USA Today

The designers and the don: How two interior decorators took the fall for the Cali Cartel

The bullet-riddled corpse, lying face-up on a street in Medellin in March 1996, was that of a large man with a big, bovine head and scraggly beard.

As the Colombian president took to the airwaves to brag of the killing of his nation’s most wanted man, in New York, a skeptical group of American law enforcement agents scrambled to verify the news.

They had spent nearly two decades investigating the master criminal. When they matched fingerprints on file to those of the body in Colombia, there was no denying it: Don Chepe was dead.

Real name José Santacruz Londoño, he was one of the four chiefs of the Cali Cartel, the multibillion-dollar cocaine syndicate that fueled an American epidemic of addiction. The task force of New York-based cops had pursued him since the late-1970s, earning them the nickname “Chepe Chasers.”

They had missed anniversaries and kids’ birthdays for stakeouts and car chases, risked taking bullets during raids on stash houses, seized and decoded financial ledgers, and traced billions laundered around the globe. They had rolled up key cartel operatives and hidden them under government protection with the hope that they would testify in a blockbuster trial of their former boss.

And then, with Santacruz finally on the ropes, he had the nerve to die.

But in the months to follow, a wild legal proposition formed – a Hail Mary to put Santacruz on trial despite being deceased. It was perhaps the boldest, most ostentatious and fabulous back door in the history of federal drug prosecutions.

They would indict the cocaine kingpin’s interior designers.

Click here to read the rest of the USA Today story.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s