The Mastermind

The Mastermind: Drugs. Empire. Murder. Betrayal.

This book is a work of nonfiction. It is based on more than four years of reporting, including hundreds of interviews, hundreds of thousands of pages of law enforcement reports, government databases, court documents, and internal communications from a criminal organization that involved thousands of people and conducted business on six continents. I have worked to corroborate every fact found in these pages, and to speak with as many participants as possible. Unfortunately, I couldn’t speak to them all. Some are dead, murdered because of what they knew. Others declined to talk to me, out of a fear that they might meet the same fate. Still others are in prison and desperate to avoid the perception that they have turned on their compatriots. A few are in hiding, running from prosecution or vengeance, real or imagined.

But dozens of the people involved did share their stories with me, at risk of physical danger, legal jeopardy, or professional consequences. In three cases, specified in the source notes, I have altered subjects’ names. I did so because they feared for their safety and that of their families, because they were never prosecuted for the crimes described here, and because their names didn’t appear in legal proceedings connected to these events. In other instances I have described certain minor players, including some law enforcement officials or family members, only by their job descriptions or connections to more principal figures.


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