Smugglers' Times: The Jamaican Scam
ISLAMORADA, Florida, with Don -- Like many in his position, after release from prison, Keys Don had aspirations of going straight.
“After I got out of boys camp I went to work for Florida Keys Vending. That's what I was doing for several years until I got off probation and for a while afterwards. I was working a regular job, following all their rules and being a good boy,” said Don who had to forfeit everything he had and was sentenced to 27 months. He had to do 18 months incarceration, in addition to time in a halfway house, plus probation and the parting gift of a record that limited options and closed doors all over the place.
This lead to vocations of low pay, hard work and positions of little glamour or excitement. “Being able to fix a vending machine didn’t attract wild women like some other things I have done in my life,” stated Don.
“One day I heard a knock and Hubert was standing at the front door,” remembered Don.
This was Hubert, of Hubert, Iggy and Bob, the successful smuggling group that bought his first loads on the trips in a single-engine plane to bring back pot from Colombia.
“Hubert just showed up at my house one day and said listen ‘I got a sailboat with 500 pounds of pot on it, worth a half-million dollars, over in Cozumel and I’ll pay you $100,000 to get it back here and get the load to me,’” remembered Don.
“ Hubert explained that the captain and crew had picked up the load in Jamaica and took it to Cozumel and ended up selling the life raft and the sails to buy drugs. Then they hopped on a plane, flew back and abandoned the boat at the dock,” said Don. “The Captain was Bull who had flown with me on one, and only one, flight to Colombia,” Don said.
“I don’t want to say anything about what Bull was,” said Don, “But what he was not was competent enough to be doing that kind of work. Hubert asked if Don wanted to handle it.
“Fuck yeah,” thought Don as he said, “I’ll make some calls.”
“I started by calling up my old buddies,” remembered Don. “I called Pat. I’ve known Pat since high school and we’d done a lot of work together.”
“We had to find a place to off-load the boat, so Pat and I jumped in a car and took about a week to visit every marina between Naples and Tampa.
“We were trying to find a marina where we could pull a sailboat in and off-load 500 pounds of pot. The best one we came across was in Fort Myers. It was not far from the inlet into the marina and there was a tall hotel nearby,” explained Don. “We thought it would work out fine. This marina we chose had a lot of sailboats in it and it looked pretty quiet.”
They bought supplies to repair the stolen parts of the boat.
Don said, “We ordered the best new sails from Calvert Sails and we spent more than $4000 on a life raft.”
“Pat hired a Captain named Bill who had worked for, I’ll tell you, it was Roy, another guy we knew well,” said Don.
“Bill had a reputation going back years and years of really being a good sailor, but who had done some stupid shit and taken a few chances he probably shouldn’t have. He also had a reputation of being a heavy drinker. But, hey, you don’t hire teetotaling Ivy League graduates for this job.” The rule was always to prohibit cocaine on the boat, and breaking that rule had cost people millions of dollars and more. Now they decided not to allow any alcohol on the trip.
“I didn’t know about the decision, but I wouldn’t have disagreed,” Don said.
Don hired Rixey, who was a guy named Richard, whose last name began with “C,” and who liked the odd spelling. They took him to see the marina, so he would be familiar with the area where he was going.
“He was a good guy and a very capable sailor. He knew his way around a sailboat,” related Don. “He had no experience with this kind of work. He was going to be the mate and only crew member.”
Everyone thought Rixey would be fine in the capable hands of a venerable old salt like Captain Bill.