America’s Cocaine King Hid from Drug Cartels for 25 Years

It took a screenwriter to find him.

  1. Former Los Angeles actor Brett Tabor tops a medium popcorn with jalapeños, as is his custom, and sits down in the air-conditioned darkness to watch a 7 o'clock showing of Cocaine Cowboys.

    On the screen, superspliced interviews with two former smugglers tell the story of the cocaine avalanche that in the 1980s turned Miami into a bullet-riddled Little Medellín. Using budget special effects to augment footage of drug busts and murder scenes, Cocaine Cowboys isn't your typical documentary.

    Thirty minutes into the hyperkinetic film, Tabor fidgets in his seat. But one character, a central figure whose story doesn't get much screen time, keeps him watching.

    Only one photo of the man appears on the screen. He's burly and pasty, with severely parted hair and long sideburns framing a moon-shaped face behind a handlebar mustache. He wears a stiff brown-leather jacket and shoots daggers at the photographer, who snapped the picture in the early '80s.

    Other than that shot, Max Mermelstein, ...

The complete text of “America’s Cocaine King Hid from Drug Cartels for 25 Years” is not in the Byliner library, but we love it so much we included an excerpt and a link to the full story on www.laweekly.com.

Originally published in LA Weekly, May 2010

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