La Madrina

She was known by several names: La Madrina—or The Godmother, The Black Widow, Cocaine Cowgirl, and the Queenpin. Her real name was Griselda Blanco, and she was quite a piece of work.

Griselda was born in 1943 in the poverty-stricken mountains of Medellín, Colombia and grew up during La Violencia, the Colombian civil war. She was childhood friends with Pablo Escobar, who later became a major player in the Medellín Cartel. And according to legend, it didn’t take her long to get into the murder business. Supposedly, she kidnapped the scion of a rich family and held him for ransom when she was 11. The parents wouldn’t pay, so she killed the boy.

She then became a pickpocket and, by age 14, ran away from her abusive mother and became a prostitute. When she was 20 she married Carlos Trujillo and they had three sons together: Dixon, Uber, and Osvaldo. Sometime during all this, her first husband passed away and she moved to New York in the early seventies with her second husband, Alberto Bravo, where they set up a cocaine importing business in Queens. She was one of the group responsible for the cocaine found on the Tall Ship Gloria that Colombia sent to New York as part of the bicentennial celebration for the US.

Over thirty of her cohorts were arrested. Depending on who you read, she either fled straight to Miami, or made her way to Colombia first, then to Miami. In either event, she ended up in Miami, and her drug business expanded exponentially. According to Charles Cosby, one of Griselda’s companions during her prison term in California (as well as being a crack dealer in Oakland and the subject of Cocaine Cowboys 2: Hustlin’ with the Godmother), she had over 1500 dealers working for her, and her weekly payroll was in the millions. She was the mentor of Pablo Escobar, introducing him to the drug trade, which elevated him from a car thief. In fact, there was a bronze bust of her in her Miami estate that dealers would rub when they entered the house, hoping some of her good luck would pass on to them.

It was during this time that Alberto Bravo returned to Colombia. He wouldn’t return her calls, so she jumped on Lear and flew to Bogotá to talk with him. They met outside a nightclub, he with his contingent of bodyguards, she with hers. Alberto accused her of letting the godmother image go to her head. Griselda let her temper get the better of her and pulled a pistol and firing on him. Alberto returned fire with his Uzi, hitting her in the stomach. She shot him in the head, killing him instantly. Her gunmen rushed her to a hospital, where she almost died.

Back in Miami, the killings went up, starting with a shooting at the Dadeland Mall in 1979. The shooters drove a truck outfitted for violence and killed some rivals in a spray of automatic gunfire. The van was found abandoned in the mall parking lot, the engine still running. It was a rolling arsenal disguised as a party caterer. Authorities believe Griselda ordered the shooting.

It stands to reason. Griselda was a violent woman. As Sergeant Nelson Andreu, a Miami homicide detective said, “What she would do is, if you bought drugs from her, she killed you. If she bought drugs from you, and didn’t want to pay you, she’d kill you too.” He also said a lot of people wouldn’t deal with her because of this violent streak.

In 1983 it all started coming back on her, though. She had married a man named Dario Sepúlveda, with whom she had a son named Michael Corleone, after the character in The Godfather. Michael was still a baby when Dario decided to return to Colombia. He and Griselda argued over who would keep Michael. Dario, under the guise of a visit to Michael, said he was taking him shopping. Instead, he boarded a plane for Colombia, kidnapping the child.

This incensed Griselda, and she took out a hit on Dario. She paid some Colombian police to stop and kill Dario, and Michael was returned to her in Miami.

But Dario had friends and relatives who didn’t like it that he was hit in Colombia, and the other cartel members turned against Griselda, putting a $4 million bounty on her head. According to Jorge “Rivi” Ayala, her head enforcer, all her hitmen turned against her and she almost got killed. He had already returned to Chicago when Dario and Griselda split up, going so far as to move from his previous residence and change his phone number. Griselda found him anyway and offered him huge amounts of money to come back.

All this started the Cocaine Cowboy wars eighties Miami is so famous for. Griselda’s monthly income plummeted from $80 million per month to $10 million due to all the violence, and she knew she was backed into a corner. So in 1984 she fled to California, where law enforcement eventually tracked her down and arrested her in Orange County. The arresting officer, DEA agent Bob Polumbo, who had been chasing her for ten years, ever since the bust in New York, fulfilled a promise he’d made by kissing her on the cheek when he arrested her.

It was during her time in prison in California that she met Charles Cosby. He wrote her a letter and they struck up both a personal and business relationship. She arranged for Charles to have fifty keys of coke delivered to him, and he in turn visited her in prison. They had conjugal visits, and Charles would pick up Michael Corleone and take him places for her.

While she was in prison, her other sons were released from their own sentences and deported to Colombia. Associates of Pablo Escobar killed Osvaldo first, but she was able to find out who the killers were. One committed suicide, and Dixon caught the other one, torturing him and killing him with a hot screwdriver.

Griselda served her drug sentence in Dublin, California. While she was there, Miami detective Al Singleton, part of a group called CENTAC 26, endeavored to build a murder case against her. One of their chief linchpins in this case was her former enforcer, Rivi Ayala. He had agreed to testify against her.

This frightened Griselda because Rivi knew everything. If he turned state’s evidence on her, it would be enough to put her on Death Row.
So, strange as it sounds, she hatched a plot. She had Charles pass some information to Dixon that amounted to kidnapping John F. Kennedy, Jr and holding him for a $5 million ransom and release from prison. The idea was, once she was safely back in Colombia, the kidnappers would release Kennedy.

But Charles really didn’t want a part of this. He called Griselda at prison right before the plan was supposed to go down. All phone calls were recorded, so the information was passed on to the FBI, who alerted the Kennedys. And, according to Charles, the kidnapping still almost happened. Two of the kidnappers, posing as a couple, were within arm’s reach of Kennedy as he walked his dog, but a NYPD cruiser happened to drive by and it spooked them. That was the end of that plot.

Meanwhile, in Miami, Al Singleton had built his case against Griselda, and they met her at FCI Dublin to take her back to Miami-Dade to face three first-degree murder charges. When she heard this, she vomited in the car.

Unfortunately, Rivi, who was something of a lady’s man, sabotaged the case when he had phone sex with secretaries in the State Attorney’s office. This humiliated State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle to the point she plea-bargained Griselda down to twenty years with time served taken off.
Finally released in 2004, she was deported to Colombia, where she reportedly lived a good life from the sale of some of her properties. Then, on September 3, 2012, Griselda was gunned down as she exited a meat shop. The irony here is she was assassinated by a team riding a motorcycle. The passenger hopped off the bike, walked up to her, and shot her in the head twice, then hopped back on and they sped off. This was a technique Griselda is supposed to have pioneered.

Griselda is survived by Dixon Trujillo, her eldest son, who reportedly lives in Colombia to this day, and by Michael Corleone Blanco, who turned into a drug trafficker himself and was under house arrest at the time of her death for two felony counts of cocaine trafficking and conspiracy to traffic cocaine.

The apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

Later,
Gil

1 Comment

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One response to “La Madrina

  1. Sharron Croddy

    Hey, Gil, this isn’t related to your current entry (well written and engaging though it is). I just want to let you know that in your wonderful and greatly appreciated dedication in SPREE, the year of death of your dedicatee, my husband, is in error. He died in 2007, not 2003. I tell people, particularly young male people around your age, that he died of slow diagnosis. His doctor, talking to me in October after Bob’s prostate cancer finally was detected (and was inoperable), said. “Bob came in for his annual in February. I felt something in the prostate bed but thought, ‘It can’t be PC. Bob’s too young a guy to have PC.'” So he said nothing, and, as of December, 2007, the rest is history.
    In 2014, a somewhat younger guy, a nine-year-old boy, made national news when he was diagnosed with PC.
    I have become an evangelist for prostate examination. If you and any of your young-guy readers on this site and elsewhere haven’t been getting annual exams, please make an appointment and go in for one. It’s embarrassing? Get over it! Dying needlessly too young is lots more embarrassing.
    If you feel this is an inappropriate entry, just zap it. My feelings won’t be hurt. I didn’t know how to reach you via private e-mail.
    Following your journey as a writer is endlessly fascinating. Thank you for the opportunity.–Sharron Croddy

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