I really enjoyed the Cocaine Cowboys documentary. So I won’t front like it did not sadden me to find out that drug dealer Jon Pernell Roberts who was featured in the documentary recently passed from cancer.
Jon Pernell Roberts, the megasmuggler featured in the documentary Cocaine Cowboys, died at the age of 63. From the looks of what I read he was a pretty mean guy.
Film company Rakontur’s Billy Corben tweeted yesterday: “Just got word that Jon Roberts from Cocaine Cowboys passed away. Thankful he gave us the opportunity to tell his story.” And the singer Akon, the old coke smuggler’s unlikely friend, tweeted, “Rest in Peace to Jon Roberts! Original Cocaine Cowboy! A true brother! I will miss u man!”
Roberts suffered through a lengthy battle with cancer. He was married to a younger woman named Noemi and had an adolescent son from a previous marriage. By all accounts cantankerous and often evil — in his recently published memoir, American Desperado, he admitted to one murder and alluded to several others — Roberts at points eulogized himself in the book: “I’m going to suffer because of what I’ve done to people in life. Why would whoever controls the universe let me die peacefully in bed? I’m going to have a horrible, horrible death.”
Originally from a Mafia-connected family in New York, Roberts served a tour in Vietnam. According to his memoir, he spent much of it skinning people alive. He made hundreds of millions of dollars smuggling cocaine for the Medellín Cartel into Miami in the ’80s, and claimed to be a close crony of Pablo Escobar.
After being ratted out by smuggling partner Max Mermelstein, Roberts spent three years in prison. His sentence was short because he also cooperated with the government, he admitted in the memoir.
Released in 1995, he was sent back to prison two years later in an episode that was vintage Jon Roberts. Fort Lauderdale cops responded to a complaint he was stalking his ex-girlfriend. When they attempted to arrest him at gunpoint, he kicked the officers and ran two blocks with his arms handcuffed behind him, leaving a trail of hundred dollar bills. After being pepper-sprayed, he kicked out the back windows of squad cars and escaped — twice. The officers eventually hogtied him in order to take him to jail.
He achieved a bizarre sort of celebrity after the 2006 release of Cocaine Cowboys. A Paramount Pictures film about his life, produced by Peter Berg and starring Mark Wahlberg, has been in pre-production for years.
RIP Jon Roberts. Thanks for the story. If you have never seen Cocaine Cowboys Part 1 you are missing out!