George Jung basked in the sunshine on Pablo Escobar’s infamous hacienda ranch and watched the drug lord casually execute a man who was grabbed by two bodyguards.
“He just looked at me and said, ‘He cheated on me,'” the American said. “They took him and then he asked me what I would like for dinner that evening.”
This was the brutal reality of life in the breakneck underworld that Jung helped build and which had become one of the most notorious cocaine smugglers in history – once valued at an estimated $ 100 million.
The 78-year-old, known as El Americano, died yesterday in his Boston apartment after recently suffering from health problems including liver and kidney failure.
At the height of his career, the kingpin was responsible for hauling a whopping 85 percent of the cocaine shipped to the United States in the 1970s and 1980s – in a story immortalized by the 2001 Johnny Depp film Blow.
Friends of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor and imprisoned for 20 years for marijuana trafficking, Jung retired from crime later in life, but his career has left a lasting mark on the bloody narco gang wars in South America to this day.
“Fear Junkie” discovered pot market in the US
As a young college student selling pot to his friends, Jung didn’t have big dreams of becoming an international drug smuggler.
However, his criminal venture started snowing in the 1970s when a friend told him he could buy marijuana cheaply in California and sell it for profit in his home state of Massachusetts.
“I had a large punch bowl and pot on the table that anyone could use as they please,” he explained PBS.
“He asked me how much it was worth and I told him about $ 60 a kilo. He told me it was being sold for $ 300 in the east in Amherst.
“The wheels started spinning and the next thing I knew we’d buy the 60.00 pounds and move the pot back to Amherst for a profit of about $ 200.00.”
Calling himself a “scared junkie” unafraid of law enforcement, Jung quickly made up to $ 100,000 a month as he expanded his business to smuggle pot out of Mexico.
Once at Gold Gringo Gulch, he remembered living next to a Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor house that he would drink with at a local bar.
“Liz had a small entourage that carried all of her packages and everything,” he said High times. “Dick looked at me and he took a drink and said,” There she is, the most beautiful b **** h on the planet – and she is mine. ”
Jung’s drug racket did not go unnoticed, however. In 1974 he was caught by police with 600 pounds of marijuana in his car and taken to jail in Danbury, Connecticut.
From prison bird to cola star
Ironically, Jung’s first stint behind bars was the inspiration for his transition to cocaine smuggling after he became friends with fellow inmate Carlos Lehder.
“He was looking for a way to get cocaine out of Colombia and sell it in the US – and there I was,” he said.
“It was like marriage in heaven or hell in the end. But basically it worked out that way. Carlos and I spent almost a year together, working and planning every day.”
After her release, Lehder introduced Jung to Pablo Escobar, the rising leader of the Colombian Medellin cartel.
The couple bought a plane and showed Escobar that it was possible to smuggle the drug into the US in bulk by making a detour via the Bahamas.
They started making millions of dollars in “days” and Jung used it to indulge himself in a life of luxury – and regularly add to his own supply.
“I was the kind of guy with a lot of money and unrestricted access to cocaine,” he said.
“Even if I looked like that [Dracula actor] Bela Lugosi, I still had the most beautiful women on the planet because everyone – especially women – was in love with cocaine at the time.
“Basically, I was no different from a rock star or a movie star. I was a Coke star.”
“I wasn’t in my league”
When the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) launched a bitter campaign against the cartels, the tide began to turn against many of the leading operators of the Medellin cartel.
In 1985, Jung was convicted of cocaine trafficking and sentenced to 15 years in prison. His time was cut to four years to testify against Ledher, who received a life sentence.
He was released from prison and returned to Escobar. He drank and used copious amounts of cocaine at the Hacienda Napoles Ranch in Medellin.
However, Jung, now plagued by addiction, also began to fear the darker side of the world’s most influential criminal.
During his gruesome reign, Escobar is believed to have watched the deaths of more than 4,000 people, and his accomplice was surprised by the execution he witnessed at the ranch.
“I knew one thing for sure, that I would never betray him,” admitted Jung.
“I played outside of my league. Basically, I really was because I never had the inclination to execute anyone. But I stayed anyway – I was on the way to self-destruct and couldn’t turn the wheel to come.” out.”
‘Johnny Depp? Who is he?’
In 1993, Escobar – now a refugee – was shot dead by DEA officials in a dramatic robbery on the roof in Medellin.
Despite his death, Jung could not leave her glamorous life as a criminal behind.
A year later he was caught again smuggling Mexican marijuana. This time he was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Fort Dix, New Jersey.
Jung spent a year here writing his first book. The follow-up, Blow, caught the interest of film producers – one of them called him one day and said they’d found an actor to play him.
“Producer Denis Leary called and said, ‘I’ve found the right person – Johnny Depp,'” revealed Jung. “And I said, ‘Who the hell is that?’ And he said, “Edward Scissorhands.” And I said, “What the hell is that?”
“Johnny got the special visit and he came in looking like he’d slept in a dumpster.
“I said, ‘Jesus Christ, what happened to you?’ He said, “I’ve been up all night thinking about what to bring you. It drove me crazy. “And he gave me On the Road from Kerouac. He said,” This is my Bible. I carry them with me everywhere. I want you to have it. “
Jung, who was now 71 years old and was released from prison in 2014, stepped back from the underworld and tried to capitalize on his fame with media appearances and a new book.
He died Wednesday morning at his home receiving hospice treatment with his girlfriend Ronda and boyfriend Roger by his side.
The smuggler, reflecting on his life in his later years, did not seem to regret the decades of violence resulting from his work with Escobar.
“We live while we die – alone,” he said. “Although I spent 20 years in prison, a few other years [incarcerated] here and there in my life I have had so many great experiences of living a completely free will that I would not change it for all the gold on earth. “