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THE TAKEDOWN by Jeffrey Robinson

THE TAKEDOWN

A Suburban Mom, a Coal Miner's Son, and the Unlikely Demise of Colombia's Brutal Norte Valle Cartel

By Jeffrey Robinson

Pub Date: Aug. 2nd, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-312-61238-2
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

A real-life Law & Order case, starring Romedio Viola, a detective from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Bonnie Klapper, a prosecutor from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Robinson (There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute: A Revelation of Audacious Frauds, Scams, and Cons—How to Spot Them, How to Stop Them, 2010, etc.) won the cooperation of Viola and Klapper to document how they led the demise of a powerful business enterprise smuggling illegal narcotics into the United States and Europe. Simultaneously, the Colombian crime executives were operating small businesses across the United States to launder money so it could be sent back to Colombia without being confiscated by law-enforcement agents. The number of criminals is sizable, their names are often difficult to recall and the level of detail about each investigation into the role of each suspect (many of them Colombian nationals) tends toward massive. As a result, the narrative occasionally drags. The educational value of the book, however, is substantial, as Robinson explains the painstaking process of collecting evidence. Informants persuaded directors of the agencies involved in bringing down the Colombian business enterprise that desperate drug lords would consider it a smart business move to murder Klapper and Viola. As a result, for portions of the narrative, both Klapper and Viola are accompanied everywhere by government bodyguards. Klapper makes the best of the awkward and stressful arrangement, inviting the bodyguards to family dinners. Viola balks at the bodyguards, especially because he already carries a gun as a federal agent; his refusal to cooperate fully with his protective detail yields a few moments of humor in an otherwise grim text. When Robinson explains tactics like a quasi-insider, the narrative crackles with authenticity. One of the most unexpected findings is that at least on this one drug interdiction, agencies that frequently feud found common ground.

An object lesson in what a couple of determined law-enforcement agents can accomplish, even when outnumbered by the bad guys.