Today, Bookpleasures is pleased to have as our guest Robert Mazur author of The Infiltrator: My Secret Life Inside the Dirty Banks Behind Pablo Escobar's Medellín Cartel.

For twenty-seven years Robert served as a special agent for the IRS Criminal Investigation Division, the Customs Service, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. He is President of Chase and Associates, a private investigative agency that assists law firms and public companies with litigation and consults on anti-money compliance protocols and risk assessment.

During the course of five years in the late 1980s and early 1990s Robert Mazur transformed himself and became Bob Musella, an undercover agent that gained the trust and confidence of some of the most notorious Colombian drug dealers. It was this trust that enabled him to convince these czars to place their monies with the Bank of Credit & Commerce International (BCCI).

Good day Robert and thanks for participating in our interviewing 

Norm:

How did you decide you were ready to write The Infiltrator: My Secret Life Inside the Dirty Banks Behind Pablo Escobar's Medellín Cartel? As a follow up, what served as the primary inspiration for the book?

Robert:

After I retired from government service in the late 1990’s I gave some passing thought to writing a book about my life undercover but I became very involved in developing my investigative agency and consulting business, Chase & Associates.

It wasn’t until about 2006, when I was hired by Universal Studios to be the technical consultant on the movie Miami Vice that I truly became inspired to write the book.  In connection with my consulting job on the Miami Vice movie I not only coached Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx and other actors with regard to aspects of their roles, I also worked closely with Director Michael Mann to bring more authenticity to scenes and scenarios in the movie. 

Michael is an extraordinarily talented director with tremendous vision.  If you’ve seen some of his films, like Collateral, you can get a sense of how creative and involved he is in his movies. 

At the end of the process, Michael turned to me and said, “I’d like to do a movie about your life.”  I was stunned.  I knew my story was unique, but for someone as clued in to what can be interesting to tell me that inspired me to take the conversation further.  He added that, “But before you can do the movie you have to do the hard work and write your book.”  That inspired me to travel through a several year journey that led to the publishing of my book by Little, Brown & Company. 

Norm:

What purpose do you believe your book serves and what matters to you about the book?

Robert:

I hope my book shares an interesting truth and insight on many different levels.  I saw an ugly underbelly of humanity that very few people experience. 

There are probably 5 or fewer undercover agents in the world that have had the opportunity to climb through the portal of normal life into the highest levels of crime, dealing with leaders of cartels that control hundreds of billions of dollars and, most surprisingly, work closely with many of the senior officers of international banks that launder their fortunes.

It is important to me to enlighten the public about the knowing involvement of global banks and businesses in the laundering of what amounts to roughly $2.1 trillion a year in profits from all types of illegal activity.  Of that $2.1 trillion, it’s estimated that roughly $400 billion a year is generated around the globe from the sale of illegal drugs. 

It was also important for me to share a story about what I think is a greater good that was achieved because a small group of dedicated agents shared a common goal of wanting to make a difference.  I am not the hero of this story.  The hero is a shared passion by a group that were willing to make whatever sacrifice was necessary to serve the public.  It is important for the public to see that people do want to make a difference.  I think what I and my colleagues experienced is very similar to the course traveled by a band of soldiers on the front lines of a war. 

I also wanted the public to understand the sacrifices the spouses and children of long-term undercover agents make.  It is an unimaginable challenge to become both the mother and father of children when your spouse is at war.  I owe the enjoyment of my life to my wife.  She made tremendous sacrifices to ensure that our family survived.  I owe everything to her. 

Norm:

What was the most difficult part of writing your book?

Robert:

At first I went about the task backwards.  I reached out to a number of highly respected authors to see if they were interested in writing the book with me.  I spoke with the likes of Mark Bowden (Blackhawk Down, Killing Pablo, etc.) and some friends of his that are also authors. 

Eventually, one of them opened my eyes to the fact that I needed to first find a literary agent that was passionate about my story and wanted to help me get the book written.  I thereafter found a fantastic agent in Robert Guinsler of Sterling Lord Literistic in Manhattan. 

The management of this literary agency had friends and colleagues in common with Michael Mann and had already heard about my story through Michael Mann’s agent. 

Robert and other management at Sterling Lord suggested that I write a book proposal, rather than the entire book (an overview of the book, summaries of each chapter, one detailed chapter, a marketing plan, and a bio). 

With their help I hired a young editor with Doubleday to work with me on the book proposal only.  I wrote about 8 chapters but the editor only worked on one of them for the proposal. 

My agent put the book proposal out to various publishing companies and within about 5 weeks we got an offer for the book and a separate offer for the movie rights. 

The publisher asked if I had any additional chapters done.  I told him I did, but no one had edited my work on those chapters.  He asked to see them and thereafter said he thought I could write the book myself.  I was shocked.  The bad news was he wanted the rest of the book done in 6 months.  I accepted the task and had to really manage my time because I run a company that employs about 8 investigators and services about 30 clients a month. 

For 6 months I was at my desk writing from 7am to 10am.  From 10am to 2pm I managed my company.  From 2pm until 2am the next day I wrote.  I got 5 hours sleep, and then started the process all over again.  I did that every day for 6 months and 2 weeks, including weekends and holidays. 

Although that all sounds challenging, the real challenge was reliving everything all over again and infusing explanations in the book about the emotions surrounding each minute of the operation.  Prior to writing the book my wife didn’t really know the details.  I gave her the chapters to review before I sent them to the editor at the publishing company.  She was a great first line editor and kept forcing me to understand the value of revealing my emotions each step through the journey of the case.  She deserves a lot of credit for the outcome of the book. 

Norm:

What did your family and friends think of you writing this book?

Robert:

The decision about writing the book was made jointly by me and my wife.  Those who have read the book know government agencies received information about a contract on my life allegedly issued by hierarchy of the Medellin Cartel.

Writing a book, and now having a movie developed from my book, heightens the risk. My wife and I ultimately decided that it was important to share the truth with the public, so we went forward.

 My children really didn’t know much at all about the undercover operation.  They simply knew that there was a threat after the undercover operation and they had to move away, use another name, end contact with family and friends, and be cautious of their surroundings.  Now that they are adults and have read the book, I can only hope that they understand things better.

Norm:

What was one of the most surprising thing you learned in writing your book? 

Robert:

I decided to end the book with an Epilogue that spelled out where these people are today, so I did research on a lot of the more significant drug traffickers and corrupt bankers.

One of the indicted bankers that I dealt with in the Bahamas fled to Pakistan when he learned of the indictment. 

12 years later, after the U.S. decided to stop chasing him, he moved to the U.S. and was actually the current manager of the LA branch of The Habib Bank.  I passed that information on to law enforcement.  ABC news did a special investigative report and confronted this previously indicted banker as he left his LA office.

Norm:

In your book you mention that after all of the criminals went off in chains, you would be a marked man. Have you had any scary incidents since you concluded your investigation? As a follow up, have you gone back to a normal life and if so, how does it feel? 

Robert:

I’ve received a few nasty e-mail from some of the defendants who served their time in U.S. prisons.  One remained in the U.S. after release because he is a U.S. citizen, the other was deported to his native country, Bolivia.  I’m afraid our life will never be normal, based on typical standards of that word for most people.  Our normal has been permanently been redefined, but we’re blessed to have the life we have.


Norm:
 

How can readers find out more about you and your endeavors?

Robert:

There is substantial information about my book, the related movie project, reviews about the book and many other issues at MY WEBSITE.  At that website one can also click on a link to a  Facebook page for the book that offers information about the hundreds of radio and TV shows I’ve done, as well as upcoming shows.  All of my TV appearances are in silhouette because of the unknown status of the threat.

Norm: 

What is next for Robert Mazur and as this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.

 

Robert:

Hopefully I will be spending time in 2014 helping to develop the movie based on my book.  If that becomes a reality I will probably strongly consider writing another book based on the other half of my undercover life because “The Infiltrator” Only addresses the first 2 ½ years in deep cover.

Often times I’m asked whether, if given the chance to relive the years of my career as a federal agent, would I chose the same path.  My answer to that is yes.

Despite the enormous sacrifices, primarily by my family, I would do it again.  I became a federal agent because I wanted to be a part of making a difference.  To me, making a difference meant getting as close to serious crime as possible to gather critical evidence that could otherwise never have been obtained and helping to use that to effect positive change.

My reward as an agent was to be able to, after my career ended, look my family, friends and strangers (the public) in the face and honestly say that I did the very best for them I could every day I was given the privilege to serve. 

I never cared about becoming a member of senior management that was extraordinarily well paid but very far from the trenches.  I think I can honestly say that I tried to serve selflessly and I hope I did.

At the height of the undercover operation I felt I had infiltrated higher into the underworld than any agent before me.  I was willing to sacrifice everything to be successful at that level.  In a sense this brings me to thoughts that also disappoint me because I now realize that I was so obsessed with succeeding that I was willing to forfeit everything.  If success meant losing my career, my family or even my life, I was mentally prepared for that.  In retrospect, that’s not a place I recommend anyone visit.

Norm:

Thanks again and good luck with all of your future endeavors

Follow Here To Read Norm's Review of The Infiltrator: My Secret Life Inside the Dirty Banks Behind Pablo Escobar's Medellin Cartel

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