Author Jose D. Duran


George Villegas shuffles from the bathroom to the living room. An olive-skinned man with a chubby face, eyeglasses, and salt-and-pepper hair, Villegas grabs two wheeled suitcases, one red and one blue, packed with hundreds of gold nuggets sealed in plastic bags, each weighing more than 50 pounds. Villegas huffs as he maneuvers the luggage into a cramped elevator. As the courier for his cousin’s Bolivia-based export company he is to deliver the rolling treasure chests — worth more than a million bucks each — to a refinery. The elevator touches down on the first floor. When the doors slide open, Raonel Valdez calmly waves the gun at Villegas. “We want the gold,” he spits in Spanish. “We’re only here for the gold.” Miami New Times has the story.


For many, to exist near Ma Jaya — a beguiling New Yorker with a tenth-grade education — was rapture. To them, her dogma was beyond the mortal ken. But there were also stories of profound cruelty and despotism. Former followers say Kashi members were beaten for disobedience or spiritual cleansing. In the church’s 35 years of existence, adherents claim abuses including beatings, pedophilia, forgery of official documents, and extortion occurred by order of Ma Jaya. New Times Broward-Palm Beach has the story.


When Gloria Hampton walked into Charles McCully’s office in the summer of 2010 with a story stranger than fiction, the sergeant was suspicious. “I saw my father kill my mother when I was 4 years old,” she said. “He put her body into an army-green bag.” McCully was still skeptical. But after Gloria left, he cracked open musty boxes of cold-case files. He flipped through yellowing photographs and police reports for hours before pulling out a thin binder that hadn’t been touched in years. It was the unsolved murder from April 4, 1985. And inside was a photo of a woman’s body in an army-green bag. Miami New Times has the story.


Over the past three years, manufacturers and retailers of so-called herbal incenses have popped up in all 50 states. It quickly became a multibillion-dollar industry built on products that had names like Crazy Eyes, Cowboy Kush, and Skull Killa. Users understood that smoking these substances would result in a high because the stuff was soaked with synthetic cannabinoids — man-made chemicals meant to mimic the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana. New Times Broward-Palm Beach has the story.

Illustration by Alvaro Diaz-Rubio

​It’s the ultimate showdown: Which state has the crazier criminals, Texas or Florida? Both claim to lead the nation in dumb/horrifying/hilarious perps, but only one can rule. So Houston Press and Miami New Times found 11 categories and picked best in each. Pete Kotz, former editor of True Crime Report, did the judging — unfortunately, as it turns out. Miami New Times has the results!


​Instead of going to prison, Flanders continued drugging women so his partner could rape them on film. After a judge let him and his accomplice, Emerson Callum, out on bond in 2009, the pair assaulted at least three other women until the feds finally arrested them last year and a jury convicted the two in December on 32 counts related to drugging and raping women. Miami New Times has the story.


​The megasmuggler featured in the documentary Cocaine Cowboys had suffered through a lengthy battle with cancer. Originally from a Mafia-connected family in New York, Roberts served a tour in Vietnam. According to his memoir, he spent much of it skinning people alive. He made hundreds of millions of dollars smuggling cocaine for the Medellín Cartel into Miami in the ’80s, and claimed to be a close crony of Pablo Escobar. Miami New Times has the story.

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