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Monday, June 22, 2009

Chemical Cowboys - The DEA's Mission to Hunt Down a Nortorious Ecstasy Kingpin by Lisa Sweetingham

Publisher: Ballentine Books / Random House
Pages: 442

Release Date: February 24, 2009
(images and blurb from
From the Cover: For nearly a decade, Ecstasy kingpin Oded Tuito was the mastermind behind a drug ring that used strippers and Hassidic teenagers to mule millions of pills from Holland to the party triangle—Los Angeles, New York, and Miami.

Chemical Cowboys is a thrilling journey through the groundbreaking undercover investigations that led to the toppling of a billion-dollar Ecstasy trafficking network— starting in 1995 when New York DEA Agent Robert Gagne infiltrated club land to uncover a thriving drug scene supported by two cultures: pill-popping club kids and Israeli dealers.

Gagne’s obsessive mission to take down Tuito’s network met unexpected challenges and personal discoveries that almost crippled his own family.Weaved into the narrative are the stories of Tuito’s underlings who struggled with addiction as they ran from the law, and the compelling experiences of a veteran Israeli police officer who aided Gagne while chasing after his own target—a violent Mob boss who saw the riches to be made in Ecstasy and began to import his own pills and turf warfare to the U.S.

Chemical Cowboys offers a taut, behind-the-scenes glimpse into an international criminal enterprise as daring as it is deadly.

Our story starts out in 1973 with then President Nixon declaring an all out war on drugs, and bring into existence the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), almost a misnomer. As Lisa begins her story, she gives the background information of the DEA agents involved in this sweeping crime drama. Special Agents Robert Gagne (Gags) and Matt Germanowski are long time hard liners. Brought up through the ranks for Special Ops Forces, each as seen their share of death and destruction, each carry the weight of deaths of fellow soldiers, officers, agents and friends. Heroine, Cocaine, Crack -- all the drugs of choice for those looking to make quick money in the States. But now a new drug as arrived, Ecstasy, a tiny little pill sometimes stamped with cute little pictures in a multitude of colors, sometimes deadly enough to take out a whole party of teenagers, Kiddie Dope. Nightclub thorough fare, easily attainable, available for $5, $10, $20 a pop. But now it's not just the South American Drug Cartel involved in importing drugs. It has become a worldwide game, Israelis and other Middle Eastern countries involved, terrorists of another sort have arrived on the shores of America declaring of a different kind of war, leaving a wake of death even of rivals. Mob involvement from around the world, drugs are a big business. One drug kingpin attracts Gagne's attention above the others and it's the Tuito family. A ruthless druglord out to make as much money as possible, creating a powerful base and network, leaving fear in his wake. It's Gagne's wish to see the end of this inhuman being.

Chemical Cowboys by Lisa Sweetingham is crime drama with teeth. She is able to pull the reader, even unwillingly, into the web of crime that is the underworld of the drug culture. The characters in this story are real life cops in life and death situations. This is my first foray into true crime drama, but Chemical Cowboys left me wondering if it will be my last. The mystery and surprises that unfold for the reader are what has really happened. Ms. Sweetingham is able to recreate the underbelly of criminal activity that Drug Enforcement agents have to live with everyday and the criminals that become part of their daily existence. The struggles that they and their families have to endure. How some of the agents limit involvement of family, separate from friends and family, just so they have less to worry about, there's less to lose if you don't have anything to start with. It gives the reader a glimpse into the real world of criminal drug activity in the United States and aboard. Chemical Cowboys was an involved, exciting read pulling at the reader's emotions. The pain, agonizing loss, and the hope of catching and incarceration of criminals is felt throughout the book. If you are a fan of true crime drama, then Chemical Cowboys is the book for you. For more information about Lisa Sweetingham, please visit her website.


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