Updated: Jul 18, 2020
When I was in elementary school, I was already obsessed with making money. I was in fifth grade when I came up with a great idea of auctioning off cans of Coca-Cola at school. Most parents didn’t allow their children to have soda, and neither did the school. I was able to turn a $4 12-pack of Coke into $30. This was more important to me than school. When I got to sixth grade, I learned that kids liked candy bars, cigarette lighters, and fireworks, so I’d buy them at wholesale price. I’d buy a 40 pack of candy bars for $19.99 and sell each one for $2 apiece. The lighters would cost me $.50 and I'd sell them for $3.50. The news about my little enterprise quickly spread around the school. It became difficult for me to keep up with sales. The real money was in fireworks because they were illegal and I had a huge markup. The kids I sold to were from wealthy families and had no problem getting the cash. I was able to buy a jumbo pack of Roman candles for a few bucks and sell each one for $10. I began to make what I thought was real money. I started getting requests for big fireworks which cost me a lot more money than the Roman candles, but I was able to sell them to these rich kids and make 3x my investment. I’m talking hundreds of dollars for a single firework. Not only was I making a big profit, I was also participating in the fun of lighting off the fireworks with the rich kids.
When I was about 12 or 13, I went on a cruise with my grandmother to Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico. I snuck into the ship's casino and found the closest slot machine, made sure no one was looking and dropped in $.25, pulled the handle, and immediately ran out the door. The moment I got onto the main deck area, I felt safe enough to look back at the slot machine. To my surprise, the slot machine's jackpot lights and bells were going off. Turns out I won $2,200, but I needed to find my grandmother to claim the prize before someone else did. I ran in a panic through the ship, looking everywhere for her. When I finally found her I was so out of breath I could hardly talk and finally said “Nana, I hit the jackpot! Hurry up!“
She replied, “Oh my God!“ and we went running. To my amazement, we made it in time and Nana got to claim the prize. I can’t remember whether my Nana gave me all of the money but I got at least a few hundred dollars. With this money, I came up with a great idea. Inspired by the movie Boiler Room, I figured there were a lot of kids on the ship that wanted to gamble in the casino, but couldn't due to being underage like me. With my few hundred dollars, I decided to open up my own casino on the top deck of the ship. I didn’t realize how popular it would become. I had bought myself some Bicycle poker chips, and exchanged the chips to the kids for money as I ran the casino as if I was the house. Aside from enjoying my beautiful vacation in Cozumel and Costa Maya, I felt as if this casino was worth my time because it was very profitable. As a kid in Mexico with a lot of money, I could do whatever I wanted.
My Nana decided to stay on the ship one day while I proceeded to venture out on my own. I had the idea that everything would be alright as long as I didn’t drink the water or eat the food. I had lots of money so I wanted to buy my family gifts. When you’re 12 or 13 in Mexico, you’re allowed into any bar or liquor store. I thought to myself, “First stop, a liquor store“ and that is exactly what I did. When I entered the store I heard, “pequeño gringo!”
Being that age, I wasn’t sure what they meant but I did know what gringo meant. I thought they were going to ask me to leave, but they got someone who spoke English to come talk to me. He asked me, “What do you want with this fire water?“ I replied, “I want the best of the best for gifts.“ I bought several bottles of tequila and left without issue. I knew that my mother would not approve, so I bought another gift for her. I found a store that sold authentic pottery and knew that it was right up her alley. I bought several other hand carved art pieces to give to my family as gifts. With a smirk on my face and bearing gifts, I took a cab back to the cruise ship. I was very impressed with myself and felt this vacation was going so well.
Back at home, my obsession with making money kept getting bigger. I discovered there was a lot of money in the weed business. Not only were my 9th grade friends interested in purchasing, but the people I looked up to were also now my customers. I made an investment of $280 for 1 ounce of marijuana. I broke that down into eighths which I could sell for $50 or $60, about one day's worth of work. I quickly repeated the process and eventually was buying a quarter pound at an even lower cost, about $200 an ounce. Through this process, I reduced the cost for my friends so they'd keep coming back. By the time I was in my sophomore year of high school, I was selling an average of 1 pound per day. I also had an after school job at a fancy gourmet food and cheese shop called Duck Soup in Sudbury, MA. After work, I would need to make my rounds delivering weed all over town. One problem: I wasn't old enough to drive yet. But I had money to burn, so, I hired a driver to take me on the delivery runs. My driver had a very nice new black SUV. We spent about five hours after work making deliveries. On Friday nights, when other kids were at parties, that was my busiest night. We'd stop at the biggest house parties to bring the weed and enjoy the fun, so it never felt as if I was missing out. I was friends with so many different groups of people from a variety of backgrounds, there was no shortage of customers. By offering wholesale deals to trustworthy friends, I was selling about 10 pounds of marijuana per week by my junior year of high school. My dealers were much older than me, and more intense than previous small-time suppliers. I was making thousands of dollars for myself, but bringing in even more money for them. They accepted me and gave me the nickname Big Worm.
The highlight of my drug dealing career was between the ages 16 and 23. I took my cash and blew it on a fake ID, lavish hotels, fancy dinners, vacations, high end night clubs and live concerts around the East coast. I wanted to include my core group of friends, but I knew they couldn’t afford it, so I would pay for them. Using a real, state issued
Massachusetts Driver's License that belonged to someone else who was much older than 21, I was able to get into many establishments that I probably shouldn't have been able to get into. For privacy reasons, we'll refer to the name on the ID as James Glass. I was making so much money that I became a preferred member at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, the closest casinos, located in Connecticut. (This was before gambling became legal in Massachusetts.) They would refer to me as Mr. Glass and comp me hotel rooms, shows, dinners, vintage bottles of wine and champagne.
Once I turned 21, I would go there with a friend who posed as my private security, carrying about $30,000 in dirty money (small bills) and wash it through the casino to make it clean money. I would take the cash (that was not mine) and tell the casino I was looking for a high stake game, and that I'd make it worth their while. I was then escorted by real private security guards to the top floor where the Sky View Casino had a minimum hand of $500. I would change all $30,000 into chips and would play a few hands depending on how much I would lose. If I won, I would play longer; sometimes I'd really win big. The most I won in one sitting was $8,500. After I got my free drinks and food, I would then change in all my chips for clean, manicured $100 bills. By doing this, it gave me more casino points than you can imagine, and an even bigger boost of confidence. During this time, I was making so much money and all I wanted was to live in the moment. And so I did.
A personal note:
Rest in Peace Nana
Dorothea Baker (1924 - 2019)