Thursday, January 8, 2015

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Jon Roberts Cocaine Trafficker Years 1975-1985

Jon Pernell Roberts (June 21, 1948 – December 28, 2011), born John Riccobono, was a noted drug trafficker and government informant who, after leaving New York City where he associated with the Gambino crime family, operated in the Miami area and was an associate of Colombia's Medellín Cartel during the growth phase in cocaine trafficking, 1975–1985. After his arrest, he was able to avoid a lengthy prison sentence by becoming a cooperating witness and proactive informant for the federal government. He was the author with Evan Wright of American Desperado.

Early life
Roberts was born in New York City to Sicilian American parents. His father Nat Riccobono had earlier moved with his brothers from Sicily and made a living through involvement with various shady businesses throughout New York in the late 1940s. After being apprehended by police for kidnapping, Roberts was given an opportunity to expunge his record with military service. Roberts claims to have served with the 101st Airborne for four years in Vietnam. He received injuries during the war that required a metal plate to be attached to his skull. After working for members of the New York Mafia as a club manager and restaurateur, he moved to Miami to distance himself from business partners he believed were targeted by rival criminals. However, in his book American Desperado, he claims he moved to Miami because both the mafia and law enforcement were after him because he was suspected in the murder of a police officer.

Introduction to cartel
As demand for cocaine increased, Roberts found his Cuban suppliers unable to meet his demand. Through Roberts' girlfriend, he met Mickey Munday. Munday was a trafficker who introduced Roberts to Medellín agent Rafael "Rafa" Cardona Salazar. At first, Munday was apprehensive of Roberts, who had driven up in a black Mercedes Benz, which Munday described as having "drug dealer written all over it". He also stated that Roberts' flashy car and flamboyant lifestyle made Roberts look like "someone I wanted nothing to do with".

Nevertheless, Roberts and Munday began working under the supervision of Max Mermelstein, who had an agreement with Salazar to manage the transportation of cocaine from Colombia to Miami. He then oversaw the delivery of the loads to cartel safehouses in the Miami area. Roberts was able to increase his monthly cocaine business through this direct connection. Mermelstein and Munday established the routes for trips to Colombia, using boats, tow truck companies, safehouses, and airstrips, thereby setting up an effective transportation route for the cartel. Roberts claims to have made over $100 million USD dealing cocaine during this period. He spent $50 million of that money on his extravagant lifestyle. In the book American Desperado Roberts claims he had $150 million in a Panamanian bank, over $50 million invested in real estate and businesses, as well as several million in cash hidden in various safe houses and hiding spaces.

In American Desperado, Roberts describes: "After I made my first big score selling coke to Bernie Levine in California, Danny Mones told me racehorses were a good way to launder money." He and Danny Mones "started Mephisto Stables in 1977".

In Chapter 62 of the book, Roberts recounts a variety of processes by which he used horses to launder money. Additionally, "[He] also learned how to fix races. There were many tricks."

Also in chapter 62, Roberts describes another benefit to horses: "Dealing cocaine had promoted me into high society. Owning racehorses took me into the stratosphere." He recounts prominent people he met through his racehorse connections, such as "Judge Joe Johnson, who hosted horse auctions", and through him, "We got friendly with Cliff Perlman, who owned Caesar's Palace. When I'd go to Caesar's and get comped, everybody assumed it was because of my Mafia connections. No, I was connected to Caesar's Palace by a Kenucky judge." Through the same circle, "We ended up becoming friends with Al Tannenbaumand his girlfriend, Gloria. Al was a guy who'd made it big in stereos."

He describes a particular horse in the epigraph to his book:

Desperado, the horse that I thought would win the Derby and make me famous as something more than a gangster, was a baby when I got him. He hadn't been trained how to run, but he could already fly on the grass. He had good instincts. He didn't like other horses. You don't want a sociable horse. They stay in the pack. You want a horse who likes to run in front of all the other horses. Desperado was a killer. I named him Desperado because I saw myself in his eyes.
Roberts also describes an honest jockey he had hired, and that jockey's demise:

At Calder, I had a jockey named Nick Navarro who worked for me. He was one of the good guys. He wouldn't hold horses or charge them or run them on dope. He was very skilled, and when I ran my horses clean, I used Nick.
One day in 1977 [sic] he ran a race for me at Calder. I walked up to him after he finished. He put his hand up to wave, and there was a powerful explosion. A bolt of lightning came out of the sky and hit him.
Multiple news outlet reports support Jon's recollection, except they fix the date one year later. As they document: on December 28, 1978, jockey Niconar "Nick" Navarro was killed by a direct lightning strike after completing the second race at Calder Race Course. The remaining eight races at the track that day were cancelled.


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