War Story

One afternoon as I toiled as a forensic chemist in DEA’s Northeast Lab in New York, two agents came in, quite excited. They were getting a large amount of cocaine “just off the boat”, a big deal in the early 70’s. Could I hang around past quitting time so I could analyse some stuff they were getting on consignment? Sure.

A short time later, they arrived with a baggie of white powder. I ran some tests; yes, it was coke, all right, but had been “stepped on” (cut), and only assayed maybe 30% or so. They were not happy, to say the least. They asked me if I’d stay around, while they went back to the seller. Again, a short time went by, and they were back. This time, I told them the stuff wasn’t pure as the driven snow, but assayed about 75% . They said this was fine, and were about to go back and complete the purchase and subsequent bust. Thanks, Rog! I said wait a minute- what are you telling this creep? How are you testing purity? The reply: “We tell him we feed the stuff to the house junkie, and if he keels over, it’s good stuff”. You’ve got to be kidding me- would anyone fall for that? One of them, special Agent Howie Safir, told me, “you got to understand, Roger, that drug dealers are greedy and stupid”. Words to live by. I had only been with DEA a short time. What did I know?

By the way, in the fullness of time, Howard Safir went on to be a higher-up in the U.S. Marshalls Service, then became Police Commissioner in New York, during Rudy Guiliani’s term as mayor (I guess this was just before Tom Selleck got the job….). His partner, Ron Mockler, became a manager in the DEA New York office.

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