June 17, 2020 — Infamous Narcos boss Carlos Lehder was released from a U.S. federal prison this week and deported to Germany. The 70-year old Lehder was iconic Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar’s chief smuggler for his Medillen Cartel, the main supplier of cocaine into North America from the late 1970s into the early 1990s, and did more than three decades behind bars. Some historians point to him personally as the root of the term “Cocaine Cowboy,” a label bestowed upon particularly reckless, lavish-living drug dons of the era.
Lehder, who was half German and half Colombian, was arrested in 1987 and convicted on drug conspiracy charges at trial a year later. He received a sentence reduction for aiding the U.S. government in their effort to bring down Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega. After spending most of his childhood in Colombia, he moved to New York as a teenager.</p>
Lehder’s island-getaway headquarters in a part of the Bahamas called Norman’s Cay served as the Medillen Cartel’s distribution hub, a midway point from where the drugs were manufactured and packaged in Colombia and subsequently brought onto American soil through South Florida in a fleet of aircraft flown by U.S trained pilots. When a neighbor of Lehder’s began complaining to island officials about the constant noise emanating from Lehder’s property at all hours of the day, he wound up dead.
While operating from his lawless tropical paradise, Lehder dressed in fatigues and had his own paramilitary group as a security force, earning him the nickname “Rambo,” in reference to movie star Sly Stallone’s one-man army in the eponymous series of films. Lehder was an avid collector of Nazi and Beatles memorabilia and developed a severe cocaine habit, making him difficult for Escobar to manage and, according to underworld lore, leading to Escobar turning him into authorities by divulging the location of his safe house.
Pablo Escobar died in a hail of bullets in 1993 in a shootout with the DEA and Colombian police on the rooftop of a private residence in Medillen. In the 2001 Johnny Depp film Blow, the character of “Diego” (played by actor Jordi Molla) was based on Lehder. Juan Riedinger portrayed Lehder in the hit Netlfix show Narcos (2015-2018).