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Dirty Dealing: Drug Smuggling on the Mexican Border and the Assassination of a Federal Judge--An American Parable

Cartwright, Gary

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ISBN 10: 0938317350 / ISBN 13: 9780938317357
Published by Cinco Puntos Press
Used Condition: Good Soft cover
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Title: Dirty Dealing: Drug Smuggling on the Mexican...

Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press


Book Condition:Good

About this title


"We were a good family—that's what people forget," Joe Chagra said, "It was the money. You can't know what it does until it happens to you...until everyone is chin-deep in millions of dollars."

Dirty Dealing, a true story, chronicles the rise and fall of the house of Chagra. The Chagra brothers of El Paso were pioneers in smuggling drugs across the Mexican border, and were infamous for their fabulous wealth. But in the end Lee Chagra was gunned down, a federal judge was assassinated, Jimmy and Joe Chagra were imprisoned, and Charles Harrelson (Woody Harrelson’s father) was convicted for Wood’s murder.

When Federal Judge John "Maximum" Wood was gunned down outside his home in San Antonio, Texas in 1979 (the only assassination of a federal judge in more than 100 years) his death sent waves of shock across the country. The FBI labeled it "the crime of the century." Former President Nixon expressed "outrage," calling for quick arrest and punishment. But the crime’s solution would be anything but quick. Dragging on for years and costing $11.4 million, the investigation turned out to be the largest in recent FBI history, surpassing even that of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

Gary Cartwright, senior editor of Texas Monthly and author of several nonfiction bestsellers, details the full history of the events leading up to this crime and the trials that followed in Dirty Dealing. This reprint from Cinco Puntos Press includes a new afterword by the author and black and white photographs of all the players. Complete with shady maneuverings on the part of the federal government and an outcome that Kirkus Reviews has called "straight from Oz," Dirty Dealing is one of the richest and most fascinating of all true crime stories.



Four pages into this rollicking good story, the central figure, Lee Chagra, comes alive: "[Lee] washed his morning cocaine down with strong coffee and remembered the time he had met Sinatra, how genuine he appeared." Everything you'll need to know and remember about Chagra--the son of Syrian immigrants to Mexico and an attorney who spun the world of dope-running, border-crossing, high-living outlaws along the El Paso-Juarez border around his finger like the gaudy rings he favored--can be neatly summarized in that one sentence. Forget the byzantine complications of the plot to follow: Lee Chagra dies two pages later, yet he haunts the rest of this cautionary tale like a high-rolling specter.

Cartwright tells the story of the Chagra brothers, Lee and Joe, as they get mixed up with the drug-running community along the border and in short order find themselves hopelessly entangled in a net cast by the DEA. Even readers unfamiliar with the well-publicized events of the book or of the dark, lawless aspect that often rules El Paso will find themselves pulled along by the plot: brigands and intrigue leap from almost every page, and the story just gets wilder the further into it you venture.

Cartwright's undisguised distaste for certain law officials and agencies is sure to irk some readers; however, his ultimate ability to tell a good story should make Dirty Dealing palatable to even the most stalwart law-and-order types. --Tjames Madison

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