"We obviously broke the law," says Willie the Hog, "but to the day I die, I'm going to feel like I was a political prisoner."
In the 1970s, Les Riley and Barry Foy co-ran a crew known as the Gentlemen Smugglers that included the likes of Robert "Willie the Hog" Bauer, W. Pickney Greene and Skip Sanders. For more than a decade, these South Carolina-based gents kept the eastern seaboard high with the finest Caribbean smoke from Colombia and Jamaica, smuggling in more than a quarter-million pounds by 1983. An ambitious federal attorney named Henry McMaster—now South Carolina's governor—wanted to make a name for himself, and he targeted the Gentlemen Smugglers, a name given to the crew for its exceptional manners and aversion to violence. The massive manhunt that eventually took Willey and company down represents the first major battle in the Nixonian drug war.
"They can never take our memories away," says Willie, who notes that each bale of cannabis had the same value as a new BMW. "They can do whatever they want, but they're never going to take that out of our brains unless they give us lobotomies."
The Gentlemen Smugglers series is based on the bestselling 2011 book Jackpot: High Times, High Seas, and the Sting That Launched the War on Drugs by journalist Jason Ryan.