Carlos Enrique Lehder Rivas is a German-Colombian former drug lord who was a co-founder of the Medellín Cartel. He is currently in witness protection and imprisoned in the United States though officials won't say where he is.
Carlos Lehder has been credited with revolutionizing the transportation network for delivering cocaine to the United States by vastly increasing the volume of smuggled drugs by using a fleet of airplanes based on Norman Cay in the Bahamas.. It was estimated that Lehder’s network supplied as much as 80 percent of the cocaine that arrived in the United States in the 1980s.
Though not as famous as his partners Pablo Escobar and the Rodriguez Brothers aka Gentlemen of Cali, without Carlos, they might have remained doing business on a much smaller scale in Colombia.
Carlos is one of the most colorful of all the original drug lords, so I thought he'd be fun to post about today. His power went right to his head and lack of discretion and a narcissistic love for attention led him to a life behind bars. He claimed to be a Nazi and he loved Adolph Hitler and Beatle John Lennon. Lehder had his own "Gestapo" on Norman Cay used to chase stubborn residents off the island.
Born in Armenia, Colombia, Lehder eventually ran a cocaine transport empire on Norman's Cay island, 210 miles off the Florida coast in the central Bahamas. Born: September 7, 1949 (age 70 years), Armenia, Colombia.
Lehder spent his childhood in Colombia but moved to the United States in his teens. He began smuggling stolen cars, operating in Canada and on the American east coast and was sometimes involved in the delivery of marijuana.
Pablo and Carlos
These activities led to his 1974 incarceration in a federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut. There he was housed with George Jung, who had established an operation using airplanes to bring marijuana into the United States. Johnny Depp played George Jung in the movie "Blow".
By Jung’s account, Lehder persuaded him that importing cocaine by airplane would be significantly more lucrative, and upon their release in 1976, the two went into business together, transporting the drug from Medellín, Colombia, to the United States. Within a few years, however, Lehder sidelined Jung in the business.
Chased off Norman's Cay, Carlos fled back to Colombia and He reportedly fell from favor with Pablo Escobar, the head of the Medellín cartel.
On February 4, 1987, acting on a tip that probably came from Escobar himself, Colombian national police raided a ranch near the town of Guarne in Antioquia and captured Lehder. Within hours he was extradited to the United States, which had sought his arrest since 1979. Carlos was drawing too much negative attention to the other Narcos.
Lehder went on trial in October 1987 in Jacksonville, Florida, on charges of conspiracy and running a criminal enterprise as well as other charges related to the importation and sale of cocaine. The trial continued until May 1988, when he was convicted on all counts.
Manuel Noriega and Carlos
He was later sentenced to life without parole and an additional 135 years in prison. In 1991, however, Lehder testified against Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega, saying that Noriega had allowed Panama to be used as a conduit for the cartel’s cocaine smuggling operations. In return, Lehder’s sentence was reduced to 55 years.
Beginning in 2005, Lehder made pleas to various government entities in the United States and Colombia, saying that he was now entitled to be released under the agreement he had made in 1991, but he supposedly remains in prison, though no one seems to know where.
At one time he was being held in isolation at the maximum-security prison in Marion, Ill. But as of today, no one seems to know. Is he free? Did they cut him loose? There are rumors he is out of the prison system but with Carlos's hugely narcissistic traits, odds are he couldn't remain out of the spotlight for this long.