How a Notorious D.E.A. Informant Busted Criminals
Our bad! It looks like we're experiencing playback issues.
The Backstory | The Backstory | Episode 10
How a Notorious D.E.A. Informant Busted Criminals
About
The writer Yudhijit Bhattacharjee tells the story of Spyros Enotiades, who is considered one of the most successful D.E.A. informants in history.
Read the story.
Released on 07/31/2018
Transcript
(ominous music)
In this day and age of Trump,
people are worried about the truth.
They're wondering if the truth
is some sort of illusive thing
that's going to simply fade
out of sight or get blurry.
And so I thought it would be interesting
to tell the story of a man
who specializes in blurring the truth.
The subject that I became intrigued by
is a man named Spyros Enotiades.
When I first heard about him,
the agent who told me about him described him
as the most interesting man in the world.
He was sort of referring to
the similarity in looks between Spyro
and the guy who appears in
the Dos Equis commercials for beer.
I prefer Dos Equis.
The DEA started doing sting operations
from the early 70s,
when the DEA was established as an agency.
And so I routinely come across indictments
where, if you read in detail,
you learn that there was a CS,
or a confidential source,
who played a role in collecting the evidence.
Now typically these confidential sources
are criminals themselves,
or people who have had a criminal history,
who are deployed sort of strategically
and who agree to do this type of work,
which is quite risky,
in order to get a more lenient sentence
and sometimes in order to get rewards.
Spyro is a rare kind of confidential source.
He's never been a criminal himself.
He's never dealt drugs.
He's actually been a businessman for many years.
He's not quite an actor,
he doesn't have acting aspirations,
but he enjoys putting on a show.
So one of the cases that I cover in this piece,
that Spyro was involved in,
was one of the first narco-terrorism cases
that the DEA conducted.
This was a case that was targeted
at a Colombian drug trafficker who
was part of this terrorist organization
called FARC, F A R C, in Colombia.
This is a trafficker who goes by the name Boyaco.
He was involved in moving
thousands of kilos of cocaine.
Spyro was playing the role of a
Russian drug lord who owned several ships
and who was looking for a new supplier of cocaine.
They met on the patio of a pool
at this fancy hotel in Caracas,
and Boyaco had come with, you know,
three or four other people,
and Spyro was by himself.
Clearly, the person that they're assigning this role
has to project a certain amount of authority,
a certain amount of power,
a certain amount of wealth,
a certain degree of knowledge about how drugs are moved,
because targets who are important targets in this world,
they're aware that the DEA and other law
enforcement agencies use tactics such as this,
and so they're always sort of checking,
they're suspicious.
You need somebody who can reassure them
that this deal is for real.
Spyro has a certain manner of speaking
that is quite arresting, it's interesting,
and he told me that if he lowers his voice,
it makes him seem more powerful and menacing,
and, in that way, he's sort of playing
Marlon Brando, you know, from Godfather.
You were afraid to be in my debt.
By the time this meeting was over
and Boyaco was leaving,
he had his arm about Spyro's shoulder
and the two of them were talking
as if they had been friends for years.
He told me that some of these drug bosses are arrogant,
you know, they're jerky, they're narcissistic,
but I think Spyro's able to project some of
those same traits when he plays these roles.
One of the things that Spyro told me he does
is that he puts on deodorant before
he goes to meetings with targets.
He's read somewhere that deodorants help to mask,
sort of, the smell of fear.
Spyro's paid per assignment, you know,
he's paid to go out and collect information
and play these roles,
but he also gets significant rewards
when these cases develop and end up
in the capture of high-profile targets.
[Interviewer] How much does he make?
Well, for example,
I know that he received
half a million dollars from the State Department
for his role in the Boyaco case.
So this project, from Day One, for me
became sort of a fact-checking project.
I began reporting it back in the fall of 2015.
So it's taken practically three years
for the story to see the light of day.
In the beginning, I was simply
reporting things that Spyro was telling me,
and I was trying to track down court documents
and other evidence that these cases
had indeed taken place.
I started to track down a number of DEA agents
that Spyro had worked with,
but with Spyro,
because he had built a career out of lying,
there was this sort of, this nagging suspicion,
in my mind and in the minds of my editors,
whether Spyro was telling the truth.
Ultimately, I was blown away by
both his memory as well as his honesty with me,
because I didn't find anything, really.
I was intrigued by the fact that
that he was able to earn
the trust of these targets so easily,
and I felt that there was a dichotomy there,
in his character, or this ability to communicate
genuine friendship with people so easily,
and yet, he would betray them.
I find Spyro to be a bit of a paradox,
but we're all sort of a paradox.
Up Next
NewsBooks & CultureFiction & PoetryHumor & Cartoons​Magazine​Crossword​Video​Podcasts​Archive​Goings On
Customer CareShop The New YorkerBuy Covers and CartoonsCondé Nast StoreDigital Access​Newsletters​Jigsaw PuzzleRSSSite Map
About​Careers​Contact​F.A.Q.​Media KitPressAccessibility HelpCondé Nast Spotlight
© 2021 Condé Nast. All rights reserved. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement and Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement and Your California Privacy Rights. The New Yorker may earn a portion of sales from products that are purchased through our site as part of our Affiliate Partnerships with retailers. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Condé Nast. Ad Choices
All VideosCaption That CartoonThe BackstoryAnnals of ObsessionThe New Yorker DocumentarySubmit your film