The 541 Syndicate [Part 1]

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The 541 Syndicate [Part 1]

Siskiyou_Kid
This post was updated on .

The clear mountain streams were ideal for watering marijuana plantations. This photo was taken by Adán Germán in the mountains of Northern California

The 541 Syndicate
An excerpt from a story written by Adán Germán for Borderland Beat

When Adán Díaz Herrera started first grade in the small rural school in the mountains straddling Northern California and Southern Oregon, he was the only Mexican in his class. In fact, not even his teacher spoke Spanish, along with the entire crowded class of 31 students. His classmates, mostly children of loggers, many whose parents had come from Oklahoma or Arkansas during the Dust Bowl, derided him as a "wetback", even though he was a 3rd generation American. The children of local hippies, who flocked to the area to escape the urban decline of the day, were no more ingratiating.

He had come with his parents, from Chicago, who themselves had followed his grandparents from the Mexican state of Durango. Finding little opportunity in the Lower Westside neighborhood of Pilson, they founded a thriving business as subcontractors for the US Forest Service, replanting the trees that were clear cut to provide the jobs and tax revenue that supported the local economy. Soon cousins and other relatives came to help, some from Chicago, but most directly from Mexico.

While planting the hillsides with millions of Douglas Fir seedlings, the workers began to recognize that the lush verdant countryside would provide an opportunity similar to the mountains of Durango they had come from: the planting of small plantations of marijuana. As they crisscrossed the rugged mountains planting trees, they came to know the location of every spring, and recognized the south-facing hillsides that would provide needed sunlight. They knew the comings and goings of Forest Service and law enforcement personnel, and they had a legitimate reason to be in the forest, day in and day out.

Adan's father, Eugenio, "Gene" Díaz learned from an uncle how to remove the male plants early in the season, so there were no pollen sack to fertilize the female buds. This way they grew the sought out "sinsemilla" marijuana that was making a small group from Sinaloa very wealthy in the 1970's. On the streets of Seattle, Washington and San Francisco, California, the Díaz family produced a product that was renowned for it's excellent quality, and brought premium prices. In 1982, "homegrown" produced by kids in the surrounding hills was leafy, impotent, and seedy mess, which the seller was lucky to receive $100 a pound for. Soon the Díaz family was wholesaling 250 pound loads for $2,000 a pound, a significant profit margin for a marijuana grower in that era.

After a decade or so, dozens of family members planted trees during the day, and guarded, watered, and tended to marijuana at night. This system worked well, until the family became part of the middle class, owning real estate, small businesses, and no longer faced the underlying prejudice experience by many Mexicans in rural America. Hardworking and dedicated to their work of regenerating the forest, local loggers and hippies alike offered their grudging respect.

While the  Díaz family prospered, many other new arrivals prospered as well. Hippies and other counterculture types moved to the area from all over the country. Some were escaping the urban decay that was permeating American cities, but many also came to take advantage of one of the best Marijuana growing climates in the world. Marijuana soon supplanted other crops as the most valuable agricultural commodity in several states. While law enforcement authorities soon took advantage of massive federal grants to target the growers, there were other threats as well.

In 1971 there was a small hippie commune that dominated the area. It was populated by self-sufficient back to nature types, as well as Viet Nam vets and outlaw bikers, who were drawn to the Wild West culture and what they thought was an ample opportunity for free love. During one autumn's marijuana harvest, a large crop was found missing early one morning. The garden was planted by a rough group not welcome in the commune, including a Viet Nam vet who had received a dishonorable discharge.


Police having lunch after raiding the local commune in 1979

The following morning, the severed heads of two hippies were found on the river bank downstream from the commune, under the green bridge. They belonged to two well known commune members, known as Old Moses and Rainbow Bob. Their badly beaten bodies were found near their homes, six miles upstream. The bodies exhibited evidence of the kind of torture known to be used by US forces in Viet Nam.

The murders were never solved, and the Díaz family payed little attention, because they were neither friendly with the commune members, nor did they like the moral attitude that seeped from the anarchist culture. Several other violent incidents were tied to the growing of marijuana, but this was minor compared to the drunken brawls that local loggers engaged in on a regular basis.

In 1981, three loggers named Clark, Scott, and Cox, got into an altercation with a long-haired man named Vander Jack at a bar, called the Rusty Spur. They had a reputation as crazy drunken louts, who give people an ample beating just for fun. Vander Jack left in a hurry, but was found hitchhiking a few miles down the road, as Clark, Scott, and Cox left for home. They picked him up. Accounts vary, but most of the three assailants agree they took Vander Jack down to the river for a good old fashioned ass stomping. Apparently, Vander Jack did something to anger Terry Cox more than normal, and this man had a reputation for chasing friends around with a revved up, running chainsaw, while threatening to cut their head off.

Terry Cox pulled the seat forward on his Ford F-100 pickup and pulled out a tire iron and a hammer. Later, in court, he testified that the tire iron went into Vander Jack's skull, "like a spike pushed into a watermelon."
Scott and Clark testified against Cox and were given suspended sentences. Clark was convicted of manslaughter, but on appeal, a trial error meant he was released after a little under 4 years in state prison.

By 1987 federal grants to local law enforcement for the war on drugs had reached staggering levels. Small planes and helicopters crisscrossed every inch of forest, public or private, using professional spotters to locate as few as 2 marijuana plants. On such spotter located a small plantation on federal land that had been recently replanted with Douglas Fir seedlings. Ground crews found far more marijuana plants once they scouted the area on foot. As the fall harvest approached state and federal agents staked out the plantation, waiting for the growers to take the plants. As unwitting crews of tree planters hiked in with backpacks to begin the harvest, they found themselves surrounded. Gene Diaz had made the unlucky decision to oversee the work. Many of the workers were able to slip into the surrounding hills, but Gene  Díaz quickly found himself in handcuffs. The easy money came to an end.

The Díaz family found themselves under unprecedented scrutiny. Their rental properties were seized by the IRS Asset Forfeiture Program. Gene Díaz was sent to federal prison for nearly a decade. His wife and children moved to Costa Rica and his eldest son was sent to a preparatory school in Brazil. Many of the extended family moved to the California Central Valley city of Stockton. Many became involved in drugs and alcohol and several cousins and an uncle were killed over drug debts or alcohol fueled vendettas.

Shortly after Gene Díaz emerged from prison, much older and almost broken, marijuana was legalized for medicinal use in several western states. Gene Díaz had a back injury from his tree planting days that resulted in a herniated disc in his spine, and he was one of the first in the area to receive a state permit allowing him to possess and grow marijuana.

Gene  Díaz had long instilled in his children a disdain for alcohol and hard drugs, particularly methamphetamine. His children and anyone working for him were absolutely forbidden from using alcohol to excess, or during the workday, and use or sales of hard drugs was viewed as grounds for immediate excommunication. Ironically, Gene himself had developed a nasty black tar heroin addiction as a result of his work-related back injury. He and his wife's parents from Durango were old school heroin dealers in Chicago, and they had pioneered many smuggling methods still in use to this day.

With the state legalization of medical marijuana, the Díaz family was no longer relegated to the rugged mountains for growing their product, and now they could take advantage of the fertile farmland and ample water supply that the valleys were endowed with. While the state placed no limit on the number of patients a marijuana cooperative could grow for, it was well known that growing more than 100 plants was a federal crime punishable by a 10 year minimum sentence.

The ample sun and water afforded by bottom land meant that each plant yielded an average of 10 pounds, or about 5 kilos, of high-grade marijuana, when a 1 pound plant grown guerrilla-style was considered exceptional. Each plant required a 10' x 10' growing area, with 5 feet between rows for working, meaning a 96 plant garden wold only require 1/2 acre of usable space, but would yield about 1/2 ton of high-grade marijuana, which dealers in Chicago would call Kush, and sell for $15 a gram, no matter what strain it was.

Soon cousins, uncles, and other associates could grow 1,000 pounds of marijuana, or more, even if they live in a rented trailer on 1 acre on the edge of town. With a value of $1,000 a pound locally, there was profit to be made, where dealers in Chicago would buy 200 pounds at a time for $2,500 a pound, and in New York they would pay $4,000 a pound, wholesale. This was nowhere near the profit that came from a $20,000 kilo of cocaine, bought for $1,500 in Colombia, but with dozens of family members producing massive quantities, at a producer cost of $250-$300, there was still money to be made.

200 pounds of high-grade marijuana delivered to Chicago in the back of an SUV would wholesale for $500,000, while 2,000 pounds sent in a tractor-trailer, would bring $5 million. The stage was clearly set for a profitable enterprise that involves little risk.

NEXT: Part 2
Those that say, don't know. Those that know, don't say.
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Re: The 541 Syndicate [Part 1]

Windycitykid
Good stuff! Thanks for posting
"Great minds have purpose, others have wishes" - Washington Irvin
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Re: The 541 Syndicate [Part 1]

Siskiyou_Kid
Thanks for enjoying the introduction. Part 2 should have some info on the nuts and bolts of the distribution these guys have in Chicago, but I don't know the intimate details.
Those that say, don't know. Those that know, don't say.
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Re: The 541 Syndicate [Part 1]

Chivis
Administrator
In reply to this post by Siskiyou_Kid
where did you get this kid?
I can't wait for part 2...I will put in on main board I think it will be a hot post there
 
The way I see it.... the more people that don't like me, the less people I have to please
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Re: The 541 Syndicate [Part 1]

Siskiyou_Kid
Chivis, thank you for the compliment. I wrote this.
Those that say, don't know. Those that know, don't say.
DD
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Re: The 541 Syndicate [Part 1]

DD
In reply to this post by Siskiyou_Kid
Great story kid.  I can't wait to see what happened to Adán Díaz Herrera.
Words are powerful weapons, be careful how you use them.
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Re: The 541 Syndicate [Part 1]

Chivis
Administrator
In reply to this post by Siskiyou_Kid
jajajaja  next time put your name and then "for  Borderland Beat"

that is how I will put it on mainboard.  adan german for borderland beat

if you notice I type Borderland Beat at the top of my posts, but If they are originally authored by me I will put "Chivis Martínez for Borderland Beat"

outstanding kid

when will part 2 be ready?
 
The way I see it.... the more people that don't like me, the less people I have to please
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Re: The 541 Syndicate [Part 1]

Siskiyou_Kid
I'm working on part 2. There are some privacy issues I have to figure out.
Those that say, don't know. Those that know, don't say.
DD
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Re: The 541 Syndicate [Part 1]

DD
Kid.  Mixing some fiction into a true life story in order to obscure some truths is an acceptable form of writing.  there is nothing wrong with it and it is certainly better than exposing your characters to danger.
Words are powerful weapons, be careful how you use them.
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Re: The 541 Syndicate [Part 1]

Chivis
Administrator
In reply to this post by Siskiyou_Kid
I never add fictitious facts when I write...


I would not make it fiction, aside from logistics and names of characters.
if you do you must protect persons do that and simply say that is the only factual change all other facts are true accounts.
 
The way I see it.... the more people that don't like me, the less people I have to please
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Re: The 541 Syndicate [Part 1]

Phineas
Great story thanks so much for posting it on here!