Episode 31 | How to be a Teenage Millionaire Drug Kingpin
The pimply teen grabbed one by the arm and with his tactical knife proceeded to cut it’s abdomen open from the base of it’s neck down to it’s genitals. There wasn’t a sound. Not even a whimper. Before long there were a 1/2 dozen teddybear carcasses lying around the posh condo- polyester innards tossed everywhere. It looked like a team of angry Rottweilers had carried out the executions.
The kitchen table was stacked with tens of thousands of dollars in fifties and hundreds — giddily being tallied in an automatic money counter. On the table, there was a Glock .45, a Remington .308 sniper rifle, and scores of pharmaceutical vials containing thousands of opiate pills.
Standing at the threshold of a luxury condo in Tampa, Florida, Doug Dodd looked on in horror at the spectacle of a drug dealer’s den of iniquity. Dodd was only 19, a student taking business courses at a local community college — when he wasn’t busy being a big-time narcotics trafficker — but he could see the obvious: His best friend was out of control. Way out of control.
It was the summer of 2008, and for the past year, every month Dodd and Barabas were smuggling an average of 20,000 OxyContin and Roxicodone pills to a network of dealers spread across the country — Tennessee, Alaska, South Carolina, New York. The two kids and their crew were making millions of dollars, but the business was overwhelming them.
The teddy bears were how they transported cash, instructing their out-of-state dealers to cut open the bellies of the toys and stuff them with thousands of dollars and then ship them back to Florida by FedEx or UPS.
Dodd was beginning to have doubts about his best friend Lance Barabas— dubbed Napoleon for his short stature and aggression. They’d wrestled together in high school for the Hudson Cobras, both bantam-size balls of muscle, with short hair gelled upward and a punkish attitude. They loved each other like brothers. But Napoleon was getting more and more reckless.
When they were out on business calls, he’d flash his Glock and threaten to kill anyone who crossed him. When they hit strip clubs, he’d dropped 2,000 bucks buying everyone drinks and lap dances to prove what a big-shot he was. Crazy shit, Dodd thought — the kind of behavior that was destined to end with them in handcuffs.
They were hooked on their own product, high all the time and making bad decisions. But Dodd was afraid of getting busted. Not Napoleon — He was brazen and had to do things his way. He aspired to be the new white-kid version of
Napoleon’s behavior was increasingly erratic, like the day he walked into a car dealership in Tampa and bought a tricked-out red pickup — entirely in cash. The salesman looked on in disbelief as the kid peeled off $25,000 in fifties and hundreds, forming tidy stacks on the desk.
“So you’re in a cash business?” the salesman asked. “Y’all male strippers?”
“Something like that,” was Napoleon’s reply.
On the way home, he told Dodd he wanted to get personalized plates for the truck saying Oxy 80s — the name of their favorite and most popular pill. Even though the friends had no visible means of supporting such an extravagant lifestyle, Napoleon rented a high-end pad in a fashionable district by the water.
The macked-out bachelor loft had floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the bay, and a kitted-out marble bathroom. His neighbor was the head coach of the NFL’s Buccaneers. For his part, Dodd tried to deflect the attention of law enforcement: He still lived with his grandmother in a tiny house in a crime-ridden neighborhood called the Swamp.
Napoleon routinely threw Blow-style parties, circulating cocaine on silver platters and goblets filled with pain pills to be crushed and snorted. He and Dodd invited dozens of sorority girls to their parties. They’d spread tens of thousands of dollars in cash on his king-size bed and let the girls post selfies in their underwear swimming in green, or sometimes posing holding one of his assault rifles.
Some evenings, Dodd and Napoleon sat on the balcony overlooking the trendy strip, getting drunk or stoned — usually both. And used the time as an opportunity to have a little fun with the laser sight on his AR-15 rifle. He’d target people walking along the street. Couples would be minding their own business having a nice stroll, and suddenly a red dot would appear on their chest to which they’d scream out in a panic, sending Napoleon into a stoned giggle-fit. And he was doing this while $40,000 in cash and thousands of pills sat in his apartment- if the police came knocking it was curtains.
Doug Dodd was a maniac, but he was also smart and observant. He was like a pill-pusher version of The Wolf of Wall Street, or the mobster Henry Hill in GoodFellas: an insider whose descent into the chaos and collapse of a major criminal conspiracy offered a window into an amazing underworld.
Dodd was born in 1988 and grew up in Pasco County FL where virtually everyone around him was either pushing drugs or consuming them in one fashion or another. Family, friends, everybody was getting high or making money from it — sometimes both.
He started smoking pot around 12, when he was in the sixth grade. One day he thought he’d be cute and smoke up on the school bus - it never occurred to him that another kid would rat him out. The school called the police and he got to ride in the back seat of a police cruiser to a juvenile holding center outside Tampa. He was fingerprinted, and his mug shot was taken for the first time.
The police called his father, who came to collect him with a heavy sigh. Dodd’s parents were divorced, and he knew his mother wouldn’t do much. But Despite his father’s admonishing him to make better choices in life, Dodd had a hard time taking advice from him especially considering his own life decisions. He had an affinity for the waitresses at the restaurants he managed — he found three wives that way.
Between his old man’s waitress addiction and his mother’s love of large and frequent quantities of cold beer, their marriage was always doomed.
Dodd grew up poor in Tampa’s working-class neighborhoods- trailer parks, muscle cars, fast-food and mullets. He ran with a gang of older, tougher kids. With his parents working long hours, Dodd was left to fend for himself and dealt weed in high school to earn pocket money. He also worked nights as a fry cook at Hooters. Which was how his drug-slinging venture really began — to be precise, on the evening of February 10th, 2006.
That night, Dodd finished a shift at his crappy seven-bucks-an-hour job. Exhausted by school, wrestling practice, homework and then work, he got in his beater Honda Prelude and lit a joint. As he drove home, Dodd forgot to turn on his headlights and was pulled over by a cop, who searched the car and found a bag with half an ounce of marijuana.
“You’re going to end up in fucking prison! his mother screamed when he told her what had happened.
Dodd wasn’t too fond of his bad-tempered mother. She wrote a letter to the judge saying her son was out of control and she desperately needed help with him. Charged with possession, Dodd pleaded no contest and was sentenced to nine months probation. He was required to undergo drug treatment, and was subject to a curfew that meant he had to go straight home after school.
The confinement was torture: He couldn’t hang out with his homeboys from the wrestling team — Napoleon, Pretty Boy, Sully. He couldn’t party. He couldn’t deal weed, he was broke and in the dumps.
Now 17, Dodd started spending afternoons with an older cousin — a steroid-loving bodybuilder with a hair-trigger temper who’d started to abuse prescription painkillers. Bored, Dodd began to join in the opiate-popping too.
They hung out getting whacked on pain pills watching Ultimate Fighting Championships. Dodd’s first time was Roxicodone, a milder opiate designed for breakthrough pain. It wasn’t an airborne high like Ecstasy or acid but it made the MMA matches they were glued to even more exhilarating. Before long he was snorting pills daily. He was becoming addicted to Hillbilly Heroin.
Like millions of American teenagers, Dodd had discovered the pleasures of an opioid developed in Germany in 1916 that had been turned into a multibillion-dollar industry in the United States.
Pharmaceutical companies marketed a synthetic drug designed to treat chronic and severe pain — but that could be repurposed into a recreational high by crushing the pill to disable the time-release mechanism. Hillbilly heroin, as it was called, was pioneered in poor white communities in the Appalachian Mountains in the mid-Nineties. By the middle of the 2000s, oxycodone was a national health crisis- thousands died of overdoses and millions became severely addicted. Illicit prescription-pill use became bigger than cocaine and heroin combined.
The economics of pain pills were very different from other illegal substances. The supply chain ran throughout the pharmaceutical industry: Clinics known as pill mills handed out prescriptions to patients with little or no attempt to diagnose an underlying pain condition. Pharmacies gladly profited as they filled countless prescriptions, leading drug companies to manufacture far more medication than was legitimately needed, in order to meet the demand.
Nowhere was the epidemic more intense than in Florida, along the Redneck Riviera, where Dodd lived. Florida’s laws didn’t require the state to keep a database of prescriptions, so it was exceedingly easy for a patient to see three, four, five, 10, 20 different doctors. Physicians in Florida reportedly wrote 10 times as many prescriptions for pain medication as every other state in the country combined. The statistic beggared belief. The only logical explanation for the vast disparity was that the medical-industrial complex in Florida was complicit in the epidemic. FL became the Colombia of pain pill cartels.
Law enforcement and legislation struggled to keep up with the burgeoning pill epidemic. The state’s response was to impose onerous mandatory minimum sentences for possessing or dealing the pills — even while the medical industry profited enormously from the trade, a hypocrisy that a teenage Dodd quickly took note of.
His pill habit growing, Dodd began to consider the idea of selling the painkillers himself: Oxy and roxie were basically semi-legal, he figured, and they were definitely abundant and popular. Dodd’s cousin put him in touch with a potbellied biker willing to sell him a hundred 30-milligram Roxicodones for $8 a pop. He was a crazy-looking SOB who lived in a single-wide trailer in a dirt lot behind the auto-body shop where he worked and had a couple of Dobermans that looked like they were ready to rip someone apart. Three days later, Dodd had sold them all for $12 each, netting a quick $400. It seemed his working-class homies were happy to buy as many as he could get. He saw dollar signs. Lots of them.
As a pot dealer, Dodd had displayed a talent for sourcing a supply and maintaining discipline in his distribution, always prizing caution. He had criminal histories on both sides of his family, so he’d been schooled in the risks involved in breaking the law. Not to mention his impoverished rearing had rendered him obsessed with making enough money to escape the trailer parks in the Swamp. Encouraged by his early pill dealing success, Dodd began buying the pills from people with prescriptions for more than they needed.
Before long he had 2,000 pills coming in every month netting him at least five grand.
By the time his probation was over, Dodd had 50 grand sitting in a safe, and a new SUV. But sitting on all that cash was worrying him, so, like from a scene out of Ozark, he reached out to a close relative for guidance on managing drug money— a longtime gangster freshly out of prison for dealing drugs. He gave him a list of rules never to be broken.
“Rule number two,” his gangster relative said. “Don’t ever keep all your money in one place.”
“Rule number five: Never deal with anyone you don’t know.”
“What’s number three?”
“Never talk business on the phone.”
“Don’t use guns, and don’t deal with people who do.”
“Don’t ever keep your product at your house.”
“Cease all contact with anyone under state or federal investigation.”
Dodd asked if he could have a copy of all these rules.
“Rule number 20: Never write anything down.”
Dodd had always been the poorest kid in his gang, a grim reality that had made him more than a little jealous of his friends. Lance Barabas — Napoleon — and his older brother Landon, known as Pretty Boy because of his excessive vanity, lived the highlife with their family in an upmarket double-wide trailer- they were “redneck rich,”. Their old lady ran a homeless shelter on the same property. Napoleon and Pretty Boy drove new pickup trucks, and always had pocket cash and the comfort of knowing they could afford to go to college. The other member of their inner circle, Richard Sullivan — Sully for short — was also well-to-do, at least compared to Dodd’s broken and broke family.
Dodd had a chip on his shoulder and knew he couldn’t rely on anyone else. He had lived in some of the most disgusting places: trailers with holes in the roof, sinking floors and fleas all over. He had an escape plan. He would deal pills long enough to make enough money to go to college and start a business, and never look back.
Now that he was bringing in 5k a month dealing pills, Dodd would get together with his teenage buddies on the weekends and party hard. They’d empty the furniture out of a trailer and turn it into a wrestling cage. A hundred high school students would whoop and holler and get drunk on Pasco county sangria — flavored vodka, Everclear, Kool-Aid and cut-up fruit mixed in a 10-gallon container. The raucous crowd cheered on the wrestlers pulling double-leg takedowns, body slams, rear-naked chokes. They’d light bonfires and drop Ecstasy and make out with cheerleaders until the cops inevitably rolled up.
As an act of camaraderie, Dodd shared his stockpile of oxys and roxies with his buddies. Napoleon loved the drug from right out of the gates. What began as pleasure soon became addiction, and he couldn’t keep up with the cost of his burgeoning habit. To help his friend finance his usage, Dodd fronted Napoleon a hundred pills a week, so he could deal them and fund his habit with the profits.
In the spring of 2007, Dodd graduated high school with honors. He walked across the stage high on roxies, scanning the crowd for his mother’s face — she didn’t come. But nonetheless he still felt good not just because of the high but because of the potential he saw in his burgeoning business.
One afternoon during the summer of 2007, Dodd and Napoleon were at the beach in Clearwater, playing volleyball, listening to tunes, and naturally popping pills — 30mg roxies, or “blueberries,” as they called them because of the color of the tablet. They’d set up a “personal party tent” on the beach to attract girls. Napoleons older brother Pretty Boy was back in town, on summer break from Cumberland University in Tennessee where he wrestled for the school. To get the party rolling, Dodd handed Pretty Boy a couple of complimentary blueberries. “do you know what these things go for in Tennessee? 30 bucks a pop!
Dodd couldn't believe it. He and Napoleon caught each other's gaze, the same thought traveled through their minds.
30 bucks for a 30 milligram oxycodone — was insane.
Pretty Boy told them that there was huge demand for hillbilly heroin in Tennessee — wrestlers, football players, students looking to get high. Tennesseans drove down to Florida to get prescriptions because it was so much easier to persuade doctors there to write scripts — and FL didn’t have a medication register, like Tennessee and most other states.
The problem was so vast and well-known, Interstate 75 that ran between TN and FL became known as the “Oxy Express.”
At the start of the fall semester, Dodd fronted Pretty Boy 200 blueberries for his trip back to Tennessee. A few days later, Pretty Boy called to say he’d sold all of the pills for $4,000. This was huge: Dodd had purchased the drugs for $8, and Pretty Boy had sold them all in one shot for $20 each. They’d more than doubled their money in a matter of days.
That fall, Dodd and Napoleon were enrolled in business-management courses at a local Community College. One morning in class, as the professor reviewed the syllabus for introductory economics, Napoleon couldn’t stop talking about the potential to sell pain pills through his brother in Tennessee. He asked Dodd if he’d crunched the numbers.
He’d done the numbers. A shipment of 500 blueberries, sold by Pretty Boy for $18 apiece, resulted in a profit of $5,500.
They were shipping via Fed-ex.
Dodd didn’t think that was a good idea: Electronic sniffers and X-ray scans monitored couriered packages for drugs, and they could easily be caught. But Napoleon insisted — and when he wanted something, he was unstoppable. Once Dodd amassed the pills, the pair went to a GNC store to prepare their shipment. They bought the makings of a care package a mother might send a wrestler away at college: protein bars, vitamin supplements, muscle magazines. They emptied the vitamin bottles and stuffed them with the 500 30mg Roxies and carefully resealed the plastic caps with clear glue. They sent the package by FedEx, following the tracking number to its safe arrival at Pretty Boy’s PO box at college.
The pills sold for 10 grand— all to Pretty Boy’s friend Justin. The following week, Pretty Boy wanted 1,000 pills. Then he wanted 1,500. Then 2,000 — more than Dodd and Napoleon could get. With all the cash coming in, Pretty Boy needed to figure a way to safely ship all that drug money back to Florida to fund more purchases. Then he hatched a brilliant plan one day after a trip to Walmart. In the toy aisle he spotted a teddy bear. If he removed the stuffing, he could fill the innards with $10,000 in cash. That’s exactly what he did. The stuffy bear arrived by FedEx the next day, followed by another and then another.
In no time they were clearing 40 grand a month. The business model was pure genius, so they thought. They were sending the pills to one person out of state, and all the legwork was being done in Tennessee. The biggest risk in dealing drugs always involved the number of people you had to interact with. Minimum risk, maximum profit.
As their successes mounted, Napoleon began to entertain the idea of putting together a real organization. He wanted a group of associates to help them collect scripts, so they could ship more pills to Tennessee. The price difference between the two states — the arbitrage — was just too attractive not to exploit to the greatest extent possible. He talked openly about becoming a teenage kingpin with a network of dealers throughout the country.
Dodd didn’t share his friend’s super-sized ambitions. The pair were a study in opposites: Dodd was careful, canny, acutely aware of the trouble they’d face if they were busted; Napoleon was cocky, pig-headed, greedy. Dodd wanted to save a half million — enough for college and his first home, he reasoned — then get out of the game.
He knew unless there was a reasonable goal and an exit strategy, he was going to end up in prison.
Napoleon wanted a lot more than 1/2 million dollars to give up on this gravy train.
The two came to an arrangement. Dodd became Napoleon’s largest supplier, selling his ample surplus of pills at a handsome profit — but would not move the product across state lines. To launder their money, the pair bought a license to resell electronic cigarettes as well as a couple of vans to shuttle passengers to the airport. Napoleon was soon heading a roaring business, shipping vitamin bottles stuffed with pills and receiving teddy bears crammed with cash in return.
Their main connection in Tennessee was a college wrestler named Justin Knox. In the winter of 2007, Knox drove his new yellow Hummer down the Oxy Express to party with Napoleon and Dodd and to propose a new initiative. Knox wanted to up the stakes. He felt he could move 10,000 pills a month easily. And wanted to source the much stronger OxyContin 80mg pills — or “big greens,” as they called them. But this proved to be much more difficult than the lower-dose Roxicodone. People with pain medication were willing to part with 15mg and 30mg roxie pills, but oxys were precious and hoarded.
Dodd came up with an idea. They could “sponsor” people to get prescriptions; simply paying for the medical process required to get a script was beyond the means of many of the poor white folks who constituted their supply chain. Instead of looking for people with an existing script, Dodd proposed that they generate their own prescriptions: They’d pay for the doctor visits, the MRIs and the drugs. In return, they’d sell exclusively to him at an agreed-upon price - $6 for roxies and $20 for oxys.
Dodd quickly recruited a handful of people to hit the local pill mills — his doctor shoppers. One shady clinic they frequented was called Doctors ‘R Us. He discovered that getting the scripts was comically easy with made up ailments like: degenerative disks, herniated disks, lumbar lordosis,— there were a boatload of ways back pain could be monetized.
“Some weeks they could easily haul in 5000 oxys but other weeks proved more difficult. It all depended on the doctor shoppers reliability. Some were business-type people, but others were stone-cold junkies, forgetting to show up for follow-up appointments, or they’d get so hooked on their pills they wouldn’t want to sell them. Or rehab. Or jail.
One of the main distributors of the pills in Florida was Cardinal Health, a Fortune 500 company that had a facility supplying more than 2,000 pharmacies around the state and cranking out millions of pain pills. They eventually caught notice of law enforcement when their pills found their way to what the DEA called “rogue” pharmacies. In November 2007, Cardinal was suspended from distributing the opioids.
Days after Cardinal’s suspension, Dodd and Napoleon went to a pharmacy to fill a prescription but there were no drugs left: They’d run out.
Dodd noticed a drastic change in his business. “Everything quintupled in price, and some of the local pharmacies stopped accepting insurance because they were running out of the pills, so they only served cash customers. They had a couple dozen prescriptions and a good amount of cash, but it wasn’t enough to keep up with the demand of their clients.
Cardinal Health ended up settling with the DEA in 2008, and paid a fine of $34 million with no criminal charges. Before long business was humming again.
Meanwhile Pretty Boy met someone from Alaska who mentioned that prices for hillbilly heroin was even higher there — as much as double. Napoleon soon had another conduit to sell to, in Anchorage. For his UPS shipments to Alaska and Tennessee, Napoleon used an alias: Lance Attaway. Dozens of packages filled with vitamin bottles stuffed with pain pills were sent each month, and naturally teddy bears came back via courier. The operation was smooth, and seemingly seamless. Pills, Bears and Cash oh My!
There were many risks to pill pushing, but the most pressing issue was how to transport the supply around Tampa without the risk of getting busted by a local cop in a traffic stop. The answer was soon to come. On the afternoon of May 9th, 2008 Dodd was smoking a joint with a girlfriend when he was pulled over for a faulty brake light. The officer smelled the lingering pot and asked the pair if they were carrying any illegal substances. They said no and agreed to be searched; Dodd was so stoned he forgot he had a bag of weed in his pocket. When the cop looked in the car, he also found a pillbox hidden next to the passenger seat containing nine Roxicodones and two and a half Xanax pills.
After being told he’d face five years in prison, Dodd hired an attorney, who was able to get the pill charge dropped, but he had to plead guilty for the pot. Dodd realized the only safe way to continue was to get his own prescription. It was a common tactic used by junkies, to avoid getting busted.”
A friend showed the pair how to fake the MRI test: arch your back slightly, twist to apply pressure to your lower spine, and then hold the position while the machine imaged the back. Dodd and Napoleon had arrived at the central truth of the pain-pill epidemic: Back pain was difficult to properly diagnose, and the experience of pain was completely subjective. If someone claimed to be suffering, there was really no way to prove they were lying — especially not if the MRI showed any evidence of abnormality.
Dodd’s personal physician refused to assist in getting him a prescription for opiate pain medication, despite his extravagant tales about back pain from falling from a ladder and being involved in a car crash; the doctor said the drugs were too addictive and dangerous. But Dodd soon found a more compliant doctor. He then went to a radiology clinic and submitted to the hourlong MRI procedure. Sliding into the cramped, coffin-size space, Dodd arched and twisted his back, as he’d been instructed, but it was hard to hold the position: He was in pain for real!
But his suffering served a purpose: Dodd succeeded in fooling the machine. Napoleon also scored. Their diagnoses were identical: bulging disks. Their doctors suggested it must be from wrestling. They were stoked.
The next stop was a pill-mill medical practice. The doctor was older, pale, desiccated. After a 30 second exam, Dodd had a script for 240 blueberries, and when he went back a few weeks later for a follow-up, he said he needed something stronger — specifically 80mg OxyContin.
“Why didn’t you just say so?” the doctor said with a sigh.
Dodd’s prescription, which was upped to include 120 oxys, along with 60 Trazodone for sleep, enabled him to travel with a stash of meds without fear. It was only a week later that he was pulled over - the cops finding his pills — but he had the prescription. So technically, he’d done nothing wrong.
Despite the safety precautions they were taking at home, moving product across the country was becoming a riskier proposition. In the spring of 2008, two shipments from Lance Attaway — one for Alaska, one for Tennessee — vanished from UPS’s tracking system. The packages contained roughly 250 pills. Napoleon decided he’d call UPS to check on the shipment- a highly risky and amateur move. The UPS dispatch told him they’d just disappeared. Then the manager called back with great news, the packages had been found. All Mr. Attaway needed to do was come in to sign some forms before they could be sent on to their destination.
Dodd thought the call sounded fishy. When he and Napoleon arrived at the UPS store, Dodd refused to go inside, fearing there was a narcotics squad in there waiting.
Napoleon was indignant. Whatever Bro.
Dodd scanned the parking lot outside the strip mall and spotted a black SUV with tinted windows. Two square-jawed federal-agent types were sitting in the idling vehicle.
“Look!” Dodd cried. “Let’s get out of here.”
“You’re so damn paranoid,” Napoleon said. But now he too spotted another nondescript vehicle with two beefy dudes.
“Still think I’m paranoid?” Dodd asked.
Napoleon took out his prepaid burner phone and called the UPS store, asking to speak to the manager. “I know the cops are trying to set me up,” Put them on the phone.”
Moments later, Dodd and Napoleon watched as two men exited the car and walked toward the store.
That brush with the law changed their business’s delivery model and they started transporting their wares to Tennessee by car- however they were still shipping to Alaska. Tactics is were where they disagreed. Dodd wanted to do a small number of shipments with large quantities, figuring it would reduce their chances of getting caught. The French general hated the thought of losing the money if bigger packages were seized, like the thousands they lost at the UPS store.
Dodd began to grow weary of doing biz with his best friend. But brothers Pretty Boy and Napoleon kept going strong, making regular trips between Florida and Tennessee — sometimes bringing along others, like Sully — stuffing thousands of pills in Pringles cans to haul north, returning home with piles of cash. All the while completely wacked out on pills when they made the run. Dodd was convinced it was only a matter of time before they were busted, and he put more and more distance between himself and his buddies.
By 2009, the brothers operation had expanded to South Carolina, and Dodd was shipping a couple of thousand pills a month to a connection in upstate New York. They were now distributing 20,000 pills a month, and the teddy bear brigade was really marching in. Dodd tried to be inconspicuous, living with his grandmother in the Swamp and attending business classes. But Napoleon insisted on living large, with the new truck, the high-end apartment by the water and his ever-growing arsenal of weapons.
Business was great, but the reality was that many of the dudes in their posse were plain and simple junkies— and they were flirting with disaster. Dodd tried to cut down on his usage, but even then cutting down meant he was still taking 10 roxies a day, along with a couple of 40mg oxys and a steady supply of hydroponic weed; he’d wake up in the night with cold sweats, and needed a couple of pills simply to get out of bed in the morning.
His oxycontin usage went from recreational to an all-consuming addiction, and it was destroying everything in his life. Friends and family were getting arrested, overdosing, dying. He struggled to cycle off the opiates, but it was much harder than he thought. The aches and pains, the chills and shakes, dry mouth, insomnia .
Meanwhile, Napoleon was partying all the time, and his partner in crime Dodd was turning into a dud.
What they weren’t aware of was as they had their heads down with biz and addictions, the DEA started a series of high-level investigations focused on pill pushers. Then trouble began.
One day in 2008 Pretty Boy went to collect another shipment at his student PO box in Tennessee. He pulled into the parking lot and went in to retrieve the packages as he always did. On his 3rd trip to the car, several police cars ripped into the lot and surrounded him- guns drawn. His goose was cooked.
When Dodd learned of Pretty Boy’s bust he proposed they stop shipping to TN immediately.
Napoleon didn’t see it that way. His brother, a critical part of their pill-pushing empire was busted, but he felt they needed to be shipping more, telling Dodd he’d rather die a legend than live as a man.”
I got that from “Braveheart,” Napoleon said grinning, unaware he was misquoting the film.
Shipments continued apace, only now the pills were ferried directly to Pretty Boy’s friend Justin Knox. Napoleon’s partying got even further out of hand, as he strutted around Tampa with a concealed Glock. A major bust of another opiate ring in February 2009 did nothing to dampen his spirits. But Dodd watched the TV news report in terror, recognizing some of the guys that lived in the area.
He’d seen them at the same pill mills and pharmacies he frequented. The busted organization was run by career criminals with a lot of experience. Dodd and crew were a bunch of kids. If the pros got caught, they could too.
Dodd’s fears proved prescient. In June 2009, Knox was nabbed in of all places Knoxville — not for oxy or roxie, but for smoking pot at his home. Authorities uncovered an arsenal of guns at his apartment, much like the weapons Napoleon kept at his place, along with syringes, a blank prescription pad and mountains of paraphernalia. Before long Knox was singing to the DEA and spilled everything he knew about the operation and all the players— including putting Napoleon at the top.
The DEA set up undercover operations on Knox’s Tennessee connections and surveillance on Napoleon and other key players. Despite all the warning signs — Napoleon continued recklessly talking about packages that contained hundreds of berries and oxys in phone calls to Dodd. In one call he mentioned one of the dudes up in Tennessee got visited by some detectives, and they took some of their pills and cash. Dodd freaked — rightly fearing the call was being recorded by law enforcement. He knew he was trapped in a multimillion-dollar conspiracy without the faintest idea of how to get out.
In the fall of 2009, three more packages loaded with pills were intercepted. The FedEx store called Napoleon, and the manager told him they’d made a mistake in pricing the packages. Lance Attaway — needed to pick up the parcels or pay the difference. He’d been through this routine. Once again he taunted the cops by asking to speak to them. It seemed the loss of the pills was bigger than the loss of his freedom.
Despite all the heat, most of the gang partied on obliviously. Pretty Boy had moved home to await his fate for the drug charge he faced in Tennessee, but he was still popping pills and hitting the clubs. Likewise, Napoleon’s abuse skyrocketed - he became gaunt and jumpy and increasingly unpredictable. Dodd finally managed to kick the drugs, so he felt in control, at least a little, even if he was filled with dread.
In early October, one of Napoleon’s dealers in Tennessee was pulled over in a traffic stop in Knoxville and finally admitted to Dodd that the DEA might now be involved. Dodd warned that he sensed it was unraveling-
Napoleon was still in denial. Dodd was right: The DEA was moving. On October 20th in Knoxville, a federal grand jury issued a sealed indictment against Dodd, Napoleon, Pretty Boy, Sully and 10 others in their hillbilly heroin ring. They were completely oblivious. Napoleon continued to act like he was untouchable, texting and making calls using words that were transparent code for drugs: blueberries, big greens, big dogs.
On the evening of October 25th, 2009, Dodd gave Napoleon 400 blueberries and 180 big greens. By then Frenchie had transferred to the University of South Florida, and was pledging a fraternity. The next morning before dawn, as all disciplined generals do, he was in front of the frat house doing jumping jacks in his underwear and being verbally abused by seniors when a dozen DEA agents swarmed onto the lawn demanding to know which one was Lance Barabas (Napoleon).
Simultaneously as Dodd was asleep in his grandmother’s house, he was jolted awake by the sound of DEA agents pounding on the door. The agents found nearly 1,000 oxy-codone tablets hidden in his room, as well as his Sig Sauer and Smith & Wesson guns and $23,000 cash. When his grandmother woke up she was shocked to be told that Dodd was under arrest.
“Oh, dear, not Dougie,”
That day, Dodd, Napoleon and Pretty Boy stood in the dock in federal court. They were held without bond. Sent to county jail, the Barabas brothers went into opiate withdrawal, rocking, sweating. Dodd looked around the room and was surprised to see one of his dodgy cousins. He told Dodd he’d failed a urine test, a probation violation. Dodd told him about the charges he faced: the federal conspiracy indictment, the money laundering, the drugs. The prosecutor was seeking 20 years.
His cousin nodded toward Napoleon and Pretty Boy moaning and rocking in their withdrawal-induced wet-dog shakes . “You think you can trust your buddies?” he asked.
It quickly emerged that the others named in the indictment were cooperating with the DA’s office, so Dodd decided he’d better talk too. In the end as the leader of the ring, according to the federal government — and according to his own reckoning — Napoleon was handed by far the stiffest sentence of 15 years. Dodd 5 years and change and Napoleon’s brother Landon Barabas got 6. The 11 others indicted got anywhere from 3 to 7 years behind bars. And not one of them had a teddy bear to comfort them.
Doug Dodd is now an author, motivational speaker, and realtor. His memoir, "Generation Oxy: From High School Wrestlers to Pain Pill Kingpins says it all.