I-Team Report: The Reluctant Mule

March 21, 2012 8:34:42 PM PDT
Accused drug runners for Mexico's ruthless Sinaloa cartel don't often do television interviews. Then again, not many suspected drug mules are 87 years old. But Leo Sharp is 87 and he admits to being a drug mule, someone who smuggles cocaine on behalf of a supplier.

Sharp is a horticulturist.

"I'm known all over the planet-and I'm talking about all over the planet," he said. "I have customers in New Zealand, Japan."

Brookwood Garden, his 46-acre daylily farm in Michigan City, Indiana, is 2,500 miles from the coca fields of Colombia, South America. But according to Sharp, both plants bring pleasure. Daylilies produce one bloom a day. Coca plants produce cocaine.

"All God's plants that cheer people up are created for a purpose," Sharp said. "To take depressed peoples' minds and make them feel good."

Daylilies, Mr. Sharp's lifelong passion and profession, are legal. Cocaine is not.

According to an affidavit from a federal drug agent, last October Sharp's pick-up truck was stopped for an improper lane change on an interstate near Detroit.

"What happened was I was pulled over by a state cop because he wanted to put out a ticket and get a fine and of course he brings a dog," he said.

A drug-sniffing dog found the cocaine in 104 bricks. Sharp was arrested. He claims he had been recruited by one of his farmhands to transport cash.

"My workers are Mexican. That's the only people that'll do the work, and they go to church, and one of the guys they go to church with came over and asked me to do this. He asked me also if I would take drugs from Tucson to Detroit, Michigan and I said, the answer is no," said Sharp.

But he says they forced him to deliver the drugs or his family would be killed-something fugitive Sinaloa leader Joaquin Guzman Loera, known as "El Chapo," has been known to do.

Goudie: "Why would they have picked you to put this cocaine in your van."
Sharp: "Because an old man is not gonna be bothered by cops, driving through Arizona."
Goudie: "But you were bothered in Michigan."
Sharp: "I was busted up there, obviously."
Goudie: "Did you know that was cocaine in your van?"
Sharp: "I did. I did."

Federal prosecutors say Sharp wasn't forced to do anything that day in October and that he had done it before.

According to a newly filed indictment, Mr. Sharp is now accused of delivering cocaine on numerous occasions for the Sinaloa cartel - 670 kilos - between 2009 and last fall. Sharp is charged with 17 other men in a wide-ranging drug conspiracy.

Goudie: "Leo, are you worried about this thing in Michigan?"
Sharp: "Well, the answer is yes. But at age 87, I know, my doctor tells me that I will live to be 100. But I won't live to be 100 if I am sentenced to prison. I'm just going to end it all. Period."
Goudie: "What do you mean you're going to end it all?"
Sharp: I'm going to get a Goddamn gun and shoot myself in the mouth or my ear, one or the other...I won't live in a toilet with bars...ever."

Leo Sharp says he isn't a drug user himself; that he only took LSD once in 1965 and that it made him "crazy" for 24 hours. Other than legal issues he says he's in fine health.

Sharp's Chicago attorney Darryl Goldberg wasn't pleased to learn his client had spoken with the I-Team, but says he plans to put on a vigorous defense starting with Sharp's arraignment in Detroit Friday.