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John roubas

John Roubas

Real Name: John Scott Roubas
Aliases: John Bird, John Kachiroubas, Michael Hildebrand, Lawrence Esposito
Wanted For: Drug Trafficking
Missing Since: March 1988


Details: Thirty-seven-year-old John Roubas was the ringleader of a multimillion dollar drug network. Although he was supposedly murdered in 1988, some believe that he faked his death to avoid capture. On March 7, flames consumed a late model car that had apparently been abandoned in a remote corner of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The next morning, local authorities found the remains of a body charred beyond recognition in the back seat of the car. The only evidence that might eventually lead to an I.D. of the victim was a fragment of jaw bone and four loose teeth recovered from the ashes. One week later, an anonymous informant told police that the dead man was Roubas.
Headquartered in Puerto Rico, Roubas’ drug operation had a virtual monopoly on cocaine and marijuana distribution in the Midwestern United States. According to Michael Kochmanski, Chief of IRS Criminal Investigations, investigators were able to obtain dental records from Roubas’ dentist in Florida. They shipped the records to a pathologist in Puerto Rico. He identified the loose teeth found in the car as belonging to Roubas.
For years, Roubas had eluded law enforcement in several countries. Now, fire had apparently accomplished what the law could not. He was finally “out of business.” Or was he? It began with a few whispered rumors. But in the months that followed the grisly discovery in Puerto Rico, authorities began to suspect that the fiery death of Roubas was, in fact, a cunning hoax – a ruse to avoid prosecution. “Richard”, a former member of his inner circle, claims that he is very much alive and is busy as ever.
Roubas has been involved in drug trafficking and smuggling for decades. In the 1970s, he was involved in a large-scale drug smuggling operation in New Jersey. In November 1977, he and two others were arrested after a boat filled with $1.8 million worth of drugs ran aground along the Cohansey River. While at the police station, he slipped out of his handcuffs and escaped. He was re-arrested a few hours later.
Roubas later pleaded guilty to his involvement in the New Jersey operation. In April 1981, he was given a three-year suspended sentence. Incredibly, he later sued the state police, trying to get back $20,000 of drug money that had been seized during his arrest. His lawsuit was unsuccessful. After his arrest and release, he decided to start building his own drug operation.
Roubas’ sprawling empire operated with military precision. A fleet of small airplanes ferried tons of cocaine and marijuana from secret plantations deep in the jungles of Colombia, Panama, and Jamaica. The flights converged on Puerto Rico. The drugs were repackaged and then shipped into the United States through Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Chicago, Illinois. Between 1981 and 1985, he slipped an estimated $30 million worth of drugs into the United States. At least $6 million of it was sold in the Milwaukee area.
The Roubas operation was a model of efficiency. At prearranged times, illicit cargoes arriving from South America were dropped just off the coast of Puerto Rico. Small boats were already in place waiting to retrieve the drugs. In most cases, he was “hands-on” with the drug trafficking. He was often at the Puerto Rican beaches when the drugs arrived. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Agent Jerry Snyder says that while most of the high-echelon drug traffickers stayed in the background, Roubas came to the foreground and actively got involved in the distribution process.
The drugs were brought from the beach to a hidden processing plant in the Puerto Rican highlands. There, the large bundles were broken down into one-pound packages that were placed in coffee cans, which allowed them to be smuggled into the United States. Richard says that Roubas is one of the craftiest people he has ever met. He says that Roubas’ ability to smuggle drugs into the United States unmolested was incredible. Roubas smuggled successfully for several years. There was no wiretapping or anything of that nature.
Richard says Roubas ran a “real stiff” organization. According to Chief Kochmanski, Roubas was very ruthless, which is typical in the drug business. They have to gain the respect of others through fear. And Roubas was very good at it. In one notorious incident, he became suspicious of one of his pilots, believing that he was running his own smuggling operation using a company plane.
Roubas noticed that the pilot was taking twice as long and using twice as much fuel. The pilot claimed there was a problem with the plane, but Roubas did not believe him. Roubas pointed a gun at the pilot’s face and said, “What do you think it would take for me to pull the trigger?” Surprisingly, he let the pilot leave.
Roubas ruled with such an iron hand that it took investigators years to penetrate the organization, locate the hidden processing plant, and close in on him. By December 1987, authorities in the United States had enough evidence to charge thirty-seven members of the ring. Every one of them was arrested except Roubas. He seemed to have vanished into thin air. Three months later, the charred remains found in the car were identified as his based solely on the four teeth found at the scene.
In the United States, the outstanding charges against Roubas were dropped. In Puerto Rico, police uncovered a vendetta that had apparently led to the murder of the fugitive drug lord. Donald Kurtzer, a former associate of his, was convicted of masterminding the hit. Allegedly, Roubas was killed in retaliation for raping both Kurtzer’s girlfriend and the fourteen-year-old daughter of Kurtzer’s housekeeper.
According to Puerto Rican authorities, on the night of his death, Roubas arrived at the airport in San Juan. He was met there by two women, one of whom was ultimately convicted in the case. Although he rarely drank, he was said to be heavily intoxicated. Explaining that they had an unexpected errand, the women drove him to a deserted area on the outskirts of town. They then left him in the car and walked away.
Moments later, two men approached the car. One shot Roubas twice, while the other began pouring gasoline into and around the vehicle. Finally, they set it on fire and left the scene. Officially, Roubas ceased to exist – officially. But a few months later, his former associate, Richard, received a call from a dead man. He says he has no doubt that the caller was Roubas. They had known each other for a long period of time. So, he knew his voice well.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Kanter says he also began to receive information through some of the co-defendants in Roubas’ case. They said that he was alive; some claimed to have seen and/or talked to him. One of their wives said she had received a phone call from a person that she identified as Roubas.
Authorities have another reason to believe Roubas is still alive: he was simply too smart to let himself be trapped. Chief Kochmanski says that, because of the business he was involved in, Roubas was a very suspicious individual. He took a lot of precautions to protect himself. He never traveled alone. When he did travel, he was always armed. Chief Kochmanski says the facts of the murder case did not fit well with what they knew about Roubas.
Two people have served time in Puerto Rican prisons for Roubas’ murder. But was he truly the victim? Or was someone else assassinated in his place? Kanter says Roubas was fully capable of staging his own death and may well have had his own teeth extracted in order to accomplish a false identification of a body. Kanter says there is substantial reason to believe Roubas is still alive.
Richard is certain that Roubas staged his death. He says he knows Roubas very well and says he is a “very mystique” type of guy. He says one thing Roubas would never do was corner himself in a situation where he could not get out. He says Roubas always had an exit that most people did not know about. He says the bottom line is that Roubas still “rides.”
Informants claim Roubas may have changed his hair color to avoid being recognized. Authorities are also seeking two former Roubas associates: thirty-seven-year-old Adolph Altuve and forty-eight-year-old Jose Andrini-Varga.
Extra Notes:

  • This case first aired on the October 2, 1994 episode.
  • Roubas' associate was given the fictitious name "Richard" and was interviewed in silhouette.
  • It has some similarities to the case of Wallace Thrasher.

Results: Solved - DNA from the jaw fragment found in the car matched Roubas’ teeth, indicating that he was, in fact, the person who had been killed in the vehicle in 1988. However, some people are still convinced that he evaded justice.