There is allegedly an ancient Chinese curse that more or less goes: ‘may you live in interesting times’. If interesting times are a curse, then Dan ‘Tito’ Davis — co-author of the book ‘Gringo’ — may be the most cursed of us all. Born to humble beginnings in Pierre, South Dakota, Tito’s seen it all: Mexican and Colombian cartels, deceit and betrayal by his nearest and dearest, multiple kidnap attempts by his own government, and naked negotiations with Mexican drug lords. The Young Pioneer Magazine recently got a chance to sit down with Tito and get the skinny on his rollercoaster life.
“It was like the Red Bull of the day,” recalls Tito, discussing the (legal) amphetamines he starting selling in the early seventies. “Students and truck drivers were eating them, bikers were eating them. Everybody was eating them.”
Tito got into the amphetamine business – ‘white crosses’, as the pills were known, during his Las Vegas college days. “Bar owners wanted people to eat those pills so that they’d drink more, spend more, party more. Students want them so they could study longer.”
Tito was initially selling five dollars’ worth of white crosses per night, but demand rapidly grew to the point where he needed outside assistance. Tito soon enlisted the aid of bike gang ‘the Bandidos’, and was eventually put in touch with the Mexican mafia. Demand continued to grow; Tito soon found himself needing to buy a million pills per shipment.
Naked pool negotiations
With the assistance of a second mortgage on the family home, Tito soon made plans to buy the biggest haul of pills he’d arranged yet. Travelling to Phoenix, Arizona, Tito waited for his Mexican contact, Billy, to call him. When the call came, however, it was not Billy, but his brother.
Tito handed over every penny he had, including the money from his parents’ second mortgage. A few hours later, Billy turned up – looking very surprised to see Tito.
“He ripped me off, man,” says Tito animatedly. “My money, my folks’ money – everything I had! So I said to Billy: you gotta help me out, man.”
Billy’s uncle was the local head of the Mexican mafia. But soliciting his assistance wasn’t going to be so straightforward.
Billy’s uncle, a man named Babe, lived in what amounted to a mansion – a gated house with three storeys and a private swimming pool. And he was not happy to see a gringo.
“’You’re fucking stupid,’” Tito recalls Babe saying to Billy. “’Bringing a fucking gringo around here. Get him gone.’” But Tito held his ground, having no other options.
Babe finally agreed to meet them in the garage of the mansion, but he still wasn’t convinced that Billy’s gringo friend was on the up on up. Suspicious that Tito might be wearing a wire, he forced him to strip. “Then he made me jump in the swimming pool, just in case I got [a wire] crammed up my yingyang.”
And so it was, naked in a Mexican drug kingpin’s pool, that Tito made his case. And against the odds, he pulled it off: Tito walked away with the million pills that he needed to save his neck. In a week he’d turned the million pills around, and was back for more.
The taxman cometh
Not long after this, Tito realised he needed to optimise his output. Behind the cover of a dog vitamin pill company, Tito bought a press and started manufacturing his own. His output and quality became such that he began supplying the Mexican Mafia instead of the other way around. Tito, still a college student, was soon rich beyond his wildest dreams. “I had to charter a plane to bring back all the money, and I’m a college student!” says Tito. “Before it’s over with, I’m in college and I’m making two hundred grand a week!”
Tito was living the dream. He got married in Rapid Falls, South Dakota and soon began spending more than he could hide. Classic cars, real estate, jewellery – he was nothing if not ostentatious in his spending habits.
And this was to be his downfall. Before too long, the IRS came calling.
Parts II and III of the interview are now available here and here.
Tito’s debut book, Gringo: My Life on the Edge as an International Fugitive, is available here. Tito’s travel blog, In The Wind, is at www.dantitodavis.com.