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Award-winning investigative journalist (and dad) Peter Gorman has spent more than 20 years tracking down stories from the streets of Manhattan to the slums of Bombay. Specializing in Drug War issues, he is credited as a primary journalist in the medical marijuana and hemp movements, as well as in property forfeiture reform. His work has appeared in over 100 national and international magazines and newspapers.

Peter Gorman's love affair with the Amazon jungle is well-known to people in the field. Since 1984 Mr. Gorman has spent a minimum of three months annually there generally using Iquitos
Peru as his base. During that time he has studied ayahuasca the visionary healing vine of the jungle with his friend the curandero Julio Jerena. He has collected artifacts for the American Museum of Natural History botanical specimens for Shaman Pharmaceuticals and herpetological specimens for the FIDIA Research Institute of the University of Rome. His description of the indiginous Matses Indians’ use of the secretions of the phyllomedusa bicolor frog has opened an entire field devoted to the use of amphibian peptides as potential medicines in Western medicine.


by Peter Gorman © all rights reserved

The biggest pot smuggler of all time is on the lam and wants his money.  American Michael Hooks, who once ran a fleet of 28 airplanes out of Sonora Mexico and into the US from Texas to California, says he’s being jobbed by the Feds after cooperating with them to help nail one of Mexico’s biggest drug barons, Miguel Caro-Quintero.

The Feds won’t discuss the case but several defense lawyers who have tangled with the Drug Enforcement Administration over the years say they would not be surprised if Hooks, despite having turned snitch after several years in a Mexican prison, was getting the screws put to him because he was connected—whether actively or not—with the single most dramatic killing of a DEA agent in the Administration’s history. Payback’s a bitch and life ain’t fair.



On February 7, 1985, Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique ‘Kiki’ Camarena Salazar—along with his Mexican reconnaissance pilot, Alfredo Zavala Avelar—was kidnapped shortly after leaving the DEA’s Headquarters in the US Consulate in Guadalajara, on the way to meet his wife for lunch. When he didn’t show, Camarena’s wife contacted US Ambassador John Gavin. Gavin contacted Mexican authorities and asked that a search be started. When the Mexican authorities weren’t quick to respond, the US initiated Operation Camarena, stopping and searching every vehicle passing from Mexico into the US, turning the border crossing into a nightmare across its entire 2.000 mile span. One month later, on March 6, someone tipped authorities that the bodies of both Camarena and Zavala could be found on a roadside 60 miles south of Guadalajara.

             The DEA soon got a copy of an audiotape of the torture session. It had lasted 9 hours and those who’ve heard it say it is unbearable to listen to. The discovery of the bodies and the appearance of the tape sparked Operation Leyenda, Operation Legend, the largest manhunt in DEA history.

    What provoked Camarena and Zavala’s deaths was a bust initiated by the two men of the centerpiece of the Caro-Quintero clan’s pot operations, a location in Chihuahua called El Bufalo, a series of 13 pot farms that ranged in size from 500-to-1,200 acres.

The DEA claimed that the raid resulted in the seizure of 8,000 tons of marijuana. Hooks, the man who ran the smuggling operation for the pot, laughs at that figure. “There might have been that much there,” he told the Fort Worth Weekly when he recently surfaced for a few days,  “but some was still growing, some was drying, some was being cleaned….In any event, a lot of it was returned within a week or so by the Mexican government. And it was probably returned with apologies.”

            Whatever the figure, it was, and remains, among the biggest pot busts in history.

Michael Hooks had no part in the Camarena killing. But when Operation Leyenda began, anyone and everyone connected to the Mexican drug trade, and particularly to the Caro-Quinteros, was fair game to US authorities. If it hadn’t been for that killing, Hooks would have retired from pot smuggling years ago—smuggling is a young man’s game—and been running a zoo in Cancun with his wife and kids. Instead, Hooks is in hiding from the Quinteros, has been ripped off and exposed by the US Drug Enforcement Administration after he helped to set-up then locate one of the Caro-Quintero brothers and has lost his family.

     Hooks is tall, slim and good looking at 53, with deep set, dark eyes. He speaks evenly in a rich baritone, with an occasional chuckle. He wears a watch, and no other visible jewelry. He does not look like what you might expect from someone who might be the biggest pot smuggler of all time.

Hooks was born in Orlando Florida and later grew up in Alabama. His father was “a Navy guy;” he had one brother and one sister and says it was a great family. He joined the Marine Corps the week he graduated from high school, at the height of the Vietnam war. He was put to work as a radar and missile electronic technician and subsequently sent with his unit to the Mexican border in Operation Grasshopper, an operation intended to stem the flow of marijuana coming into the US.

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

       Hooks was introduced to smoking marijuana while in the Marines and began to sell a little shortly after he left the Corps in 1973. Just months later he was busted in North Carolina for possession with intent to distribute a pound. He got three years. Three months into his sentence he was moved to a Work Farm.

            “But then, in September, 1974 when President Ford gave Nixon a pardon, well, that really pissed me off,” he says. “I’m doing time for pot and he’s let off the hook. So I decided to take off.”

            He describes his escape as a six-hour blur, running through swamps to keep the dogs and prison guards off his scent. By dusk he’d come to an old farm road and caught a ride to a truck stop. He called a friend who picked him up and gave him money to fly home to Alabama. His dad gave him money for clothes and he hitched to California. “I still can’t figure out why nobody got me at the airport, or why not one of the policemen who stopped me while hitching had notice of my escape. I just got lucky.”

     In California he met up with some former Marine friends who had connections to big loads of pot from Mexico, and he began moving some back east to North Carolina and Alabama. After several months of running pot, Hooks was connected to the suppliers and began to smuggle it over the border. “The first time I did it I used a Buick Sunbeam with a false compartment in the front,” he says, adding that it turned out to be surprisingly easy, “and kind of became a regular thing.”

            Not long after he’d begun smuggling, one of his buyers told two dealers from Alabama, Woodrow Brown and Harold Garmony, about him. The pair had been recently busted and had no other connections. A meeting was set up and Brown flew into LA airport to meet Hooks, handed him a briefcase full of money and disappeared. “He didn’t know me from Adam,” says Hooks, shaking his head as if he still can’t quite believe it. There was $25,000 in the briefcase, a downbpayment on 500 pounds. Another $25,000 was due on delivery.

             Hooks was hooked. He went to work with his dad—who, like his mom, “didn’t care about me smuggling pot, so long as I promised not to smuggle any other drugs”—building a false compartment in the camper shell of a station wagon that could hold about 60 kilos of brick. The 500 pounds represented four trips from Mexicali to Whittier, California where he stashed the dope in a friend’s house. When the load was assembled he turned it over to Brown and Garmony’s drivers.

               The shipment went without a hitch, and Brown and Garmony asked Hooks to make a partnership. The duo wanted as much pot as Hooks could get. Hooks and his dad went to work building airtight stashes in a 21-foot long RV. When they were done it held nearly 1,000 pounds of brick. 

            Brown and Garmony were such good dealers that Hooks soon had to have a second trailer built to keep up with their needs. “Me and a second driver I had would make two, three trips a weekend every couple of weeks. We started rolling in the dough.”

           A three-ton load netted Hooks, Brown and Garmony about half-a-million dollars, but it went sour when Hooks realized that the three-way split always seemed to leave the others with a bigger cut than him. “I probably moved about 75-tons with them and made about $4 million in a year-and-a-half. A lot of that went into a horse ranch outside of San Diego and some other properties, and I got some thoroughbreds and had them racing. That was fun. But I finally broke off with them and started doing it on my own.”

          Six months later he was back in jail, this time in Mexico. He was moving a two-vehicle load at night through the desert and got stopped at a Federale checkpoint near Tijuana in Baja. The federales got suspicious when the second driver had a little coke on him and searched the vehicles and found the marijuana.

          “There were five of us and they arrested us all. In Tijuana I paid a judge $50,000 to cut the others loose and took the heat.” He’s asked why he would do that. He chuckles. “One of them was my brother and if I didn’t my parents would have killed me.”

            Hooks was found guilty of trafficking and sentenced to 6-years-and-3-months 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), and a lack of it meant one bowl of soup daily and sleeping on the cement ground 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 who told him they were building an escape tunnel and asked if he wanted in.

            “At first I turned them down,” he says, “but I soon changed my mind. La Mesa wasn’t fit for a human being to live in.” The tunnel, which Hooks says ran under a drainage ditch, was circular and wooden framed. His job was to get rid of the dirt. At first he stuffed the walls of several little houses with it; later he rented a prison storage shack and filled that.

            They had a car waiting on the day of the escape, he says, but the guards saw them emerging near the ditch and started shooting, so they went to Plan B: everybody run. Hooks headed to the Tijuana airport just across the border from Brownsville CA. Three of the guys were caught immediately; one other guy escaped. Hooks made the airport and gave the guard a story that he and some friends got stuck in a 4-wheeler and needed help. The guard let him use the phone and he called his girlfriend who came and got him and brought him across the border to the US.

            The prison break brought television exposure—not something a smuggler wants—so Hooks sold his horse ranch, moved to Tuscon and took a year off to let things cool down. When he started up again he switched from brick to  sinsemilla, which allowed him to make good money carrying far less quantity. “I was sending drivers down to pick it up in F250 Fords with camper shells. They only held about 40 kilos each, but with the sinsemilla I was buying it at $100 a kilo and selling it for over $2000.”

            Hooks stayed out of Mexico until one of his drivers took off with a stash and he had to make a run. On the way out he was busted in Lukeville, AZ, but luck smiled on him when the computer’s were down and his fingerprints couldn’t be sent nationwide. It smiled even more when the judge he went before the following day discovered he hadn’t been given his phone call and let him go on a $50,000 bond. “I left everything and hooked up with my old partner Woodrow Brown. We went to Puerto Vallarta and bought a little twin-engine Beachcraft and I started bringing out about 900 pounds of sinsemilla every couple of weeks. 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 fellow he knew told him about some huge marijuana fields in the hills in Sonora, so large they were cultivated with tractors, and protected by the government. It turned out to be the Caro-Quintero clan’s operation, a business that included dozens of family members but which was anchored by a low-key uncle, JuanJo, and his nephews Rafael and Miguel. Hooks was asked if he wanted to move some of their product.

His partner had a buyer, so Hooks made a deal for 500 kilos of the Caro-Quintero pot. He paid for the load in three days. “Miguel Caro-Quintero liked that, and the next thing you knew it just started to snowball.” By May of 1983 Hooks estimates he’d crossed out 25 tons, and says pilots and airplanes “were coming out of the woodwork to work with us.”

In late June, 1983, 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, which ranged in size from 40-100 acres, just outside of Caborca, in Sonora, that were the base of operations for the Caro-Quinteros. He mentioned to Miguel that the plants were growing too close together and the next thing he knew Miguel's brother 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 explain to the growers how to grow, 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.”

During the rest of 1983 and 1984—when the Caro-Quinteros moved their fields to El Bufalo in Chihuahua and expanded them considerably, Hooks bought 27 more airplanes and had six different airstrips built on 150,000 acres scattered over several ranches he bought. “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. Other smugglers were bringing in 8-10 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.”

While that sounds like someone embellishing their operation, a DEA chart of the Hooks-Wilson-Markham (Brown's girlfriend who kept the books) 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 Tuscon and more than 40 distributors. And those are just the US people.

The scope of the operation, once it moved to El Bufalo, was legendary in pot circles of the era, though most thought it just that, a legend. Hooks says it was almost unimaginable. “In 84, when they moved the fields, there were 18 trucks moving the buds when we harvested. There were acres of buds drying in the sun and then tarpaper sheds maybe 40 yards long and 8-yards wide and they’d be full. There were probably 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 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,” says 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 US 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 his ranches, the planes, bulldozers and built several homes. He sent money north to buy property in the US. Everyone who worked with him a year got a Rolex. He had hundreds of workers. There were women and lavish parties where he flew in planeloads of guests from the States. It was endless.

He laughs when he describes 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.” 

Hooks said he believes the US knew that the operation was going on but probably didn’t know the extent of it. He said it wasn’t unusual to see AWACs flying overhead at his ranches, but by constantly switching landing strips and changing airplanes and routes, he never lost a single plane. “These guys were just so well protected,” he says. “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 US dollars.”

The first sign of a chink in the armor occurred in the summer of 1984, when one of the smaller fields got busted. 36-workers were taken in, but they were released three-days later with no arrests. The only marijuana that was taken were a few male plants pulled up for the television cameras. Hooks said he later was told that DEA agent Kiki Camarena had been behind it. “Miguel said someone high up in the government told his brother and apologized for the disturbance.”

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.

“And then, on Nov. 6, 1984, it went down. 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,” says Hooks. “The next thing you know it’s all over the television with the DEA saying they got 8,000 tons. Bullshit.

“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.”

And then came the Camarena disappearance, which Hooks claims he knew nothing about. Following that, which occurred just days before Hooks was to marry a woman from California he’d known a long time—Miguel was his best man—Hooks and his new wife flew to Cancun where they bought a condo and tried to lay low because of all the heat. When he did start dealing again he made a deal with the local federales and their commandante to act as his protection.

 But he says things weren’t the same: the big fields were gone and then Rafael had been caught in Costa Rica not long after Camarena’s body was found and brought back to Mexico where he was convicted of the killing and sentenced to over 100 years (later reduced to 40). And many of the people the Caro-Quinteros had paid for protection were being fired or arrested, leaving everyone else who had been connected with the operation either funding their own protection, like Hooks, or living without it.

But even paying for protection didn’t guarantee it, and when the commandante on Hook’s payroll got transferred suddenly, the new man they brought in had him arrested. Among those arresting him were agents from Interpol. Hooks was brought to the new man who asked him why he hadn’t set things up. “I told him I was waiting for an introduction.”

            It was too late for that he was told: He was being shipped to the US 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 US.”

            The commandante said there was nothing to hold him on in Mexico, but that if maybe he had some drugs they wouldn’t send him back. Hooks called someone and told them to plant some drugs on his boat.

            The next day, accompanied by Interpol and the DEA, along with Mexican authorities, Hooks was taken to his boat and it was searched. Within minutes about a half-an-ounce of marijuana and a few grams of cocaine were discovered. The commandante announced that he would be charged in Mexico for the drugs rather than shipped back to the US. Hooks paid him $40,000 for the favor.

            Despite the payoff, Hooks 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 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. They knew I did, but I wouldn’t say it. That’s why they kept beating me so bad.”

            He was finally brought to a federal prison in Mexico City and put in the maximum security wing. He was tried and sentenced to 25-years. He appealed twice during the next four years and finally got his sentenced reduced to 16-years and three months. He spent, he says, about a million in payoffs during the appeals. He’d also spent some money making the prison bearable: He’d 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.”

            On the outside, says Hooks, he began to get wind that Miguel was taking his ranches on the pretext that Hooks owed him money. And Miguel being who he was, was able to get away with it. 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. Well, I wasn’t going to stay in prison 10-12 more years for him while he was on the outside ripping me off. 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 US attorney’s office and tell them that I’d tell them what I knew about the Camarena killing.”

            What he knew was that shortly after Camarena’s disappearance 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’s Rafael said that was okay, because ‘he’s been taken care of.”

            It wasn’t much, considering that Rafael had already been convicted of the killing but it was enough to get Hooks included in a prison-exchange with Mexico that sent him to a federal pen in Tucson, AZ.  Shortly after he returned a deal was struck to give Hooks’ light sentences on his Continuing Criminal Enterprise and prison escape charges—about 65-months—in exchange for Hooks working with the DEA to try to get Miguel Caro-Quintero to a country from which he could be extradited to the US.

            The DEA’s idea was a sting. The first stage had Hooks calling Miguel from prison—and the federal paperwork Hooks provided backs him up—to set up a deal for 3,000 pounds of pot with a friend of his, an undercover DEA agent. The phone calls were audio-taped on Miguel’s end and video and audio taped on Hooks’ end. The pot was delivered to the agent in Tucson, the Caro-Quintero stronghold in the US—giving the US something Miguel wouldn’t be able to wrangle out of—should he ever be arrested. The only glitch was that Miguel sent low quality pot instead of sinsemilla and the agent said his buyer’s couldn’t use it, but that he’d keep it on consignment and unload it over time.

            The second stage of the sting had Hooks calling Miguel again, this time with the story that his friend—the undercover agent—had a good connection for cocaine in Colombia, but he could only move it as far as El Salvador. Would Miguel take the loads from El Salvador into Mexico and then on to Tucson?

            The DEA was hoping that Miguel would be interested in meeting his new ‘partners’ during the first shipment and meet them in El Salvador. When he did, he’d be arrested. A deal had already been worked out between El Salvador and the US that would extradite Miguel if he stepped onto Salvadoran soil.  When the deal went down, however, Miguel sent someone else in his place, killing the deal.         

Hooks, meanwhile, served his five-plus years and was released to a halfway house in 1997. Including his time in Mexico he’d served just over 10-years for the Cancun bust. He reentered the regular world as a $6.50-an-hour night janitor, then moved through a series of unmemorable jobs he’d prefer not to talk about and kept his head down and his profile low..

            Two years later, 1999, the US Attorney’s office asked if he’d help with Miguel’s extradition should he ever be arrested on the 3.000 pounds of pot. Hooks told them yes, on condition that the US government pay him $3 million—in the ballpark of what Miguel had stolen from him. Hooks didn’t hear back until 2001.

According to Hooks—the State Department will not discuss the case at all and so it can’t be verified—the US State Department and Mexican officials had a meeting in San Diego in early 2001 about Miguel. Hooks was told by one of the people at State that the Mexican government balked at agreeing to extradite Miguel on any of the charges leveled against him in the US, except for the 3,000 pounds of pot, because of the tapes of those conversations.

            The assistant US Attorney on Hooks case couldn’t promise the $3 million Hooks had previously asked for but notified him that should he help with Miguel’s arrest he’d be eligible for the reward the US government had put on him, “up to $5 million dollars.” The State Department also noted that the identity of anyone contributing to the arrest would be kept strictly confidential.

            Nine months later, in December 2001, Miguel was arrested in Sinaloa, Mexico, on the warrant based on the Hooks’ deal for 3,000 pounds. Hooks expected to be paid at least a sizeable amount of the $5 million dollar reward, but the Feds balked and offered him $300,000 instead, with another couple of hundred should Miguel be extradited and Hooks testify 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 says. “I didn’t want to have to give up my kids.”

            Unknown to Hooks, at a press conference held by the Mexican government announcing the arrest just hours after it went down, his name was released as the person responsible for it.  The following morning every major Mexican daily mentioned his name.

He discovered that he’d been a walking dead man for two months when in February he was notified that the Federal government had sent a request for extradition for Miguel with his name on the affidavit. “Two days later I was out of Tucson and have not been back since,” says Hooks, who adds that the only way the Mexican government could have known about his involvement in the case was a leak from high US Federal officials--and probably a woman who is now in the highest eschalons of the DEA.  He’s certain that his exposure was pay-back for being too clever for the US government to catch.

            Calls to several defense attorneys who have considerable experience tangling with the DEA say that may well be the case. One prominent Alexandria VA defense attorney says that “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. 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 in the past.

            Celerino Castillo, a friend of Camarena’s and a former DEA agent in Guatemala, says that the DEA has a reputation for burning their 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 was not the only one astounded that the government would put him in that jeopardy. Assistant US Attorney Jim Lacey resigned from Hooks case over the breech, calling it, in his letter of resignation, “unethical, immoral and illegal.”

Hooks immediately called the Special Agent in Charge of the Tucson DEA office and asked what was going on. The agent said it was all bad, but the best he could do was offer Hooks $8,500 a month until Hooks and the DEA and State Department could come to an agreement. Hooks took the money and want on the run. “I couldn’t stay in Tucson,” he says, “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 offered him a take-it-or-leave-it deal, the same one they’d originally offered when they refused the reward: $300,000 cash and two-hundred thousand more if Miguel was 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 and Hooks signed and collected.

Hooks has been on the run since. He’s tried to apply for the reward—he’s got mountains of letters to-and-from senators but no one from State or the DEA will respond to him.

He’s still hopeful but prison time has made him a realist as well. “Look. I was left to hang out and dry. I can’t get a real job"—he does day work to fee himself—"I can’t establish a home, can’t be with my kids, can’t start a new family. I hope I’ll get the reward some day, but if I don’t, I don’t. But I still hope I help educate the American public that when the US government puts these high rewards on people, it’s not what it looks like. I’d hate to see someone else in my position.”

In the end, Miguel Caro-Quintero may never be extradited. According to the DEA he, with 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.

The question to Hooks, before he disappeared into the woodwork again was: Was it all worth it?.

“No. At the time it was. The money was there, the adrenalin rush was there and that lasted for years at a time. 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.

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

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