It is a truism of American law enforcement that drug smugglers, the ones at the top, are untouchable. Street-level dealers get locked up all the time. Look into the cells of the Maryland Penitentiary and you can see plenty of them. Particular standouts, like Billy Guy, who made and spent millions pushing New York drugs through an East Baltimore operation, draw stiff sentences as "kingpins" under state law. In Guy's case, 20 hard years.
Top drug dealers should think again. A series of federal raids iManhattan, Queens and New York's suburbs recently netted 38 high-level operators of a Colombia-based cocaine ring, snagging many just as they prepared to sneak out of the country. The ringleaders, working from their Cali base, had smelled a trap and decided to flee to safe havens, but federal agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration discovered their plans.
The suspects allegedly run one of the five drug gangs that control New York's cocaine trafficking. Authorities recently seized 12 tons of cocaine hidden in cement fence posts in Miami and found another quarter-ton stash in a shipment of aluminum ingots in Stamford, Conn. And Colombian law-enforcement officers have launched 23 raids in Cali, Bogota and Barranquilla, sweeping up the drug cartel's chief financial officer and his records.