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The Dixie Mafia (Part 1)

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  • The Dixie Mafia (Part 1)

    Sometimes you lose a piece of yourself that you can never get back, some people say that it’s your soul, drifting off to hell.

    For those of us who by fate, have been cast down in this dark and bottomless pit of drugs and war in America, the nightmares never end. Every day is a bad dream turned real, the paranoia grips you at times like rigor mortis. In desperation to tell the story and warn the world of Satan’s arrival, you get hooked on the never-ending search for truth, it consumes you and occupies your life and nothing else matters until the light shines on it and frees your soul.

    This nightmare upon America that has us in its grip began back in the 60’s during the Vietnam War at my hometown Enterprise, Alabama, just north of Bay County, Florida and located 6 miles west of Fort Rucker, the U.S. Army’s Aviation Center.

    During the Vietnam War, merchants at Enterprise laughed all the way to the bank, when blood money from the poor boys of America, flowed down the peaks and valleys of this God forsaken place the devil has declared his own.

    Starting in the forties with World War II, the U.S. Army established Fort Rucker as the training spot and headquarters for army aviation. During the early 60’s along came Vietnam and a massive buildup of hundreds of remote airstrips, facilities and influx of thousands of soldiers and pilots.

    The area was a natural for the military; the climate is like that of Vietnam, hot and humid, the terrain is full of pine forests with rough hills and valleys. The inhabitants were firebrand rednecks, full of hate for commies, Jews and blacks, blood thirsty for dollars of death and destruction that war brings.

    Most of the decent locals gave way to military retirees who overtook Enterprise, with its cheap land and low cost of living, dominating all aspects of business and government. The area also gave way to an influx of mobsters and thugs fleeing Phenix City, Alabama in the wake of "crime fighter" district Attorney Albert Patterson's assassination.

    My father was the number one lawman and Chief of Police who welcomed all those folks with open arms. Everyone addressed him as "Chief"; he was a dead ringer for actor Carroll O’Connor, in the TV series "In The Heat of the Night."

    As a young man, I developed a unique view of crime and corruption in America, one that was partly instilled upon me by classmates, kicking my head in at school until I learned to be a seasoned fighter.

    Somehow, I always wound up fighting to defend the "Chief’s" honor and integrity, that he wasn’t in bed with bootleggers, whores and crooks. I just didn’t want to believe it, in fact he used to witness the Gospel of Christ, at area churches. Yet, he was a man of immense power, because he decided what was right and wrong in the community and all too often he was wrong.

    I believe that my father’s power came from the cruelest parts of hell and that of his new found associates, men of money, who were the retired Army Colonels and Defense Intelligence Agency guys who made their fortunes smuggling opium in the Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia.

    Their dope smuggling skills were fine tuned with the aid of the fixed wing aircraft under cover of 4500 take offs and landings each day at Army airfields extending over 150 miles in all directions of South Alabama, Northwest Florida and Southwest Georgia. Geographically, the area is not quite a gas tank away from Columbia and other hot spots of Central and South America.

    In 1966 along came Army Captain Clifford Wentworth from Miami. Cliff was a tall 6’4" handsome All-American type guy, smart as hell with his new law degree. Everyone liked Cliff, and Daddy who by now had become a successful real estate developer operating his own construction company, built Cliff and his wife a new home on Dixie Drive in Enterprise.

    Cliff soon left for his tour of duty in Vietnam and after a year or so he was back home with his wife Brenda. Upon leaving the Army, daddy encouraged Cliff to stay and he joined a local law firm with a retired Army Col., my father’s personal lawyer who was already big time into representing potheads; in fact he was the first lawyer I ever knew to openly advocate the use of marijuana in the 60’s.

    Shortly thereafter, Cliff left to set up an additional law practice in South Florida. What business my father and Cliff had between them was a dead secret as were his other business dealings.

    There was something about my father, he always dangled big money carrots and broken promises to get you back in the fold, like a yo-yo I kept coming back, even quitting my job as a journalist just to satisfy him. He never liked answering questions or people who asked them and I was all mouth and sixty questions. He used to get real mad at the IRS guys, the ones with the guns and badges who’d show up unexpectedly at the house wanting business records and answers to stupid questions.

    During the hullabaloo cat and dog fights, Cliff calls, and says for dad to send me down to Miami, (says), that he would put me to work and take care of me. My dad issues the order and so I embark in the middle of the night for the long drive south.

    Eight hours later, there I was on Miami Beach in the dead of winter 1974. What a change this was, nice balmy weather, beautiful women and a paradise filled with too many Cubans. I didn’t know how I was going to make it, I didn’t know anyone in the whole place but one young lawyer, Clifford Brown Wentworth.

    The next morning, I arrived at this big office building right down there on Flagler Street and take the elevator flight up to the firm. Talk about class, money and just about everything you could want, Cliff had it.

    After the hand shake and hug, Cliff looked at me and said, here’s the deal. I know you are a good photographer and I need one because I do lots of divorce cases and insurance claims. Every now and then I want you to go out and secretly photograph guys screwing around on their wives, because I represent the wives in court.

    That afternoon along comes my cousin Neal from Enterprise, who is working construction in Miami, and I decide to roommate with him at an apartment complex on North Kendall Blvd.

    My third day in town Neal and I are heading down U.S. 1 in his old Camaro with Neal smoking a joint, and right through an intersection two cops pull us over. Neal looked about as Colombian as you can get, dark tan and long ponytail hair, he fit the part we later called the "profile." All the women loved him, because he was cool.

    As the cops approach Neal’s side of the car, I’m about to go in my pants because Neal’s still smoking the joint. Then this cop sticks his head in the car and says, "Neal Ol’ Buddy, got any extra smoke, me and my partner here are entertaining some ladies tonight and we need a few joints."

    Neal smiles and says how about 2 bags of fresh gold? By now the cops are smiling as Neal reaches under his seat and pulls out 2 large plastic bags of Colombian Gold for them. The other cop says what do we owe ya? Neal just looks at them and says my pleasure! Away they go and so do we, I’m sitting there thinking, what’s the family coming to, dope dealers, this ain’t our way, maybe it’s just his own recreational stash Neal’s messing with?

    A few weeks later, Neal’s laying out of work all day at home and I’m making friends with the Cubans at work who used to be somebody in Havana until Fidel came along. One of the guys who was a big time lawyer in Havana, tried to get me to join the Cuban Revolutionary Army, who were playing weekend soldier over in the Glades, compliments of our CIA.

    One Tuesday night I arrived home to a house strewn with garbage, from Neal’s new puppy and Neal’s just getting up. I want to know why he doesn’t clean up the mess and why he isn’t working and he’s screwing around all night?

    Next thing I know, he says, "Come on let’s take a drive, I want to show you something. Ten blocks away we step out of his Chevy Camaro and walk down the sidewalk into this apartment complex right to the middle of it.

    There at apartment 26, Neal knocks at the door and says, "Hey Manny, it’s me man, Neal." The door opens and there sits this ugly little Spanish guy with a sawed off-shotgun

    Pointed right in my face. I’m about to freak out, Neal tells him it’s okay; I’m his cousin John from Enterprise. Inside the 2-bedroom apartment, the living room is empty except for a rocking chair, stereo, fish tank, small couch and a table with a cash box on it and the shotgun.

    Neal says, "John, don’t worry me, man, I’m doing fine at work, making lots of money." and he then takes me to bedroom one, cracks the door open and there from the floor to the ceiling were bricks of Colombian Gold. There wasn’t a foot or more of space left in the whole damn bedroom. Crap, the other one was filled the same from the floor to the ceiling. I couldn’t even use the bathroom because it was filled up too.

    Shocked, I couldn’t understand how any one could bring this much dope down the sidewalk without getting caught? Neal says, " Cops man, the cops." Enough said, Neal lit up some gold and I tried my first and last joint.

    No longer a virgin to marijuana, I decided to live and leave all these things with Neal and his business associates. It’s a good thing then, because later on, I learned from Timmy, Neal’s younger brother that Colombians just kill you on sight if they don’t like your looks. "It was an instant love or hate relationship that usually ended at first sight," says Timmy. In the mid 80’s when Timmy was 15 years old, he was recruited from Enterprise as a cocaine runner.

    According to Timmy, they would meet their Colombian buddies for weekend fishing trips starting off at the Flamingo Bar, mid way down Alligator Alley in the Everglades. There they would take airboats out to staging areas and at the predetermined hour, money and cocaine fell from the sky in army duffel bags.

    Back on land, this 15 year old kid was given a Smith and Wesson 45, a briefcase full on money, a new Cadillac filled to the brim with cocaine in the trunk and a map showing the route he must drive to Atlanta. Timmy worked that circuit for quite a few years until he started sampling the merchandise.

    Later on Timmy was recruited locally, to load automatic weapons apparently stolen from Fort Rucker onto airplanes, and unload cocaine over at the Opp-Andalusia area some 45 miles to the west of Enterprise. Timmy refused to discuss that in detail, because he says the people involved owned the DEA and were more ruthless than the Colombians. My guess is that they were Oliver North’s Defense Intelligence Agency guys.

    Back to 1974 in Miami, after learning not to mess with Neal and his buddies, I began to get occasional calls from Cliff. I’d then go out and shoot the pictures of those divorce case guys actually screwing around on their wives. Little did I know that those guys were Miami vice cops working narcotics? Apparently, it must have worked because Cliff had it all figured out. After I gave him the photos and negatives these guys were invited to his office for a preview.

    After several months, I decided I was too young for prison for just knowing about Neal’s business, and being homesick, I decided to split Miami for Enterprise. Once back in Enterprise, I was about as welcome as the seven year itch. No one would hire me, daddy put out the word.

    He was royally mad that motor mouth (sixty questions), had come back home to roost.

    Luckily that same weekend, along came Cheryl, my second wife, who was drop dead gorgeous. Cheryl was a good woman who could stand up to my father and put him in his place and he didn’t like that. Next thing I know we are married and move to Clearwater, Florida just to get away from the family at Enterprise.

    Over the next few years I didn’t hear a word from Daddy and frankly I was relieved to be left alone. I minded my own business and kept it that way until Cliff called me up one day and suggested that he would like to meet the new wife. We decided to get together over that next weekend in Vero Beach at the Howard Johnson’s Oceanside.

    That weekend, Cheryl and I arrived shortly before they did. It was a different Cliff who wheeled in on a Harley Davidson motorcycle with Brenda attached, I didn’t know that Cliff was a bike rider; his favorite was a Mercedes sedan or Lincoln. On a bike behind him was his brother, Eddie, with wife in tow. Eddie was the publisher of a large daily newspaper (The Sun-Tattler) in Hollywood, Florida.

    It was snort, snort, and snort all weekend long, except for John and Cheryl; we didn’t touch that stuff, no way! The love of money and 20 mule teams couldn’t make me snort that garbage. I then pretty much resigned myself to the fact that Cliff was in way over his head and I didn’t want any part of it, but I still didn’t have any real idea of what exactly it was and things yet to come.

    It never really gripped me until October 1981, when a federal grand jury in Miami indicted Cliff and several others in operation "Sunburn", for importing a billion dollars worth of Colombian pot. Back home in Enterprise everyone was in shock and my dad ranted on about the indictment being pure horse manure.

    Cliff, being the lawyer and mastermind of the group, got word of the indictments and he immediately fled the country heading south to Colombia. There from what I’ve been able to piece together from various DEA and intelligence sources, his business associates Pablo Escobar and Carlos Lehder put him up in a safe house.

    At that time there was no Cartel in Columbia, but there sure as hell was one in Enterprise. According to former DEA agents Bobby Spencer and John Kreppine, Cliff and the boys had established a far-reaching network over the Southeast U.S.

    At one point, they even had a commercial airline flying into Columbia. Agent Kreppine had it in for Cliff, and according to Kreppine, Cliff almost got some of his agents killed during operation Sunburn. Whose side was Cliff really on? Isn’t it normal for DEA guys to get whacked in the line of duty?

    Not only did they use army airstrips, one was set up at a farm belonging to Brenda’s family in Cottondale, Florida, 40 miles south of Enterprise, with the Houston County Sheriff’s department flying cover in helicopters alerting them to snoopy DEA agents.

    They were so successful at smuggling; I believe after the indictments, Cliff turned the whole operation over to Carlos Lehder Rivas, who was also a pilot. They weren’t going to let this shit end, the money was too easy, everything was in place, but I’m convinced that there was hidden force at play here.

    Carlos Ledher Rivas was a good pilot, fresh from U.S. prison on car theft charges at Miami and Chicago; Lehder Rivas was pretty much an independent.

    During those years in the late 70’s and until 1981 cocaine smuggling was reserved for false bottom suitcases and a condom swallower.

    Ledher Rivas was a member of MAS - The "Death to Kidnappers" group (Spanish: Muerte a Secuestradores, MAS) is a non-state death squad run by Colombian drug traffickers for the limited purpose of countering and containing their main enemies, namely Colombian leftist revolutionaries, politicians, and the Colombian state. The group formed after the kidnapping of Jorge Luis Ochoa’s daughter.

    The drug traffickers' alliances with leftist rebels against the government, or with right-wing elements in the security forces against leftist revolutionaries, have been purely tactical in nature and intended by the drug traffickers at preserving their relative autonomy in a fractured and weak Colombian state.

    MAS was founded in December 1981 by drug traffickers Carlos Ledher Rivas and Jorge Luis Ochoa Vásquez. The leader of the Medellín drug cartel, Pablo Escobar Gaviria (d. 1993), was also believed to be among the patrons of MAS. This group was originally directed particularly against guerrilla groups, such as M-19, that had been kidnapping drug kingpins for ransom. Eventually it became a right-wing death squad that targeted leftist politicians, students, and other activists. MAS is believed to function as an umbrella organization for a number of right-wing paramilitary groups of which 128 could be identified by 1988.

    Although there has been evidence of collusion in the early 1980s between drug traffickers and leftist guerrillas, who shared at least a common enemy in the Colombian government if not a common ideology, such a relationship was problematic at best, probably more on the level of mutual extortion than cooperation.

    By the late 1980s, the drug traffickers began attacking the leftists in earnest. On 11 October 1987, Jaime Pardo Neal, a leader of the FARC-associated Patriotic Union (UP) Party, was killed by agents of a major drug trafficker.

    On 22 March 1990, traffickers also assassinated UP Presidential candidate Bernardo Jaramillo Ossa at Bogotá airport and on 26 April 1990 killed M-19 Presidential candidate Carlos Pizarro León-Gómez. Ironically both candidates had opposed extradition of narcotics traffickers to the United States.

    MAS is also suspected of perpetrating the January 1989 killings of 12 members of a judicial commission investigating death squad activity in Colombia.

  • #2
    Good read, keep it coming


    • #3
      Thank you!! Part 2 gets real interesting!! Glad you enjoyed it


      • #4
        Interesting (and true) story so far. Looking forward to part 2.


        • #5
          This is an interesting story. I've heard of the Dixie mafia but I never know that their origins date back to the 60s. Thanks for sharing their story!
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