Griselda Blanco’s Man
By, Wendy Day (www.WendyDay.com)
Charles Cosby was more than the star of Cocaine Cowboys 2. He lived that story. He lived the good life. Griselda Blanco was a notorious Columbian Drug Lord in the 1980s, known for her ruthlessness. It’s amazing that she was not only a woman who was able to keep up with her male counterparts, but surpass them in many cases. Sitting comfortably in my living room, Charles shared the details of his life with such openness and candor that it was refreshing. As a woman who has dated incarcerated men, and as a woman with some small degree of power who has helped men build their companies and empires only to have them move on afterwards, my first question was a bit personal—“did you love her?”
And even though Charles assured me that he did love her, it wasn’t until he put her son, Michael Corleone, on the phone with me that I realized just how much he did love her. Charles still has a warmth and a deep affection for Griselda’s favorite son, even after all these years of not speaking with her. Michael, who grew close to Charles when he was dating his Mother, looks to Charles as a father figure. And although Griselda has gone back to Columbia, or Rio, or wherever she is, Michael and Charles still have a strong familial relationship. The love is apparent on both sides.
Charles Cosby’s story was honest, but that wasn’t difficult for him. It was like therapy for him to get it all off his chest. Griselda was a caring, generous, beautiful woman, and Charles fell in love with the woman behind the image. And she loved him very much and he felt the love completely.
Growing up in East Oakland, known as Anthony or Dot by his friends and family, his goal was to be a lawyer. But selling drugs at 16 years old allowed the money to quickly replace the legitimate dreams. In 1984, Charles was a mid-level drug dealer controlling a handful of crack houses. After his original distributor was murdered in 1985, it killed his business and his mentor. Charles moved 150 miles south to Fresno, CA where he soon ran out of money.
Upon returning to Oakland, he returned to the streets. In the mid-80s, drug dealers were rampant, even more so than now. There were no mandatory minimums for sentencing, snitches weren’t an issue, and one could call up the local dealer on the phone and place an order, even if you weren’t known to him. It was a different era. In February of 1985, Charles saw a television news clip of the arrest of the notorious Griselda Blanco. He was amazed at who she was, her tremendous power, and what she had built—it was everything he was trying to build for himself. She was known as the Godmother of Cocaine and the fact that she was a shot caller as a female was outstanding to him. Six years later, Charles met a Panamanian lady who had worked for Griselda in the past. After striking up a conversation, Charles convinced her to make the introduction to Griselda in prison. Charles wrote Griselda a heartfelt letter, and although he didn’t expect a response from her, he got one.
They wrote back and forth for a year, and Charles went to see her in person (1992). When she came out to visitation, she was dressed to the hilt in a bright red suit with red pumps, while every other inmate was dressed in khaki. Griselda, at 50 years old, looked more like a socialite than an inmate. Their relationship was based on letters, phone calls, and visits. Almost immediately, Griselda became his distributor. By the time Charles got home from the visit, two cardboard boxes arrived at his front door by special delivery--filled with bricks of cocaine. The focus of the relationship was business, but it became personal.
Charles went from making $40,000 to millions of dollars in 4 to 6 weeks. His life changed drastically. He was 22 or 23 years old. Griselda was a great teacher, keeping him focused and his ego in check. He spread throughout the Bay Area and northern California and became the distributor for his friends and friends of friends. He also ran errands for Griselda by being exposed to her network in NC, OH, VA, NY, Los Angeles. He met with distributors and acted as a mouth piece for her. She trusted him completely.
Charles became close to 2 of her 4 sons: Michael Corleone and Oswaldo. Charles was 10 years older than Michael and 3 years younger than Oswaldo, but they were like brothers. Griselda and Charles were together until 1996.
Charles met a woman named Amber in the visiting room of the prison. He began sleeping with her. When Griselda found out (she was still incarcerated), Charles was attacked with 12 warning shots which were intended to end his life. Oddly, it made Griselda and Charles closer, and made Charles realize how much Griselda loved him.
When Griselda had 18 months left of her incarceration, new murder charges were being filed against her and they were trying to put her on death row. Griselda was shook. She felt no Columbian had ever gotten a fair trial in the US. Her plan was to kidnap John F Kennedy, Jr. and Charles was not with the plan. Although speculation is that Charles rolled on her, he says that if his goal was to have her incarcerated, there were crimes he knew about that would have put her away for life, he didn’t have to expose a kidnapping plan.
Griselda was moved from California to Florida and Charles was subpoenaed to testify against Griselda. He wasn’t helpful to the prosecution because he felt she had done so much for him and his family. A secretary for the prosecution, on the day of his deposition, came to Charles’ hotel room and had sex with him. It came to light later on in the trial that this same secretary was having phone sex with the star witness against Griselda, thus disabling the Prosecution’s case. Griselda was offered a plea bargain and took it.
In June of 2004, Griselda was released from prison and deported immediately back to Bogata Columbia. After the statute of limitations passed, the directors of Cocaine Cowboys approached Charles to tell his story. He saw they were at the top of their game. Cocaine Cowboys 2 has been released into 52 countries and is available in WalMart, Target, etc, unlike Cocaine Cowboys which was a bit harder to find.
It took 15 months to put Cocaine Cowboys 2 together (Mark Cuban financed the movie), and it made Charles a star even though he’s remained humble. He’s not comfortable with the notoriety. At the screening of Cocaine Cowboys 2, the main question the press was asking Charles was didn’t he fear for his life that Griselda would have him assassinated. At that point, Charles introduced Michael Corleone as his special guest. If Griselda had a hit out on him, it wasn’t apparent.
Charles has written a book along with his biographer—an investigative journalist. Charles spends his time traveling between Los Angeles and Belize. His focus is on speaking to the youth. He doesn’t want them to follow his path because they will end up dead or in jail. He sees the danger of peer pressure in this materialistic society, but the penitentiary comes with those trappings of success.
I didn’t ask Charles if he snitched on Griselda. He volunteered the fact that he was subpoenaed and he had to go to Florida to testify—not a snitch move. Griselda received a copy of the film before anyone else saw the movie. Her only complaint about Cocaine Cowboys 2, according to Charles, was that it showed her murdered son, Oswaldo, in his casket.
When asked if he had any regrets, Charles thoughtfully said he wished he had continued in school and gotten his law degree. The idea of a white picket fence and a country club membership are looking real good to him now. But he’s thankful that he has a story to tell that might stop one or two people from going down the same path he chose.
Charles Cosby is an amazing and interesting man. And he’s sooooo much more than just Griselda Blanco’s (former) man.