The gutted teddy bears were tossed everywhere, the slit carcasses and polyester innards strewn on the floor and kitchen table along with tens of thousands of dollars in fifties and hundreds — stacks of notes being tallied in an automatic money counter. On the table, there was a Glock .45, a Remington .308 sniper rifle, and scores of pharmaceutical vials containing thousands of opiate pills.
Standing at the threshold of a luxury condo in Tampa, Florida, Doug Dodd looked on in horror at the spectacle of a drug dealer’s den of iniquity. Dodd was only 19, a student taking business courses at a local community college — when he wasn’t busy being a big-time narcotics trafficker — but he could see the obvious: His best friend was out of control.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Dodd shouted, pointing at one of their high school friends sitting at the table. “What’s he doing here?” Lance Barabas looked up in surprise from counting the money, clearly stoned out of his mind. This was bad, Dodd knew — very, very bad. It was the summer of 2008, and for the past year, every month Dodd and Barabas were illegally moving an average of 20,000 OxyContin and Roxicodone pills to a network of dealers spread across the country — Tennessee, Alaska, South Carolina, New York. The two kids and their crew were making millions of dollars, but the business was overwhelming them. The teddy bears were how they transported cash, instructing their out-of-state dealers to cut open the bellies of the toys and stuff them with thousands of dollars and then ship them back to Florida by FedEx or UPS. The teddy-bear operation was supposed to be top secret, known only to their inner circle, but now an old high school buddy of theirs was sitting at the table watching Barabas add up the money — incredibly risky and stupid exposure, Dodd believed. At that moment, Dodd was carrying thousands of oxycodone pills — more than enough for a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence in Florida. But Barabas didn’t seem to care about security or rudimentary precautions.
“You’re just being paranoid,” Barabas said, gesturing to their friend. “He’s all right.”
“You’re going to get us busted,” Dodd said, clearly frustrated, dropping his load of pills and walking toward the door.
Dodd was beginning to despair of his best friend — known as the Little General for his short stature and Napoleonic tendencies. They’d wrestled together in high school for the Hudson Cobras, both bantam-size balls of muscle, with short hair gelled upward and a punkish attitude. They loved each other like brothers. But the Little General was getting more and more reckless. When they were out on business calls, he’d flash his Glock and threaten to kill anyone who crossed him. When they hit strip clubs, he’d dropped 2,000 bucks buying everyone drinks and lap dances to prove what a big-shot drug dealer he was. Crazy shit, Dodd thought — the kind of behavior that was destined to end with them in handcuffs.