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How Drug Lord Changed His Face


Science has determined that Nicholas Cage
is the greatest actor of our time, and possibly of all history-past, present and future. During his distinguished Hollywood career,
Cage has portrayed the full range of the human experience: from angrily yelling at bees to
angrily yelling at terrorists. Yet turns out one of his films had its premise
based on real history, just like Hollywood hits Schindler’s List, Lincoln, and Pacific
Rim 2: Uprising. That movie is Face/Off, and today we’re going
to look at the real-life face swap a powerful Mexican cartel leader pulled off in an attempt
to evade the feds. For those of you who might not remember the
Nicholas Cage movie Face/Off, or perhaps never saw it because your taste in film is terrible,
Face/Off is the heartwarming story of an FBI agent played by John Travolta, swapping faces
with a terrorist, Nicholas Cage, in order to foil a terrorist plot. Wacky hijinks ensue when the terrorist has
his gang force the surgeon who performed the face swap to graft the FBI agent’s face on
him. It’s sort of like a Freaky Friday with guns
and terrorists. We’ll wait if you want to pause this video
and go watch it right now, but for those of you with good taste in movies who’ve already
seen it we’ll continue our episode as planned. Juan Carlos Ramirez Ramirez was born on February
19th, 1963 in Palmira, Colombia. He was born to a fairly well-to-do upper middle
class family, and was renowned as a child for his great manners and intelligence, excelling
at school work. After serving with the Colombian Navy for
a few years, Ramirez moved to Miami and studied at the University of Miami and got a degree
in economics and then a masters in business administration. In 1986 this mild-mannered and educated young
man began to get into drug trafficking, working for the Cali Cartel. Ramirez may have once been a well-mannered
child, but his reputation quickly grew violent, and it’s believed that ultimately he had as
many as 150 people killed on his orders, many of them inside the United States. One of his most violent acts was the murder
of a whopping thirty five members of Victor Patino’s family, a former member of the Cali
Cartel who had turned informant. After being caught, Patino offered to give
up details of the Cali Cartel’s operations in Colombia and the US, including smuggling
routes, methods, safe houses, and accomplices. While it was a gold mine for the authorities,
who gave Patino leniency in sentencing in exchange for the intelligence, the act ultimately
saw most of Patino’s family killed by Ramirez in retaliation. In the early 1990s, Ramirez had made quite
a reputation for himself and had a wide array of traffickers working for him to get his
drugs into the US and beyond. It was then that he was approached by the
infamous drug boss Joaquin El Chapo Guzman, who offered to move drugs faster and safer
throughout South America and finally into the US. While other traffickers wanted 37% cut of
profits, El Chapo asked for 40%- and when you’re talking about hundreds of millions
of dollars, that’s quite a steep three percent. Yet El Chapo promised that he could not only
move drugs safer, and reduce the amount that were discovered by authorities, but that he
could do it quicker. At the time Ramirez’s traffickers were taking
a month or more to move drugs into the US and routinely running into difficulties with
law enforcement. With an extensive network of smugglers, secret
tunnels, aircraft, trucks, and bribed officials on both sides of the border, El Chapo cut
down the time to get large shipments of drugs across the border from up to 60 days, to just
a single week. Even better for Ramirez, while on the Mexico
side the smugglers were often met and protected by Mexican government Federales who had been
paid off to keep the smugglers safe from both law enforcement and rival cartels. With a fast pass into the US, Ramirez’s drug
empire exploded. His drugs would make their way to Los Angeles,
and from there they were then distributed amongst local networks and the remainder shipped
to New York in trucks and hidden in regular civilian vehicles. Once arriving in New York, the drugs were
once more disseminated amongst distribution networks, with cash being shipped back to
Los Angeles and then back to Ramirez across the border. At the height of his smuggling, Ramirez was
bringing in multi-thousand kilograms of cocaine into the US, and this very quickly led to
his being targeted by the American DEA and Colombian authorities. The heat became so intense that Ramirez was
forced to go into hiding in Brazil, where he owned many luxurious properties. Believing he could get a better deal for himself,
and that he would ultimately be discovered anyways, Ramirez decided to turn himself in
to Colombian police in 1996. Rumors persist however that Ramirez’s enemies
were closing in on him as well, and many even within his own cartel wanted him gone. By the time of his arrest, Ramirez was believed
to have smuggled in as much as twenty metric tons of cocaine into the US, making him one
of the most prolific traffickers in history. Ramirez was sentenced to 24 years in prison,
but as most drug lords do, he continued running his empire from behind prison bars largely
unfazed by the change in scenery. Just three years later, Ramirez was given
an early release because the Colombian justice system is totally not corrupt and hey, he
probably learned his lesson anyways. The United States though was far from impressed,
and very quickly set to work on capturing Ramirez for themselves. With the US after him, Ramirez knew he was
in real trouble and needed to hide. He began by bribing government officials to
destroy all legal evidence of his existence, to include financial records, birth certificates,
even driver licenses. Then he purged his face from every photograph
of him that he and his men could get their hands on. Lastly, he had to do something about his real,
very recognizable face. It was time to change faces. Ramirez underwent a grueling session of plastic
surgeries all aimed at changing his appearance as dramatically as possible. His nose, lips, mouth, ears, cheeks, chin,
and even eyes were all altered, and the entire time surgeons were forced to work under armed
guard as cartel enforcers watched their every move. So many surgeries however were not without
risk, and if something completely unavoidable happened to Ramirez while under the knife,
well, the guards were there to ensure that the doctors paid with their lives as well. With a new, very artificial and strange-looking
face, Ramirez did his best to leave his old identity behind, and it worked- for a while. Yet Ramirez might have changed his outside,
but the one thing he forgot to change was his voice, and that’s what ultimately would
get him busted. American DEA officials heard Ramirez’s voice
over a telephone call and were able to pinpoint his location, and then positively identify
him regardless of his mangled face. See, in the Face/Off movie they cover this
tiny plot hole, making sure to show that the surgery the characters undergo includes work
on their vocal chords to match their new appearances. Ramirez should have watched more movies. Using intelligence provided by the US, Brazilian
Federal Police officers raided one of Ramirez’s mansions, finding him along with tens of millions
of dollars in cash stashed in the mansion’s walls. He was quickly extradited to the United States
and tried for drug trafficking. There would be no early release here, and
Ramirez very quickly turned song bird for the US government. In a bid to shorten his already hefty sentence,
Ramirez even took to the stand and testified against his former trafficker, El Chapo in
2018. Ramirez’s plastic surgery was ultimately a
foolhardy attempt to evade law enforcement, whom likely would have gotten their man anyways. With the constant murders or captures of drug
lords all across South and Central America, it’s little wonder that anybody still wants
the job. After all, when’s the last time you heard
of a drug lord living a long, happy, and free life? How far would you have gone to disguise your
own identity? Let us know in the comments! And as always if you enjoyed this video don’t
forget to Like, Share, and Subscribe for more great content!

47 thoughts on “How Drug Lord Changed His Face

  1. The US government is always going after someone in another country, while we let our corrupt politicians run this crooked nation.

  2. Well I know a mob boss in Italy that literally form a different personality just so he can keep his identity so this is really is nothing new

  3. Best example isn't Face Off , there was another movie Once upon a time in mexico from Director Robert Rodriguez that had Willem Dafoe playing a drug lord named Barillo that has doctors reconstruct his face and then has them all executed , he leaves a body double on the surgery table to make everyone think he died during surgery .

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