He was narced out. A drugs king who spent decades in a federal...

13kingscollegecolumbia Says...

He was narced out.

A drugs king who spent decades in a federal lock-up for flooding the US with cocaine is revealing that he was turned in by his closest ally: Pablo Escobar.

Carlos Lehder went from New York street criminal to one of the world's most notorious narcos in the early 1980s in a ride even wilder than the hit Netflix series "Narcos" dared portray.

Carlos Lehder speaking into microphones.

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Carlos Lehder was the outspoken neo-Nazi public face of Pablo Escobar's cocaine empire - and the man who first smuggled massive amounts of cocaine into the US in a fleet of private planes in the 1970s.

Now he reveals how Escobar betrayed him.
American Heroes Channel
Group.

picture of Pablo Escobar and Carlos Lehder at a table with beer bottles.

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Pablo Escobar (center) ratted out his former Medellin cartel partner Carlos Lehder (right) to authorities in 1987. Lehder was extradited to the US where he went on trial for trafficking drugs and money laundering.

Now he has released a memoir which explains how he started stealing cars in Queens but rose to the heart of the Colombian drug cartels at the height of their power - all while hero-worshipping Hitler and ultimately launching his own neo-Nazi party.

But Lehder, 74, twists the knife on the legacy of Escobar, by revealing that it was his once-trusted partner who ratted him out to the authorities the Medellín cartel lord professed to hate.

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Lehder was captured at his rural hideout near Medellín in 1987 and extradited to the US after Escobar's tip-off, making him the first major cocaine trafficker flown from Colombia to face criminal charges in the US.

He was convicted and locked up in federal prisons for more than three decades - but freed in 2020 to live his last years in Germany, his father's homeland.

A group of men in military uniforms in an episode of Narcos, featuring Carlos Lehder portrayed by Juan Riedinger, titled 'The Palace in Flames'
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In Netflix hit "Narcos," Canadian actor Juan Riedinger was given a tattoo to play Lehder's character.

The real Lehder hero-worshipped Hitler and John Lennon and called himself an "intellectual."
Netflix
In his newly-published Spanish language memoir, "Life and Death in the Medellín Cartel," Lehder reveals how he learned of Escobar's double cross thanks to a prosecution blunder.

"Among the hundreds of papers that the Attorney General's office was delivering to my lawyers before the start of my trial, one document was included by mistake," he writes.

"Even though several lines of the text were crossed out with black marker in the document, it was possible to see that Pablo Escobar was the person who had handed Carlos Lehder over to the Medellín police."

Carlos Lehder poses for mug shot.
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Carlos Lehder was extradited to the US in 1987. He was found guilty of trafficking drugs and money laundering and initially sentenced to life in prison, plus 135 years.

Bettmann Archive
The double cross was the bitter end to a partnership with the most unlikely beginnings.

Carlos Lehder was born in Armenia, Colombia, a city in the country's rich coffee-growing region on September 7, 1949 to a Colombian mother and Klaus Wilhelm Lehder, a German engineer who had settled in the country in 1928.

But his parents divorced and Lehder moved with his mother to Queens, New York - dropping out of school and robbing cars in Jackson Heights.

"In that northern country, I fell into the temptation of the easy dollar, and I started to break the law," Lehder writes.

Actors Wagner Maura, Juan Riedinger, Juan Pablo Raba, Roberto Urbino, and Luiz Guzman sitting in chairs on the set of NARCOS, episode 'The Sword of Simon Bolivar'.

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In "Narco" Pablo Escobar's astonishing rise and blood-soaked reign was fictionalized.

But Lehder's book reveals an even wilder story than fiction, detailing how he studied history to become a drugs kingpin.

(c)Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection
Lehder was arrested and served time in a federal lock-up in Danbury, Connecticut in 1973 where he finished high school and befriended George Jung, a marijuana dealer and future partner in the cocaine trade.

Determined not to return to petty crime, he instead studied the methods of opium smugglers in 19th century China and was inspired to set up a similar structure for smuggling marijuana and cocaine into the US.

After his release, he was deported to Colombia - where he put his history lessons to work, chartering small planes to ferry drugs to Miami.

Carlos Lehder piloting a plane.

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Drug kingpin Carlos Lehder was known as "El Loco" for his wild, cocaine-fueled parties.

He controlled a massive transshipment point for cocaine in the Bahamas for the Medellin cartel.

Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
He made a fortune, so to launder the cash, he imported luxury cars from Europe, setting up his own dealership - where he met Escobar when he sold him a car.

They joined forces and together they ruled the billion dollar Medellín cartel.

By the late 1970s, Lehder set up a transshipment point on Norman's Cay, a private island in the Bahamas, commandeering dozens of small planes to move tons of cocaine to abandoned airstrips in Florida.

He counted both Adolf Hitler and John Lennon as his heroes and was known as "El Loco" and "Crazy Charlie," for his wild, cocaine-fueled parties and trysts with prostitutes.

Aerial picture of Norman's Cay, Bahamas.

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Carlos Lehder set up a cocaine transshipment point on Norman's Cay, a private island in the Bahamas, where cocaine-laden planes from Colombia took off for abandoned air strips in Florida.

Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Lehder and Escobar were so obsessed with being extradited to the US that Lehder founded a short-lived neo-Nazi political party - the National Latin Movement - to fight the 1979 extradition treaty with the US.

They managed to get three seats in the Colombian congress, but didn't accomplish much - and then turned their attention to a different threat: kidnappers.

In 1981, guerrillas from the Colombian rebel group M-19 tried to kidnap Lehder in his hometown of Armenia.

He escaped by jumping from the kidnappers' speeding jeep.

He survived a gunshot to his leg and immediately told an assistant to ship two bullet-proof Mercedes from Germany.

Carlos Lehder speaking into microphones at a political event
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Carlos Lehder set up a short-lived neo-Nazi political party in Colombia, mostly to fight the country's 1979 extradition treaty with the US, but also shaped by his love of Hitler.

American Heroes Channel
"In the city where I was born, I never went around armed nor did I have a bodyguard, but everything changed after that day," he writes.

He and Escobar set up Muerte a Secuestratdores (Death to Kidnappers), a paramilitary group that retaliated against guerrillas who kidnapped cartel members.

It was the beginning of the end of their relationship, he told German magazine Der Spiegel.

"I've been called violent, crazy, put on a par with Pablo Escobar," he said. "We were like water and oil. I avoided violence when I could.

He was obsessed with power."

In black and white a man walks with his head down with a soldier pointing a gun towards him. The man is circled.

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This was the moments after the Colombian military captured Lehder in an operation at his rural hideaway.

He had been ratted out by Pablo Escobar to the authorities the cartel lord professed to hate.
AP
In 1985 Escobar, increasingly power-mad, was said to have paid M-19 - supposedly his enemies - to storm Colombia's Supreme Court on the day its judges were to discuss an extradition treaty with the US.

M-19 killed 100, including 11 judges.

Lehder claims he and Escobar knew nothing of the plan, writing, "Those types of armed guerrillas are not mercenaries for hire."

But for the cartel, it was a disaster: public sentiment turned against them.

He and Escobar were increasingly at odds. Escobar and his brutal partners regularly tortured and killed their enemies, but Lehder writes that he was an intellectual who read widely and "a man of my word."

Escobar was neither - and Lehder paid the price by being ratted out.

Carlos Lehder on board a military plane
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Lehder was flown on a US military transport from Colombia to Florida to start 33 years in federal custody.

AP
After his capture, Lehder was flown to Florida, convicted of drug-smuggling and money-laundering and sentenced in 1998 to life in prison without parole.

Three years later, his sentence was reduced after he was the star witness against Panamanian strongman - and US ally - Manuel Noriega, who had helped the Medellín cartel to smuggle cocaine north, but was taken into federal custody after the US invasion in 1989.

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"My biggest obstacle in cooperating was the danger of a violent retaliation against my family in Colombia if I testified in open federal court," he writes.

Noriega was convicted of racketeering and drug trafficking, sentenced to 40 years in prison in 1992, extradited to France in 2010, then to Panama, where he died in 2017.

Former Panamanian General Manuel Antonio Noriega speaking at a presentation in Panama City, 1988
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Former Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega helped the cartel smuggle cocaine through Panama.

Carlos Lehder was a key government witness at his trial.

AFP/Getty Images
Cover of Carlos Lehder's new memoir, "Life and Death of the Medellin Cartel."
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Lehder has revealed the secrets of the cartel in this Spanish-language memoir.

Escobar, meanwhile, was also struggling: He surrendered in 1991, escaped, but was killed by Colombian national police in Medellín in 1994.

Lehder now lives in Frankfurt, Germany - "my second homeland," he writes - to be close to his daughter Monica.

He is "a contrite and rehabilitated citizen who follows the law."

He has renounced his love of Hitler, telling Der Spiegel he had been influenced by ethnic Germans being dispossessed and imprisoned in Colombia during World War II and saying, "My idea was misguided.

"As a young man in Colombia, I was not particularly well-read.

Today I know better."

And in a surprise twist for a man who flooded America with cocaine, he has changed sides in the war on drugs, writing, "I want to be very clear that any illegal drug that can cause the immediate death of a human being should not be legalized, including cocaine."

FILED UNDER COLOMBIA DRUG CARTELS DRUGS JACKSON HEIGHTS NARCOS NETFLIX PABLO ESCOBAR PANAMA QUEENS THE BAHAMAS 5/25/24
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Smo
25 May, 2024

Once you get drawn in, getting out without consequences doesn't happen very often.

He is lucky he is out of prison and can enjoy time with his daughter.

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David Hobbs
25 May, 2024

Does he really think the Feds made a "mistake" with the document showing Pablo ratted him out?

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