Peter Madsen: So where does this start?
Brian: It starts with my moving from Long Island to Orlando, Florida. I wasn’t getting along with my immediate family, so I moved in with my grandpa and I started going to college. Then I met this guy at school. He pulls up in a Benz and he’s smoking some nice piff.
Some nice what?
Some nice weed. I had another group of friends that wanted me to pick up for them, so that’s how I started hanging out with these guys. I could tell they were up to something. I said to the boss-kid, “Listen, if you ever need me to do something, give me a call.” About a week later he calls at 9 in the morning. He tells me to meet them for breakfast because there would be $1,000 waiting for me. I go there, and he gives me the money. He says there would be another $5,000 waiting for me at the end of the day if I went along with them.
What did you do?
We robbed a coke dealer’s house.
That was what they would do. Once a month we’d rob a drug dealer and then we would go down to Miami for 30 days and live it up. Then we would come back up and rob somebody else and go back down.
How would you guys know whom to target?
The boss-kid, his uncle was a big coke dealer. He would sell coke to people, tell us where they went, and we’d rob them and sell it back to him.
Were there things you would or wouldn’t do?
At the time I was willing to do whatever I had to.
For acceptance into the crew. I didn’t have to pass through a gang-initiation where you have to go to a shopping mall and slash some person’s face or something; I had to successfully carry out a job.
Tell me about this first robbery.
We’re sitting outside of a kid’s house all day, snorting our guy’s uncle’s coke until the kid finally leaves his house and a car outside follows him. We go break a window, but it turns out to be his neighbor. We break into the right house. We had been instructed to go take drugs and money but to not touch any guns — and there are guns everywhere. We go upstairs to the closet, take the shoeboxes and get back into the car. We drive down the street and the boss-kid gets into another car, and we take two different ways back to the house. We get home and realize we have two and a half bricks of cocaine, about $80,000 in cash, $50,000 in pills — just tons and tons of shit. We bring the drugs back to Miami and sell them to this kid’s uncle and get cashed out. With that money the crew bought a boat, a Range Rover — we had money out the ass. We would buy these things but the uncle would register them in his name.
You guys were all pretty young.
Oh, yeah. I was 18, 19, 20.
Did your crew have a name?
No. Not then.
How often would you guys hang out?
Oh, all day, every day. Once you’re doing shit like that, you have so much heat on you, you have to be with your boys all the time. Always with a gun — or a few.
Did your grandfather know what you were up to?
He had an idea. I mean, I stopped living with him because I was making so much money I started living with my boys.
Wait, so what happened to that first coke dealer you robbed?
So it turns out the neighbor lady called the cops about the attempted break-in. The cops came, walked around her house and see her neighbor’s broken window as well. They see all the guns he has lying around, so they arrest the kid. They search the house, they find another 10 bricks of cocaine under the floor. That kid is now in jail for 10, 15 years.
This is out of a movie.
Yeah. So we would do a lick like that and go live on the rooftop at the Fontainebleau — it’s the nicest hotel in Miami — for 20, 30 days. There’s a club in there, and we would go to the beach every day. Then at night we would switch off dropping $5,000, $10,000 at the door of a club and go in on bottles and everything. These were just crazy, fun times. I worked with these guys for a minute; then I left that life down there after I went on a 36-day ecstasy binge — that was 10 pills a day, which is a lot — but in Miami you can do that because clubs literally never close. [Chuckles.] I decided it was enough, and I came home.
After all that E you must have wanted to kill yourself.
Exactly, yeah. I literally did. I had never been so depleted — and I have done a lot of shit. [Pauses.] It was crazy. By this point there was a lot of heat on our crew, so I came back to New York and found an apartment in the Lower East Side and paid for it in cash. I actually enrolled in a trade school and became an electrician. Meanwhile, my crew robbed a pharmacy warehouse of 500,000 Xanax.
What does that look like?
That was like a pallet of 5,000 cases of Xanax. It was a crate. My being from New York, I had connections at schools like Syracuse, Albany, Buffalo, Binghamton, even Arizona: drug schools. Some schools could take 20,000 pills every week. It was a lot. My Florida crew would send me 20,000–30,000 pills a week — 50,000, depending on what I would order.
How did you ship? UPS?
At first, that’s how it would come until we lost a few packages in the mail. Then they would bring them up by person to my apartment in the Lower East Side. People would come there and pick them up. I was working that 9-to-5 and coming home to this side-hustle. I was making a lot of money.
What precautions would you take?
I would change shitty cellphones once a week. I would always move around, go on vacations — it was the life.
How long was this period?
The selling of Xanax went on for six months. They moved 200,000 elsewhere and I sold 200,000–300,000. [Laughs.] Yeah, man, we did some big deals, like $75,000 off just one. We would average $20,000 a week.
So how did you come across people to do deals with?
I mean, there were consistent people. There was this one kid in Albany who would come down every Wednesday for 20,000 tablets. I had friends from high school who were then all going to those schools, so I would work with them — I wasn’t just sending this shit to anyone. And they had off-shore accounts. It was a matter of doing things under $10,000.
You would do this through legit bank accounts?
Yeah, you would do it under $10,000, and you would use Western Union or MoneyGram.
What was the most amount of stuff you ever had at your place at the same time?
In that apartment? A lot of guns: an assault rifle, two shotguns, two or three handguns. I had literal pillowcases filled with 20,000–30,000 Xanax, $70,000–$80,000 in cash. Pounds of weed. I mean, my apartment was a storehouse. It was where the stuff would come to and where it would be taken from.
Did you ever worry about getting robbed?
It never happened but I did worry — that’s why I had a bunch of guns in my apartment. Whenever we had a deal, I would have a gun in my waistband. But I had a sandbag shotgun in case I got robbed. I didn’t want a dead body on the floor — the sandbag would just knock them out.
There must have been times of terrible anxiety, though.
You know, I was so fucked up on drugs at the time it was a blur. I would take so many Xanax and smoke some weed, coke, whatever ... I didn’t even know what I was doing. After that I would get requests for 5,000 here or there, but that wasn’t nearly enough to supply the demand I had, so we just fell off with it.
What did you do with all your money?
I bought a Dodge Charger and a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. I went to Jamaica three times, I got a Siberian Husky I named Joxie, and I did a lot of OxyContin. My friends would come over, and I would take out pillowcases of Xanax, and we’d each swallow a handful. I was using a lot of dope, like heroin. When you’re living in the Lower East Side, it’s easy to get mixed up in that shit. So now my car is gone and my friend has Joxie. It was fun while it lasted, but I’m thankful to still be alive — and not in prison. I don’t have anything to show for it except the motorcycle, which I’m also selling; I actually got a phone call about it today.
Where were your parents during all of this?
They didn’t know where I lived. They had no clue. I was so fucked up, I just completely cut myself off from them.
Aside from the spent money, all this seems so free of repercussion.
Yeah [chuckles], luckily. I mean, for me it was; not for everyone. I didn’t even know that repercussions were landing on people. One of my boys was driving a high-end Turbo in South Beach in broad daylight when he got lit up by four dudes with AK-47s. The thing is, there is so much poverty down there you can pay people to do anything. They say there is more crime in New York, but I never saw so much shit as when I was in Florida.
How many of your crew are still doing this?
Well, a lot of them are in hiding because of the DEA, the FBI. One is working on an oil rig. One is doing roofing in Arkansas. Another one is in South Carolina doing fishing charters. They just don’t use credit cards; only cash. So they’re in hiding. These kids stayed in the life, and they were in Florida where it was so hot I left the state.
You didn’t worry about any of that heat from Florida coming back to you?
What I worried about is certain people finding my family. If anybody did search for me, my parents’ address would be what would turn up. So I warned my family a lot. My dad had a gun, legally, in the house, just in case.
Did you ever tell your parents what you had been doing?
At the end of it I was sick and tired of everything, so I came flat out and told them. I was still in the LES, but I wasn’t working. I was so fucked up on drugs. I needed to go to rehab, so I called my parents. [Pause.] Oxys are the one thing I’m a slave to.
How many days do you have?
[Chuckles.] Now, I mean, I have been back and forth with this shit. I’ve been clean for three weeks now.
Why do you think TV shows and movies about organized crime are so popular?
It’s entertaining. A lot of people think about that life, but not too many people get to live it, to experience it.
Do you feel a sense of validation for having lived a life that is so celebrated by our society?
No, no. I’m not proud of what I did — by any means. There are people still in jail, there are people who are dead or are drinking through straws for the rest of their lives because of shit that we did to them. Why did we have to rob them? I should have gone out and gotten a job like everyone else.
Do you worry about an investigation catching up with you and your crew?
I still worry about that. You never know what they’re going to find. The boss-kid got busted about a year ago. He posted bail by putting one of his houses up and ran. Like, these kids have so much money. They had houses, they had stash houses, they had grow houses. I mean, now he’s got the DEA all over him. I’m not too concerned about what I did, just because I know there was no police activity when I was down there, and when I was up here there really wasn’t any heat. If anything I would be worried about somebody I robbed still holding a grudge. I mean, there are plenty of people who want my head right now. I ran into someone like that recently but thank god I was with like 10 people and he was alone.
Do you ever see yourself going back to that kind of life?
There are times when I miss the money, but that’s about it. If I ever did anything again I would just set up deals. I still know people, I know the suppliers. So I would just middleman it and take a cut.
Are you thinking about going back to college?
Weed, coke, heroin, molly, promethazine, crack, PCP, LCD, opium, hashish, mushrooms and countless other illicit substances flood the streets of New York City, where they are consumed as quickly as they can be delivered.
For Dealers, street reporter Peter Madsen set out across New York City — from staid Gramercy residences to bleak homeless hangouts, grimy Bushwick bike messenger bars and tony Park Avenue penthouses — to interview this particular criminal class. Through anonymous one-on-one interviews with an alarmingly wide host of subjects (including a transient heroin-addict supporting his habit, cute art-school girls running a weed lounge, a connection-ready concierge, fixed-gear weed couriers, stick-up kids and a lawyer who deals on the side), Madsen extracts un-glamorized, sometimes hilarious and always nuanced accounts of the navigators of New York City's expansive drug underworld. Demand never ceases to grow, and where there is demand, there will always be plenty of outlaw capitalists willing to step up and supply.