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Don Henry Ford 2: A Smuggler’s Story {format} {format} 7:46 Scott Carrier

Dying for drugs.

Broadcast: May 19 2005 on NPR Day to DaySeries: Smuggler’s Story Subjects: International, Business

Profile: Don Henry Ford, former marijuana smuggler

May 19, 2005 from Day to Day

ALEX CHADWICK, host: This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

Yesterday on the program, we introduced you to a man named Don Henry Ford. He says he made more than $1 million a year--he used to--by smuggling Mexican marijuana into this country.

Mr. DON HENRY FORD (Former Marijuana Smuggler): You could go down with $20,000, kind of make a vacation out of it, and then come back and turn that into about $120,000.

CHADWICK: Don Henry bought most of his merchandise in a remote mountain region just across the Texas border. He had a partner there named Oscar, who organized the farmers and made sure the local drug lords got their cut. Don Henry had narrow escapes, had guns pointed in his face; one time some crooked cops forced him to watch as they beat his partner Oscar unconscious.

Mr. FORD: And there was a little man with an Uzi in hand standing on Oscar's back.

CHADWICK: And still Don Henry continued smuggling marijuana, thousands of pounds of it. Producer Scott Carrier continues his story.

SCOTT CARRIER reporting:

The day came when Don Henry was making so much money he counted it by weighing it. When traveling, he says he stayed in the finest hotels, ate at the best restaurants, and slept with the most beautiful prostitutes. He also developed a cocaine habit. He has two sayings that describe this period in his life. One is, `Way too much cocaine is never enough.' The other, `If you have $500, the prostitute will cost $500. If you have $5 million, she'll cost $5 million. No matter how much money you have, she'll take all of it.'

Mr. FORD: They end up getting their share, you know, yessiree. What I made and what passed my--through my hands were two different things. There were millions of dollars that passed through my hands, probably in the area of 20 million bucks, but I hung on to very little of it.

CARRIER: In 1985, Don Henry was caught in a sting operation selling to an undercover agent, and he went to jail on a seven-year sentence. In less than a year, however, he escaped and fled south across the border back to Oscar's village of Piedritas. Oscar gave him two acres of good land, and Don Henry planted it with high-grade marijuana seeds. And again, for a while, things were good. The people in the village liked having him around, and his plants, by the time they matured, were worth half a million dollars. But just before he harvested the plants, the Mexican federales raided the village, arrested 12 men, put them in jail, cut down the plants and sold them on the black market. Don Henry got away. He escaped to a cave in the mountains where Oscar was hiding a couple thousand of pounds of marijuana and several hundred kilos of cocaine base. He lived there alone, unable to go home, feeling terrible.

Mr. FORD: I brought recognition to that community that they didn't want or need. And there were 12 people that went to prison, friends of mine, that happened to get caught with the material that I had produced, and I escaped. And I was worried that there would be animosity, that the families of these people would be mad because of the things that I had done, and to the fact to admit that I had endangered my children's lives and been self-centered and run around on my wife. But then I also begin to think over my life and how I had arrived at that particular place, and it really seemed stupid to have my identity tied to something like marijuana. I mean, that's just a stupid thing to die for.

CARRIER: Eventually, a drug lord named Pablo Acosta found out about the stash of drugs in the cave where Don Henry was hiding. He went up there with a group of men, captured Don Henry, told him he had to give up the name of his partner.

Mr. FORD: I was standing blindfolded on a cliff with a rifle pointed at my head, and told that if I lied I died. So I was very careful not to lie; I was just trying to omit. But he continued to narrow his question down till there was no way that I could go without telling him or I was dead. And, be it right or wrong, I told him. I said, `Oscar.' `Oscar who?' And then I told him his full name. And it's real easy to think you're going to be tough. You're going to be courageous when you face your own death, but I wasn't tough. I wasn't courageous. I was scared. And I did not want to die when that happened.

(Soundbite of "Hurt")

Mr. JOHNNY CASH: (Singing) I hurt myself today to see if I still feel. I focused on the pain, the only thing that's real. The needle tears the hole, the old familiar sting. Tried to kill it all away, but I remember everything. What I have become, my sweetest friend? Everyone I know goes away in the end. And you could have it all, my empire of dirt. I will let you down. I would make you hurt.

CHADWICK: Tomorrow, Don Henry Ford and the despair of a bad man.

Mr. FORD: It was, and I'm sure still is, this that kills everybody on both ends. And not just the people that smuggle it, but the people that use it and the people that have to stop it.

CHADWICK: A drug smuggler's search for redemption when Scott Carrier's story of Don Henry Ford concludes tomorrow.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Goodbye precedent. Goodbye accident. Who in solitude, who in this mirror, who by his latest command, who by his own hand, who in mortal chains, who in power, and who shall I say is calling?

CHADWICK: Stay with us. NPR's DAY TO DAY continues.