It was Morocco's ARGO - but with Hash Smugglrers Making the Movie.
Living the Movie
Inspired by the sweet confidence of love, I was hit with yet another vision. The idea behind our movie, Holding, was even more ambitious than Medina. It meant obtaining the Spanish government’s approval and cooperation to film drug searches and arrests at their borders. Back then, people were routinely sentenced to six years and a day for even the smallest quantity of drugs, with far more time for larger quantities. We would shoot scenes, panning into various Customs agents uncovering contraband, with actual live shots of smugglers’ faces, as they realized they had just bought themselves long sentences in some horrific prison. We also filmed inside those jails, where young European and American tourists spent years, sometimes entire lives, being caught with little more than a personal stash.
The film ended up being a success in all kinds of subversive ways. First, the Spanish, who still ruled at that time with an iron fist by Generalissimo Franco, thought we were making an anti-drug film. In fact, it proved to be a harsh documentary about an overzealous government bent on excessive sentencing.
Secondly, the same Spanish Customs agents who were enthusiastically performing for what can best be described as an early version of the reality TV series, Border Wars didn’t give a second thought to our vans going only one way after filming—meaning, of course, straight from Morocco, toward the rest of Europe and most any port a call where we would board our vehicles on ships headed to the United States. Although not winning the notarighty that Medina did, the scam Holding made us far more money!
In general, many of the schemes we used, were mine , including the films. Ron handled the money and bartered with the suppliers, while Dad was the suit-and-tie front man who laundered the money through various corporations. Upon his return from Vietnam, Michael assumed the role of selling the product wholesale in the States. I worked in the mountains, smoking bowls of Moroccan gold and meditated, forever dreaming up new and creative ways to keep the hash moving. I viewed all that was transpiring and regarded the entire process as almost a spiritual quest and insisted that holy pictures be affixed to every load. Whether it was an act of God or just plain dumb luck, the loads kept getting through and the money piled up.
During those years, I’ll give Ron credit for one especially inspired idea. He bought two lions from a zoo in Casablanca and brought them up to the mountains of Ketama cages in the of a big 12 wheeler, we built false bottoms into the cages, packed them with hash, and within days the lions were on their way back down with a tarp draped over the top. The checkpoint officers stopped us, threw open the tarp, and decided against searching any further after they saw our cargo. The lions ended up at the Copenhagen Zoo, where the director was on our payroll and cleared them through Customs, enabling us to sell the hash in Denmark. It was always easier to get loads into Europe than into the United States and we still managed to make a net profit of $600 a pound.
Michael mostly stayed in Southern California, although he did come over for one of our biggest runs at the time. The project in question was our third movie, The Around the World Porsche Race, and it led to our biggest load ever, bringing in 1,000 pounds of Afghan hash, which was combined with a load of 1,000 pounds of Moroccan hash in Europe. We then shipped the entire load within the fiberglass walls of a cigarette racing boat my father had purchased in England. We even received a small amount of sponsorship from Porsche for the “race.”
Ron went to a Porsche dealer on Van Ness Boulevard in San Francisco. He bought two Porsche 914s and made our deal. We paid $7,000 for each car. They gave us decals, racing suits, and helmets. This might not seem like a lot, but it certainly added to the credibility of our front.
When we got the Porsches home to Mill Valley, we had a guy cut the gas tanks in half and then we soldered them so that we had a compartment to put the Primo hash in. We also purchased an El Camino, which was supposed to be for filming and to serve as the fix-up car, although the pickup bed was needed to haul fuel and tools for the Porsches. We had altered them so they could only hold a few gallons of gas in order to carry as much hash as possible. Ron told my brother, Michael, to drive the El Camino over the Khyber Pass.
The filming of our race started in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The Porsches raced along the Khyber Pass, headed for Karachi, Pakistan, where corrupt Customs officials would facilitate our journey. Unfortunately, our crew encountered a massive traffic jam, comprising various transport vehicles, which slowed things down and put us way behind schedule. We had to be in Karachi by a certain time to make our connections. Michael proved it would have been best for him to just stay at home and deal with selling the stuff there, because he came up with the jackass idea of buying a box of M80s, which are actually quarter sticks of dynamite, packing them into oranges, and hurling them at the trucks to get them to move over. By the time the crew reached Pakistan, a large contingent of machine-gun-wielding soldiers were waiting. Apparently, someone had called ahead and told the Pakisani Military officials that a group of Porsche-driving terrorists were on their way toward the border.
The soldiers pulled all the cars aside and announced, “We know you have opium.”
They lined all of our drivers up against a wall and pointed machine guns at them. Then they started going through the bumpers and wheel wells. When they couldn’t find anything, they pushed the El Camino into a position where it straddled a narrow ditch in order to inspect the undercarriage without having to use a hydraulic lift. An agent climbed into the ditch to get under the pickup truck. He was about to drill through the bottom of the vehicle, which was packed with 500 pounds of Afghani Primo, when he saw a holy picture taped to a metal, placed right over the exact spot that 500 lbs Afgani Primo was packed in the image of Babaji, the Indian guru who was part of the Self Realization Church that Ron and I followed . The soldier dropped his drill, ripped the photo away from the El Camino, and came back out to approach Michael, who was being held at gunpoint nearby.
“Who is this?” the Pakistani asked.
“It’s God,” Michael replied.
“What’s God doing on the bottom of your car?”
“Keeping us safe,” Michael responded, which was obviously true as the soldier handed the picture of Babaji to Michael and then immediately let our entire crew go, Michael and the other were just blown away!
The Porsche crew met the Moroccan crew on schedule, and the cigarette boat was packed with the 2,000 pounds of cargo and shipped to the United States on the deck of a big cargo ship. Our good fortune in evading the law had seemingly run out, though, when the United States Customs dogs discovered the sizable stash once it landed on American soil. My father had given a Customs broker a fake name for both him and the company to have the cigarette boat delivered to a warehouse upon arrival. He had also given the Customs broker the keys to the warehouse. Since the Feds knew about the load being there, they decided to conduct a stakeout.
Those bozooze waited nearly two weeks, most probably while eating donuts and drinking coffee for someone to come and claim it. After we learned from an insider what was going down, we all met to figure out what to do. If it were a VW packed with 200 pounds of hash, we might have let it go, but this was a ton—2,000 pounds. Not only that, but half of it was hand-pressed Afghan Primo hash, worth $1,600 a pound wholesale. We rented the adjoining warehouse, and in a single night, we sawed through the wall and retrieved the $2.5 million worth of hash from under the noses of the FBI. Michael later told the FBI about that scam, and they were dumbfounded. It was a case they had never solved and now they could finally close the book on it.
We were all getting way too cocky and Dad got into the act. His idea of lying low while the Feds tried to find anyone in our area matching his description was to organize a trip for himself, Mom, Mark, and my eighty-six-year-old grandmother. They traveled to countries, including Fiji, Samoa, Thailand, and India. Their travels included picking up a VW pop-top camper in Europe, which they drove down to Morocco.
Ron and I met them at the Holiday Inn in Fez, took the van up to Ketama, where we packed it with 200 kilos of hash, and then our family was off to catch the last voyage of the ocean liner Michelangelo for New York. I wasn’t happy about this one at all, and you have to remember this was Ron, the same person who used Mark and me when we were just children for a heist across the Mexican border. He just didn’t care, as long as he got the job done.
On the trip, Dad met John Mitchell, the U.S. Attorney General. Being that Dad was so prone to dropping the Stevenson name, they hit it off right away, and shared a few nights of drinking on board the deck of the ship. Dad audaciously talked him into posing for a photograph with him on the deck, while standing in front of our van, carrying 200 kilos of hash. This later proved to be a fortuitous meeting for our smuggling efforts.
Upon landing in the States, a VW identical to ours, and in fact, just in front of our van, was busted for heroin. The Customs agents were about to pull Mom, Grandma, and Mark out of our vehicle to conduct an intensive search, when Dad saw John Mitchell nearby.
He took Mitchell’s arm and walked up to the Customs agents, saying, “Hey boys, come over here and meet your boss.”
After Mitchell shook hands with his loyal federal government employees, an agent signed my father’s paperwork and cleared them through. I’ll never forget Dad arriving back at home in California, gathering all his friends in his home, and proudly showing off that photo to all the boys. It was a classic scammer’s trophy, certainly like no other.
Michael flew out to New York, picked up the van, and drove it home toasted on cocaine no stop, in a little over 24 hours, where we unloaded it. When we sold the hash, greedy Ron made a cool $900,000. The only thing I got from it was a few thousand bucks and a kick in the pants. Dad got three first-class around the world tickets for Mark and Mom and maybe a few grand. Mom, Nanny, and Mark got nothing, of course, since they didn’t even know they were accomplices. This was the typical way Ron would keep things in the family and keep money in his pocket. while controlling everybody I was pissed!