Thursday, July 25, 2019

Smugglers Run: Michael Hooks, the guy who gave up Miguel Caro Quintero

Chivis Martinez Borderland Beat republished Smuggler’s Run from the archives

The U.S. government put his name on the street and his life on the line

The tall, slim man sitting in the Texas living room, telling stories in a rich baritone, bottled water in hand, looked and sounded more like an actor than a drug smuggler. In a brown sweater and khaki pants, with a watch as his only jewelry, he certainly didn’t look like either the multi-millionaire he once was or the janitor he’s been occasionally since the millions disappeared.

Dark, deep-set eyes were perhaps the feature that gave the most accurate hint of the 53-year-old’s story and his circumstance — one of the biggest pot smugglers of all time, now a fugitive, not from the law but from what Michael Hooks says the law has done to him: broken all its promises and left him exposed to the vengeance of Mexican drug baron Miguel Caro-Quintero.

Most Americans have never heard of Michael Hooks, but many have heard of Caro-Quintero, one of the biggest drug lords in history and a man whom Hooks helped put in jail, albeit in Mexico. Miguel’s older brother Rafael is serving time for the kidnapping, extended torture, and murder of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in 1985. Miguel is doing time for a sting Hooks set up with the Drug Enforcement Administration. Both the Caro-Quinteros are, by all accounts, continuing to run their drug empire from their not-so-spartan cells, writing another twisted chapter in the bizarre saga of this country’s war on drugs.

Hooks’ story is bound up with that of the Caro-Quinteros and Camarena — tied up with the money, machinations, and violence of the drugocracy that rules in parts of Mexico and this country and with the drug cops who have spent so many years fighting the drug barons, while the rivers of pot and cocaine and heroin — and now methamphetamines — have continued to flow north around them, to meet the never-ending American demand.

The place was called El Bufalo, and it was legendary in pot circles in the 1980s, though most thought it was indeed legend and not fact: a Chihuahuan marijuana empire of 13 pot farms of 500 to 1,200 acres each, cultivated with tractors and the best in agricultural technology, employing thousands of people and producing tons and tons of weed that got shipped out via dozens of planes on multiple airstrips. But Hooks saw El Bufalo, knew it to be real. In fact, he ran much of it.

For Hooks, the road to El Bufalo ran through the U.S. Marine Corps, which introduced him to the joys of smoking marijuana, inadvertently showed him how to smuggle it, and provided him with buddies who helped get him started in the business.

A Florida native who grew up in Alabama, son of a Navy man, Hooks joined the Marines the week he graduated from high school. It was the height of the Vietnam war, and Hooks trained as a radar and missile electronics technician. He never went to ’Nam, though — instead, he and his unit were sent to the Mexican border to take part in Operation Grasshopper, an action intended to stem the flow of marijuana coming into the United States by tightening the loopholes in the radar systems all along the border.

“If you ever want to make a smuggler out of someone, teach them all the places where radar can’t detect movement,” Hooks said with a laugh, “I was taught every blind spot on the border.”

When he got out of the Marines in ’73, Hooks almost immediately started selling small amounts of marijuana. That quickly earned him a small prison term — three years, after he was busted in North Carolina with intent to distribute a pound of it. Three months into his sentence, he was moved to a prison cattle farm to work.

Hooks might have done his time and gone on to some other way of life. But 16 months after he got to the work farm, President Gerald Ford handed Richard Nixon a pardon for his Watergate-related crimes. “Well, that really pissed me off,” Hooks said. “I’m doing time for pot, and he’s let off the hook. So I decided to take off.”

For hours, he ran through swamps, slogging through the water to keep the dogs and prison guards off his scent. At dusk he hit an old farm road and got picked up by someone who took him to a nearby freeway. From there, with the help of family and friends, he made his way home to Alabama and then set off hitchhiking to California. There he met up with some Marine buddies with connections to big pot suppliers in Mexico. For a while, Hooks helped run the drug back east to Alabama and North Carolina. After a few months, he made his way further up the food chain and started smuggling it over the U.S.-Mexico border. It was, he said, surprisingly easy.

His pot career took another uptick shortly thereafter, when a buyer put Hooks in contact with two dealers from Alabama who’d recently lost their supplier and were looking for a new one. One of the two dealers flew into the Los Angeles airport, handed Hooks a briefcase, and disappeared. Inside was $25,000, a 50 percent down payment on 500 pounds of pot.


Hooks was hooked. When the first shipment, stowed in a hidden compartment he’d built into the camper shell on a pickup, arrived without a hitch, the two Alabama dealers invited Hooks in as a partner; they wanted as much weed as Hooks could get them. A relative who didn’t object to Hooks’ dealing, as long as it was only pot, helped him build several compartments in an RV, enough to hold nearly 1,000 pounds of product. Soon he needed a second trailer, and he and another driver were making two or three trips every couple of weeks. “We started rolling in the dough,” Hooks said.

In a year and a half, Hooks estimated, he made about $4 million. He bought a horse ranch outside San Diego and other real estate and started racing thoroughbreds. Then, feeling he was getting the short end of the deal with his Alabama partners, Hooks went out on his own — and, six months later, back to jail. This time it was much worse, however: This jail was in Mexico.

He was moving a load at night through the desert, five men in two vehicles, and got stopped at a checkpoint near Tijuana. The federales got suspicious when the second driver had a little coke on him, and they searched the vehicles and found the marijuana.

“I paid a judge $50,000 to cut the others loose and took the heat,” Hooks said. “One of them was my brother, and if I didn’t, my parents would have killed me.” He was found guilty of trafficking and sentenced to a little over six years at the notorious La Mesa prison in Tijuana, where money bought small private homes, women, drugs, and anything else a person might want (except freedom). A lack of it meant one bowl of soup daily and sleeping on the concrete floor with no blanket. Hooks had money and got himself a little house.

He also got some respect for not bringing anyone down with him, and not long after he began his sentence he was approached by four American prisoners. They told him they were building an escape tunnel and asked if he wanted in.

“At first I turned them down,” he said, “but I soon changed my mind. La Mesa wasn’t fit for a human being to live in.” His job was to get rid of the dirt. Eventually, he found a solution that would work only in a Mexican prison: He rented a prison storage shack and filled it with the diggings. When the men made their break, they were seen immediately. They scattered, and three were caught. Hooks made it to the border and found a phone, and his girlfriend came to bring him back across to the U.S.

The prison break brought television exposure — not something a smuggler wants — so Hooks sold his horse ranch, moved to Tucson, and took a year off to let things cool down. When he started up again, he switched from the low-grade marijuana bricks to high-grade sinsemilla — seedless pot that’s considerably stronger. That allowed him to make good money with far less quantity — 40-kilo loads brought over in pickup trucks with campers. The profit was huge: “I was buying it at $100 a kilo and selling it for over $2,000.”


Hooks got arrested again a year later in Lukeville, Ariz., but luck smiled on him when the computers were down and his fingerprints couldn’t be sent nationwide. A judge released him the next day on a $50,000 bond. Needless to say, he ran, abandoning that trucked-in operation. Instead, he hooked up with one of his old Alabama partners and bought a plane. “We went to Puerto Vallarta and bought a little twin-engine Beechcraft, and I started bringing out about 900 pounds of sinsemilla every couple of weeks,” Hooks said. “We’d fly it up to Sonora, then take it into the States a piece at a time.”

On one of those trips in late 1982, a friend told him about some huge marijuana fields in the hills, so large they were cultivated with tractors and protected by the government. It turned out to be the Caro-Quintero clan’s operation, and it would change Hooks’ life.

The Caro-Quintero’s business then included dozens of family members, anchored by a low-key uncle, JuanJo, and his nephews Rafael and Miguel, the latter a 19-year-old six-footer with movie-star good looks. Hooks got an introduction — and an offer to move some of their product. He made a deal for 500 kilos of the Quintero pot, and with his Alabama partner’s help, sold it in three days. “Miguel Caro-Quintero liked that. And the next thing you knew we were doing it regular, and it just started to snowball,” he said.

Hooks was in his 30s by then, an experienced smuggler who knew the border from Baja to southeast Texas, with a partner who could move as many tons as he could bring out. He figured that the time he’d spent in jail was a fair trade for what the drug business was buying him.

“The money was there, the adrenalin rush was there, and that lasted for years at a time,” Hooks recalled. “And it was just pot. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it then, and I don’t now. People dream of doing what I did, and I lived that dream.”

By May 1983, less than a year after he hooked up with the Caro-Quinteros, Hooks estimates he’d brought 25 tons out of Mexico. Pilots and airplanes “were coming out of the woodwork to work with us,” he said.

In late June of that year, Miguel told Hooks he wanted to show him something. “He drove me up to these gates with armed guards, and we drove past them to a clearing where there were maybe 80 acres of pot under cultivation. People had tractors, a diesel pump was putting water out from wells. I’d never seen anything so large.”

What he was looking at was one of a dozen fields, each 40 to 100 acres, just outside of Caborca, in Sonora, the base of operations for the Caro-Quinteros. It was an extraordinary sign of the faith that Miguel placed in him: Up until then, he’d always made his pickups at barns and warehouses far from where the pot was grown. He mentioned to Miguel that the plants were growing too close together, and the next thing he knew, Rafael — whom the DEA dubbed the “Mexican Rhinestone Cowboy” for all the jewelry he wore — had put him in charge of growing the pot. “I’d learned how to do it on my horse ranch after reading dope magazines and grow books, so I explain to the growers ... how to space the plants, how to pinch the branches so they’d split, how to prune the branches we didn’t want. I got some resistance at first, but I had their trust because I was moving more product than anyone else.”


By 1984, the clan had moved its fields to El Bufalo in Chihuahua and expanded them considerably. Hooks expanded with them: He bought a number of ranches, totaling about 150,000 acres, built six airstrips, and bought 27 more planes. “We were running six or seven planes at a time, and when we weren’t doing that, I was inspecting fields or fixing problems with the other planes. It was 24/7, non-stop, with that large a system,” he remembered. “Other smugglers were bringing in 8 to 10 tons by ship from Asia once a month, but I was doing 50 tons a month for those two years. Heck, the first 50 tons from the pot I helped grow I got rid of in nine days.”

It sounds like boasting, but a Drug Enforcement Administration chart of Hooks’ organization, put together around that time, bears him out. It lists 28 planes, 14 pilots, seven flight crew, and 20 ground crew on Hooks’ end; 33 commercial properties and stash houses in Tucson, and more than 40 distributors. And those were just the U.S. people.

The scope of the operation, once it moved to El Bufalo, was almost unimaginable, Hooks said — the factual basis for the legend that grew up over the next few years. “In ’84, when they moved the fields, there were 18 trucks moving the buds — the smokable flowers of the marijuana plants — when we harvested. There were acres of buds drying in the sun and then tar-paper sheds maybe 40 yards long, and they’d be full. There were maybe 3,000 people in the area working on it, from the growers to the cutters to the women making the food for the workers. There were three one-ton cattle trucks a day just carrying tortillas out to the workers.”

Like the Brooklyn and Jersey Mafias before them and the Cali and Medellin cartels after them, the Caro-Quinteros knew the value of taking care of their own. The family paved the streets of Caborca and put in electricity. They built churches and gave to the schools.

“They lived high and spent a lot of money on themselves and drove around in tricked-out Grand Marquis,” said Hooks, “but they were good to everybody in the community, and the community loved them. The Mexican government loved them. They were bringing in billions in U.S. currency, and not only was it helping to stabilize the peso, everybody was getting a piece — politicians, the DFS — the equivalent to our CIA, federal police.”

Hooks estimates that he probably made $50 million in those two years. He bought ranches, planes, bulldozers. He sent money north to buy property in the U.S. He had hundreds of workers.

He laughed about a deal that got him one of his biggest ranches. “Me and a couple of buddies were drinking, and this fellow came up and said he had this ranch he had to sell. It’s got 500 cattle on it. So we did the deal, and then I turned to another guy and traded him the cattle for another ranch. That’s how it was in those days.”

There were lavish parties where Hooks flew planeloads of friends in from the States; everybody wore the best Rolexes, he built several homes, and he had women whenever he wanted. His family was taken care of. It was, he said, a dream.

Hooks said he believes the U.S. government knew about the El Bufalo operation but probably didn’t know the extent of it. It wasn’t unusual to see AWACs — radar-equipped military surveillance planes — flying overhead at his ranches, but by constantly switching landing strips, airplanes, and routes, he never lost a single plane. “These guys were just so well protected,” he said. “And so was I. I always had a DFS agent with me. Everybody knew who I was, but we were the good guys down there, the people bringing in U.S. dollars.”

From Hooks’ point of view it was a good world. Despite the money, violence was minimal. At the time, the U.S. government considered the Caro-Quinteros to be the least violent of the cartels, and Hooks said that despite everyone wearing guns, he never saw any shooting. Nothing in his criminal record suggests he was ever involved in violence.

Then came the first sign of a chink in the cartel’s armor: In the summer of 1984, one of the smaller fields got busted and 36 workers taken in. The workers were released three days later with no charges filed against them, and very little marijuana was confiscated — but it seemed the Caro-Quinteros and their associates were no longer inviolate. The problem seemed to be a DEA agent named Enrique Camarena.

It was the first time Hooks had heard the DEA agent’s name. “Miguel said someone high up in the government told his brother [about Camarena] and apologized for the disturbance. You see, wherever there was a [Caro-Quintero] field, the Mexican government had a no-fly zone, and only a DEA cowboy would ignore that.”

Camarena had seen more than one little field. He’d taken pictures of all of the fields in Chihuahua and brought them back to his superiors, who began pressuring the Mexican government to take action.

On Nov. 6, 1984, “I was in Caborca getting my bulldozer to make a new airstrip in Chihuahua when I got a call from Miguel telling me the gringos had come and that we had problems,” said Hooks. “The next thing you know, it’s all over the television with the DEA saying they got 8,000 tons” of marijuana.

The figure, Hooks said, was bullshit. “There might have been that much there,” he said, “but some was still growing, some was drying, some was being cleaned.” And, he said, “a couple of weeks later we got at least 100 tons of it back, because I moved that much of it myself between December and January.”

Whatever the actual figure, it was, and remains, among the biggest pot busts in history. And it meant that Camarena posed a real threat to the cartel.

Three months later, on Feb. 7, 1985, Camarena and his Mexican reconnaissance pilot, Alfredo Zavala Avelar, were kidnapped in Guadalajara. Camarena had just left the DEA offices in the U.S. consulate, on the way to meet his wife for lunch. When he didn’t show, Camarena’s wife contacted U.S. Ambassador John Gavin, who in turn called Mexican authorities. When they weren’t quick to respond, the United States initiated Operation Camarena, stopping and searching every vehicle coming from Mexico, turning the border into a 2,000-mile nightmare.

Hooks later told the DEA that he knew only a little about the missing agent. Shortly after the kidnapping, he said, Rafael called a meeting with him and asked Hooks if he knew a DEA agent named Camarena. Hooks says he told Rafael he didn’t, and that Rafael said that was OK, because ‘he’s been taken care of.’”

On March 6, someone tipped authorities that the bodies of Camarena and Zavala could be found on a roadside 60 miles south of Guadalajara. The pair had been tortured, buried, then their bodies dug up and moved.

Not long after, a copy of an audiotape was delivered to the DEA. It was a tape of Camarena being tortured for nine hours; not surprisingly, those who’ve heard it say it is unbearable to listen to. The DEA responded with Operation Leyenda — Operation Legend, the largest manhunt in DEA history.

Camarena had disappeared just days before Hooks married Diana, a California woman he’d known for years. At the wedding, Miguel Caro-Quintero was his best man. Hooks and his new wife flew to Cancun, where he bought a condo and laid low, in the face of mounting heat. Still, the lure of money and adventure was impossible to resist, and six months later, after making a deal with the local Cancun federales and their commandante to act as his protection, he was back in the game.

But things weren’t the same. With Operation Leyenda, anyone and everyone connected to the Mexican drug trade, and particularly to the Caro-Quinteros, was fair game to U.S. authorities. The big fields of El Bufalo were gone, confiscated by the government and turned over to the former workers after all of the pot was burned and the machinery removed. Rafael had been arrested in Costa Rica not long after Camarena’s body was found. He was brought back to Mexico, where he was convicted of the killing and sentenced to more than 100 years in prison. And many of the people the Caro-Quinteros had paid for protection were being fired or arrested; people still part of the operation either paid for their own protection, like Hooks, or lived without it.

By that time, however, even paying for protection didn’t guarantee it, and when the commandante on Hooks’ payroll got transferred suddenly, his replacement had the smuggler arrested — not so much for drug dealing as for not having paid off the new man. “I told him I was waiting for an introduction,” Hooks said.

It was too late for that, he was told: He was being shipped home the following day. “Hell, I couldn’t go back there. They had me on continuing criminal enterprise, breaking out of prison, all sorts of things. I’d have done 20 years to life in the U.S.”

The commandante said there was nothing at that time to hold him on in Mexico, but that if maybe he had some drugs they wouldn’t send him back. Hooks made a call — someone would plant drugs on his boat.

The next day, Hooks’ boat was searched, and a little marijuana and a few grams of cocaine were quickly discovered. The commandante announced that Hooks would be charged for the drugs in Mexico rather than being shipped back to the U.S. Hooks paid him $40,000 for the favor.

Despite the payoff, Hooks said, he was brought to a holding cell at the Interpol office where he was put in isolation — except for interrogations — over the next eight days, during which he was beaten regularly. “They kept wanting me to talk about Miguel, but I wouldn’t say anything about him. I admitted knowing Rafael — heck, he was already doing over 100 years, so I couldn’t hurt him — and I admitted moving pot, but I never admitted even knowing Miguel.”

He was finally brought to the maximum security wing of a federal prison in Mexico City. In 1987, he was tried and sentenced to 25 years. He appealed twice during the next four years and finally got his sentence reduced to just over 16 years. He spent about a million in payoffs during the appeals, he said, and spent additional money to make the prison bearable: He bought three cells and had a kitchen put in one of them and a bedroom in another. His wife, who’d had one baby in Cancun and another shortly after his arrest, had their third as a result of a conjugal visit. But by the end of the second appeal, she’d gone home to California. “It was still maximum security, and it was just too much for her to take.”

He began to hear that, on the outside, Miguel was taking the ranches that belonged to Hooks, on the pretext of money owed to him. Hooks said he verified the rumors — his condo in Cancun had been put in Miguel’s name and completely remodeled — and began to get furious.

“I’m in prison because I wouldn’t give this guy up, and he’s out there and he’s lost some loads and needs some funds, so he decides to get it from me. His justification was that I’d never have had all that if not for him.

“Well, I thought he’d never have had what he had without me. We complemented each other. But I wasn’t going to stay in prison 10 to 12 more years and get out to find the $4 million I had in property had all disappeared. I wanted him to go to prison and see what it was like to have somebody fucking you over and there’s nothing you can do about it. So I told my wife to call the U.S. attorney’s office and tell them that I’d tell them what I knew about the Camarena killing.”


So in 1992, Hooks told the DEA about the meeting with Rafael Caro-Quintero, at which Rafael had said Camarena had “been taken care of.” That’s all he knew, Hooks said. It wasn’t much, considering that Rafael had already been convicted of the killing, but it was enough to get Hooks included in a prisoner exchange that sent him to a federal pen in Tucson. Shortly after he got there, a deal was struck to give Hooks light sentences — a total of about five and a half years — on his organized crime and prison escape charges in exchange for working with the DEA to try to lure Miguel Caro-Quintero to a country from which he could be extradited to the United States.

The DEA’s idea was a sting. Documents that Hooks provided show that he first called Miguel from prison in 1997 to set up a deal by which Miguel would deliver 3,000 pounds of pot to a friend, actually an undercover DEA agent. The phone calls were audiotaped on Miguel’s end and video- and audiotaped on Hooks’ end. The pot was delivered to the agent in Tucson, the Caro-Quintero stronghold in the U.S., giving the federal prosecutors something Miguel wouldn’t be able to wriggle out of, should he ever be arrested.

The deal also established trust between the undercover agent and Miguel, which was vital to ensnaring him. Hooks again called Miguel and vouched for the undercover agent, this time telling him that the agent had a good connection for cocaine in Colombia, but that he could fly it only as far north as El Salvador. Would Miguel take the loads from El Salvador into Mexico and then on to Tucson?

The DEA was hoping that Miguel, interested in meeting his new “partners,” would come to El Salvador for the first shipment. A deal had already been worked out between El Salvador and the U.S. to extradite Miguel if he stepped onto Salvadoran soil. However, Miguel sent someone in his place.

Hooks, meanwhile, had served his five-plus years and was released to a halfway house in late 1997. Including his time in Mexico he’d served just over 10 years for the Cancun bust. His wife had divorced him and remarried. He re-entered the regular world as a $6.50-an-hour night janitor, then moved through a series of unmemorable jobs, keeping his head down and his profile low.

It was another two years before Hooks heard from federal prosecutors again. In 1999, he says, they called to ask if he would help with Miguel’s extradition, should he ever be arrested. Hooks told them he’d do it for $3 million — about what he said Miguel had stolen from him. Hooks didn’t hear back from the feds until 2001.

Federal prosecutors and State Department officials have declined to discuss Hooks’ cooperation or the case against Caro-Quintero. But Hooks’ meticulous collection of records — provided to Fort Worth Weekly — verify his cooperation and their promises.

Still trying to figure out a way to extradite Miguel, the prosecutors were looking once again at the 3,000-pounds case — apparently the only one that the Mexican government would agree to extradite him on. This time, Hooks said, prosecutors told him they couldn’t offer him the $3 million he’d asked for, but if he helped with Miguel’s arrest and extradition he’d be eligible to collect the reward of up to $5 million the U.S government had offered for the drug baron. The government also promised that his identity would be kept strictly confidential

In December 2001, Miguel was arrested in Sinaloa, Mexico, on a warrant based on the case Hooks had helped make against him. However, instead of the $5 million reward, the feds offered Hooks $300,000, plus another $200,000 should Miguel be extradited and if Hooks testified at trial. Hooks told them that if he wasn’t going to get the reward he wanted no part of it. “That wasn’t enough money to have me go into hiding from the Caro-Quintero clan for the rest of my life,” he said. “I didn’t want to have to give up my kids.”

Unknown to Hooks, within hours of Miguel’s arrest, the Mexican government announced at a press conference that Hooks was responsible for making the case, and every major Mexican daily newspaper mentioned his name. In February 2002, he discovered that he’d been a walking dead man for two months; that’s when he was notified that the federal government had sent a request for extradition for Caro-Quintero with Hooks’ name on the affidavit.

“Two days later I was out of Tucson and have not been back since,” he said.

Hooks was not the only one astounded that the government would put him in that jeopardy. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Lacey removed himself from Hooks’ case over the incident. In a letter to his superiors he called the breach of confidentiality “unethical, immoral, and illegal.”

As soon as he heard of his cover being blown, Hooks called the top DEA agent in Tucson. The agent said the best he could do was offer Hooks $8,500 a month — not exactly pocket change — until Hooks, the DEA, and the State Department reached an agreement. Hooks took the money and went on the run. “I couldn’t stay in Tucson,” he said. “I was a dead man if I stayed there. I feel lucky I wasn’t hit during the two months my name was out there.”

A month later the DEA contacted Hooks and made the same offer as before:$300,000 in cash and another $200,000 if Miguel were extradited and convicted. Hooks said he’d agree only if it was put into writing that he could apply for the $5 million reward. The agents gave him the agreement; Hooks signed, collected, and got the hell out of Dodge.

For the last four years, Hooks has been on the run, fearful that if he visits his family or stays too long in one place, Caro-Quintero’s vengeance will find him.

He’s convinced that his name was leaked to the Mexican government in December 2001 by American officials — possibly by a woman now in the top echelons of the DEA, who was in charge of the case back then.

Defense attorneys who’ve tangled with the DEA say they have no problem believing that Hooks’ confidentiality was blown by federal agents or prosecutors.

“I had a case one time where a person in the witness protection program was exposed when he got into a spat with the government over payment of a dental bill,” said a prominent Virginia defense lawyer. “So getting even with a guy even vaguely connected with the Camarena killing could certainly provoke the feds to release his name. You know — payback.”

Another attorney said the high-level administrator Hooks blames in his case has done the same thing to others in the past.

Celerino Castillo, a friend of Camarena’s and a former DEA agent in Guatemala, told the Weekly that the DEA has a reputation for burning its snitches. “That’s what they do. They figure you were a drug-dealing scum, and now you’re a snitch as well, so they like to burn you after they’ve squeezed you.”

That characterization is backed up by Terry Nelson, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard, Border Patrol, and U.S. Customs in Central and South America in a law enforcement career that spanned 30 years. DEA bosses “would burn their friggin’ mothers to get an arrest,” he said. “That was their reputation, and it was earned: I had a lot of [snitches] say they wouldn’t deal with the DEA exactly for that reason.”

Hooks has tried to apply for the $5 million reward, but he said no one from the State Department or DEA will respond.

He surfaced in North Texas recently and agreed to an interview with a reporter he’d known years before. “I was left to hang out and dry,” he said. “I hope I’ll get the reward some day, but if I don’t, I don’t. But I still hope I can help educate the American public to the fact that the U.S. government does not keep its promises. I’d hate to see someone else in my position.”

As for Miguel Caro-Quintero, he may never be extradited. According to the DEA, he and his brother Rafael continue to run their organization from the relative comfort of the Matamoros prison where they are serving time, and his political influence is still strong. And if that’s the case, he certainly has the power to reach out and eliminate Hooks if he knew where to find him.

Running for the rest of his life obviously wasn’t what Hooks had in mind as a retirement plan. Smuggling is a young man’s game, and he’d planned on getting out of it long ago, maybe — of all things — running a zoo in Cancun with his wife and kids.

So did the good times outweigh the bad in a smuggler’s life? It seems that, if it balanced out for anyone, it should have for Hooks, whom Keith Stroup, founder and president of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, calls “one of the biggest, and maybe the biggest pot smuggler of them all.”

For a long time, Hooks said, he was convinced that it did: The money and the adventure were fantastic, and he still believes there was nothing wrong in smuggling pot.

“But these last years, being on the run? That’s like being in prison still. I get by with a fake name. I can’t have relationships. I can’t get a real job.” He does day work to feed himself.

“I can never see my kids, and I hardly talk with them,” he said. “I can’t take a chance that Miguel would try to get to me through them.

“So if the question is was it worth it, the answer is no.”

79 comments:

  1. I still hope I can help educate the American public to the fact that the U.S. government does not keep its promises.

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    1. Some dead president once said that if men were angels then there’d be no need for government. Or some words to that effect. Of course governments lie.
      That’s just a basic truth everywhere. - Sol Prendido

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    2. That’s good to know. Thanks

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    3. Yeah, Sol, El Chapo knows,
      but I am sure he does not blame "the government" as much as the people who hide behind the government petticoats.

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  2. Fanastic article!Someone big in the game actually answered that question if it all was worth it.Goes to show you that other things like family is more important (as he can never see them again) than money.Like anything in life,all good things come to an end.Maybe you can also say that about all bad things too coming to a end!

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    1. So true. When i was doing well in life everything was good, but now back to a Blue Collar job. I was not in the drug business.

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    2. 10:21 AMLO said that, and many dumbass members of the Dumbass Lobby got mad like rabid pigs.

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  3. Caro Quintero stronger and more respected than chapo

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    1. Chapo went out like a biatch. You see him crying when he got loaded on the plane to US? Sad. Sicario 006 will go out like a G como botas blancas.

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    2. 10:22 Chapo spent over 40 years in business,
      about ten of them in jail.
      Rafa spent 30 of those 40 years in prison,
      bossing nothing but his mop and broom.
      Well, Rafa got his prison warden and founding member of the Altiplano prison killed in Pachuca Hidalgo, Juan de Tavira.
      Rafa promised him he was going to pay his debt.

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    3. Its funny how you guys are hypocritical

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    4. That’s cause Chapo was at sometime in his early career, a worker for the Guadalajara Cartel

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  4. A fantastic tale of a man who took greet risks with the freedom and liberty’s of his life!
    And it appears he lived the dream and had a good old time!

    Careful reflection will reveal that it was his anger that caused the end!
    His anger and cockiness and wanting to get even ! over his supplier trying to take his property to cover the lost weed and cash.

    He said he had a flash of anger in prison over it and called his wife to be a snitch!. The lesson here for all of us is to be very careful when our anger is telling us to do something! Because when that anger switch clicks on we may well do things that can never be removed! And now he’s left running away from his whole life till the end!.

    If it wasn’t for that flash of anger , He would have done his time, came out with more respect from his big players above & they would have taken care of him! and he’d be right back in business making millions given all the respect for not turning into a rat and yes sir! he’d be back on top! Yet sadly that flash of anger hasnow ruined his life!

    I bet he felt he was pretty powerful ! getting those people busted getting the last laugh!
    Nope! The big shot is now paying for the rest of his life for his own lack of control of his anger!

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    Replies
    1. 10:54 You really are a day dreamer you really don't understand how the game works. Once you go to prison its over you can never regain the power, influence or respect you once had. Most of your old connects don't exist anymore and the new ones you made see you as everyone else they are supplying. Law Enforcement is now more efficient and knows your method of doing business.

      You don't understand the fact once he went to prison Miguel robbed $30 million from him. Their wasn't going to be any support from them you are just a kid who knows nothing.

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    2. Yea they woulda took care of him alrite.quit the fantasy.had he got involved again he woukd just be back in jail broke again

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    3. Mr Mike Hooks did the right thing, he may be on the run, if still alive, but Miguel did more prison time and also lost all his loot, still won't be able to do a lot of much. Others are bitching over the grams, the grameros, and windshield washing corners.

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    4. I completely agree about the anger,to this day i try and rationalise but still have the black ball of anger and violence inside that really could fuck your life off

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    5. It is obvious you haven’t been around that type of business and that type of people. In that type of world things change on a dime. Nothing is for sure. Not even friends or allies. Not even family.

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    6. Dream on buddy. On this game things change quick. Once you get busted, someone else will take your spot and they won’t give it back.

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  5. Love the wedding picture. The mexican, looking,cool,calm collective a real gentleman. And the Americans, like always looking high AF. And this is why u don't talk if u get caught...G.C.

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  6. Chivis: Thanks a million for posting this 2006 story by Peter Gorman. The story, apart from a historical perspective, has many important elements that provide insights into corruption and the smoke and mirrors realities of life wherever big money is involved.
    I particularly noted how sometimes the guys in the white hats find themselves doing unethical (even criminal) things. Like the old saying "wallowing with pigs, will get one soiled too."
    Again thanks and have a great day.
    Mexico-Watcher

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    Replies
    1. I notice Arizona heavily involved all the time in all the shit, also New York, New Jersey, but the people involved include from former DEA agent slapped on the snout by mexican descent DEA agents in Mexico City "sheriff" Joe Arpaio "el Apache", to Joseph Bonanno a) "Joe Bananas" who turned Arizona on to big time drug trafficking... missing is too, the modern partners of pardoned convict Joe Arpaio after his BS got too old.
      No mention of the CIA AND THEIR MOST INFLUENTIAL MEMBERS in the murder of Kiki Camarena, the audio recording of his torture and interrogation needs to be made public. Fack Miguel amd Mike.

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  7. What ever happened to Adrián Gómez González? I believe he worked with this group. I can’t find any information about him or if he was ever arrested. From the lack of information available I believe he went into US witness protection but that is just a guess

    This is a great article

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  8. Holy Moly long story. Very informative.

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    Replies
    1. yeah i know but a good one from the archives. A followers said he would like to read an article about Hooks, and i agree that it would be a good idea....

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  9. Good read. Crime doesn't pay and it shouldn't.

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    Replies
    1. 2:03 it was good while it lasted, some people still make millions and never pay a cent for it, there are all the BANKSTERS AND THEIR BANKS, EPN, GARCIA LUNA, SALINAS DE GORTARI, CARLOS SLMMY HELU, and all the secret friends in US law enforcement, From the early 70s until today shet some from the 60s like Camarena murderer Felix Ismael Rodriguez Mendigutia.

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  10. I hate DEA agents. They're without a doubt the dumbest of all law enforcement officers. Their job is an absolute joke. Their agency is l ran by the CIA who are absolutely the largest drug trafficking organization of all time and they act like they're some kind of heroes and actually believe in their ridiculous little war on drugs. I hate them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ok guero but tell us how you REALLY feel?

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    2. I firmly disagree with you El Guero!

      DEA agents are bad asses. They know the work they do will have them butchered and killed!, They take big risks everyday for the common good! They have to be cool as ice! Able to fake out and build false trust with the narcos. Then they flip that table over and bust the murderer ,drug pusher, baby killer torturer , kidnapper narco! That El Guero demands much respect!

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    3. I firmly disagree with you El Guero!

      DEA agents are bad asses. They know the work they do will have them butchered and killed!, They take big risks everyday for the common good! They have to be cool as ice! Able to fake out and build false trust with the narcos. Then they flip that table over and bust the murderer ,drug pusher, baby killer torturer , kidnapper narco! That El Guero demands much respect!

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    4. DEA is around to catch a big guy every 10 years, earn their pension, then some heads retire and let the new guys start all over again. US could send the military to south and end all trafficking in a year.

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    5. Did we take our pills this morning?

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    6. Furthermore the things that are happening in Mexico are a joke, AlMO is busy having conference here and there, but not much is being done to cut down the homicide rate. Marina's are a joke too.

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    7. @6:01, Mexico doesn’t want the US military to help.

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  11. Great read, thanks for posting!

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  12. Usg should be ashamed this pos should be in the ground. His involvement was extensive. We forget and move on but the old Man sits on the mountain and now so does Miguel living free. kiki is forgotten . Disgrace

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 4:49 Kiki Camarena IS NOT FORGOTTEN.
      Former colleagues still want to eat somebody alive for him "but are being forbidden by former employer DEA orders" Legend lead investigator Hector Berrellez and El Paso Station agent in charge Phil Jordan, Cele Castillo, Sandi Gonzalez, even CIA pilot Tosh Plumlee who did a Lotta drug trafficking runs into the US for the CIA wants it to get out to court or whatever. CIA and DEA WON'T EVEN COMMENT, as in El Chapo and Vicentillo trials.
      One thing for sure, all the laundered money helped move all the US industry not nailed to the floor to China, with loving impunity for the untouchable financial movers and shakers.

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  13. miguel was eventually extradited and served his time in the USA

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  14. Chivas would you ever date a narco ? Asking for a friend

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Negative, for a plethora of reasons...

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    2. Good because Chivis I'm just a farmer. Sure I got all the luxuries and properties of a narco but that is because it rained a lot in the spring so I had a good "crop".

      I'll send my Airbus 380 to go pick you up amor.

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    3. Easy buddy. She’s mine.

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    4. I think Chivis is married. But if not! I would love to get her number.
      I’m a construction worker ready to build a love shack. Un nido de amor.

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    5. This is a funny thread. Plus Chivis is wayyyyy out of your leagues, and mine too.

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    6. I do believe in fairy tales. Love has no boundaries. I’m not rich but at m good looking for a 46 year old man. Plus I’m a hard working person.

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    7. I do remember looking at one picture of Chivis. She’s cute.

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  15. This guy wanted to collect 5 million from the government to compensate for 4 million lost which were gained through illicit activities? Is this guy serious? I wouldn't doubt if Hooks had something to do with Camarenas death. This guys a joke. I hope he continues to hide like a rat for the rest of his life. You made the bed you sleep on now lay in it. Smh. No pitty for this clown.

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    Replies
    1. He wanted the 5 million because he was entitled to it. It was a bounty that the US claimed to give for information leading to Miguel angel’s arrest. No where does it say he wanted to compensate for the 4 million STOLEN.

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    2. Is funny how you call this guy a rat not knowing how most of this narcos really are.
      The real rats are the one on top.

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    3. "...I wasn’t going to stay in prison 10 to 12 more years and get out to find the $4 million I had in property had all disappeared. I wanted him to go to prison and see what it was like to have somebody fucking you over and there’s nothing you can do about it. So I told my wife to call the U.S. attorney’s office and tell them that I’d tell them what I knew about the Camarena killing."

      "...Hooks told them he’d do it for $3 million — about what he said Miguel had stolen from him. Hooks didn’t hear back from the feds until 2001."

      "...they couldn’t offer him the $3 million he’d asked for, but if he helped with Miguel’s arrest and extradition he’d be eligible to collect the reward of up to $5 million the U.S government had offered for the drug baron."

      @2:20, It doesn't take rocket science to figure out Hooks was trying to compensate the money lost. Again, the money lost was gained through illicit activities.
      It's like having 2 guys involved in a bank robbery, one gets caught and says, "I'll give up my partner if you let me collect the reward money..." doesn't work like that. The money is not meant for other criminals to receive. Bottom line is this guys a piece of shit and I don't understand how the majority of these comments are showing sympathy for him. I guess this is a perfect example of the pen being mightier than the sword. Has the majority of the BB readers blinded by the facts.

      Delete
  16. Now these guys would of been called young entrepreneurs moving legal weed.

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  17. I remember reading this article in high times magazine!! I believe i still have the issue.

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  18. With Miguel and in the middle of him and Michael, Sara Cristina Cossio Vidaurri Martinez, Guadalajara socialite, niece of a governor of Jalisco and daughter of a Federal Secretary of Education who eloped and was encuerada in bed with Rafael Caro Quintero when he was arrested in Costa Rica.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They depict her in the most recent Narcos season.

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  19. "El cuerno de chivo y el chanate -Linde5- galeria de letras " This one is a great read

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  20. A gringo will rat faster than any other group of people. Treachery is embedded in their DNA.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Saving your own a$$ is in everyone's DNA

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    2. And? If you are not doing anything illegal then there is nothing to worry about.

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    3. Really 🤔 look at the Mexican Narco that Rat out everyone & their Mum's so Try again.
      Mexican Narcos are tough when armed & with their Cronies but cry & Snitch like little bitches
      The all Snitch but let's not get the Truth get in the way of a good Story Peasant

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    4. @ JamesBrown: I have watched many videos on BB and elsewhere that I call Q&A homicides. The usual"sicario" murder scene is staged to look officially sanctioned by higher authorities. Usually, several heavily armed* sicarios wearing military garb and masks stand at attention behind several "passively" kneeling persons who are being questioned by someone authority figure. Sings of torture are often seen on the soon to be dead victims.

      The kneeling individuals dutifully answer these questions with an air of resigned respect (as if to maybe get reprieved or live a little longer).

      Then right at the time of execution, the official "pontificates" words such as "This is going to happen to (chapulines, ratas, members of X, etc, etc)... scatological expletives rain down on the victims.
      I have yet to see any execution videos where the "about to die" were NOT passive and cooperative during the Q&A.
      * Sometime the executioners use axes, saws, etc.
      .......
      With respect to torture and confessions (snitching, ratting, dedos, singing)there are some salient passages in George Orwell's book "1984) that describe how torture can make people confess to anything ... just to end the pain.

      Here is an excerpt from Orwell's "1984)"
      "“Room 101,” said the officer.
      The man’s face, already pale, turned a color Winston would not have believed possible. It was definitely, unmistakably, a shade of green.
      “Do anything to me!” He yelled. “You’ve been starving me for weeks. Finish it off and let me die. Shoot me. Hang me. Sentence me to twenty-five years. Is there somebody else you want me to give away? Just say who it is and I’ll tell you anything you want. I don’t care who it is or what you do to them. I’ve got a wife and three children. The biggest of them is in six years old. You can take the whole lot of them and cut their throats in front of my eyes, and I’ll stand by and watch it. But not room 101!”
      “Room 101,” said the officer.
      The man looked frantically round at the other prisoners, as though with some idea that he could put another victim in his own place. His eyes settled on the smashed space of the chinless man. He flung out a lean arm.
      “That’s the one you ought to be taking, not me!” He shouted. “You didn’t hear what he was saying after they bashed his face. Give me a chance and I’ll tell you every word of it. He’s the one that’s against the Party, not me.” The guards stepped forward. The man’s voice rose to a shriek. “You didn’t hear him!” He repeated. “Something went wrong with the telescreen. He’s the one you want. Take him, not me!”
      … The guard was laughing at his contortions. One question at any rate was answered. Never, for any reason on earth, could you wish for an increase of pain. The pain you could wish only one thing: that it should stop. Nothing in the world was so bad as physical pain. In the face of pain there are no heroes, no heroes, he thought over and over as he writhed on the floor..."

      Mexico-Watcher

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    5. Hahahaha that's rich considering the Mexican narcos rat each other out to the government for favors all the time.

      Delete
  21. The beginning of this story is so interesting, especially the part about how at one time, there was no violence, no shootings. Everyone worked together and made LOTS of money. What a fascinating concept!!! Stay out of the spotlight. Don't bring attention to yourself. Help the community around you with all the money you make and not have to worry about being kidnapped and chopped up. Too bad the current cartels have a difficult time understanding this concept.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Was a lot easier when it was all about growing a little pot (or maybe a lot of it)...But when cocaine came into the picture and now the devil that is methamphetamine and the increase of profits and use of said new drugs.... the whole game changed DRAMATICALLY.

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    2. The DEA and a Mexico with something to prove destroyed that.

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  22. It's interesting that he was moving all that weed through Arizona. Back in the day none of my friends EVER went to Texas for weed. It was all trash. Absolute garbage. All the good loads came through Arizona. I literally don't know of a single good load having come through Texas.

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    Replies
    1. Trruueeee, AZ had that Christmas 🎄.

      Delete
    2. I would imagine Most of the stuff in Texas was product of Osiel or older traffickers that would later be the gulf cartel. AZ was supplied buy the Caro Quinteros sinaloa traffickers. The brains behind the Sin Cemilla strain (seedless)

      Delete
  23. Damn, that was an awesome read Chivis. Crazy that the DEA left him out to dry like that, poor guy but in the end he chose that life style. Keep up the good work BB, you guys are awesome!

    ReplyDelete
  24. If anyone can find the movie with Benicio Toro...”Drug Wars:The Camarena Story” it’s worth watching....(Manolo from Scareface plays KIki Camarena.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A lot of those actors played in "Traffic" as well. Drug wars was a good portrayal of what went down with Camarena

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    2. Why don't these guys ever invest some of those millions while they have it. They just think breaking the law will go on forever

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  25. someone knows where I can find michael hooks, I would like to talk with that man, I met him in the 90's in a Mexican prison

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  26. Michael Hooks es mi papá, si alguien sabe donde está o si le pueden decir que lo estoy buscando desde hace mucho tiempo, quisiera reencontrarme con el!!

    ReplyDelete
  27. Did they ever find out who his guy in alabama was????

    ReplyDelete

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