George Jung, Who Made Millions Smuggling Cocaine, Dies at 78

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This spree came to an end in 1974 with his first drug arrest, on charges of having a trunk full of marijuana in Chicago. That landed him in federal prison in Danbury, Conn., which he called “crime school” for all of the tricks of the trade he picked up there.

His cellmate was Carlos Lehder, who already had extensive experience with cocaine, and they struck up a quick friendship.

“He was looking for a way to transport cocaine out of Colombia and people to sell it in the United States, and there I was,” Mr. Jung told PBS in 2000. “It was like a marriage made in heaven, or hell in the end.” (Mr. Jung would eventually betray Mr. Lehder by testifying against him to get a reduced sentence.)

After their release in 1976, Mr. Jung and Mr. Lehder helped alter the American drug scene by introducing large quantities of cocaine, which until then had been little used. They joined forces with Mr. Escobar, their trade grew exponentially, and the money rolled in.

With the higher stakes came a heightened sense of danger and excitement.

Even though he “looked like Bela Lugosi,” Mr. Jung told PBS, he still attracted beautiful women.

“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,” he said. “Basically I was no different than a rock star or a movie star. I was a coke star.”

To his family, he was an embarrassment, especially because federal agents were constantly surveilling his parents’ house looking for him. Before his father died in 1988, his mother would not allow George to visit. The only way for him to communicate with his father, he decided, was to make him an audio tape. On the tape, George sought to make amends but never quite apologized.


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