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From Drug Cartels to Earning a Doctorate, The Remarkable Story of Jorge Valdes

After fleeing from Cuba with his family, Jorge Valdes finally reached the pseudo American dream, but in an unconventional way. Throughout his life he journeys from being an honors student and star at the Federal Reserve Bank of Miami to acquiring obscene wealth with the Medellin cocaine cartel and landing in federal prison. After being released, he turned his life around and earned his PhD and became a motivational speaker and author.On this episode of Full Disclosure, Valdes sits down with host Roben Farzad as he walks him through his incredible story.

Episode Excerpt

The following excerpt was edited for clarity.


Jorge Valdes: You know, the time I tried cocaine for the first time was when I left the cartel. When I left the cartel I got married and my wife at that time used drugs, and I had never ever used any drugs. I look back and when I talk about [addictions] today whether it's alcohol, cocaine, pornography, etc., they're, they're just nothing but remedies for one symptom. The symptom is that emptiness within us. That emptiness that we just can find meaning to things, and so we medicate, we medicate with many, many things. Well, to me at that time, I'm making millions of dollars. I was making one to three million dollars a month in 1977. When I was 21-years old, I had a fleet of yachts, jets, and dated the most beautiful women in the world. And the more I got Roben then emptier I felt, and I could not understand why now after I had reached my pseudo American dream. Now that had I everything anyone wanted to have, now that everyone wanted to be like me, why was I so empty? And eventually there was that period when I did try cocaine, but it must have lasted very shortly, because I have an addictive personality. So therefore, when I feel that something's gonna control me, I just don't let it. So I abandoned it pretty quickly.

Roben Farzad: In the book ‘Coming Clean,’ you did talk about your first cocaine run when you were in cahoots with the cartel in the late 70s. You wrote, before leaving Miami on my first cocaine run, I stopped to visit my parents While mom prepared dinner, I slipped into my parents bedroom, as memories of my mother praying so often in that room flooded my mind. I let down my guard and said in a hushed voice, quote, God, if you protect me in this deal that I'm about to do, I'm going to buy a better house for my parents. God, please make sure that nothing happens to me, you know that I'm not hurting anyone that the ones who buy this cocaine are rich people and movie stars. And then I'm not doing something immoral. Quote, I honestly thought that I was telling God the truth. Well, it wasn't easy to extricate yourself.

Valdes: No, no, it wasn't easy at all. So when I wrote this book, I was doing my PhD. And what took the longest writing the book was not writing the book, it was editing each of the chapters. You know, you've been through the process when you’ve got to cut pages and pages. And now again, I'm doing my thesis, so it was super time consuming. I never read the book after it was put together until I wrote my next book about a year and a half ago. So a lot of the God influences at the beginning were I think edited in by the publisher. But in my mind, I wasn't doing absolutely nothing wrong. You know, it was like, all I wanted was to buy my parents a better house. Eventually I ended up making millions and they refused. They lived and died in the same house. They bought their second house which they got after they came from Cuba. They never took a car from me, never took jewelry and never accepted a dollar. To them it was like, what you're doing doesn't please God, you're breaking our heart. But the beauty about my parents, just to deviate a second, and this is a message for parents out there. My parents were tough, very, very tough on me. But you know what, Roben? The minute they said what they had to say, they would say okay son, what do you want to eat? They let me know how they felt, they didn't waver. They did not cross the line, but at the same time, did not abandon me as their son. And that created a greater conflict in me because I couldn't handle ‘listen, you sorry human being, we sacrificed so much to give you a better life and you've thrown it all out the window.’ All my mom and dad said is you're killing us. But the minute she said that she would not harp on it anymore. Then it was like, why are you not here for dinner? Then I had to come home every day for dinner. So, that was the controversy in my life.



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