By David Amoruso for Gangsters Inc.
Branding is important. Even when you have a product as successful – and addictive - as cocaine. Though the stuff practically sells itself to everyone - from junkies and sports fans to Wall Street Gordon Gecko wannabes and vegan yoga instructors - it never hurts to add a little something to show your coke is superior.
How? you ask. Well, by adding something simple as a logo, for instance. In business visibility is everything. And though drug traffickers prefer to keep a low profile, it does help to expand their business when customers view their cocaine as the best – or most sellable – on the market and can recognize it just by laying eyes on it.
What better way then to add a logo to your brick of cocaine? Not only does the logo make clear whose product it is, due to certain cartels and groups using certain logos, but it also adds a certain stamp of approval. It does so either by making clear that a high-profile cartel is connected to the package or by adding a logo that is recognizable as a real-life organization or person.
Hitler shipped from Peru
Last week, police in Peru seized a shipment of 58 kilos of cocaine hidden in a load of asparagus on a ship headed to Europe at the port of Paita, a Peruvian city near the border with Ecuador. Sounds like nothing special, right? Until you lay eyes on the packages and see the Nazi flag.
Peruvian authorities said they had intercepted shipments with various logos before, but never one with such Nazi symbols.
Were traffickers smuggling the coke to a white supremacist crime group? Were they trying to say the product was as deadly and vicious as the Nazis? Who knows. The logo sure made it stand out, though.
Capo di tutti capi
The same can be said of the bricks that were seized in a drug raid in Sicily in March of this year. As police went through their haul of cash, hashish, marijuana, and cocaine at a warehouse in Marsala, a city on the western side of the island, they made an interesting discovery.
They found cocaine wrapped in plastic with the photos of Sicily’s most powerful and notorious Mafia bosses. The mugshots of Salvatore “Toto” Riina and recently captured boss of bosses Matteo Messina Denaro stared at you as you looked at the packages of coke.
Were the Mafia families of these two bosses involved in trafficking the shipments of cocaine and was this a way of showing that? Was it to make clear who ran Sicily? A way of saying: Our coke is elite? Top of the hill? The boss of bosses of cocaine? Or just a tongue in cheek joke by traffickers shipping coke to the home of Cosa Nostra?
- READ: “I pay for the surname I carry" - The loyal sisters of Sicilian Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro
Either way, those involved in the underworld will know the intended message. And customers might appreciate their line of cocaine’s link to two of Italy’s top mob bosses. It must be a good product then, no?
Still, using Adolf Hitler and his gang of Nazis or two of Italy’s most bloodthirsty Mafia bosses as advertisement for your cocaine might not sit right with all your customers. Better to use a less troubling brand of person as your logo.
Can I get some Ferrari in Florida?
Like Ferrari! Who doesn’t love the red, shiny, super-fast automobiles worth hundreds of thousands or more? Certainly everyone knows that logo stands for class and quality. No wonder that a drug organization in Orlando, Florida used Ferrari as one of the logos on its bricks of cocaine. Authorities noticed too and charged 13 individuals with large-scale drug trafficking conspiracy in April of this year.
The crew was involved in multiple drug trafficking operations distributing kilogram-quantities of cocaine and fentanyl. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) estimates that 91 kilograms of cocaine has been seized through the mail and traffic stops initiated during this investigation. In many of the intercepted communications between the suspected traffickers they referred to the “brand” or “logo” of the cocaine – anchor or Ferrari (right) – that was visible on the exterior of the packaging of the cocaine that was seized.
Playing ball with King James
But what if you are more of people person? Looking to connect with your line of cocaine? Then you might be more interested in the line of LeBron “King” James. Even if you’re not, you still know LeBron is the best basketball player in the world, so the cocaine bearing his name must be the best too.
That’s what a British crime group thought as it organized the shipment of hundreds of kilos of coke from South America into Europe in the summer of 2022. Each package was stamped with the number 23, James’ jersey number on the court. The bricks of cocaine were also stamped, but with the initials NBA (photo right).
- READ: The Untouchables: How Britain’s top gangsters got rich off armed robberies and smuggling tons of drugs
The product was sought after and the British traffickers bragged to an undercover cop that they had a direct line to the supplier of the LeBron coke in South America. Top quality! Unfortunately for this crew, the coke never got to its final destination as they were all busted by police in Greece and England.
These are just a few examples of the logos that traffickers use on their cocaine packages. There are many more and new ones will continue to pop up as each group tries to stay ahead of the competition. In such a cutthroat business branding is everything. Besides actually cutting throats of course.
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