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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.
The last archive brought to you by Pushkin Industries. Previously on Deep Cover, Steven Caliche, the gentleman smuggler, the guy who orchestrates every single detail of operations, he gets arrested.
I start walking away knowing something's up and I get about, I don't know, a quarter mile away, not even there. And I'm surrounded by fat.
Steven was the right hand man of the big boss, the top guy, the guy that Ned Timmons had yet to find. Ned's star informant, Clinton Shine Anderson tells him that the syndicate's top boss was a guy named Lee Rich, not an outlaw biker or a dive bar musician, but more like a member of a fancy beach club with a sweet house and a big yacht.
And for the time being, Mr. Beach Club was hiding out down in the Cayman Islands. Unbeknownst to Ned, Lee was rattled by Stephen's recent arrest. He hadn't just lost a partner, he'd lost the entire smuggling arm of his operation. And he wondered, what if Stephen started talking, ratting him out?
Lee was also worried that the feds might be watching him or listening to his phone calls.
What he needed was a counterintelligence expert, someone who could sweep his house for bugs, reassure him that he was safe. This created an opening for Ned. He could travel down to the Caymans with Shane posing as Ed Thomas, the badass biker, an ex military guy with special knowledge of modern spycraft. He would also claim to be Shine's cousin. That's right, Cousin Ed. This would be Ned's big moment, his chance to step in as Liz Knight in shining armor.
But this plan wouldn't be easy for Ned to pull off. You see, at the time, the FBI typically didn't work internationally and since the Caymans was a British territory, Scotland Yard had to be looped in. While he waits around for the paperwork to clear Ned Rush to get everything in order, he obtained a passport for Ed Thomas. He got debugging equipment and even took a crash course on how to use it.
We're ready to go and get approval. I've got airline tickets and it was the night before, about three o'clock in the afternoon. The assistant special agent in charge calls me and he says they just okayed the project. This is like three o'clock and we're supposed to leave at seven or eight the next morning. Great. I'm psyched we're going to go, so I go out to check on Shane, he's drunk and he had a three wheeler ATV. He had flipped it.
And broken collarbone and the bone was almost through the skin, you could see the pointed edge of the bone protruding where it was broken. If I tell the bureau he's got a broken shoulder, it's off time, I'll. So, Ned, he's got to tell his bosses and risk losing the whole operation, either that or come up with a very last minute plan unbeknownst to the bureau.
I had a friend that was a Daytrotter. I said, Doc, I've got to take him in the morning. I can't I got to travel with him. So Duck tapes him up the shoulder, broken shoulder and gives me tons of Percodan. So just to recap here, Ned, the FBI agent goes to his doctor buddy to get some major painkillers for his informant in order to go undercover. In a foreign country where there is no field office and no backup, just shine.
The stars are never going to align again for this to go. The next morning, I flew them out with a broken shoulder, just taped them up and fucking took them.
I'm Jake Halpern, and this is deep cover. Episode five, a different kind of animal. When Ned and Shane got to the Caymans looking for this Mr. Beach Club, Lee Rich, he was nowhere to be found. Lee was apparently off island. Ned and Shane start hanging around at a nightclub, a place called Look Club that Lee Ridge owned. The club was right on the beach, a place where locals, celebrities and tourists all mingled, sitting around drinking strong daiquiris and eating Jamaican jerk chicken.
And then there is the hostess, the one girl who's had a parrot on her shoulder and a parrot. Would you say dirty words to anybody that pulled up or the parrot would look at some guy in a small dick, small dick that spent a few days there getting to know the regulars.
He wanted to learn as much as he could, but he couldn't ask any questions because, well, he didn't want to draw any suspicions. As far as he could tell. A few of the guys seemed to work freely, though it's unclear what exactly they did for him. To Ned these guys, they seemed a bit like out of work.
Lumberjacks on Skid Row just biding their time until the next job offer from Lee materialized.
Lee was handling hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. People do a lot for their money. The trouble is, the nature of the business draws killers. Ned says he was pretty much always on guard, you know, wherever you were, even if you're at a club sitting at the table, you know, you're watching everybody around you, you're watching what's going on. And then one afternoon, he's hanging out at the club having drinks when some unexpected guests arrive in incomes, the people from the cruise ship and I look in the line and here's an agent that works about two deaths over from me.
Yeah, a guy named Bob from the Detroit FBI office on his honeymoon, an office mate of Ned's who didn't know the deal that Ned was here not on holiday, but as an undercover agent.
And his wife is with him and she's in a little tiny bikini and she's a knockout. And these guys are all ogling her. And I'm just joking. I mean, this isn't going to be good because there's like six or eight of these guys sitting around this table.
Bob and his wife start heading in Ned's direction.
The wife comes over and puts her bag on a picnic table and then turns around and bends over to do something in the bag right in front of these guys. And I mean, the bikini was barely covering anything. In that one second, like clockwork, the gaze of every guy there shifted to Bob's wife, bent over her beach bag, except for Bob, who finally sees Ned. And I just went to my throat and had the look of death on my face and he caught on right away.
I mean, he caught in a split second.
And so Bob steers his wife away and catastrophe is avoided.
But after this encounter, Ned is really on edge in his FBI reports from the time he notes that these guys seem to be on high alert. One of them keeps telling Ned that U.S. law enforcement is putting intense heat on the whole island.
Ned isn't sure what to make of this, but what he does get is that this guy is paranoid, which isn't good.
Right, because that means he's looking for plots and conspiracies. And here's Ned basically conspiring against him.
The stress is unbelievable. 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 if all of a sudden one of these guys get jealous or gets junked up or coked up and decides to go fuck you up, he you don't have much to defend yourself. There's no backup. You're not going to hit the radio and call nine one one on your neck.
You're not going to be able to call for help because nobody's coming. Ned had little to do other than sit around and wait for Ali to show up, but he never does. So Ned heads back to the U.S. and then returns to the Caymans 10 days later and this time leaves they're his guys. Tell Ned Lee wants his offices at the club swept for bugs immediately. Presto, Ned was in business. So Ned and Shine, they do their sweep.
They don't find any bugs. And then finally, Ned gets his chance to meet Lee face to face.
Lee looks like, well, a guy who owns a beach club tan smiling with a mass of brown curly hair. Think David Hasselhoff on Baywatch only not quite as chiseled. Ned and Lee, they get on well, the grab dinner that night at a local Spanish restaurant. And the next day Ned sweeps Lee's house for bugs. It's also clean. Things are going well. Seems like Lee's slowly letting Ned in. And Ned, he seems to almost admire Lee.
That's what it sounds like in his novel. Anyway, he was a handsome man. His features strong and well-formed. Ned knew from showing that women loved him, and it wasn't hard to imagine there was quality in Lee. He was a wholly different kind of animal. When we come back after the break, Ned gets his big chance to really know his man of mystery, and so do I. When I pay a visit to Lyrica myself and we go window shopping for smuggling boats.
Hey, listeners, if you like this show, check out Forgotten Women of Juarez. It's a true crime podcast that investigates the fate of hundreds of women who were murdered in the Mexican border city of Juarez right across the bridge from El Paso, Texas. Since the 1990s, these crimes have never been solved, and theories range from organ traffickers to serial predator to satanic ritual. Oswal Ocean and Monica Ortiz Uribe investigate these unsolved murders and interview FBI agents, forensic experts, reporters and victim's families to find out who's killing the women of Juarez and how they're still getting away with it.
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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. I tracked Lee Rich down a few months ago in a small coastal town in Florida. He didn't want to meet at his house, so we took a drive. He wanted to give me a tour of the area. We passed a bunch of boat marinas.
You see that boat right here, the big blue hall owner with the two masks over here on the right. Straight, straight down the docks. That's an old Gulfstar. Forty four. That's the first boat I ever went on. Just the identical to the.
Lee tells me that he grew up in Tampa around boats. Both his father and his grandfather were captains. He himself built boats as a teenager, knew them inside out.
And that's why when he was around 18, he was offered a job as a smuggler on a Gulfstar 44, just like the one that he's currently pointing out to me that a big Perkins engine in that you could motor sail you you just run a real low R.P.M. and could still get a couple extra knots out of it. Was it a good smuggling, but she had at the things like a tank that hold twelve thousand pounds, 12000 pounds of marijuana.
So yeah, that's a serious smuggling job.
But Lee says he didn't initially get into the marijuana business to get rich. He started off as a teenager selling dime bags here and there, just making enough cash to support his life as a surfer.
I said my dream was to go surfing every day, make two grandsons some bags of pot and get out of it. That was it.
But it didn't pan out that way. By the time that he was in his early 20s, he had his own smuggling boat and he began making runs down to Colombia.
So it was an opportunity to make easy money. Who wouldn't have done it just about in those days?
Eventually, he connects with a legendary supplier down in Barranquilla, Colombia, named Julio Cesar Nasser. David, who went by the nickname The Old Man he was to marijuana. What James Dole was to pineapple's, the big grower, Lee and the old man, they got close. Lee was a great smuggler. He was very successful. He hung out with celebrities and rock stars, but his real talent was finance, specifically moving cash.
We're talking about huge loads of crinkled fives and tens, all those buys from stoners across the country.
They added up.
Lee would often personally move the money from the organization's safe house in Tampa down to the Caymans.
And here he relied, at least in part, on a pilot named Shelley Levitz. Shelley was not a smuggler. She was just someone who fell in love with flying as a girl.
Oh, it was magical.
I remember rolling down the runway and that the feel of lifting off like it was yesterday.
She gets her license when she turns 18 and starts flying for an aircraft charter operation out of Tampa.
One day she gets a referral for a new client, Lee Rich.
I just thought he was a successful businessman or just a successful guy and a successful family. He was very dynamic, very easygoing, laid back, handsome guy, real friendly.
She started flying him all over the place, Louisiana, North Carolina, Michigan, Georgia, Texas.
It was a little while before I had any suspicions that there might be something beyond just a businessman.
Her suspicions about who she really was came to a head one night when an airport employee tipped you off that the feds had put a transponder in her plane. They were watching her.
And I remember saying, oh, well, thank you for the information. I appreciate that.
Shelly did have a hunch about why the feds might be tracking her plane. Shelly flew leverage to the Caymans regularly and he would bring these heavy briefcases.
So I kind of put two and two together to figure that while there might be money in there, because Shelly knew the Caymans were famous for one thing in particular, banking law to banks, small island, a few houses and a lot of banks downtown, a small island with a small airport, just a few buildings, they would get off the airplane or grab a bag or two and and literally just kind of walk right into customs and right through it to the other side.
And Shelly says that they could do that in part because Lea Rich was so well-connected in the Caymans. He knew everyone on the island, including the customs officers. Plus, he and his associates look so clean cut and well put together.
I would have considered them very polished executives. They just happened to ultimately be involved in smuggling.
This is how Lee moved his money, posing as a perfectly respectable businessman with his briefcases and a few coolers.
I mean, literally, you go into Europe where you had one of those big hundred court coolers is stuffed with hundreds of fifties or 20s. We'd always packed some steaks or something on top of it or something.
They open the thing or some you give them a couple steaks or whatever and smile and walk on through from the airport. They would take his coolers of cash directly to the Bank of Nova Scotia. He was tight with one of the bankers there who would arrange for the cash to be counted. The bank would take a one or two percent cut, and then Lee's money was clean. For a long time, this system worked very well for Mr. Beach Club.
He was the man down in the Caymans, in fact, 1983, when the queen of England visited the island on her tour of the Western Hemisphere. She took a ride on his yacht.
It all came to a screeching halt when Lee's right hand man, Steven Caliche, the gentleman smuggler, got arrested in Tampa with Steven in jail.
Lee now had all kinds of problems. For one, he was worried Steven might start talking to the feds, you know, revealing secrets. But also there were logistical nightmares. They had one million pounds of marijuana just sitting in Columbia waiting to be moved. Lee had committed to selling it, but without his master smuggler. How exactly was he going to do that?
I usually built people around me that I could trust. And then by me trusting them and trusting me, I trusted whatever word was I had lost. I one Kailash, who was a guy that did everything for me, whether you told him to do it or not, and a couple other people, I was vulnerable at that time. Even before Steven Kalish was arrested, Lee had big problems. The U.S. was starting to take a closer look at offshore banking hubs like the Cayman Islands.
Least the remembers the day his man at the Bank of Nova Scotia broke off their relationship.
He flat out said, Lee, I'm not taking any more your money.
Lee Rich was stressed and a bit desperate, and that's when Shane called, offering the services of Cousin Ed, the counterintelligence expert.
Well, that was an opening. He needed somebody that you can trust.
Ned played that role to the hilt. He swept Lee's house for bugs, but then stuck around, ready to pitch in when needed because, well, Lee needed all kinds of help.
He soon asked Ned if he could get him fake documents, a birth certificate, passport and driver's license. Ned said he'd look into it gladly. So trust was building. But then there were these other moments when it seemed like Lee might just be a little bit suspicious, like maybe he was having doubts about who Ned really was.
More on this when we come back after the break. 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. 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.
I'm Dr. Lori Santo's, a professor at Yale University.
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.
You can find the happiness lab wherever you listen to your podcasts. Ned remembers this one day on the island when Lee asks him to come on a little trip to the bank. He starts talking about a rumor he'd heard that federal agents were snooping around. And then Lee turns to Ned and says, one of these agents looks a lot like you.
So, you know, I didn't know what was going to happen. We got to the bank and he just says, wait here. So I'm sitting alone in the car and thinking, OK, this is it.
You know, Lee walks back out of the bank and nothing but Ned can't shake the feeling that Lee might be on to him.
Even little moments seem like they could have sinister implications like this one day. Lee suggests that Ned should go fishing for conc with his butler, a guy named BEARLY, so they can make a dish called S.P.I. This all seem kosher until he immediately walked down to the shore to a small skiff. Just the two of them.
As you get in there, you know, Burly throws his three foot machete through it in a boat and I think this isn't too cool.
So they paddled out into the mist to this site where Burley's supposedly knows the conc are when they get there. Battley points at the spot where Ned dive to get the shellfish that eyes the machete again. And he looks at the oars and then he looks down at the water and then he glances at Berkeley. That's thinking, how is this going to play out?
Finally, he just jumps in the water and dives for the cock. He sees the cock, grabs it, and all the while he's thinking about his next move. He was planning this out in my head. If I come up and he's got the machete ready to chop my head off, I'm thinking, OK, I'll rock the boat and then reach over the edge and try to get all of this or to defend myself.
When he surfaced, there was burly, smiling, relaxed, perfectly friendly, but Ned was spooked. It was very tense and there was always tense minutes like that that that Leon said, hey, bearly get rid of this guy or you'd be eaten by the sea life. You know, sharks and crabs and snappers and shit would just eat your body. You'd be gone.
In Ned's mind, it began to seem like it was just a matter of time before he was outed, he started anticipating the would be assassins, especially when he returned home to the condos where he and Shane were staying on the island. Recently, I went down with Ned to the Caymans and he showed me around, OK, well, I somewhere.
But I think they've changed the numbers around. But we retrace his steps and we visited those very condos. Ned pointed out a set of stairs that led up to a room where he slept or actually didn't sleep.
No, you're always half awake when waiting for the door to kick in, you know, and you don't have a gun again. You couldn't have a gun here. So, you know, you're pretty vulnerable. There was hardly any people here. So we wanted to know if somebody was coming in the night, we would stack some beer cans on the steps here.
So they'd hopefully stumble over them when they came out and make a bunch of noise, you know, a bunch of beer cans on a darkened stairwell. That's where Ned was at. While Ned and I were in the Caymans, we had a few quiet mornings, we just chilled out in the living room of his rental condo and talked, being there seemed to stir up all kinds of memories for him.
He seemed more open. And so I just kept asking questions.
Let me let me go back, have some more earlier questions before working on this case, before kind of arresting Toby. Had you ever gone undercover before? Not really, not with the FBI. I did a lot of undercover work in the army in Korea with drugs buying and penetrating. Drug organizations. This was news to me that had mentioned serving in Korea before, but never in any great detail. Now, he went on to tell me that for a while he was investigating North Korean agents who were sneaking down across the border and selling drugs like heroin to U.S. servicemen.
In order to stop this, Nedd teamed up with his counterparts in the South Korean military. Republic of Korea criminal investigative Tashman and their boss. His name was Tigger. And Tiger, you want to be on his good side because he was a mean son of a bitch. So Ned goes undercover to make some buys and bust these North Korean agents. Did you have any Dacey calls or dicey situations? Yeah, yeah. I had a North Korean krakoff, a forty five year old, and a pistol in an alley that had about six inches above my head.
He missed. Net arrest this North Korean agent and then turns him over to Tiger and his men over there, we had when it got cold, they had oil burning heaters as your clothes close to there, there's hot as hell. So they put them in a push up position in front of that heater and just to and kick the shit out of his ribs and beat them. And did you witness that? Oh, yeah. He got burns on his skin, kind of checked his skin, but I know it was hot as hell.
So, I mean, he's sweating and. Quivering, you know, he knew if he if he broke the push up position, he was going to get his ribs caved in, so. I can get real ugly. You know, in the end, I don't know what they did with the guy, they took him away, so I don't know what they did. Tom? Does witnessing something like that change you? I don't know who I you know.
I guess I was always around a lot of violence, starting with the army and. And I guess I didn't think about it at the time. Let me ask you a question. You watch this, so you're and some of this is making you aware of what people can do to someone if they fall into the wrong hands. Is this crossing your mind at all when you're basically the one that's behind enemy lines in the Caymans? I mean, you've witnessed.
What can happen, right? Yeah, and. You know, you don't want to be taken prisoner. I have to believe in your mind that you're not going to be taken captive. When Ned told me all this, I've been talking to him for over a year on weekends early in the morning, often several times in the same day, and honestly, he could be very guarded. There were some places he just would not go. And now I kind of understood why.
As Ned is struggling to hold it together in the Caymans, back home in Detroit, Ned's wife Kathy rarely heard from him. She had to rely on Ned's handler at the FBI to get updates.
And he would call me like once every couple of weeks and go, oh, I saw Ned. And he gave me the signal that everything's OK.
And that would be about as much contact or even knowledge that the bureau had of where he was, whether he was alive, whether he was well, you know, so that really started wearing on me.
But she does recall at least one occasion when she did manage to talk with Ned. He told her about a fancy dinner that he'd had with Lee and some celebrities.
He told me, oh, I had dinner with Ringo Starr and Barbara, forget the lady's name. Now, who knew who he married? Who's Ringo Starr married to? She was one of the Bond girls. And I said to him, how on earth do you think that I can compete? With the kind of people that you are, I'm sure, running with, because I'm confident she wasn't the only woman at that dinner table. You know, everybody else isn't sitting there as couples and Net is sitting there alone, that doesn't even make sense.
Of course not. Of course not.
Kathy thought that Net had always been very good at playing Ed Thomas, his fictional persona, but maybe he was too good at it.
If you're going to do an undercover assignment like that, you are going to have to completely. Absorb yourself in that life. And in order to do that, you have to lose this life, at least for a while, and to think that you can. You can do that like an actor does in a movie. Oh, I, I, you know, immersed myself in the role of so-and-so.
Yeah. But in this life, no one is yelling cut. You know. Cathy voiced her concerns to Ned, and he didn't object or argue with his wife, just, you know, listen to it and. What she was saying is probably true, that when you get that deep undercover with a bunch of gangsters, drug dealers and murderers and bombers and whatever, that, you know, you're you're losing track of reality of what you really are.
This possibility was not entirely lost on Neds bosses at the FBI.
The bureau eventually decided to send another agent named Lynn Stonebridge down to the Caymans just to check on Ned.
I mean, they knew where he was, but who knew what was really going on? There was nobody else sort of on his side that was there. And then it also gave him a little stress release by telling me what's going on. And you could see he was worked up about some of this stuff, too. So he just needed someone to talk to that he could trust.
She was only on the island for a few days and even she sensed the danger.
You start getting paranoid and watching everyone around you. It sounds like a pretty wretched existence, but Ned was still determined. It's not like you can call a time out and get out of the game.
You know, they say you're in it to win it, not to play armchair psychologist, but like, do you have to, like, push your real self and your real feelings like. Down and kind of bury them on some level, I think you become hardened, you know, just just like the rock side beating the hell out of this guy. I mean, they hurt him. They broke his ribs. You get hear the ribs break. You know, this is the North Korean that was tortured.
You have to suppress your feelings and go for the greater cause. And you know, and also it's a challenge, it's it's a challenge. What made it worth it for Ned was that slowly he was making progress. He was climbing up the ladder, way up the ladder. He'd started off at a roadside biker bar, Detroit, with Toby. Then he got Shyne, who vetted everybody. He had a line on Mike Vogel, the Detroit grocery guy.
And now here he was in the Caymans. He'd found Lee Rich, the big boss, Mr. Beach Club. Not just that he'd earned his trust.
Lee had told him that he was in the process of setting up a second base of operations in the Bahamas. The scope of Ned's investigation was expanding exponentially, it seemed netted learn to lead supplier was the old man down in Barranquilla, Colombia.
But what was he supposed to do with this intel anyhow? Officially, legally, that was none of Ned's business. This was way beyond his purview as an FBI agent. But still, he had questions. He wanted to know where was the money going if it couldn't be banked in the Caymans. He wanted to know, where did this all end?
Next time, a deep cover. Ned's undercover identity had been compromised and they had to put a hit on Ned and they were going to lure him to a location and give him a hot shot of drugs and and killing.
And they also knew where we lived. Deep cover is produced by Jacob Smith and edited by Karen Shakuhachi, our story editor is Jack Hitt. Original music in our theme was composed by Luis Guerra and Flora Williams is our engineer. Fact checking by Amy Gaines. Mychal Bell is Pushkin's executive producer. Ned's novel is read by Walton Goggins special thanks to Julia Barton, Heather Fain, Carly Migliore Whitall, Mallott, My Caning, Eric Sandler, Baghi, Taylor, Kadija Holland Zui Gwinn and Jacob Weisberg at Pushkin Industries special.
Thanks also to Jeff Singer at Stowaway Entertainment. Additional thanks to Joseph Betti, check out his terrific artwork if you ever get down to the Caymans. I'm Jake Halpern.