American druglord fearful of Mexican cartel

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American druglord fearful of Mexican cartel

senorjoe


It was a long road from Memphis to ‘family’ he now fears

A gutsy decision made one spring night by a scrawny teen from South Memphis would forever alter the course of his life and many others.

Craig Petties was unremarkable.

He was short, skinny and poor, raised by a single mother. He dropped out of school, joined neighbors in the Gangster Disciples gang and got spending money from small drug sales on local street corners.

But a night in March 1995 set off a chain of events that would transform Petties into a Memphis legend, the richest and most deadly drug lord in the Bluff City’s history.

On Thursday, a federal judge ordered the 36-year-old to serve nine concurrent life sentences in a federal prison, where parole is not an option.

He had accomplished a feat law enforcement had never heard of before, as a black American who earned acceptance into “the family” of a Mexican cartel. The powerful ally, which gave Petties the ability to quickly multiply his riches, ultimately would become a much feared rival.

After charming his way into the Beltran Leyva cartel, a branch of the Mexican-based Sinaloa drug dynasty, Petties relaxed on yachts, bought a $2.3 million house in Las Vegas and owned a fleet of cars, including a $339,000 Bentley. His staff included a maid, nanny, cook, personal trainer, driver and armed security detail.

But the traffickers also are known for hanging bodies from bridges and gunning down a Mexican Marine and members of his family.

When Petties was arrested in a suburban neighborhood north of Mexico City, after five years hiding under the protection of the cartel, prosecutors and police pushed him to tell them what he knew about various unsolved crimes. They offered to change his name in prison and hide his family in the federal witness protection program.

Petties balked, saying, “Wherever you put me, they’ll kill me.”

Lil’ Dude

Known as Lil’ C or Lil’ Dude, Petties had bought cocaine from Colombians through the Beltran Leyva. The cartel gave him a limit — he could only buy 500 kilograms at a time, which he could easily sell for $10 million in the States.

The aromatic bricks arrived in Mexico on submarines and barges, later heading across the Texas border on FedEx and other trucks. Sometimes the drugs were heavily wrapped and hidden in shipments, such as food headed to local grocery store chains. Other times they were stuffed in hidden compartments in the cabs of trucks. Bribes were paid to Mexican border patrol officials for safe passage.

For years, the drug ring led by Petties supplied many of his childhood friends with diamond jewelry, luxury cars and sprawling houses in suburbs east of Memphis. A number of them now are in graves or prison cells.

Petties also tried to buy his mother a house, but she remained in the small, brick shotgun house that had cost her $17,000 on crime-riddled West Dison Avenue.

Petties quickly built a fortune, giving stacks of cash totaling more than $10 million to an even richer cartel member to safeguard.

But by age 31, Petties had lost his fortune and his freedom.

Mexican military and police officers raided Petties’ white stucco home in an upscale suburb 136 miles northwest of Mexico City in January 2008, as snipers crept atop neighbors’ rooftops and a helicopter hovered above. Accustomed to bribing his way out of trouble, Petties spoke Spanish to his captors, offering cash.

Instead, they deported him, alerting American officials.

A team of federal investigators and prosecutors flew to Houston to see the elusive adversary they had spent many days and nights and even some of their vacation time chasing.

Once cornered, the menacing criminal who had nonchalantly ordered murders crumbled. He sobbed, sniffling and dabbing at tears with napkins.

Asked if he knew he couldn’t run forever, Petties somberly replied, “I knew.”

Many secrets of the birth and death of his criminal enterprise are still hidden in court filings that may remain sealed forever. Yet a picture of his life of crime has been pieced together from police records, court testimony and documents.

Over the fence

As a teen, he couldn’t have foreseen how a decision to jump a fence would alter his fate.

It was March 1995 and he needed cash, more than what he could get peddling crack rocks and small packages of marijuana to area druggies.

He lived at home with his sister and mother, Ever Jean Petties.

An aging tree in her yard needed to be removed, and as Petties put it, “It was always a threat when there was lightning.” So the 18 year old went looking for quick money.

His older cousin, Antonio “Big Wayne” Allen had a plan.

Federal agents had arrested a neighborhood man, at the time believed to be the main drug supplier to South Memphis, and impounded his blue Chevrolet Lumina. About $500,000 in cash was hidden inside the car, parked at a private business that contracted with the government.

A lone security guard was on duty, protecting an expansive car lot in an industrial strip five miles east of Graceland. The drug supplier was willing to pay guys from the neighborhood a cut if they could get the money before agents found it.

Allen, who was stocky, turned to Petties, who was thin and spry. Petties and one of his friends used a ladder to climb over the fence, with Allen and another one of Petties’ relatives serving as lookouts. The supplier had given them a sequence of steps needed to open a hidden built-in compartment used to hide drugs or drug proceeds.

Once the group got their hands on half a million dollars, they decided to divvy it up — double-crossing the supplier. They gambled that the man, who wasn’t known to be violent, wouldn’t seek revenge. They were right.

Petties’ cut was supposed to be $100,000, but he only got half from his older and bigger friends. He spent some of it on tree removal for his mother. He bought his first Cadillac and invested the rest — buying wholesale quantities of drugs.

He made a quick profit and reinvested. Within a few years, he had not only replaced the supplier — who ended up in a federal prison — he had eclipsed him. Petties was now the go-to guy for cocaine in much of Memphis, not just his Riverside neighborhood.

Within five years of jumping that fence, Petties had met cartel members from Mexico. They heard he could move shipments fast, so in 2000 they took him to Corpus Christi, Texas, and introduced him to their boss, Edgar Valdez Villarreal, a Texas native whose high school football coached nicknamed him “La Barbie” for his good looks and pale green eyes.

Petties, then 23, hung out with the cartel members on a ranch for a week.Then they took him to Laredo, the key gateway they used to funnel drugs across the border.

Petties showed how fast he could unload 10 kilograms of cocaine to a network of associates — mainly childhood friends from his Riverside neighborhood. This impressed La Barbie, whose godfather was one of the Beltran Leyva brothers who founded the cartel. Petties was officially in.

That unprecedented access allowed him to quickly amass a fortune, overseeing shipments destined for Memphis and several other Southern cities. He was a multimillionaire by his mid-20s.

He had learned a lesson from the docile supplier he stole from as a teen. In contrast, he built a reputation as dangerous and vengeful. Even close childhood friends and relatives weren’t safe, if they stole drugs, cash or clients from him or considered talking to police. One friend said Petties developed a blood lust in Mexico, where revenge killings are commonplace in drug wars.

Petties later admitted to having a role in four murders — including one in a crowded restaurant — as well as ordering a man’s kidnapping and torture, but officials believe his death toll is larger.

Petties insisted he didn’t order the murder of his cousin, Antonio Allen, but several of his associates — including the admitted hit man — insisted that he did, after receiving an erroneous tip that Allen had become a government witness against him.

Flight to Mexico

Memphis police arrested Petties at his southwest Memphis home in 2001. His girlfriend, Latosha Booker, had summoned police when the two got into a domestic dispute. Officers smelled marijuana, spotted a joint smoldering on an ashtray and found three duffel bags stuffed with 600 pounds of the drug in a bedroom closet. Petties had been arrested several times before, for having a sawed-off shotgun at age 15, for selling crack a year later, and for attempted murder when he was in a group that cornered a man who was shot. As a minor in the juvenile system, he avoided prison.

But as an adult with a sizable cache of drugs, he would face a significant sentence.

That fact, coupled with a June 2002 raid on an associate’s Bartlett home, spooked the drug dealer. At Tino Harris’ house, police found a gun and armored vest, $50,000 in cash and 32 kilograms of cocaine in the attic with a street value of more than $900,000.

A police case that should have been easy to prosecute grew complicated when Petties fled to Mexico in 2002. There, via cellphone calls, he continued to run his trafficking organization.

For Abe Collins, a special agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the hunt for Petties and organization members would span a decade. By 2002, Collins had learned through an informant about Petties’ status as a major supplier.

He led the raid in Bartlett and secured a federal indictment against Petties a few months later.

He sought help from a task force that included deputy U.S. Marshals and Memphis police detective Therman Richardson, who went undercover wearing a grill and dreadlocks in 2005 to make drug buys from Petties’ associates.

Police later intercepted drug-ring members’ phone calls from jail discussing plans to kill both Richardson and Collins and describing where Collins lived. Richardson cautioned his wife and barred his school-age children from playing in the yard and walking to school.

Collins had to find Petties and woo witnesses — including some in law enforcement — who were scared and initially reluctant to take on Petties. They knew the risks: A Petties hit man had gunned down Petties’ childhood friend, after the victim decided to leave the organization and testify for the government.

In Memphis, federal prosecutors began securing indictments that charged drug-ring members under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. RICO, which punishes individuals for crimes committed by the group, was designed to battle the Mafia, but is increasingly used to prosecute violent gangs and drug rings.

Faced with possible life sentences, several Petties associates, including many of his trusted inner circle, agreed to plea deals that meant they had to spill drug-ring secrets.

Collins and task-force members made trips to Mexico and established a rapport with law enforcement there. And Petties’ image was widely broadcast when he landed on the U.S. Marshals Service 15 Most Wanted list in 2004. The bulletin described him as 5-foot-9 and 140 pounds, and read, “CAUTION — ARMED AND DANGEROUS,” stating that Petties was wanted on a 45-count indictment.

Judgment day was nearing and Petties could feel it. He tossed out his cellphone, fearing calls were being intercepted. So this time, as Mexican police and military prepared to close in on him in January 2008, no corrupt officials on the cartel payroll tipped him off, as they had in the past.

Prosecutors and task-force members rushed to talk to the elusive opponent they spent years chasing. He was hesitant, but the team knew which carrot to dangle.

Petties’ wife, Latosha Booker, and their five children were still in Mexico. The three youngest, a 10-month-old and 4-year-old twins, were born in Mexico under aliases, so Mexican officials were refusing to let Booker bring them across the border.

The task force would help if Petties talked, and he caved in.

What he revealed about his years in crime, here and abroad, is hidden in protected court records. After Pettieswas sentenced Thursday, U.S. Atty. Ed Stanton said those documents might never be unsealed.

So the extent to which he aided other investigations remains unclear, as does the impact of his crimes.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orxfa2wjaV8
U.S. Dist. Court Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays summarized it this way before sending Petties to prison: “Those drugs went to destroy untold numbers of peoples lives. There’s no way to calculate the damage.”
http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2013/aug/24/memphis-drug-lord-fearful-of-mexican-cartel-you/
JMB
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Re: American druglord fearful of Mexican cartel

JMB
Moral of the story: Don't piss of your gf/wife in the US, the police will come take you to the pokey (or at the very least boot you from the house for a night) under the "DV" statutes.  Plus, once you begin to turn on & bump off those friends who were there for you in the beginning; they'll try and get you before you can get them.

Also, I wouldn't say he was 'fearful', just aware of the consequences of being a ratón. Play that game, pay the price.
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Re: American druglord fearful of Mexican cartel

j.ward
In reply to this post by senorjoe
Well written story.

And yet they allowed Chapos wife to go to Cali to pop out her twins without doing anything, they could have made things very difficult for her slow walking the situation just burning up time making it so she would have to have them in Mexico or they could have held them after the fact using them as bait to get Chapo to turn himself in, anything, but they did nothing at all which really stinks to high heaven!? Something about that just aint right. All that "We cant find him" is complete utter nonsense! I think the US doesnt really want him because the CIA and DEA have been allowing him free drug smuggling routes for decades and if he is ever to be captured they fear he will tell the story. I think that is why they killed Bin Laden instead of capturing him alive because Bin Laden was also a CIA asset and if captured he would have had much to talk about.
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Re: American druglord fearful of Mexican cartel

Siskiyou_Kid
The US government had no reason to cause problems for Emma Coronel Aispuro, and what would be the point of preventing her from giving birth in the United States? Just to make it difficult for her?

You do realize that children born to US citizens automatically qualify for US citizenship, no matter where they are born?
Those that say, don't know. Those that know, don't say.
J
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Re: American druglord fearful of Mexican cartel

J
Good article, it's disappointing mot of his records and testimony and plea deal are under seal. At some point guys like this need to just send the family off with enough money to last them, and cut ties.  He probably gave up a lot on barbie and that branch of the Beltrans, that circle was crippled by the end of 2010.  How do you plea guilty and cooperate extensively for 9 life sentences?  Government manipulated him very well I guess.
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Re: American druglord fearful of Mexican cartel

j.ward
In reply to this post by senorjoe
 If you would have read the article you would see how my comment pertains to the subject matter therin.

---------------------------------------------------------------
"Prosecutors and task-force members rushed to talk to the elusive opponent they spent years chasing. He was hesitant, but the team knew which carrot to dangle.

Petties’ wife, Latosha Booker, and their five children were still in Mexico. The three youngest, a 10-month-old and 4-year-old twins, were born in Mexico under aliases, so Mexican officials were refusing to let Booker bring them across the border.

The task force would help if Petties talked, and he caved in. "
--------------------------------------------------------------

Point being they play games with this persons family, children etc and yet allow Chapos family carte blanche etc when in my opinion they could have done something to utilize that situation in an advantageous manner to get to Chapo.

Why such negatives all the time? You mad bro?
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Re: American druglord fearful of Mexican cartel

Lala
Kid is right though, both situations look nothing alike, even with the very little info from this article, on one hand you have Chapo´s wife, an US citizen travelling to the US to give birth and later head to México with her children, all perfectly legal, any messing up would have only meant a juicy lawsuit, then on the other hand you have an US woman whose kids were born in México under aliases, therefore the kids are Mexican but because of being under a different name the mother can´t just take those children abroad, since legally they are not related to her real identity, the task force only used to their advantage that situation while in the case of Chapo´s wife there wasn´t anything they could have used.
777
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Re: American druglord fearful of Mexican cartel

777
In reply to this post by senorjoe
I like these stories. You get a glimpse of the money being made in the U.S from drug sales. There is so much in the media about Mexican "capos" you kinda forget the major role american drug dealers play.
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Re: American druglord fearful of Mexican cartel

LeeClaire
Allow me to nitpick an otherwise well-written story; since when is 5'9 short?
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Re: American druglord fearful of Mexican cartel

_Jack
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Re: American druglord fearful of Mexican cartel

Windycitykid
In reply to this post by J
9 life sentences but he avoided the death penalty for sure by pleading guilty and avoiding a long trial. USA saves money by avoiding lengthy trial. Sometime the government offers to relocate family and let the defendants family keep some of the ill gotten gains as long as they cooperate with investigators. Also access to special prisons for informants where they never come in contact with the rest of the general population inside. SuperaMaxes with 23 hour lock downs break down the most harden criminals & these drug dealers know that is where they end up. They all fear the thought of living in a box segregated. Thats why it's so easy to convince them to turn informants on their own people.
"Great minds have purpose, others have wishes" - Washington Irvin
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Re: American druglord fearful of Mexican cartel

Pinchegringo
In reply to this post by senorjoe
Very cool story.  They had a Gangland episode on this guy a few months back.
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Re: American druglord fearful of Mexican cartel

butterfan
In reply to this post by senorjoe
im a big fan of his brother music who is dj paul in a group called three six mafia.  i remember dj paul saying he was grateful that he came from a family who had money, im sure craig petties has to do a lot with three six mafia success in the early days, for the people who dont know three six mafia, these guys sold millions of records, had their own tv show on mtv, a cooking show,
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Re: American druglord fearful of Mexican cartel

Tamaulipeco Mexikano
Shit I still bump to triple 6 mafia! I remeber back in hs all of of people would bump to Paul Wall,Mike Jones,et.Shiiit me and my homeboys would bump to Bone Thugs or Three 6 Mafia some real crunk sheet!
Estos son de Guerra, Aquellos nada mas son administrativos!