lesbos boys unloads and pop up. I says, Oh, yeah.

[00:26:54]

Once Steven committed to a given location, he began managing every aspect of the operation in Beaufort. He began by studying road maps and topographical maps. His guys measured the depths of the water along the inlet. He moved his security team down to the area months before load would come in just to do reconnaissance. He set up a safe house just for him and the top brass in the organization.

[00:27:19]

He had his guys tell the local police study the patterns of where they patrolled and when they monitored parking lots, which might serve as staging grounds for large scale police raids. And he listened to everything.

[00:27:32]

We would monitor all the police frequencies, Coast Guard frequencies. We would buy a variety of speedboats depending on the area we were operating in. We would have boats that we could use to evacuate crew members or offload personnel in case of an emergency over the next couple of years. That got to be very precision and very military oriented. Eventually, Stephen started using airplanes. He had a Cessna 210 lookout plane, which he used to make sure that his boats weren't being tailed by a Coast Guard cutter or a Navy boat.

[00:28:09]

And as for his own smuggling ship, he customized it.

[00:28:13]

I mean, I outfitted the boat so it wouldn't be detected from the Coast Guard overflights that they were making at this point, using infrared technology to detect heat signatures in the hold of shrimp boat. So to avoid that, we installed refrigeration units on our shrimp boat, one thing that Stephen says he didn't do is arm himself, said he was a pacifist at heart and that usually neither he nor his men carried guns. It's a little hard to imagine, right?

[00:28:47]

I mean, all these guys, all this marijuana and no one is armed.

[00:28:52]

For Stephen, the no guns thing, it was all part of his philosophy, you know, being the gentleman smuggler, a consummate professional, he even took all of his employees and their significant others on a company cruise, as if everything he was up to was totally legit. By July of 1984, Stephen was poised to pull off his biggest feat yet, he'd smuggle one million pounds of marijuana in a single load. There was just one problem. More on that when we come back after the break.

[00:29:26]

I'm surrounded by fat and they say, Stephen Caliche, you're under arrest. 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.

[00:30:02]

Who has access to these coaches and who doesn't find against the rules wherever you listen brought to you by Pushkin Industries. Just to give you a sense of how much one million pounds of weed is in Colorado, where weed is now totally legal, that's more than they sell in an entire year. Stephen Caliche plan to smuggle it right up the Mississippi River and unload it at an old turkey farm in Missouri. He'd have 25 tractor trailers on standby, 25 and unloaded quickly.

[00:30:35]

Steven would have to invent a new machine. He actually had a conveyor system custom made that he paid three hundred thousand dollars for.

[00:30:43]

Oh, yeah, it was my pride and joy.

[00:30:46]

Steven gave the operation a special code name, Operation America's Heartland, because we were bringing the barge up to the port of New Orleans up the Mississippi River all the way up to St. Louis, headed east in the Missouri River into America's heartland, the middle of Missouri, and a thousand acre turkey farm. That at least America's heartland, I thought, is a perfect name for my last stop, his last job.

[00:31:15]

But it's not. They always say, yeah, his last stop.

[00:31:19]

He could quit anytime he wanted, but if he did quit this time, he'd retire a very wealthy man.

[00:31:27]

There'd be about one hundred and sixty million dollars in profits.

[00:31:31]

But he knew that the feds were snooping around. He'd been tipped off. One of his planes, a Lear jet he heard was being watched.

[00:31:38]

So he told his guys, put it away, hide it in a hangar. We can't even risk going near it.

[00:31:44]

Steven was used to living like this. He'd been a fugitive for years, but he was worried. So worried, in fact, that he'd begun to move all of his assets to a secret location in another country where he had a home and a whole nother life lined up. He was ready to leave the U.S. for good. There was just one last thing he had to do.

[00:32:05]

Had to go to Tampa to get my files and my documents out of my Tampa house and close it down.

[00:32:11]

That was his safe house and his documents were still there, his address book and some floppy disks and those disks that contained a lot of logistical information about America's heartland, including names and job assignments of folks involved.

[00:32:26]

Steven was nervous not having all of this with him. It was a loose end. And Stephen, he didn't like loose ends. So he flew to Florida to go to a safe house. And when Steven landed, it's about one thirty in the morning, he looks out the window and he freaked because they're on the tarmac. Was his Lear jet just sitting there? I'm still pissed off, I mean, it was like totally unnecessary. There was no reason to pull that shit out of the hangar because we knew there was hate on it.

[00:33:00]

You know, we just knew there was heat somewhere. But he sees that no one's there.

[00:33:04]

The coast is clear. So he grabs a car and heads to the safe house to close it down. The next day, he drives back to the airport in his Bronco with two of his guys and drops them off with instructions. Tell the pilots to fly all of the jets out of Tampa right away, because if the jets are hot, you know, he doesn't want them anywhere near him. The logic here is kind of kooky because by going back to the airport, he's right there alongside the Jets.

[00:33:33]

But you got to remember, Stephen has a lot on his plate at this moment, and he likes to micromanage everything.

[00:33:41]

We park about a mile away or half a mile away.

[00:33:44]

And I wait in the Bronco, so I'm sitting out in the Bronco after about 20 minutes, just enough time that Steven's Spidey senses start tingling and then he knows it's time to go. He's got to just slip away. So he gets out of the Bronco and I start walking away knowing something's up and I get about final quarter mile away, not even that. And I'm surrounded by fat. And they say, Steven Caliche, you're under arrest. And I said, who?

[00:34:19]

I saw my name's Frank Brown. I said, terror is my driver's license. They go now when we know who you are. And I go, no, I go, well, you're under arrest.

[00:34:31]

I said, OK, fine. Well, they arrest me and they take me to their headquarters. He's taken to the FBI offices in Tampa as Stephen walks into a room, he can see up on a big board the names of various suspects and their connections. He takes one look at the board and he realizes this investigation. It's made very little progress.

[00:34:56]

They don't know anything about our smuggling operation and they're trying to figure out who's who. Stephen searched the board for his own name. He didn't see Steven Caliche up there. What he does see is Skip and he realized these guys, they haven't put two and two together. They don't know that he is Skemp. All they seem to know is that they've arrested some fugitive named Steven Kalasz who skipped town a few years ago in Texas. They don't seem to get that.

[00:35:25]

They had the master smuggler right there.

[00:35:28]

So he tells the cops, I have nothing to say to you guys, take me to jail. So they take me to Hillsborough County jail.

[00:35:36]

What is your emotion that first night or two in jail? Well, partially relief.

[00:35:43]

Relief, because Steven Caliche, the small time drug dealer, was happy to take the rap in order to protect Skip the global smuggling entrepreneur.

[00:35:53]

And was there a chance that you would talk at that point?

[00:35:55]

No. No, there was. The story was way too big for the feds. I mean, literally, it was this is something, you know, the guys and then the task force just these guys couldn't even comprehend the story. And so Stephen goes to jail, starts serving those four years for the charges in Texas, the ones he skipped out on, he ends up at a medium security prison in Texas and he's prepared to do his time. Operation America's Heartland.

[00:36:31]

It's on ice for now. Unbeknownst to Stephen, another story was unfolding up in Michigan, Clinton Shine Anderson had become the FBI's star informant.

[00:36:45]

He was talking, revealing all the details of who Steven Caliche really was and how he operated. So this would mean trouble for Steven.

[00:36:54]

Meanwhile, Stephen starts hearing chatter that the feds are making progress in their case against him. He had been hoping to get released to a low security camp outside the prison, but now the feds said no. They were apparently worried that he might run for it and they were right to worry because Steven, he was a planner and long ago he had anticipated being in this exact situation.

[00:37:23]

A serious escape plan. Oh, I had one before I ever got arrested, so a friend of mine's brother had ran a Special Forces team, I put him on a hundred thousand dollar retainer to come and rescue me no matter where I was.

[00:37:42]

So after I got arrested and I was in Texarkana, I had his brother come visit me and I said, OK, I think it's time that we need to look at how we're going to get me out of here.

[00:37:56]

So they did a recon of the prison facility and his brother came back to visit me and said, OK, we're ready.

[00:38:05]

They can get you out. They were coming in with a helicopter to pick me up off the record. But there's only one catch problem was her guard towers with guards, with rifles on them, they couldn't guarantee that one of the guards wouldn't be killed if they opened fire on the helicopter. They can't guarantee they won't be any loss of life. And this leaves Stephen Caliche, the gentleman smuggler and avowed pacifist, in a bit of a quandary. Freedom is within his grasp as long as he doesn't mind getting some blood on his hands.

[00:38:47]

Kailash, his arrest is a massive setback for the smugglers, but it's not a death blow and this is essentially what Ned learns.

[00:38:55]

There's someone else at the top of the syndicate, a kingpin, a long time money launderer, a guy with deep ties to the suppliers in Colombia.

[00:39:06]

And this guy, he's safe living down in the Cayman Islands, untouchable. Next time we cover, Ned travels down to the Caymans and finds the kingpin, the stress is unbelievable.

[00:39:33]

The mental stress, you don't sleep. You worried about your daughter getting kicked in any minute. You have no weapons down there, you have no backup, and you're not going to really hit the radio and call 911 one minute. You're not going to be able to call for help because nobody's coming. Deep cover is produced by Jacob Smith and edited by Karen Sakuragi, our story editor is Jack Hitt. Original music in our theme was composed by Luis Guerra and Flora Williams is our engineer.

[00:40:14]

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 Mallott, Maya Canik, Eric Sandler, Maggie Taylor, Kadija Holland, Zoe Quinn and Jacob Weisberg at Pushkin Industries Special. Thanks also to Jeff Singer at Stowaway Entertainment. Additional thanks to Terry Peters and to Doug McCullough, author of Sea of Greed, which tells the story of his investigation in North Carolina.

[00:40:51]

I'm Jake Halpern.