Clint Eastwood’s The Mule Based On Real-Life Hoosier

The New York Times – Leo Sharp, the most prolific drug mule that regional law enforcement had ever tracked, was placed under arrest. The Sinaloa cartel’s nickname for him was well chosen. They called him Tata. Grandfather.

Leo Sharp (played by Clint Eastwood) pleaded guilty on October 8, 2013, to drug conspiracy charges and was sentenced to 3 years in federal prison.  He was 87 when he was arrested and a resident of Michigan City, IN.  He was a WWII vet who owned a Day-lilly farm and became infamous for being the biggest, oldest and most trusted drug mule of El Chapo’s Sinaloa Cartel.  

The biggest risk for drug cartels is a “cold” stop that results in the seizure of their drugs and/or money.  That’s where the right cop just happens to be in the right place at the right time.  No one tips him or her off ahead of time about the vehicle, he or she is just out working traffic like any other cop. That’s a “cold” stop.

There are law enforcement officers who have specific training and expertise in drug trafficking interdiction.  Sometimes they are directed by narcotics detectives or federal drug agents to stop specific cars because they have direct knowledge that it’s transporting drugs.  But most of their stops are “cold” or routine stops for simple traffic violations.  Usually, the car is driven by an ordinary citizen just trying to get from point A to point B.  But occasionally the car is driven by a drug trafficker or “mule” and the car is loaded down with cocaine or some other drug.  What sucks for that driver is, these cops can usually tell the difference.

Here’s what happens in the second scenario.  The drug interdiction cop stops the vehicle for a simple traffic violation but quickly becomes suspicious of the driver and/or vehicle because of observations made that are consistent with drug traffickers or vehicles used for drug trafficking.  Or the driver simply behaves in a manner typical of someone concealing contraband in their vehicle.  When the cop’s mental drug radar goes off, he or she starts asking detailed questions about the vehicle, where the driver is coming from, where he’s headed, who he’s visiting and why…every question is designed to allow the officer ample time to observe and listen for signs of deception.

These particular cops are very good at what they do and are highly sensitive to the smell of bullshit.  So when the driver’s answers don’t add up, the cop is quick to call for a drug dog to conduct a sniff of the vehicle’s exterior.  Game over.

These seizures suck for the cartel and cost them a great deal of money.  They also usually result in the cooperation of the mule, or at least the seizure and analysis of their cell phone.  Either way, this ends up spurring an investigation on the supplier and the buyer of the drugs, which tends to disrupt the cartel’s operation here in the states.  So, to minimize the chance of cold-stop seizures, cartels began to employee the most inconspicuous people possible to transport their drugs and money.  Enter 87-year-old WWII vet, Leo Sharp.  Even the best drug interdiction cop would never suspect this dude of anything more than senility.  

Leo had a good run.  He successfully transported cocaine from Mexico to the U.S. and money from the U.S. to Mexico for over a decade.  He made more than $1 million cash from his cocaine/money runs in 2010 alone.  But all good things must come to an end and eventually Sharp was caught transporting over 200 kilos of cocaine in 2011, thanks to the DEA wiretap on El Chapo and his organization’s network that ran from Mexico to Detroit. 

It’s an unbelievable true story about a good ole boy from Indiana that, at an age when most men are playing checkers in an assisted-living facility, played a major role in one of El Chapo’s largest drug-trafficking networks.  Who better to take on this role than the legend himself, Clint Eastwood?  The Mule comes to theaters December 14th and I can’t wait.

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