By: Valerie Milano – Miami, FL (Hollywood Today) 9/17/11
Boyd in his heyday.
The final episode of “I Faked My Own Death” is scheduled to air on Saturday the 7th
with the story of one of the most infamous and wily international drug traffickers in Miami from the 70’s.
John Darrell Boyd narrates a fascinating episode, and as a fan of this show, there are many stories that aren’t quite as interesting as Boyd’s. I had the opportunity to email and chat with Boyd this week and hear of the life – and death – story first hand, with his dog, Arnold Schwarzenegger in the background.
With a failing construction business in the early 70’s, John Darrell Boyd and his brother searched for an opportunity to keep their employees working. Seeing that those involved in bringing drugs on shore from ships in international waters could be quite lucrative, Boyd began working for the Columbians until one day, the realization that being able to control all of the channels of the drug trade was the way to go. He told me, “. My brother and I wound up going to Colombia and set up contacts there and starting sending up boats and planes out to the desert in Colombia.”
John Darrell and his brother Tracey became one of the largest drug trafficking organizations of all time. They were brazen and daring men and both sporting long, shaggy beards were dubbed the “Smith Brothers” because of their likeness to the cough drops brothers.
For the next several years Boyd was caught and released more than once, no charges ever sticking on himself or his brother. Living a life of luxury and feeling untouchable, the brothers pulled a stunt that would come back to them later, contributing $10,000 anonymously to the Jerry Lewis Telethon, “To the Kids, from the South Florida Blockade Runners”, a stunt that piqued the curiosity of the authorities.
In 1980, after serving 2 years in prison for drug related convictions, Boyd was released again. “I had beaten both my state and federal cases on appeal and got out on bond in 1980. I had been in for 24 months and 11 days I believe. My brother Tracey had already gone on the run while I was doing both state and federal time, that were run concurrent. I had received 5 years in the state and 4 years in the Federal case.” Explained Boyd. “The feds were trying to find other charges that would stick for a good, long time, “When we realized that the State of Florida was not going to drop the state case in Palm Beach on top of the CCE, I knew I would have to jump bond and leave South Florida for good.”
The CCE Statute (Continuing Criminal Enterprise) was a new law at the time, aimed at nailing large-scale and long term drug conspiracies. A conviction under this statute requires one to be the organizer, manager, or supervisor of the continuing operation and have earned a substantial income through the drug trade. Boyd and his brother were 2 of the very first people to be charged under this act.
With a family to protect, his mother’s home on the line, “I finally decided to fake my death to throw the state and feds off my trail.” He said. “I had been out on appeal bond for both my cases. $50,000 on the Federal case and $500,000 on the state case.”
“As the Smith Brothers, we were very well known/nefarious/infamous as the news media had been having a field day with us for several years.” And a prize target for all law enforcement agencies. “It was time to go.”
The plan was well thought out and executed. Saturday’s episode reenacts the facts as told by the man, himself. Boyd had made his decision, and just as he had run his business, he would manage his death. “I equate my “Game Plan’ to a Big Ole Octopus with each person or scenario being an arm” he said, “No one arm knew what the other arms were up to or doing. I was the head and made the arms move to and fro so to speak. (I think this is where the Wizzard name came from. The Wizard of Oz got to hide behind the curtain and pull the strings to make the “arms” move about.) It’s still one of my favorite movies and on point.”
It took support from many different people, and as the plan moved forward, John Darrell tried to do so with an eye out for the others he needed to help him carry off the disappearing act in the Everglades. “They mostly only knew what they themselves were doing. Some did not ever know why. Keeping the collateral damage to a minimum was key with me.”
Unfortunately not everyone in his organization could be trusted. “I borrowed a station wagon from a guy who had been our partner in our legitimate and smuggling operations by the name of Joel Wayne Jenison, nicknamed “The Flame” for his red hair. He wound up to be an informant and worse than that, a coke snorting lying thief.”
The plan was underway. One of John Darrell’s brothers was in the wind, and another was offered an incentive he couldn’t say no to, “I had promised one of my brothers who was going to go into the Everglades to help me “disappear”, that I would give him my 1976 Biarritz El Dorado for helping me, plus some money I believe etc. He would have done it anyway for nothing. The Biarritz was beautiful – black on black. I loved that car.”
“The Disappearing Act” was in motion. John Darrell was going to go out as a drug hit in a good, old-fashioned gun battle, ending with his bloody body being dragged into the swampy Everglades for alligator food. He told me about the detailed forethought and elaborate planning, “I wrote a 22 page rough draft about all this to cover all the bases.” The Flame’s station wagon was shot up with several different weapons from the outside, then Boyd got in and shot out of the car from the inside. His own blood, which had been stored in Gerber baby food jars, (he mused maybe he could be a spokesman for Gerber) was then splashed around inside the car, and finally, he used his boots to make drag marks to the swamp.
Boyd seemed so confident in the Discovery Channel episode, so I asked if he was worried he’d left anything out. “If you knew my personality I don’t worry about anything like that, I figure I am as smart as them. We plotted and planned in the military fashion to bring stuff in and shake down our guys so they didn’t have anything on them when they went out to do their job. I really wasn’t worried about anything.”
At his first stop on the run in Atlanta, he thought the gig was up with a chance meeting in a restroom. “I was carrying my carry-on bag with the money, clothes, documents etc. with me. I went into the men’s room and set the bag down I was bent over the sink splashing water on my face and when I looked up there was a DEA agent named Bumwald who was involved in my case walking directly by me, maybe two feet away.” Bumwald went to the urinals and Boyd, adrenalin at all time high, went into a stall, changed his clothing and as fast as it had begun, the scene was over. “if this was just a far-far out coincidence I had better get the hell out of Dodge and keep going as fast and far as possible.” He said.
The road was to lead to Buffalo, NY, the trip was full of anxiety and excitement, eventually meeting up with his family and making several cross-country trips, landing in West Seneca, near Bills Stadium. Boyd explained, “I bought the house from a Xerox executive who had been promoted and was moving to New England somewhere I believe. I was able to buy a house while on the run and as someone I had invented more or less because the mortgage was assumable and I did not have to qualify in any way. I just gave him a bunch of money and he moved out and we moved in and took over the mortgage payments”
“Home free” was the last thing he and his family had coming their way. There were several events that in and of themselves could have cause Boyd to be captured, including going into Daddy-mode when an older boy beat on his son and inadvertently breaking the lock on the wrong storage unit, for example. “I could not figure out how a ‘Dead Man Walking’ could have so many problems just LIVING!” said Boyd, but eventually he became a true Mr. Mom, Little League coach and for awhile, the ideal family life seemed to be possible, and the state and feds seem to have back off.
With Boyd’s mother in financial straits, she sold his house in Florida and had the bondsmen coming for their money. John Darrell began his final undoing, sending checks from the Cayman Islands. Boyd was going by Burke at the time and once a copy of the check crossed the Marshall’s desk, he compared the signatures and said, ““Oh my God…it’s John Darrell”…and I was screwed from then on.” No longer did anyone believe Boyd was dead and gone.
“The bottom line is: We had made up our minds to turn ourselves in. The U.S. Attorneys Office had agreed to the deal. The Marshalls wanted the credit….for which I do not blame them. We were making our way back to South Florida to do just this and the Game Plan kind of got derailed. My part of the story was not quite over with at this point.” But the end was actually very near.
Boyd’s arrest was at his home. They were waiting for him after a phony call about his son being sick at school. A few days later someone torched his home, and no one was ever charged with the arson. “I finally decided to waive extradition to South Florida where I would have access to my family and attorneys. I was flown to Miami by a number of U.S. Marshalls.” Said Boyd.
The “Smith” brothers were held as roommates at the Metropolitan Correction Institution, Tracey having had moved back to his old home earlier. They were sentenced to 4 years in Federal prison. Having seen and been impressed by the donation to the Jerry Lewis Telethon, “Judge Davis told those present that…”Any boys that would do something like that, can’t be all bad.”
Although the prosecutors protested, the Judge stuck with his decision. Boyd said, “I don’t think the prosecutors really had a problem with the four year sentences. We had become part of the 70’s folklore and were considered to be Robin Hood type figures and Urban Legends as part of South Florida’s history.”
John Darrell wrote, “After doing 30 months in the Federal prison system I was released on my birthday in 1985. (September 23rd
) I had already done 24 months in the system from 1978 to 1980 for a total of 54 months. My brother Tracey did a total of 30 months. Upon release, I met a beautiful girl….started a whole new life….and reinvented myself once again.
“My ex-wife passed on a couple of years ago” John Darrell told me as we wrapped things up. “My relationship with my kids is great I see my boy all the time and we just went to a Dolphin game the other night. I have 2 grandsons, one by my daughter and one by my son.”
And the End becomes the Beginning.