Bobby Tuna Pt. 2: Robert Platshorn
I'm vanessa richardson introducing a new podcast original today in true crime today is friday friday august twenty third two thousand nineteen on this day in nineteen thirty six serial killer henry. Lee lucas was born in blacksburg virginia. Lucas confessed to committing hundreds of murders during his life. Although some investigators and historians believe i believe he was exaggerating today. Historians debate whether lucas was history's most prolific serial killer or merely early a liar playing the system today in true crime is podcast new daily show that relives the biggest true crime events from each day in history. Don't miss today's full episode follow today and true crime for free on spotify and anywhere you listen to podcasts. It's now it was early. December nineteen seventy seven around midnight and george purvis was scared as as hell standing in the pilot house of a shrimping boat called the two bears he was looking for a big colombian trawler off the coast of north carolina. It was carrying twenty two thousand pounds of premium colombian marijuana a second boat. A large jot called the osprey was somewhere nearby waiting to start offloading. This was purposes first real test since joining the black tuna gang run by bobby plants horn and robbie mind stir. The gang was one of the biggest marijuana smuggling operations in south florida. If everything went smoothly tonight it promised to be a big payday and more importantly purvis knew he'd earned the trust and in respect of body and robbie on his radar screen purvis finally spotted the colombian trawler he radio to to the ship using a prearranged call sign pescadores grandes big fish. The trawler captain responded with the same phrase and purvis knew he'd found the right vessel. He called the osprey to tell its captain. It was safe to approach. The captain wade bailey. I moved in to tie up alongside the trawler aboard. The two bears george purvis washed the unloading begin. Once the osprey was finished bailey had instructions to take it to a stash house about twenty five miles inland up the cape fear and brunswick swick rivers leading daily to his work. Purvis turned his shrimp boat around and headed back towards the north carolina coast. He felt giddy sense of relief he would see that everything was ready at the stash house and then head back to the hotel and wilmington he should get there just in time in for some well-deserved breakfast what purpose didn't know and what would surely have ruined his appetite if he had is that wade bailey a the captain of the osprey was working for the other team. I'm i'm how will heart and i'm kate leonard and this is kingpins apar- cast original every friday we journey inside the ranks of organized crime rings <music> from street gangs to mafiosos to understand how a kingpin or queen pin rises to the top of the underworld and why they fall as we followed the lives of infamous crime bosses will explore how money and power change them and how it changed the community around them. You you can find all episodes of kingpins all other podcast originals for free on spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts to stream kingpins for free on spotify just open the app tap rows and type kingpins in the search bar. This is our second episode on robert platform and the black tuna gang a marijuana smuggling organization that was based out of miami in the late nineteen seventies last week. We saw well how bobby and his best friend robbie mind stor got into the smuggling business. They turned a side hustle into a multimillion dollar marijuana smuggling and distribution operation this week will explore how everything came crashing down leading patch worn to become the longest serving nonviolent marijuana wanna offender in history in the events that follow there are several discrepancies in dates in years between the official government indictments and and the stories told by robert platt shorn and the other figures involved in this episode we have gone with the dates provided in official sources at podcast. Yes we're grateful for you our listeners. You allow us to do what we love. Let us know how we're doing. Reach out on facebook and instagram at par cast and twitter <music> at park has network and if you enjoy today's episode the best way to help is to leave a five star review wherever you're listening it really does help us by the middle of nineteen seventy seven. The black tuna gang was at the top of its game. They'd already earned millions since starting out moving small amounts of pot in pennsylvania in one thousand nine hundred seventy four now they were among the biggest marijuana smugglers uglier in the country and by some accounts the gang was bringing in as much as half a million dollars a week they had a fleet of yachts and private planes at their disposal and they used vans with sophisticated radio equipment to eavesdrop on law enforcement according to some reports they how does many as sixty employees and associates including boat cruise security men and pilots they also had a number of legitimate businesses mrs some of which they used as a front for laundering their drug money among them was a barber shop a marina and the south florida auto auction chen bobby's used car dealership at the top of the food chain bobby and ravi lived like kings. Both had mansions in miami in their wives live spent their weeks collecting jewelry art work in antiques. They also both had a cocaine problem though they only dealt professionally in marijuana china they bought coke by the kilo for personal use spending as much as fifty thousand dollars a week on the drug they used it to entertain friends friends and guests at lavish parties at their homes and aboard their yachts. Their own drug use never seems to have interfered with their ability to run their business business but in the coming months the drug habits of their employees would cause increasing problems in their operations. They've been using an the ocean front presidential suite in the fountain blue hotel on miami beach. As their base of operations it was posh two stories sweet where they wined dined and supplied cocaine their clientele at all hours of the day and night but as their organization grew larger they felt l. uncomfortably exposed in the fontham blue so they bought a luxurious houseboat called the beams post time and outfitted it for doing business snus and partying they moored it right alongside the hotel and even had phone lines connected to the boat by routing them through the fontham blues switchboard did they knew they couldn't keep going in the marijuana business forever but for now they had a lifestyle to maintain and once they got their legal businesses up and running they could leave the smuggling life for good at least that's the story they would tell later at the time there was no evidence to suggest they were actually making any effort to get out of drug smuggling government records indicate in fact that they were intending to branch out into other popular drugs this including cocaine and quads they discussed expanding into the west coast market as well their partner a big gene myers had a cousin in las vegas who went by the name of scratch scratch was a professional gambler who wanted in on the marijuana business bobby. Ian robbie sold him a couple of bales of their santa. Marta gold to get him started. Then in the summer of nineteen seventy seven they flew out to vegas to meet with him and his local connections scratch met them at caesar's palace where he'd arranged for them to stay indefinitely greeting them in the lobby bobby. He said sorry. I couldn't meet you at the airport. I had some business to take care of for frank. Scratch it turned out was part of frank sinatra's entourage and he had an idea for how bobby and robbie could get set up on the west coast. He introduced them to a number of associates. It's who were interested in getting into the smuggling business. They were men in dark suits with names like sal tony and vinnie bobby would later stayed aid scratch was trying to campus to the mob a few years later the government would accuse the black tuna gang of conspiring with mobsters to distribute more drugs but bobby has since played down the incident arguing that it never came to anything and that it wasn't their idea in the first place in any case when the talks with the mobsters fizzled out scratch had another idea to lure the black tunas into the west coast post market it involved the affluent and growing community of rancho mirage near palm springs california about a four hour drive from las vegas frank sinatra and a number of other well-connected and high profile figures lived in the area scratch knew a guy who could get property for them nearby. The idea was to buy up a number of contiguous lots and build a private cabana and swim club they could cater to the local wealth and ultimately lee sell their new clientele high end weed through his connections in las vegas scratch promise to get several of the big casinos involved. They expressed interest in leasing a few such cabanas for their high rollers who wanted to visit palm springs. It seemed like a perfect opportunity. Scratch took them out to rancho mirage and showed them the property ten neighboring lots that would be perfect for a high in club. They also visited the palm. Springs is airport which was on native american land and controlled by the agua. Kellyanne tribe scratch assured bobby and robbie that with the right amount of money they can land a plane on the runway unload its cargo and have no problem from the local authorities in the end the opportunity. He was too good to pass up. Bobby put down ten thousand dollars to secure the lots in rancho mirage and scratch assured them that frank sinatra would be their first club member. When the cabanas were finished they also gave scratch two hundred thousand dollars to purchase an old lockheed constellation transport plane the connie as it was called was an old workhorse of the nineteen forties and fifties it had four engines and a big enough enough cargo capacity to haul more than twenty thousand pounds of marijuana in a single trip. It would be the perfect plane to supply their future buyers on the west west coast after returning home to miami. They waited for a call from scratch. Confirming the purchase of the connie after two weeks and numerous unanswered calls at scratches home number. They began to get worried. Finally in the middle of the night scratch showed up at bobby's bobby's door disheveled looking like he hasn't slept in a week big gene was staying at bobby's house at the time and scratch sat down and told the peer wooded happen. It turns out that after robbie and bobby left scratch was informed by one of his contacts that local law the enforcement had gotten wind of their plans to buy the plane and use it for drug smuggling. They were planning on picking scratch up. When he came to make the purchase he he took the money and fled riding buses all the way to miami with the briefcase clutched tightly to his side that was all well and good but when bobby opened the suitcase there was only fifty thousand of the original two hundred thousand left in it scratch it turns out had tried to salvage salvage. The situation by purchasing brothel sex work was legal in nevada and scratch had bought one of the well-known ranches with the black tuna gangs money think it even had its own landing strip where they could conceivably offload plans of marijuana bobby and big gene were flabbergasted and i an angry they had no desire to be in that business and running a drug smuggling operation anywhere within fifty miles of a brothel was a surefire or fire way to end up in a nevada prison. Scratch eventually left promising to get their money back. Bobby never saw or heard it from scratch again and this horrid miscommunication signaled the beginning of the end for his operation coming up. We'll explore how drug use an internal divisions spelled the beginning of the end for the black tuna gang when i was in in school the cool thing was durant iran if you had a duran duran shirt. You're definitely cool these days. It's bomba socks that bring out all the envy on the school yard. 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Most people tend to remember but the parkas network remembers important dates in true crime history every day. The new podcast cast original today in true crime takes you back to the biggest events in true crime that happened each day in history whether the crime is infamous or just plain playing interesting. There's a crime story for every day of the year august thirty first eighteen eighty eight jack. The ripper commits his first murderer october third nineteen ninety-five o._j. Simpson is acquitted november nineteenth. Two thousand seventeen cult leader dr charles manson dies today in true crime is par cast. I daily true crime podcast. You no longer have to wait for weeks to get your true true crime fix with new episodes each day. You'll never run out of true. Crime content again. Crime never takes a day off and now neither neither does podcast follow today in true crime for free on spotify and anywhere you listen to podcasts now back to the story in mid nineteen seventy seven the black tuna gang had experienced their first view missteps the proposed california ah -fornia expansion had gone belly up when their clients scratch was fingered by law enforcement however officials were still no closer to catching bobby be plant horner robbie monster who cut ties with scratch and went back to business as usual smuggling marijuana into florida following several several successful smuggling operations with stash houses in miami. They decided it would be smart to change their normal routine. Instead of offloading voting in miami they would take shipment up to new jersey it would confuse law enforcement and it would please their clients in the northeast who would be able able to avoid the risky truck transportation from miami in addition to changing locations. They also decided to just use one yacht for offloading instead of two through their associate mark phillips. They purchased a huge yacht. A one hundred four footer called the senator for for backup. They brought along a second slightly smaller. Yacht called nature's way. One of robbie's friends in new jersey offered to let them use his marina for off. Offloading the plan was a disaster almost from the start when bobby and robbie arrived in new jersey to inspect the marina they discovered it was much too small to dock their huge. Yacht the water was so shallow. The boats wouldn't even be able to enter the marina china much less dock there with both yachts already heading for new jersey. Bobby and robbie had to find a new place quickly. They decided united to look for a stash house like the ones they'd used in miami in the end. One of bobby's pitch men friends arranged for them to use the dock at an unoccupied unoccupied fishing club that had gone bankrupt. They paid the caretaker and his family to take a two week vacation and arrange to have the senator unload. Its cargo there in order to rent the place. They told the realtor they were filming a movie about drug smugglers starring robert redford. They disguised two their communications van as a film crew truck complete with a logo of a fake movie studio. They used it to deliver rented sound stage equipment into the fishing club. They set up lights boom mics reflectors and even a real movie camera along the docks to complete the scam. It all ended up being a big waste of time and money the morning after the transfer was supposed to take place at sea. Bobby woke up hoping to hear from the senator that it was loaded and inbound for the fishing club instead he got a call from his supplier and columbia the trawler with the weed on board had spotted the senator but the senator had mysteriously fled after the trawler had made contact he was sending his ship back ax south toward florida and suggested rhonda viewing in their normal location near the bahamas. Bobby was dumbfounded but didn't have time to be upset upset. He had to move the entire operation back to miami and figure out a way to get his yachts to the bahamas. He quickly realized that would be impossible. The yachts were so big and slow. They'd never be able to catch up to the trawler. The colombians promised to wait in the bahamas for no more than twenty four hours. There just wasn't enough time so bobby arranged with big gene who was monitoring commission from miami to have two more yachts dispatched to meet the trawler in the end only won a big gene. John's managed to reach the colombian ship up as a result. They were only able to get about half the load the colombians who by that time had been at sea for a month through the rest overboard and headed home. It was a disappointing end to a disastrous endeavor. It didn't help when bobby found out the reason the senator senator didn't rendezvous with the colombians as planned after the yacht returned safely to the marina in new jersey bobby learned that the captain and crew through coked up and paranoid had convinced themselves that the trawler was disguised coastguard ship after having spent a serious amount amount of time and money in both new jersey and miami bobby and robbie alternately made very little from the sixteen thousand pounds of weed they taken from the a trawler both their buyers and the colombians were upset. They knew they needed to save face as quickly as possible so they contacted mark phillips again and bought another yacht even bigger than the senator. It was a one hundred ten footer aptly glee named the presidential. The colombians agreed to send another load of thirty five thousand pounds to the bahamas around labor day of nineteen seventy seven atten big gene several black tuna employees were monitoring the mission from the gangs high tech communications van in fort lauderdale word came down that the transfer went off without a hitch but bad weather forecast for the presidential trip back home troubled bobby as he went to sleep that night when the phone woke bobby up before dawn. He felt a not in his gut. His fear hadn't been misplaced aced. It was big gene on the phone telling him that he'd lost radio contact with the yacht and hadn't been able to reach them for an hour but before four losing touch they told him they were taking on water and we're trying to get their bilge pumps. Working bobby looked at his watch. He could go buy spare spare pumps low them on a helicopter and deliver them out to the yacht assuming he could find it out on the ocean but it was still three hours until any marine gene supply stores opened. He told big gene to keep trying to reach the boat. In the meantime he started making phone calls to arrange a rescue mission. Robbie agreed to handle business at the auto auction while big gene continued to monitor law enforcement channels from the communications van. If the boat was stranded somewhere it was vital that they reach it before. The coastguard at eight o'clock sharp bobby walked into sears and purchased bilge pumps then deliver them out to the airport where an associate was arranging for a helicopter bobby would use his own plane to begin again searching for the yacht himself throughout the afternoon. Bobby flew search patterns around the region where the yacht was supposed to have been but he couldn't located his anxiety and frustration continued to grow when big gene reported that he still couldn't raise the presidential on the radio. It was becoming apparent that the yacht had either sunk or was dead in the water somewhere rain and fog forced bobby to call the search off and wait another day before starting out again. The only good news was that big gene reported all was normal on law enforcement channels. Neither the coastguard nor the bahamian authorities seem to know anything about a drug laden yacht the next day the helicopter finally located the presidential financial the to spare bills pumps weren't going to do the yacht any good it was beached on its side and quiet kkob on great avocado island and there didn't appear to be any activity either on the yacht or the beach around it. Bobby immediately hopped in his plane and flew out there himself. You've he flew over the cove. At low altitudes several times one of the yacht's crew members recognized his plane and stepped out of the dense. This man groves at the edge of the beach waving at him using a tube of lipstick that his wife had left in the plane. Bobby wrote a message on his window promising to return with a boat. It took another twenty four hours but the gang eventually rescued the crew of the presidential they'd been hiding hiding out in the muddy swamps and mangroves for two days without food or fresh water despite being muddy and thirsty. They were otherwise unharmed. The captain reported that when the ship began to take on water during the storm three nights earlier they'd been unable to get the bilge pumps working fearing the yacht would sink he decided to beach it in a hidden cove hoping the load could be salvaged there but as more details began to emerge in private of it conversations with the crewmen it became apparent that the pumps had been just fine instead the crewman who'd been sent down to turn the pumps on was so high. He passed out in the engine room before finishing the job by the time another crewman came down to look for him. It was too late in any case. They weren't out of the woods yet. The captain assured bobby and the others that they hadn't seen anyone snooping around the yacht it would be safe to salvage at least some of the marijuana so the gangs rescue boat a yacht call fishing fool return to the beach consented dini out to begin offloading bobby was monitoring the situation overhead in his plane. Here is where some contemporary newspaper newspaper accounts and the story told by bobby many years later diverge bobby tells a swashbuckling tale of two dozen bahamian marines jumping camping out from behind sand dunes opening fire on the rescue boat and its crew in this account bobby swept down upon the bahamians in his plane like a kamikaze fighter pilot to scare them off. They turned their machine guns on him before retreating back into the woods official accounts accounts. Tell it differently there. Were only four marines not dozens and there is no mention of gunfire or bobby flying overhead whatever happened once. He retreated back to a marina on nearby chub cay with the presidentials crew. Bobby got a call from big gene who is still monitoring things from fort lauderdale. He told bobby that the bahamian marines and police as well as u._s. customs and the d._a. We're all looking for the smugglers who had just escaped. Meanwhile gang members marc phillips and george purpose were on their way from north carolina in another yod still intending to unload the presidential. They didn't know that the authorities had taken control of it. Bobby knew that phillips and purvis would stop up at nearby walkers key to refuel before heading onto where the presidential was beached so he dispatched a pilot with a message telling them to standdown. The pilot took bobby's plane and left immediately. He managed to get the message to purvis but on his way home he was stopped. Adopt by authorities and arrested. The plane was searched thoroughly but since there were no bullet holes or any illegal drugs on board they couldn't prove move. It was the same plane that had buzzed. The presidential with bobby's plane grounded on another island. Bobby now had no way to get home with the crew of the presidential bobby reason that the rescue boat the fishing fool couldn't safely take them because authorities were looking for the presidentials missing missing crew. The fishing fool was sent back without bobby or the crew and opponents arrival in miami u._s. Customs inspected the boat inside inside and out meanwhile the heyman authorities were busy scouring tiny chub cay looking for the presidentials crew bobby and the others hid in sweltering garage underneath an upturned fishing boat while marines searched the area once the coast was clear bobby had to pay a hefty bribe to the dock master for keeping the searchers away from their hiding place now ten in two thousand dollars poor bobby still had to figure out how to get home. There was little doubt that the authorities would be back again tomorrow. The simplest solution was for big gene who was a licensed pilot to fly in during the night and pick them up to bobby's great surprise in irritation big big gene refused. He claimed there'd be no landing lights at the airstrip and said he didn't have keys to the hangar where the planes were kept bobby. Bobby was now desperate and angry. He'd have to figure something out on his own with the help of some local friends. He got his hands on a small small plane that was parked at the airport. It was owned by a wealthy businessman whose pilot conveniently lived on the island. Bobby paid the pilot five thousand dollars to give him the keys with a promise to leave it at the fort lauderdale airport bobby in the crew of the presidential left chip key before dawn and made it safely back to florida they passed without any issue through customs telling the officers story about a fishing trip that ended with them getting robbed that explain their bedraggled appearance and lack of wallet so we're i._d.'s. The agents bought it and let them pass through unquestioned. They'd managed to get home safely without getting arrested but the fallout from the disastrous mission was only just beginning as with the failed transfer in new jersey a few months earlier drug use among black tuna crewmen had led to the second failed expedition shen and this one had resulted in a beached ship with thirty five thousand pounds of weed on board authorities eventually counted founded seven hundred forty five bales of marijuana on the presidential after all the accounts were tallied up the black. Tuna gang lost a million dollars in the debacle bockel. It also led to a split between big gene and the others big gene has been running. The mission and bobby was only supposed to been peripherally involved old in the end gene had refused to leave his communications ban and bobby had been the one who'd risked his neck rescuing the crew when big gene had been unwilling to fly them out of chubb key that had been the last straw following the disaster bobby and robbie more or less us cut ties with big gene as bobby and robbie struggled to recover from this dramatic setback authorities. He's found something else of interest in the presidential. It was a stack of papers relating to a business called the green turtle construction company furthermore the yacht itself was registered in the name of roger culpepper authorities knew absolutely nothing about green turtle title or roger colpepper but luckily for them someone from within the gang would soon be willing to tell them everything they wanted to know. His name was george hervas coming up. We'll see how the government finally closed in on the black tuna gang with help from informants. An investigation called operation bonko. Now back to the story in the fall of nineteen seventy. Seven law enforcement was getting dangerously close to disrupting the black tuna gangs operations bobby plants horn and robbie mind stir had lost an entire tire load of marijuana when they're drug addled associates failed to make the shipment the debacle with the presidential didn't sit well with bobby ian robbie they'd come way too close to being caught and they were starting to have more failures than successes. It was time to get on the right right side of the law before it was too late. They began to pass the torch on to other gang members. People like george purvis bobby and robbie. He's still fronted money and offered assistance but let others lead the operations. That's how purvis found himself at the helm of the two bears in december december of one thousand nine hundred seventy seven overseeing the transfer of twenty two thousand pounds of pot from the colombians what he didn't know was that wade bailey the boat captain he'd hired for the job was working for the government after seeing bailey really begin the transfer purvis went back to the hotel in wilmington north carolina there he could relax and celebrate a successful mission with robbie who is monitoring law enforcement from the hotel later then morning when bailey guided his loaded vessel into north carolina's brunswick river for off loading customs agents. Were there waiting to seize the cargo. No high level members of the black tunas were there when the raid went down but one of their implies was there waiting in a rental truck for a load of marijuana he was arrested and soon began to give information to local authorities stories when investigators found out that gang members were monitoring law enforcement from a hotel room in wilmington. They immediately dispatched watched officers to the sweet when the officers got there they found the room empty robbie purvis and the others were long gone on upon hearing about the raid. They'd immediately fled buying plane tickets back to florida the failure of the north carolina operation coming on the heels of the disastrous presidential fiasco convinced bobby and robbie that it was time to put an end to their smuggling work for good there. There were already people in custody who could lead authorities to them. It was time to go on the straight and narrow but either the lure of easy money or a sense of obligation to friends kept a bobby from severing ties completely as nineteen seventy eight rolled around he was still working with george purvis helping him get established in the smuggling business in january of nineteen seventy-eight purvis purvis was on a plane which was landing on the colombian airstrip where bobby had nearly been executed by greedy military officer eighteen months earlier. You're the plane had been modified illegally with extra fuel tanks so it could travel longer distances while approaching the secluded landing strip drip the pilot lost control of the plane it crash landed in the jungle losing both its wings and leaving a mile long trail of debris <music> purvis and the pilots were okay but any hope of returning with a load of marijuana was crushed yet another failure upon returning to the united states purvis learned he'd been indicted in north carolina for the osprey incident two months earlier having hired wade bailey the government's informant himself. He was not surprised when the indictment came down deciding he wasn't and cut out for smuggling. He went to north carolina and turned himself in while he was being held in north carolina d._e._a. Agents visited him in his jail cell. After interviewing him several times they realized he was just the person they'd been looking for an insider of the black tuna gang who was ready to come clean purvis felt that he had gotten in over his head divorced and paying costly alimony payments every month he'd originally been hoping for some adventure as well as a ready source of cash he'd been bored working in his a father's car dealership but life as a smuggler wasn't all it was cracked up to be. He was ready to get out going undercover for with the d._a. Was a perfect way to extricate himself from the situation and hopefully avoid jail time after agreeing to become an informant hervas purpose posted bond and return to florida where he went back to work with bobby and robbie at the auto auction by this this time in one thousand nine hundred seventy eight a joint operation between the d._a. and the f._b._i. Had begun to close in on the black tuna gang back in september of nineteen seventy seven not long after the presidential was beached and confiscated by the bahamians. A man walked into a bank in miami beach. He had several gold chains around his neck and his shirt was unbuttoned halfway down his chest. He was carrying a briefcase case with half a million dollars in it. He deposited the money into an account called bill marr the same man going by the name aged roberts had been in just a few weeks earlier and had deposited six hundred thousand dollars into the same account all in cash hash at the time. The bank teller had found the transaction highly irregular and had contacted the d._a. The d._a. had asked the teller color to let them know the next time. The man came in so this time agents were in place to follow mr roberts after he left the bank doc it took several months of sleuthing but they eventually discovered that h roberts was really herald blooming lumine they would eventually discover discover handled the books bobby and robbie the accounting question veal mar had seen over ten million dollars in deposits in nineteen seventy eighty seven operation bonko discovered that via mar was the pseudonym of a south american money man who helped drug lords hide money in overseas accounts taking a fifteen percent commission via marwood hide illegal funds in offshore accounts in the cayman islands switzerland lend and panama he also routed payments to suppliers in colombia operation bunko set up a surveillance crew at howard lumens house one day dark haired woman in mercedes showed up at the house apparently to conduct some sort of business. The woman was is lynn horn bobby's wife her car was registered to the south florida auto auction at this point agents began to connect connect the dots some months earlier in the spring of nineteen seventy. Seven a stash house near miami had been rated. It was stacked ceiling ceiling high with marijuana. Several men were arrested but they were released a few weeks later when a judge ruled the police did not have probable cause ause to raid the house among the evidence detectives had found in the house were receipts for the south florida auto auction. Even though these receipts could be used in court. This was a vital clue for the detectives. Investigating operation bunko the auto auction was now connected to both the bill maher cash transactions and an incident of drug smuggling the agents ran a background check on both bobby and in robbie they discovered that in addition to the auto auction and several other businesses. The pair also owned the green turtle construction company <music>. This company didn't appear to be doing much actual construction business but they did on a large piece of undeveloped property in south florida agents learned that bobby and robbie had discussed using the green turtle property for a marijuana growing operation this had been in december. Uh of one thousand nine hundred seventy seven right after purposes operation in north carolina was broken up by authorities. Bobby and robbie had been brainstorming ideas ideas for how to get out of the international smuggling business but remain in the marijuana game in any case agents for operation bunko connected connected another dot when they discovered that papers for the green turtle construction company had been found on board the presidential after it was searched by bahamian on officials. The evidence against the black tuna gang was beginning to pile up when george purvis agreed to become a d._a. Informant informant in february of nineteen seventy eight he would help bring it all together. The presidential was registered in north carolina china to someone named roger culpepper purvis would tell authorities that roger colpepper was an alias for robert plant horn the same man blown the auto auction it would take another year before operation bronco was ready to provide its evidence to a grand jury free but once they did the jury very quickly returned indictments on bobby robbie big gene and a dozen others they they were arrested in april of nineteen seventy nine the trial began in september of that year and george purvis wade bailey and several others ars including the realtor who had leased the stash houses testified against them in fear for his life. Purvis eventually went into the witness protection action programme. He wasn't the only one who heard rumors of threats against his life. In the midst of the trial in december of nineteen seventy nine the jury was sequestered so that a law enforcement official could address the judge bobby and robbie the official alleged were plotting to disrupt the trial by killing the judge. A jailhouse informant had snitched asserting that bobby had told him about the plot it allegedly allegedly involved using bobby's mafia connections which he'd made in las vegas to handle the assassinations bobby and the others vehemently lead denied the charges and they were eventually cleared but their problems weren't over the law enforcement official also accused them of trying to bribe jurors in the end one juror was removed and later charged with obstruction of justice bobby's wife lynn was implicated in the bribery scheme automatically pled guilty. Bobby and robbie knew that the feds had enough dirt on them to put them in prison but they weren't seriously worried. Their lawyers assured them that nonviolent marijuana charges wouldn't result in more than a few years they were wrong. Eight members of the black tuna gang were convicted of various charges under a nineteen seventy law commonly called the king pin statute it had been i used to convict a number of high profile drug cartel figures over the years including most recently el chapo of the seen alot cartel bobby and robby were the first marijuana smugglers to be convicted under the law in his defense bobby quipped. I'm not even a safety safety pin. Let alone a kingpin. The trial judge who had to use body guards throughout the trial because of the rumored threats against his life disagreed read in court he stated the price for participation in this traffic should be prohibitive. It should be made too dangerous to be attractive. If the judge sentenced bobby to sixty four years in prison robbie got fifty three and big gene got thirty eighty three both robbie and big gene got out of prison before bobby robbie retired to a quiet life on the right side of the law big big jean died in the early two thousands shortly after being released mark phillips who supplied the gang with yachts and helped bring george purvis enter the gang jumped bail in nineteen seventy nine and remained at large for over thirty years he was finally apprehended in twenty eleven and given a five year sentence. George purvis reportedly committed suicide in the mid two thousand over twenty years after entering the witness protection program bobby got the longest sentence and served the longest term twenty nine years. He has stated that this is the longest prison term in u._s. Less history for a non violent marijuana offender but he points out that others who are currently in prison may eventually surpass him. He has has used the decades since his release to advocate in florida for medical marijuana focusing specifically on drumming up support among senior citizens and his efforts have paid off in march of two thousand nineteen florida finally legalized medical marijuana the black tuna a gang was the first big drug smuggling group to be taken down in the government's war on drugs in the wake of the black tunas demise other smugglers mugler's learn some valuable lessons why fill a boat full of pungent bales of marijuana when a backpack full of unscented cocaine is is cheaper easier and far more valuable a blizzard of cocaine was already moving into south florida by the time bobby and the black tunas is were arrested in the following decade drug cartels would coat the streets of miami in white powder and violence as the war on drugs eggs escalated the cartels developed an organizational sophistication that made the exploits of the black tuna gang seem quaint in the years since he has been released from prison. Bobby has argued that the federal government blue the black tuna gang story out of proportion bobby stated that even the name lack tuna was invented by the feds. They never used such a name. He also claims that the gang didn't move anywhere close to the million pounds of weed they were accused of. He says it was about one tenth of that amount bobby. Bob claimed that the sophisticated communications equipment the government accused them of using was nothing more than cheap radio shack parts. The fleet of yachts jason airplanes was exaggerated and the dozens of supposed- employees were really just friends acquaintances and fishing buddies at the time of the investigation gatien the d._a. Had only been around for a few years and was being threatened with dissolution. Bobby and his supporters argue that the d._a. We needed a big sensationalized story to justify their existence inventing a sophisticated drug cartel and then busting it was was all part of a bigger scheme to get headlines and remain relevant the d._a. Is always maintained that its depiction of the gang was accurate bays as donuts evidence and informant testimony but today even some of the government's prosecutors admitted that the black tunas were small fish compared to the cartels that came after them john f brown junior who was part of the prosecuting team has stated the black tuna gang seemed more like the keystone cops than slick masterminds weather bobby platt shorn and the black tuna gang were sophisticated criminal drug smugglers or s- storeowners just trying to make money with they're fishing buddies. One thing is certain they paid a high price for their good times for more information on robert platt shorn amongst many sources we used used we found his autobiography black tuna diaries extremely helpful to our research. Thanks again for listening to kingpins. We will be back next week with another thrilling episode. You can find more episodes of kingpins and all other park has originals for free on spotify. Not only does spotify already have all of your favorite music but now spotify is making it easy for you to enjoy all of your favorite podcast originals like kingpins for free from your phone desktop or smart speaker to stream kingpins on spotify. Just open the app tap rows and type kingpins in the search bar and don't forget to follow us on facebook and instagram at par cast and twitter at podcast network doc. We'll see you next time. Kingpins was created by max cutler and is a production of cutler media and is part of the podcast network work. It is produced by max ron cutler sound designed by andy weights with production assistance by ron shapiro and paul molitor additional production assistance by maggie admire and carly madden kingpins is written by scott christmas and stars kate leonard and how will be sure to check out today in true crime every day covers a different true crime event from history search and subscribe to today and true crime on spotify and anywhere you listen to podcasts.