DRUG dealer George Jung was a high-flying cocaine smuggler who helped Pablo Escobar bring planeloads of the drug into the US.
Jung, whose wild life inspired the hit Johnny Depp film Blow, died today aged 78 at his home in Boston.
Nicknamed Boston George and El Americano, Jung was one of the kingpins at the head of the cartel responsible for flooding the United States with Colombian cocaine in the 1980s.
He made “close to $100 million” pumping illicit substances from South to North America while making Escobar the world’s most powerful druglord.
Jung told PBS in 2000: “Basically I was no different than a rock star or a movie star. I was a coke star… as the money grew, the power grew.”
He decided to travel to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in the 1970s to buy marijuana and then bring it back to the US to sell after watching the Elizabeth Taylor movie Night of the Iguana.
It was there he met an American woman who was living with the son of a Mexican general – with the promise of “all the pot you want”.
Jung began making an extremely lucrative – but dangerous – living transporting the drugs back over the border.
He said: “The income from it was probably, there were three or four of us involved, we were more or less making $50,000 to 100,000 apiece a month.
“In the beginning it was some fear [of getting caught], but like anything else if you do it enough time you lose your fear, or if you don’t, you get out of the business.
“I analyzed this over the years, I was a fear junkie. That’s what happened to me. The fear is the high itself. It’s an adrenaline pump.”
Basically I was no different than a rock star or a movie star. I was a coke star
The feds eventually caught up with Jung and he was busted in Chicago with a 600 pounds of marijuana in the trunk of his car while living at the Playboy Club.
He told PBS: “The connection that was supposed to take the pot was also involved in the heroin business, which I had no idea he was doing, and he got arrested for that, and of course then to save his soul he informed on me and they arrested me for the pot.”
Jung was jailed in Danbury, Connecticut, where his cellmate was Colombian Carlos Lehder.
It was in that cell where the seeds of Jung’s cocaine-smuggling enterprise were planted.
“As time wore on, we got to know each other and then he asked me if I knew anything about cocaine and I told him no.
“He said, ‘Did you know it sells for $60,000 a kilo in the United States?’ And I said, ‘No. I had no idea. How much does it cost down in Colombia?’ and he said, ‘$4,000 to $5,000.’
“And immediately bells started to go off and the cash register started ringing up in my head.
“From then on Carlos and I were involved in an intense conversation and then it got to the point where I began telling him that I could transport an aircraft in the United States and I possibly had a major market for it and it just went from there.”
COCAINE DEALING BEGINS
Upon his release from prison, Lehder told Jung to take two women from Massachusetts to Antigua and have them carry suitcases full of cocaine.
Jung said: “They were more or less naive to what was going on and I told them that they’d be transferring cocaine, and really at that time, not very many people in Massachusetts knew what the hell cocaine was.
“At that time it was easy to come and go through Customs, as far as moving drugs and drugs we concealed in the suitcases.
“They said they had such a wonderful time that they were turning around the next day and going back down to get more suitcases, which more or less boggled my mind, I couldn’t believe they were going to do this again all in a matter of another day.
“So they went and they were successful both times. That was the beginning of the cocaine business for Carlos and myself.”
The pair bought a plane and set up their own cartel, Medellin – involving Pablo Escobar.
“This was the first time that we showed the Colombians that you could take huge amounts of cocaine and drop it into the United States via air and also there was a huge market there for it,” Jung said.
“The cash was generated in a matter of days, millions of dollars.
“Basically Pablo was there for supplying [the cocaine]. Carlos and I were in the transporting and distribution of it.
“So that was basically the beginning of the influx of cocaine in the United States. More or less everybody knows what happened from there.”
Jung’s cartel was responsible for 90 per cent of the Colombian cocaine flooding the United States in the 80s.
He enjoyed a high-flying lifestyle as his illicit business continued to generate millions of dollars.
At the height of his powers Jung said he was filling tables with cocaine piled three-feet high.
“You know, I mean – you know, like in “Scarface”, just dump it,” he said.
“Who the hell cares? Snort it. Stay here twenty days if you want. I don’t care. Burn some money in the fireplace, f*** it, it all meant nothing. It was insanity.
“I was a guy who had a lot of money and unlimited access to cocaine and even if I looked like Bela Lugosi I still had the most beautiful women on the planet because everybody at that time, especially women, were in love with cocaine and of course in love with the money – the access to the automobiles, the clothes, the dinners, the lifestyle.”
However he began to struggle with addiction to the very drug he was supplying, and began to fear for his life amid increasingly violent scenes.
“The money meant nothing. After a while, the cocaine – I didn’t have any friends, you know. I was just alone and I didn’t even like myself,” he said.
“At that time I really didn’t know who I was, to be honest with you. I was snorting a lot of cocaine and I had lost myself to a great degree.
“I think the cocaine drove [the dealers] crazy and that it was a serious business and there were huge, huge amounts of money, you know, in one place at one time and you were responsible for that and if you lost it you basically lost your life.”
FRIENDS BECOME RIVALS
Jung and Lehder split after the American was cut out of the cartel.
Jung claimed his former business partner threatened to kill him.
He then spent more time with Pablo Escobar at his infamous Hacienda Nápoles estate in Colombia, drinking alcohol and using cocaine while dodging federal agencies in the US and the KGB who were pursuing the pair.
Jung said: “[Escobar] chopped a huge ball of coke open with a machete and said take what you want. We drank cognac.”
While staying with Escobar, Jung witnessed the Colombian chillingly murder a rival.
“An individual was brought to the ranch and he was taken out by two of Pablo’s bodyguards and we were sitting at a table on the patio in the back and he simply said, ‘Excuse me’,” Jung said.
“He walked over and executed the man and then he came back to the table. He simply looked at me and he said, ‘He betrayed me.’ They took him away and then he asked me what I’d like for dinner that night.”
Jung said the incident made him realize that he was “on a road to self-destruction and I couldn’t turn the wheel to get off”.
The feds eventually busted Jung in 1987 after he returned to Massachusetts, bursting into the mansion where he lived with his wife and baby daughter.
“That was the end of it – all coming down, house of cards,” he said.
“I went back there. There was only, like three or four ounces of coke there and the police thought that a huge load had been flown in and the house was full of kilos of cocaine and money.
“They were highly disappointed but there was still enough to arrest everybody, you know, and the last I saw was my daughter who was only a year old being taken away by a police officer. That was the end of it.”
Jung took off on the run from Massachusetts, intending to flee back to Colombia – however an old pilot friend who he thought was going to help was actually working undercover for the DEA.
With no way out, Jung decided to help the feds and spoke to them about Ledher.
After co-operating with law enforcement, Jung was released from custody a few months later.
However a return to his former life proved to be too tempting and Jung was caught with 1,754 pounds of cocaine in 1994 in Topeka, Kansas.
Sentenced to 60 years behind bars, Jung was released nearly 20 years later in 2014.
He was arrested again two years later for a parole violation but left a halfway house in July 2017.
Jung died this morning at his home in Boston, sources told TMZ.
The cause of his death has not been made clear, however the outlet reported that he had recently experienced liver and kidney failure.
He had reportedly been in home hospice over the weekend and died with his wife and friend by his side.
Following the news, Jung’s Twitter account tweeted a quote from the iconic film.
“May the wind always be at your back and the sun upon your face, and the winds of destiny carry you aloft to dance with the stars. 1942-2021,” the post read.
The outlet claims that Jung will be cremated, however no information about a funeral has been made publicly available.
View more information: https://www.the-sun.com/news/2830648/george-jung-pablo-escobar-cocaine-dead-blow-johnny-depp/