Griselda Blanco was born into poverty in one of the poorest parts of Cartagena, Colombia. That area of the city was so dangerous, "kids would amuse themselves by digging holes in the ground to bury the bodies that littered the city’s filthy streets, and would resort to petty crime to make ends meet," per Maxim. As with most crimes, desperation can drive a person to unfathomable places. Blanco would later become one of the largest drug traffickers in Miami in the late 1970s.
It's unclear what she enjoyed more: money or power. By all accounts, she had plenty of both. It's reported that at her peak, Blanco was worth around $2 billion. In 1985, her reign of terror finally ended when drug enforcement agents caught up with Blanco in Irvine, Calif., on Feb. 17. At this point she had been a major player in the drug trafficking game for a decade. So, what happened to Griselda Blanco's money? Here's what we know.
What happened to Griselda Boanco's money? Her assets were probably seized by DEA agents.
While we can't be sure how much Blanco was worth at the time of her arrest, what we do know is whatever assets she had were undoubtedly seized by the DEA. According to their own website, asset forfeiture is the "government taking of property, because it was used or obtained in violation of the law." Some examples of assets subject to seizure are "cars, cash, real estate, or anything of value used to commit a drug crime or bought with drug proceeds."
Distractify spoke with Duncan Levin, the former Chief of Asset Forfeiture at the Manhattan District Attorney's Office who was in the asset forfeiture and money laundering section and specialized in forfeiture for the federal government. He explained that when the DEA seizes cash, it goes into a bank account held by the U.S. Marshals Service and is held until there is a forfeiture.
"When there is a forfeiture, it gets sent to the United States Treasury for the general fund for the government. It is not being held by law enforcement on a federal level at all," he said.
As far as Blanco goes, it's possible she had money hidden elsewhere, as stories of her growing paranoia were pervasive, but that is just a theory. What we do know is, she was still making money after her 1985 arrest with the help of a man named Charles Cosby.
Who is Charles Cosby? He was Blanco's business and romantic partner.
Charles Cosby was living in East Oakland, Calif., when he caught the news story about Blanco's February 1985 arrest. In the 2008 documentary Cocaine Cowboys II: Hustlin' With the Godmother, Cosby tells the story of how they met and went into business together. "I was floored," he said upon learning about Blanco. "I’d never known of a woman to sell drugs, much less on that level. She was a billionaire."
Cosby himself was a small-time drug dealer and was hoping to move up in that world. What better way to do it then via a mentor like Blanco. When Cosby discovered a female friend of his once served as a drug runner for the Cocaine Godmother, he was able to get an introduction. After numerous phone calls and letters, Cosby visited her in prison where she asked outright how much money he needed to "make his family comfortable." Three days later, a woman delivered 50 kilos of cocaine to his home.
A month later he was a millionaire helping Blanco keep her multi-billion dollar drug business afloat. Soon they were in a relationship which involved Blanco paying prison guards $1,500 so they could consummate their love. Sometime in 1995 Cosby was subpoenaed by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. Too tired to fight any longer, he testified in Florida where he low-balled how much Blanco was making. "I said she was making $2 million when it was actually 50 times that," he said.
After suffering from a heart attack while in prison, Blanco was released from prison and was deported back to Colombia in 2004. Robert Palombo, the DEA agent who arrested Blanco, didn't think she would last long since so many people were interested in killing her. Imagine his surprise when in 2007 he was sent a photo of her at the Bogotá airport. He attributed her survival to the passage of time and the "tons of money squirreled away in different bank accounts that were never recovered."