90-year-old Leo Sharp is a great-grandfather who served in World War II, but according to authorities, he is also the United States’ oldest drug mule.
The New York Times reports that Sharp, a florist who is considered one of America’s foremost experts on day-lily flowers, led a secret double life. Transporting kilos of cocaine for the Sinaloa cartel, Sharp was one of the country’s most prolific drug mules, evading detection for a decade before he was busted at a DEA traffic stop in 2011. Special Agent Jeremy Fitch, who worked the case that eventually led to Sharp’s arrest, described him as “the perfect courier” for the cartel, saying Sharp “has a legitimate ID, he’s an older guy, he wouldn’t be pegged as a drug runner and he has no criminal history.”
Well known in florist circles, Sharp is thought to have made over $1 million in 2010 alone working as a courier for Sinaloa. Couriers are generally paid $1000 a kilo, and with Sharp moving almost 250 kilos a month, he quickly became an urban legend, according to investigators, as part of the largest drug operation that Detroit authorities had ever seen.
When pulled over in 2011, Sharp was found to be in possession of 104 bricks of cocaine, valued at $2.9 million, MailOnline reports. He was charged with conspiracy, as well as possession with intent to distribute cocaine. During the course of his trial, an overriding concern was whether or not Sharp was aware of his actions, or taken advantage of by the cartel. Darryl Goldberg, Sharp’s lawyer, claimed that the man “lived an exemplary life, and then at old age he started suffering from dementia,” adding that “The hallmark of dementia is poor judgment and poor decision-making.” Sharp also told a magistrate Judge that the cartel, who referred to him by the nickname “tata,” or “grandfather,” coerced him into the acts, saying “You’re dealing here with a man who was forced to do what I did by gunpoint.”
Prosecutors claim that Sharp became a drug mule of his own volition, however, arguing that the length of time he spent working with the cartel is proof that he wasn’t coerced. DEA agents also have photos of Sharp vacationing in Hawaii with one of the Detroit ring’s senior leaders, as well as evidence that he had been transporting drugs since at least 2000.
Sharp isn’t the only person making headlines recently for drug smuggling. As The Inquisitr reported, a Texas commercial pilot had to be taken to a hospital last month after one of the 62 bags of cocaine he swallowed burst in his stomach.
After pleading guilty to drug conspiracy charges in October of 2013, Sharp was sentenced to three years in federal prison, though his lawyers argued that home confinement would be more appropriate due to his age. A note found in Sharp’s truck led them to his handler, and several months after his arrest, police were able to raid 10 locations and were able to make 19 indictments, closing the book on Leo Sharp’s days as a drug mule.
[Images via Vice and Detroit News]