George Jung, a Small-Town Boy Who Made $100 million and Lost It All

Updated on May 20, 2017

Who Is George Jung?

The name "George Jung" probably doesn't ring a bell when you first hear it. However, his life story is definitely a very intriguing one. George Jung (aka Boston George) was probably the largest smuggler of cocaine in American history. During the 70's and 80's he made hundreds of millions, working as a middleman for the Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and his Medellin Cartel. It was Jung's expertise to smuggle the cocaine out of Colombia and bring it safely to a distributor in the USA. However, because of some wrong decisions and trusting the wrong people, Jung got arrested and lost his whole fortune. He still remains in prison until this very day and his projected release date is on November 27, 2014.

The life story of George Jung has been featured in both a book and a movie. Especially the movie "Blow", directed by Ted Demme was a big hit and made George famous all over the world. The leading roles in the movie were performed by Johnny Depp as Jung and Penelope Cruz as Jung's wife.

The Biography of George Jung

George Jacob Jung was born on August 6, 1942 in a middle class family in the neighborhood of Boston. Nothing indicated that George would be making millions of dollars before his 35th birthday. On the contrary, except for football, George didn't really excel at anything in high school.

After finishing high school, George started studying at the University of Southern Mississippi. Again, George took little interest in his studies and instead started experimenting with marijuana. It were the sixties after all. Everywhere across the USA, young people started revolting against the conservative system and the government. And the recreational use of soft drugs was definitely one way to show it.

George dropped out of university and decided to travel to California together with his childhood friend 'Tuna'. A new world opened up for them. The sun, the beach, the beautiful girls and... cheap soft drugs were everywhere available! There was no way that George would go back to grey and cold New England. California became his new home!

His First Smuggling Years

Soon after his move to the Californian sun, George met a guy named Richard Barile. Barile was not only the most popular male hairdresser on Manhattan Beach, but also one of its busiest marijuana dealers. Barile wanted to expand and George knew exactly where to find a market: back home in New England! A perfect plan. Not only was it hard to find marijuana on the East Coast back in the 70s. It was also a lot more expensive than in California, where there was a large supply coming in from Mexico.

George and Richard decided to go in business together. First, they smuggled the marijuana to Boston in the suitcase of a friend stewardess. Later on, they would use a camper car to smuggle even larger quantities back to the east coast. George started making more money than he had ever dreamed of. But soon enough, in 1974, he got arrested for the first time, while driving a transport of 660 pounds of Canabis.

Carlos Lehder
Carlos Lehder

Pablo Escobar and the Medellin Cartel

After his arrest, George was sent to Danbury prison in Connecticut where he had to share a cell with a guy named Carlos Lehder. Since both of them were imprisoned for smuggling, soon they started making plans to go in business together once they were released. The idea was to smuggle cocaine from Columbia to the USA for an organisation that was called the Medellin Cartel.

Carlos Lehder had lived in Columbia before. (In fact, he has a mixed German / Columbian background.) And more important, he had connections with Pablo Escobar, the leader of the Medellin Cartel and the most notorious drugs lord in human history. George Jung on the other hand knew the right distributor in the USA, his former business partner Richard Barile. This combination proved to be perfect. Soon after their release from prison Lehder and Jung started smuggling enormous amounts of cocaine from Columbia to Florida. The transport was usually done by small private airplanes that picked up the cocaine in Columbia and transported it to an island close to US soil. From there, small speed boats completed the transport to Florida.

Jung and Lehder made millions with these transports and it was not uncommon that they would receive $15 million dollar for one successful run. The sky was the limit! It's estimated that both accumulated a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars while just being the middle men.

Unfortunately, there is no happy ending for George. Driven by greed, Lehder betrayed his business partner and cut him out of the cocaine trade.

Downfall and Imprisonment

After being betrayed by his business partner, George decided to work solo and do some smaller cocaine transports for the Medellin Cartel. Around that time, the government started taking the cocaine problem more and more serious and they decided to gather information and evidence against Jung. During a birthday party at his home, the DEA arrested him and several pounds of cocaine were found in his possession. George skipped bail and fled the country, but all of his bank accounts got frozen by the DEA. Having no money, George had no other option then doing more cocaine transports. Betrayal again crossed his path. This time, it was a long time friend and pilot of one of his transports who was working together with the DEA. George got arrested again. And this time he had lost everything: his money and his freedom.

George Jung is currently still in prison. He is locked up in the Federal Correctional Institute in Texas and his expected release date is November 27, 2014.

More About George Jung

As mentioned before, George Jung's life story was featured in both a book and a movie. The book, written by Bruce Porter, was first published in 1993. And in 2001, the hit movie 'Blow', directed by Ted Demme, was released to the big public. Both the book and the movie are highly recommended. But if I had to pick one, I would recommend to buy the book. Bruce Porter is a great writer and he did a lot of research to get his story together, interviewing friends, business partners and even ex-girlfriends of George Jung.

George Jung on YouTube

It's quite hard to find actual video footage of the real George Jung. The only worthwhile footage that I could find was an interview with him right after the release of the movie Blow in 2001. The interview is performed by Ted Demme (who directed Blow) in Otisville Federal Prison, where Jung was locked up at the time. Interesting to note is that Ted Demme passed away from a heart attack less then a year after this interview. He collapsed during a game of basketball. Traces of cocaine were found in his blood afterwards, which could have caused the heart attack.

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