Cali Cartel Scion Pens Book About His Drug Lord Family

By Paul Gaita 12/12/14

Former cartel head William Rodriguez-Abadia has written a book he hopes will set the record straight.

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William Rodriguez-Abadia. Photo via

In an attempt to dispel what he calls “a myth” about his infamous family, William Rodriguez-Abadia has written I am the Son of the Cali Cartel, which presents his perspective on the vast drug trafficking empire overseen by his father, Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, and his uncle, Gilberto.

Rodriguez-Abadia served as legal counsel for the Colombian-based Cali Cartel, which at one time controlled much of the world’s heroin and cocaine trades. He alleges that he was ignorant of his family’s business for much of his childhood, and only became aware of their criminal activities after law enforcement officials apprehended his uncle in 1984 and his father in 1995.

Following his father’s arrest, Rodriguez-Abadia assumed legal and political control of the Cali Cartel, which operated behind a $300 million front of legitimate businesses, including the Drogas la Rebaja pharmacy chain, a pharmaceutical processing company, and other entities.

His tenure at the top of the cartel was marked by extreme violence at the hands of Pablo Escobar and the Medellin Cartel, which carried out a military-style campaign that resulted in the deaths of numerous employees and the destruction of more than 50 pharmacies. Rodriguez-Abadia says that he did not order murders carried out by the cartel against Escobar and other competitors.

“I was never involved in murders because [the cartel members] did not have me for that,” he declared. “My dad wanted me to be a lawyer, and that was my role.” But a 2006 statement from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration claims that Rodriguez-Abadia’s real position within the cartel was to arrange and ensure payment of bribe money to incarcerated cartel members in order to prevent them from testifying against his father and uncle.

Initially, Rodriguez-Abadia enjoyed the fruits of his position within the cartel, stating that “I could’ve said no…to [taking] the reins of the organization. But I didn’t. I wanted the power.” But a 1996 assassination attempt that took the lives of three of his friends convinced Rodriguez-Abadia that he was complicit in the cartel’s murderous actions.

A 2001 indictment by the U.S. government sent him into hiding, where he remained for the next five years until surrendering to authorities in 2006. Sentenced to 262 months in prison for his involvement, he struck a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office that reduced his sentence to five years in exchange for testimony against his father and uncle.

Both are now serving 30 year sentences, and Rodriguez-Abadia, who now resides in Broward County, Fla., decided to write his book to set the record straight about his involvement in the cartel, and his family’s actual roles.

“I got tired of other people writing my story,” he said. He has received little response or support for the book from his family. “[They] want to handle it the old way, with silence and fear,” he notes. “I think that in the end, that yields no results. In a life of crime, you always end up in one of two places: in prison or in a tomb.”

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.