Carlos Lehder Biography

Drug Dealer, Organized Crime(1949–)
Carlos Lehder revolutionized the cocaine business by taking over an island in the Bahamas and using it as a way station between Colombia and the United States.

Synopsis

Medellín Cartel member and self-proclaimed Nazi Carlos Lehder revolutionized the cocaine business by taking over an island in the Bahamas and using it as a way station between Colombia and the United States. On Norman's Cay, the "Colombian Rambo" met his match in a professor and diving enthusiast named Richard Novak, who would stop at nothing to protect his paradise. Eventually run off the island, Lehder resorted to terrorizing authorities in his homeland in an effort to stay out of jail. After years on the run, he was extradited to the U.S. and sentenced to life plus 135 years in prison. When he agreed to testify against Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, Lehder disappeared into witness protection.

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Cocaine Ring on Norman's Cay

Born in Armenia, Colombia, on September 7, 1949, Carlos Lehder was a Medellín Cartel member and self-proclaimed Nazi who revolutionized the cocaine business by taking over an island in the Bahamas and using it as a way station between Colombia and the United States. On Norman's Cay, the "Colombian Rambo" met his match in a professor and diving enthusiast named Richard Novak, who would stop at nothing to protect his paradise.

On the Run

After Colombian Minister of Justice Rodrigo Lara Bonilla—who had spoken out against the activities of the Medellín Cartel—was assassinated in April 1984, then-president of Colombia Belisario Betancur announced that he would be willing to extradite the nation's wanted drug-traffickers. When he was subsquently run off his island, Lehder began bribing and terrorizing police authorities in his homeland in an effort to stay out of jail. In turn, however, he brought himself further into the focus of law enforcement.

In the early 1980s, after government officials obtained access to and froze his bank accounts and took ownership of his estate—leaving him nearly bankrupt—Lehder was arrested at a farm in Colombia where he'd recently been residing.

Capture, Trial and Sentencing

After years on the run, in 1987, Lehder was extradited to the United States. There, he was tried on drug-smuggling and racketeering charges. 

Following a seven-month trial, the notorious drug lord was convicted of conspiracy and sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus 135 years. In 1992, through a plea bargain that centered on providing testimony against Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, a 43-year old Lehder received a reduced prison sentence of 55 years.

A book about the Colombian kingpin entitled The Tide: One Man Against The Medellin Cartel, co-authored by Sidney D. Kirkpatrick and Peter Abrahams, was published in 2010.

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