According to foreign media, Roger Reaves made more than 100 flights from Colombia and Mexico over the U.S. border to Miami to smuggle cocaine, which gave him tens of millions of dollars.
But the drug Mule’s actions came at a devastating cost – spending a total of 33 years behind bars in 26 prisons on all four continents.
In an interview with Lex Fridman, Roger talked about working with some of the scariest drug cartels in history, about those involved in smuggling, and how his plane crashed twice.
Roger revealed how he carried out several smuggling missions for the Medellin Cartel during his career and established a connection with her head Pablo Escobar.
After the first impressions, the runner believed that Escobar was a “gentleman, just like you and me”.
The “god” of drugs paid for his family to stay in a five-star hotel during the meetings.
This, Roger said, was for “certainty” to make sure he was not a drug enforcement agent.
Escobar even rode the motorcycle with the runner and invited him and his family to live on his spacious property.
Roger said he mainly worked under Jorge Ochoa, one of the cartel’s founders.
It was Ochoa, claims the “brain” behind the whole operation.
He claimed that the couple were “really good people” – but then everything changed, reports Telegrafi.
“When I heard about Pablo Escobar blowing up that plane and killing those women and children, I was sorry I ever shook his hand,” he said, referring to the 1989 Colombian flight that crashed.
Pablo was ultimately “not a good man at all”, but Roger believed he could trust in business.
Most of Roger’s smuggling flights went smoothly, but in some cases went bad.
He recalled a cargo in which Mexican police opened fire on his plane as he tried to fly cocaine from Central America.
The police had fired the tires and despite Reaves’ attempt to leave the runway, the police “operated with machine guns” and “hijacked” the plane.
“As I pulled off the ground, they opened up on both sides of me with machine guns and they took that plane, I mean the windshield was destroyed,” he recalls.
“I was hit three times, but I did not know I was hit,” he said. “The world turned yellow, I must have been shocked.”
He collided with a waterfall but managed to escape from the authorities by running to a mountain before riding on a donkey and crossing seven miles with it.
The smuggler says that he then hid in a truck transporting corn, Telegrafi reports.
Roger claims he was also shot over Colombia.
Torture in a Mexican prison
Some of Rogers ’most horrific experiences in prison were in Mexico, where he was subjected to constant torture.
He said officers submerged his head underwater and beat him from the bottom of his legs to the top of his head in an attempt to get him to sign a confession declaring himself a drug smuggler.
“They put the letters under their noses and said, ‘This will end if you sign,'” he recalls. “If you sign, you are six years old.”
Another tactic to elicit a confession was to bend Roger, naked, before throwing a chili pepper into his anus.
They even brought a frozen body hanging on a hook, ensuring he would be killed later.
He claims he never admitted and was eventually released.
Life in American prisons
The drug smuggler miraculously escaped prison five times, though not without a gunshot wound to the back and the memory of a horrific incident where his skin “peeled” after being thrown out of a window.
Despite his shocking success in escaping from maximum security prisons, he could not avoid imprisonment forever, the Telegraph reports.
“United States prisons are terrible places, in every one I have visited.”
Roger recalled the ethnic division that prevailed in American prisons and the social isolation he suffered during the 33 years of his life sentence.
He said he survived life behind bars by learning to cook, reading two books a week and playing chess.