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Hey, everyone, my name is Eric Krosby, host of Tru, the podcast, it features strange events and bizarre tales that you won't believe are real, but they are because, yeah, they're true. Subscribe now wherever you get your favorite podcasts and keep listening until the end of this episode for a taste of the kind of stories you'll hear on through.


This podcast is intended for mature audiences. Listener discretion is advised.


It's time that I meet Terry, the guy at the center of everything, I have so many questions for him. I tried to reach him over and over again. I sent e-mails. I left voicemails. I spoke to his partner, Christine, who promised to pass along my message. After I didn't hear back, I followed up with her. I still didn't hear from tree. And so finally it came time to knock on his door. Early one evening, I drove to an address where he'd registered an LLC with the state of Colorado.


The apartment building is located in Cherry Creek, one of the richest neighborhoods in Denver. I entered a lobby and found the apartment listed on the top floor. I took an elevator walk down a hallway and stood before the door.


Hi, Trina. Hi, my name is Chris Walker. OK, I will call the police if you come to my house. That's not OK. You know that. Well, I don't. You you know that, right? I know that. You know that. Right. It's Friday night and I've been trying to read. No, this is harassment. This is harassment. You understand this. Please stop. That interaction might have been tough to hear, but sometimes knocking on doors is the only way to get answers.


In fact, Tree's home wasn't the only one I went to while reporting the story. More about that later in this episode. But getting a hold of a tree, I had to exhaust all possibilities. I wanted to give him a chance to respond to everything other people said about him. But more than that, I wanted to understand his thought process, what was going through his mind during the syndicate's rise and fall in.


Most baffling to me, what was he thinking when he passed on a chance to go legal in 2014? By all indications, he had the cash to finance a transition to the regulated market. So is it arrogance, the assumption that if he hadn't been caught yet, he wasn't going to be in refusing to sacrifice half a year of harvest to merge with a licensed dispensary?


Tree kept the syndicate in the black market and doubled down on his risks. If this were poker, he'd be all in. So I wondered what he thought his next move would be, because as it happened, he never got to make it. Tree's decision to pass on the merger spelled the beginning of the syndicate's end. I'm Chris Walker, your guide in the series about high flying pot smugglers, the rise and fall of a criminal enterprise in the evolution of marijuana's black market in the era of legal weed from Fox Lip-Sync and Imperative Entertainment.


This is the syndicate. Tree may not have wanted to talk to me, but I still pieced together plenty of information about his background and the origins of the syndicate.


Here's what we know. Tree when was born during a fateful year for the country of Vietnam in 1975, his parents and older siblings were struggling to maintain a farm and a semblance of normalcy after decades of bloody conflict. The family lived in South Vietnam, and in April of 75, just a few months before a tree was born, everything in their lives turned upside down.


Saigon, April the 30th, 8:00. The last American helicopter on the roof of the American embassy prepares to lift off the last of the evacuees fleeing before the advancing communist armies. A North Vietnamese tank broke the gate in the president's palace in Saigon. A communist soldier around the revolution's flag across the empty lot.


As South Vietnam's capital surrendered, countless citizens attempted to escape along with American troops. They were desperate, frantic.


Many understood their survival depended on fleeing the advancing communist armies. And then it happened. Their worst nightmare, the city of Saigon was renamed today.


The victorious communists who forced the city to surrender said the capital of South Vietnam henceforth will be known as Ho Chi Minh City tree when enter the world.


Four months after the fall of Saigon, in the midst of violent change, the northern victors executed many of their former adversaries using death squads in the new regime force countless families into reeducation camps. By 1978, waves of refugees sought ways to escape the country.


A boatload of Vietnamese refugees at the end of a 300 mile journey from Vietnam to the eastern coast of Malaysia, where at the rate of 10000 a month, much faster than the United States or any other nation is willing to accept.


At the time, news outlets called them Vietnamese boat people. The when family with baby tree in tow was among them. She would later tell Pat about the harrowing boat journey. You know, a lot of kids in and some kind of boat, quite the trip and getting there, their possessions stolen at one point, still having to keep going.


That's like the one the wind family experience were not uncommon as well as worse fates.


You don't make it this far. They were attacked by pirates, brown or starved to death.


Trees family survived and became among 280000 people who fled Vietnam and were admitted into the U.S. between 1978 and 1982. Eventually, the family resettled in Minnesota in a mid-sized city in the south of the state.


Welcome to Rochester, a budding community in southeast Minnesota consistently named as one of the top places to live in the United States, Rochester and Rochester.


The wind staked out new lives. Trees. Still, a toddler at the time of the relocation, grew up speaking English in their new home. The family grew by more than six children. Some assimilated easier than others. Tre was particularly successful at adapting to American life. He became a popular figure in high school. Quiet but charismatic. It was an achievement for a refugee and white Midwestern suburbia. He was also attentive to the needs of his family.


So, my brother adds, he has always been the one that kind of stepped in to take care of me because my dad is not really there emotionally.


That's Tree's sister, Lahner, describing him during her interrogation, you know, at the end of his call for the man just kind of doesn't really do much to take care of everything.


And that's my brother. He steps in and he's like, you know, I've got college, traveled the world. See it from this point of view. I can see it from that point of view. It always struck me as a challenge to grow trees, imaginations stretched beyond the confines of suburban America.


He read widely and thought critically. He said life was what you made of it in his family's experience in Vietnam showed that you couldn't take anything for granted. Lonna took the messages to heart and looked up to her brother. He exuded confidence and leadership, even if he had a rebellious streak, whether or not she knew it. In high school, Tre joined a revolution, a weed revolution, a student of history. He appreciated pot's political side. And sure, he enjoyed passing around a joint to himself, but was also something of a botanist.


By nature. He'd joke that he was drawn into growing weed because he inherited a green thumb from his parents, who'd been tea farmers before the war through growing Tree discovered a tight knit, passionate community that experimented with potent strains in New Age hydroponic cultivation methods. It was a collaborative movement. A constant sharing of tips and techniques to pass on what he had learned on his own lighting tricks, cloning and trimming hacks, but he learned far more from the people he surrounded himself with.


And no underground cultivator had more of an influence on tree than a man who became a veritable cannabis legend in the Twin Cities. Tom Disspain at the same person who decades later became Tree's key distributor for the syndicate. Deep in the conservative south of 1970s Atlanta, Mike Thebus, the son of Greek immigrants, was a man driven by endless ambition. He had everything a wife and five kids, the largest mansion in Atlanta, and a rumored 100 million dollar fortune.


But the success came at a price as the community shunned him and he became entangled in a web of murder, mob connections and love affairs.


It is the money, obviously, that attracts organized crime.


I don't have any knowledge as to what happened to Mr. Hanna. He was a personal friend of mine, and I just think it's a terrible tragedy.


There's no doubt in my mind that they are nervous at first about having to do business with Mike Devis society.


Do not take it seriously when criminals kill each other. So Mike Thebus walked out this door to freedom. Some are speculating he may be in Colombia or Costa Rica, countries which before have harbored United States criminals.


This is Gangster House, the unbelievable story of Mike Thebus family man and the so-called Sultan of smut.


Listen and subscribe to Gangster House right now on Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcasts.


Between the years of 1967 and 1972, over 300 commercial airplanes were hijacked worldwide, this period would become known as the golden age of hijacking.


The new podcast, American Skyjacker is the tale of a small time crook named Martin Mack McNally, who dreamed of the ultimate mile high score. But Mac's hijacking is just the beginning of an incredibly while true crime saga. Listen and subscribe to American Skyjacker on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Like tree, I tried to reach Tom Disspain at four months, but couldn't find a trace of the guy online, no phone number, no email address, no social media profile, the only thing I could find was a house deed listing an address that may or may not have belonged to him.


I sent a letter to the address, but nothing came back.


And so here I am again, this time in Minneapolis, approaching a stranger's door. The difference is this time I'm genuinely nervous to sources strongly advise me against going to Tom Dispirits House. They asked not to be named, but they both said Tom was dangerous. It wasn't just that he didn't want to be found. His nickname was in the Sea Standard for crazy for good reason. He might shoot me.


Hi, Katie. Where are you looking for? I'm looking for you. I sent you a letter a while back. I don't know if you received that. I'm a reporter from Denver. OK, you know the one I'm talking about? Yeah. Yeah. I was wondering if I could talk to you about a podcast I'm working on, OK? I decided to turn off my recorder until I can ask him if he'll speak to me on the record, but first Tom takes me to his kitchen, where he begins awkwardly fussing with dishes in his sink.


Want anything to drink? He asks, avoiding looking me in the face.


Beer, water, coffee, coffee would be great if you have it, I say. He pours grounds into the bottom of a French press, then pulls out a heavy looking bottle from a floor level cabinet aged bourbon.


Apparently this is going to be spiked coffee. Oh boy, he drawls.


So how long are you in town for? Lanky and wearing plaid. Tom, despite that, looks more like a college professor than a big time drug dealer. His graying blond hair sweeps across a pair of square framed glasses.


He's also jumpy, both in his words and his movements. He asks if I want to come down to his basement so he can show me something. I hesitate to lead the way. I say. Tom takes me down a narrow staircase, the steps crowded with power tools, including a saw at the bottom of the stairs. Tom disappears into the dark over here, he says, flipping on the lights.


I follow a few steps behind, unsure of where he's leading me until he grabs the doors of a cabinet, swings them open, and there is another collection of aged whisky's heirlooms.


It turns out some of the bottles are from the 1920s. Tom tells me that his grandfather was a prolific bootlegger during the prohibition era. We both chuckle.


Smuggling runs in the family. In fact, right on the other side of the room is a gross setup where Tom used to cultivate marijuana. Now the planter beds are full of chili peppers. Tom's trying to turn a new leaf. He says that he didn't like that. I called him at the door. Now that we're both more relaxed, he allows me to record him crazy.


Going out to meetings, I think just meant that that I was more of a light than something that was off like crazy being like crazy fun.


He's retired other nicknames from his past two.


But I just know a lot of stuff came from Indian law. And I just look at the feathers as being kind of like the native way here. And then everybody would say, I got my lucky lucky streak to me. And I say, that's great. And then eventually they just called me feathers instead of lucky feathers in conversation.


Tom goes all over the place, but he's kind of brilliant, if you can follow along. I ended up spending an entire afternoon with him. Turns out Tom played an important role in exposing Terry to cannabis. Unlike your average street hustler, Tom articulated its spiritual side. He first tried weed in high school and felt transformed. Conversations took on greater depth. Music sounded amazing. Nature looked more vibrant in that feeling only intensified when Tom went to study abroad in India for a year.


He saw how Indian society, or at least some parts of it, embrace pot use right out in the open on the subcontinent. He saw fields of cannabis, and Tom began mind bending experiments with yogurt drinks infused with weed.


The first time I had Benghazi. This is an invention. I see. And you would get that frothy milkshake. All that curd drink tasted great. That would put you five, six hours of wandering along the gods. You'd be paddling on the Ganges and then you'd hours a roll by and you're like, wait, am I just kind of Dunlea front?


For some revelers, the weed milkshakes are an essential part of the Indian holiday. Holy. And Tom was surprised to see that the Indian government even authorized certain shops to sell Bung Luz's legal weed.


But what amazed Tom most were cannabis is mystical undertones in India, the real ancient belief that Lord Shiv had had brought it down.


To me, it seemed like when you say Bong Shankar, you'd pass the a big chill and a large group of sadhus and it was a sacramental message.


At that point, marijuana wasn't merely something you did for fun. It could be a religious experience. So when Tom got back from India, he felt a calling to spread the Erbe. He was like a hippie mafioso reborn. He figured that if he grew high quality strain's, he could spread the types of spiritual experiences he'd had in India. But where to get the right seeds?


Tom didn't have much luck finding artisanal cannabis in Minnesota, so he looked abroad and connected with a cannabis outlaw named Marc Emery in Canada. Emery seeds weren't cheap, but they were supposedly the best in Vancouver. Tom paid four hundred dollars for just 10 seeds. At least the hefty price tag came with some advice for how to sneak the seeds back over the border.


It's easiest if you just put them under your armpits like they might rip a couple armpit hairs off. We would just take those up and then wear those eco shoes, those ones at the foot that come out and you could just take any amount of money and all that make you look taller.


Back in Minnesota, eight of the 10 seed sprouted. That was enough to get Tom started with the help of some growing books. Tom didn't just become adept at cultivation. He developed a reputation for being one of the best underground growers in Minnesota.


In two days, I could come up with the right fluorescent pattern and to get all those trays and have the domes over, have them all rooted in a week, week and a half. Yeah. And then buy a couple more weeks. Have them all and cups and buy. Well, there you go. You do the math.


Tom's reputation attracted other aspiring growers. He met Pat Kincannon as well as another young man named Tre.


When I was like ninety five, six, seven, I knew to all farmers at heart, Patrie and Tom learned a lot from each other.


They were also friends in our exploring was at a peak, Pat recalls going on canoe trips together.


We jump in a car and just go up and investigate some different area that we haven't been to before and look up on a map and look at a river and say, I think we can go from point A to point B. You know, it's great. It was certainly a wonderful time in life.


Sometimes they invited other characters into the mix, too, like Peter Lander, the man whose funeral decades later ended up reconnecting Tre Payton Tom. But as a trio, Pat remembers having deep and wide ranging conversations around a campfire. Tom recounted his marijuana experiences in India. Entry would bring up philosophers like Noam Chomsky waxing poetic about power structures and how the government overreaches into people's lives. Sometimes he drew upon the experiences that his family had suffered.


That was one thing that always stuck out to me as he was smart and seemed like he was successful and fun and energetic and smart.


Though the trio spent plenty of time talking about growing weed, they didn't brag about what they could bring in dealing it even if they all knew the street price. During the 90s, artisanal pot fetched up to five thousand dollars a pound. That's compared to about 2000 today in the black market. Each had his own outlets in particular way.


He liked to sell pot to keep the whole order going. You couldn't be much of a true high as it really did take a lot of dexterity.


At one point, Tom was the biggest pot dealer for the University of Minnesota, a school of nearly 50000 students.


Even the low rent frat boys who peddled weed at significant markups sourced their wares from crazy Tom Luckie Feather's dispended.


Tom ensured that the bright young minds at the University of Minnesota got baked on the very best stuff, offering up strains like Golden Goat for the Golden Gophers, the name of the university's sports team.


Oh, remember that, by the way, because the mascots name comes up again in the syndicate story.


As for phratry, he wasn't hawking weed to the Golden Gophers, but he had plenty of customers. One of his friends told me on Background Tree had made his first million by the time he was 20. That seems like an astronomical figure, to be sure.


I asked Tom about that made and lost maybe enough time to buy a tree.


Always made a point of supporting his family members, being an emotional rock and financial lifeline for his siblings like Lorna.


And he was one that helped me through college.


And then any kind of I need something in my tree to start, OK? And so he'd always been my first romance or my brother or, you know, stepping in as a father figure. Yeah. Always looking out for me, not just a father figure, but a family man.


Their family was his first priority. That's his partner, Christine Root, describing him during her interrogation.


We started dating when we were teenagers. I was like fourteen or fifteen years old.


They later had two kids together and by all accounts, trees, family meant everything to him. According to Christine at the time, she became a father in Minnesota. He had nothing to do with marijuana. He put all of his entrepreneurial eggs in one basket, starting a sustainable LED lighting business. This is the same company you've heard mentioned a couple of times in the series. But Christine provided much more clarity on what happened in her interrogation. She says that tree aimed for the stars going after.


Are huge contracts, one of his biggest clients with Lockheed Martin in 2009, he gambled on his biggest contract yet, a job that would make him millions and provide a pathway to all sorts of other jobs across the state and maybe the country.


And had been working with the city of St. Paul on a lighting design, street lighting design project. And he put a lot of effort and work into a tree, thought he was a shoo in.


No one had put as much time, energy and lobbying into securing that contract.


But then and then at the end, they opened it up to a bid and someone underbid him. And I think he just got like a really sour taste in his mouth after being harassed on that project and said, you know, I forget the trees, brother.


Also notice how hard he took the rejection.


I can see that there was just failure because there wasn't anybody who was making today.


And I could sense that he he was unhappy.


He was more than unhappy. For someone who prided himself on his business savvy, losing the contract with St. Paul was embarrassing.


Trade sunk his whole being into chasing a dream to build an empire and make his family secure, only to sputter at the finish line.


Humiliation festered. The dream was still there, making his family secure. But now he worried about mounting debts. He's stressed over his next move until one day he surprised friends and relatives by announcing he was moving his family to Colorado to pursue a new business opportunity. Everyone, including Christine, trusted that he knew what he was doing. There's no reason for me to, you know, feel like I couldn't trust him. If he's, you know, like I said, I was so focused on the kids.


He came home at the end of the day from work and asked him a million questions about what that look like.


I just said, oh, great.


Well, constipated, because he's got that idea that I had that temper tantrum today because he couldn't handle such and such and we had a playdate at someone's house. And that's all I was thinking about the day.


I didn't I didn't feel like I needed to look past my every day to question the validity of your life.


We beeped out the kids names there to protect their privacy. Christine claims that she didn't know about the illegal nature of trees marijuana business in Colorado.


But certainly she could appreciate what a great provider she became in the new industry, moving his family into a nice neighborhood and rolling the kids in good schools, hiring his siblings to join him in a growing business.


In other words, being a family man, except there's no getting around the disaster on the horizon. You already know that the cops are going to get involved, the irony and tree's trajectory is that in going back to what he knew, the black market, he inadvertently screwed over his family the most. By the end, some of his relatives took the hardest falls.


Motherfucker left his. His own sister sit in jail, both of them sat in jail, his own sisters in jail, and how exactly did that happen? Here's where it all started to turn sour.


So in January 2014, one of the detectives from the Denver Police Department, he received a call enter law enforcement, namely DEA agent Randy Ladd.


He's a veteran investigator with the drug enforcement agencies Denver Field Office in one of the principal agents who took down the syndicate.


As with all good cocktails, each investigation has its own origin story. And Ladd says that this one began innocuously enough in January 2014, some neighbors and in North Denver neighborhood complain that the power transformers on their block kept blowing out. They suspected the culprit to be a large industrial warehouse located across East 43rd Avenue. After weeks of flickering lights, spoiled food and unreliable juice powering their homes, the residents were pissed.


So. The electric company was called out, their technicians arrived, and lo and behold, they encountered a huge marijuana grow house granted considering the location.


That fact alone wasn't unusual, but the technicians noted the warehouses, jerry rigged electricity grid and portable generators both violated city safety codes.


They were far enough out of line that the electricians felt that they needed to contact the city.


And a member of Denver police marijuana interdiction team went to investigate. And here's where it all turned, the guy who came wasn't just your run of the mill cop like the types Erin described visiting some of the other warehouses.


They made it very, very easy to succeed as far as starting an illegal operation because those cops didn't know what they were looking for and didn't know what to ask.


But this guy belonged to the Denver Police Department's Vice and Narcotics Bureau.


He knew the ins and outs of marijuana regulations in Denver, a detective by the name of Chris Shots when shots arrived on scene.


He entered the warehouse and found a sole individual working there.


Michael Glik, who went by the nickname Cowboy Cowboy, gave the detective the same explanation that had fooled inspectors at the syndicates other warehouses.


This girl was a co-op for medical caregivers. He said he personally oversaw 500 of the warehouses. Plans for his five patients and the other plants belonged to several other caregivers. Cowboys showed shots, his caregiving paperwork. He figured that would do the trick, that the detective would soon be on his way.


Instead, Shots asked to see the room where harvested marijuana dried, piled in a corner.


The detective observed a small mountain of packaged flower buds, a crazy amount of pot to amass for patients.


Even in a, quote, co-op of caregivers, shots raised his eyebrows.


He declined to be interviewed for this podcast because he frequently does undercover work. But as he later told DEA agent Randy Ladd, he knew something was up.


When when you talk about whether this marijuana would go to their patients, there is absolutely no way that a person could physically consume the amount of marijuana, even if it's in concentrate and they put it in their salad oil and all of this other stuff. The bottom line of it is every three months they could produce a harvest of ninety nine plants on behalf of that patient. So they're talking 300 pounds minimum a year for one patient. And the studies I've read, somebody can smoke approximately three ounces a week if they don't have a job.


Shots started asking tougher questions, where was this marijuana really going, how could it all be for patients? Cowboy got nervous this detective wouldn't let up. Shots press cowboy harder and harder until he broke, everything spilled out. This was all tree wins. Operation Cowboys said there were five large warehouses around Denver and yes, most of the warehouses product wasn't for patients. It was all going to Minnesota. From that moment on, the Denver Police Department had the syndicate in its sights the beginning of the end, but the syndicate's top brass didn't know that yet.


All three knew was that the cops had questioned one of his managers and now there were all sorts of unwanted inspectors crawling around the facility at Forty Third Avenue, Cowboy didn't tell his boss he'd spilled the beans. He lied, insisting that the officers told him he just had to get the building up to code. And so Tre and his lieutenants, including Pat, Cayler, Tom and Joe, had no clue that law enforcement agencies, at least local ones, had initiated a drug trafficking investigation into the syndicate.


He was so clueless that he held a company picnic to celebrate the opening of a new 750 thousand dollar warehouse. Almost everybody came out to it.


They brought their families huge barbecue, ton of beer burgers and chicken sizzled on grills.


Kids ran around the playground. In a touching moment, Tree and other managers made heartfelt thank you's to all the employees gathered as many as 60 people. Today, Erin looks back bittersweet early on that picnic, you say that was like the high point.


Absolutely. Absolutely. It was. Everybody was there drinking beer with your friends. Yeah. You know, we got to a game of football. We got the kids at the park, dogs running around. We got the smokers roller. We got, you know, just everybody from the from the janitorial staff all the way up.


Many of them looked up to tree. Here was a manager who not only cared about his relatives, but created a familial atmosphere for his employees. Even today, despite all the lives he upended, Tre maintains that image of a family man. You see, there was a second part to my interaction with Tree when I knocked on his door. I have children.


I understand. I know you don't. But there are some important things that I need to tell you. I have an ethical obligation to give you a chance. You do. Listen, I have a family and I have kids. OK, please leave. OK, thank you. OK. As much as she holds on to his family ideals, some of his closest associates felt like he lost sight of what was best for those he cared about.


In the end, I'm sure everyone has their arguments. And overall, I know, you know, he and his family were there working. I mean, I know the kind of the kind of deep down, you know, it was lost. I can say that parts of it, he lost it. And I'm sure he's guilty about that.


His failure to go legal along with an excessive descent into partying and consumption, endangered everyone, maybe if he hadn't chosen himself, maybe if he hadn't sought short term profits over long term stability, the story of the syndicate would have been lost to the annals of the marijuana underground. Just another rumor about black market daredevils turned corporate giants.


Instead, Cowboys confession set up an inevitable reckoning. Law enforcement began looking into the syndicate, but incredibly, another six months passed before the cops caught their next lead. Even under surveillance, the syndicate moved products so clandestinely that Denver police couldn't catch them in the act. As it turned out, their next clue didn't even come from Colorado. It came from out of state via the very man who is supposed to ensure the syndicate's survival. A man we've already met, a pilot.


Yes, it's Joe Johnson who gets the distinction of sealing the syndicate's fate.


True features the often weird but always true stories of strange events and unforgettable moments.


Each episode explores unusual, obscure, sometimes funny, sometimes creepy stories, stories that are so bizarre that you won't believe that they're real, but they are because, yeah, they're true.


Listen and subscribe to true right now on our podcast or wherever you get your favorite shows.


Since 1993, thousands of women have been murdered or disappeared along the border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.


My name is Lydia Cacho and I am here to tell you the true story of the femicide. Sing Juarez. Listen and subscribe to the red note right now on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts, you can also listen in Spanish. Just search for LANATA rocka in the same podcast app you are listening in now. We're finally going to return to the very beginning of the series, Joe Johnson picks up the tale explaining how six months after Cowboy fessed up, the syndicate's still sought to expand its out-of-state distribution.


And we're trying to open up the Texas market. Tree encouraged Joe to sell to new buyers in Houston, where Joe had recently opened a new jump zone. Skydiver's interested in loads of pot? No problem. Joe succeeded in finding buyers.


But during a particular transaction in June 2014, the Texas buyers only agreed to purchase three hundred seventy four thousand dollars worth of the syndicate's weed. But Joe had a lot more than that in the Texas. Buyers didn't want the rest.


So I had gotten 60 pounds of weed that I couldn't do anything with nobody wanted.


Other leaders in Texas didn't want to write these 16. Right.


Take it back, they told Joe. Joe relayed the information back to his bosses.


So I had 60 pounds of weed in Texas and and I had three hundred and seventy four thousand dollars of their money that they needed.


Upon relaying the news, Joe received new instructions. Fly the pot to Minnesota. Maybe Tom could get rid of it 10 four. But then Joe ran into a problem.


And my pilot, my regular pilot, maverick, it's like I'm done about. But, you know, and I'm like, OK, you talk about me, you know, we're supposed to go tonight. You it's like, I don't care, not doing it anymore, you know? And I pay this guy, you know, between five and ten thousand dollars a trip, you know, so he was getting well paid.


Maverick got cold feet and bailed.


Remember, Joe could only fly a small four seater airplane with his students license and use Maverick, another pilot for the larger runs.


And they're hounding me for this and felt like I had to go back to Minnesota anyway. So I'll just drive.


The rest of the syndicate didn't know about Maverick, but Joe figured that if he drove to Minnesota fast enough, he wouldn't find out.


So he went to a rental place to rent a minivan, get everything stashed away in the minivan then. And at this point, I'm pretty sloppy.


So I'm just, you know, checking it in, you know, with the sixty pounds of weed, three hundred seventy four grand and a gun chucked into the back of the van, Joe pushed the pedal to the floor at twelve hundred miles. He knew it would be a long drive. So he did what any self respecting drug mule would do. He took some uppers.


So on my way there, coked up meth up, whatever, I can drive it straight through.


With cocaine and Red Bull coursing through his veins, Joe determined he'd only stop for gas. It finally came time to do that.


On a Kansas turnpike near Wichita, Joe pulled into a station in the center of the highway and went inside the convenience store to pay cash for his pump.


Upon exiting the store and walking across to my car to put fuel in.


And this guy's come smoking through the fucking pumps and hits.


You know, when when you slam on your brakes and the car goes nose into, the car goes down, you know, he hit me right as that stopped and fucking he stopped and hit me and threw me to the ground.


Fucking my wrists swelled up like it and my back's all scraped up.


But Joe wasn't down for the count. I jump up and I've been doing lines in the car to stay awake, whatever, you know, and I jump up and I fucking pounded on this guy's window, you know, I'm going to kill this guy.


The yelling and pounding made a scene so somebody sees didn't see me get hit, but just sees me if I can try and pull this guy out of his car, calls the police and police show up.


The cops were on to Joe before he had time to think.


I'm like, fuck you just hit me that an out and out. They're like, whoa, whoa, whoa, calm down, calm down. Like, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry to look, you know, I still hadn't picked up my phone yet. My phone's, you know, one hundred yards away way.


And and they're like, well, what's going on?


You know, so they asked the Eschaton roll down his window and in I got loaded, you know, just like drunk off his ass, just like that.


The cops took more interest in the drunk driver and Joe went from instigator to victim.


They're like, oh, we're going to call an ambulance, get get you. You don't look down. I'm like, you know, I'm good, I'm good, I'm good. I'm just, you know, sorry. I was really upset. This guy almost killed me. They're just trying to call. Ambulance, I try to tell them no, and because I got 60 pounds of marijuana and three hundred seventy four thousand dollars in the back plus my gun plus everything, you know, and so I just continue on to my car after they they start work on this guy over whatever, blah, blah, blah.


And so I just hop back into my car and head on down the road. Joe breathed a huge sigh of relief like his first smuggling run, this was another one of those times he couldn't believe his luck until his eyes settled on the gas gauge.


I forgot in the in the hole in the whole commotion of everything, I forgot to put gas in my car so long and I don't know how how close the next gas station is. We're on the turnpike side flip which barrel, you know, pull around in a stadium down there waiting. A siren wails. Joe had to laugh as a patrol car came up right on his tail. He's like, Do you see my sign back there? Like, what side?


Like the drug dog had a drug dog sign. Kansas is mentioned before, has put considerable effort into sniffing out drug traffickers along its highways. The cop who pulled over Joe wanted to know why he turned around in front of a drug checkpoint. It would be similar to pulling a U-turn right in front of a DUI checkpoint.


Like I just literally was at the at the gas station getting fuel and told the whole story. He's like, holy shit, that's crazy, you know? Well, you want me to search your car again?


Joe collected himself. He knew he couldn't cheat fate twice. This was it. Game over.


And at that point, I knew I was done. So, like, I'll go ahead. And here's what you're going to find.


As the cop placed him in cuffs, Joe felt sheepish about his mistake. But even though he was busted, he took solace. In one fact, he had long ago decided what to say. If law enforcement ever caught him smuggling drugs, what was his next move?


First thing out of my mouth was I wanted to work for the DEA. On the next episode of the Syndicate Free Fall, we got a call an individual got stopped in Kansas.


The investigation of the syndicate goes from a local matter to an interagency effort.


And we agreed to pull the resources from the DEA. So all of those law enforcement resources came together.


And once those agencies have a mole working for them, the syndicate's whole house of cards starts to wobble.


There are some organizations that we disrupt until it collapses spectacularly.


This organization we dismantled, that's coming up on Episode seven of the Syndicate. The syndicate is a co-production of Imp. Entertainment and Fox Inc executive producer is Jason Hoak, produced and edited by Laura Krantz and Scott Carney. The syndicate is scored in mix by Louis Weekes. I'm your host and creator, Chris Walker. This podcast was made possible in part by the Fund for Investigative Journalism. Visit the Syndicate podcast Dotcom for more about this story. And don't forget to tell your friends about the syndicate.


If you're enjoying it, please leave us a review wherever you get your podcasts. It really helps more people find out about our show. Hi again, everyone. Here's a taste of the kind of stories you'll hear on through the podcast that features strange events and bizarre tales that you won't believe are real. But they are because they're true. Don't forget to subscribe on our podcasts or wherever you get your favorite shows, most pranks are conceived and executed for the sole purpose of trying to be funny and are not meant to cause damage or injury.


But what if a prank is intended to be harmful? And what if he recruited some random people who thought they were starring in a reality show to carry it out? That's exactly what happened to a couple of people in 2017. It was all fun and games until they unwittingly assassinated a world figure. The new details in that bizarre assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and his half brother, which played out, as you can see, on surveillance cameras.


We're now hearing that one of the female suspect was just ninety dollars to help carry out this attack. Maple syrup and with a value over 10 times that of crude oil, the market has become highly regulated. So when a group of thieves decided to steal some sweet liquid gold from a storage warehouse in Quebec, Canada, they weren't about to stop it. A couple of bottles or cases, far from it.


This would go down as one of the most lucrative and perhaps most unusual robberies in Canadian history. Every high value product has a black market, the black market of maple syrup.


On Saturday, December 13th, 2014, a man walked through the front door of a bank near San Francisco's Union Square. He walked up to the teller station and passed a note demanding money. The scene would have been a typical bank robbery had it not been for the fact that the man was dressed as Santa Claus.


The six foot tall imposter then quickly walked out of the bank and straight into a parade of Santa con partiers like a grain of sand on a beach.


The Santa Claus bankrobber disappeared into an ocean of red velvet.


A bad Santa has robbed a bank in San Francisco, and it's how he got away that's making it so difficult to catch him. It's turned into a Where's Waldo game for police.


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