By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
Gary's best man would later tell federal investigators that the biggest mistake he ever made was getting his pilot's license. But Krugh seemed born for the cockpit. His father, a livestock broker in Ohio, flew the family on vacations all over the country, from Maine to Florida to the Grand Canyon. Randy soloed for the first time while still in high school.
Then he attended Ohio State University and began working in the excavation business. When the economy dried up in the late 1970s, he moved to South Florida and started his own company, Terra Movers. It didn't take long for Krugh, who liked to hang out at the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, to fall in with omnipresent smugglers. He first flew loads of pot for a mysterious man named Pat Hagerman and was arrested for it by the Drug Enforcement Agency in 1980. After he was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison, authorities allowed him to roam free for three years before serving his time. It isn't clear why he wasn't immediately imprisoned, but one thing is certain: He continued to smuggle drugs at a dizzying pace.
By March 1983, Krugh's hazardous life began crashing down, quite literally. He wrecked a plane during a marijuana run near the Black River in Jamaica. The cause: a cow on the isolated airstrip. Compounding the problem, he'd taken the Cessna from Sandini and Mitrione without permission. An incensed Sandini forced Krugh to pay $40,000 cash for the wrecked plane. With a need to make more money, Krugh began trying to sell cocaine on the street, and the following month, he tried to peddle two kilos of cocaine to Broward Sheriff's Office Detective Joe Damiano. Then-Sgt. Thomas Brennan, who today is a colonel and one of Sheriff Ken Jenne's top deputies, recruited Krugh as a confidential informant.
As he awaited his prison sentence and worked for BSO, Krugh continued to criss-cross the southern skies, smuggling copious amounts of illegal drugs. On top of that, Mitrione and others began to notice that Krugh was freebasing cocaine. While trying to satisfy his bosses at BSO, the pilot went after a big fish in the smuggling world: Combs, a raw-boned Louisianan who ran drug boats to and from the Bahamas. Together, the two men would eventually take Airlift down.
And Krugh's actions may have helped seal Gary Weaver's fate.
Unbeknownst to Krugh, Combs was already working as an informant for DEA agent B.J. Church, who is now retired. Church remembers when Combs told him about Krugh and a couple of smugglers named Sandini and Micelli. The DEA agent quickly realized that Micelli was really Dan Mitrione. "We hit on Mitrione and then said, 'Oh my God, this guy's an FBI agent,'" Church recalls of the case.
He and other agents notified the FBI of their suspicions that Mitrione had gone bad, but the bureau ignored them. "There was some resistance from the FBI," Church puts it diplomatically.
When Combs and Krugh realized they were both working cases against each other for different law enforcement agencies, they got together and had a laugh. Then Combs persuaded Krugh to join him in ratting out Sandini and Mitrione. On December 6, 1983, Krugh met federal agents in Fort Lauderdale. He later said he knew when he did this that Sandini and Mitrione, who he still didn't know was an FBI agent, would "fry."
Church remembers Krugh as a shaky and deceitful witness who was terrified that Sandini would find out and have him killed. In an attempt to head off Sandy's anger, Krugh took a calculated risk: He told Sandini that he'd spoken with Church but said he'd told the DEA agent nothing to incriminate Sandini or Mitrione.
Apparently, the DEA was particularly porous when it came to sensitive information. The smuggler Hagerman also learned that Krugh had snitched to the DEA. A mysterious figure who was never indicted in the Airlift case, Hagerman set out to destroy Krugh by calling the BSO's Brennan and telling him about the illicit cocaine-hauling the pilot was doing.
Sandini, Mitrione, Hagerman -- the list of Krugh's enemies was growing. And that didn't even count the Colombians who'd been ripped off.
When Krugh made his fateful visit to Church, Gary was in the Bahamas living in the home of a mysterious man named Jeff Fisher. There, Gary was a sitting duck. On December 9, 1983, just three days after Krugh snitched to the DEA, Gary vanished.
On April Fool's Day 1984, Sandini looked at Mitrione at the Pompano Harness Track and shoved a stack of 35 hundred-dollar bills across the table. The air was thick with paranoia.
"You got nothing to worry about," said Sandini, who was drinking heavily that night.
Mitrione, sitting next to his wife, hurriedly picked up the cash and put it in the breast pocket of his jacket. The former FBI agent believed his partner was making reference to the DEA case. Both men were afraid the other was going to snitch. Sandini's voice turned cold: "That and a quarter will get you a cup of coffee."
To Mitrione, the words signaled that his partner was turning against him, that he couldn't be trusted.