(Wired) On February 25, 2009, a then 34-year-old career con man named David Anthony Whitaker left the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, Rhode Island, and slid into the backseat of an unmarked government car. He was dressed in traditional prison garb—khaki pants, brown shirt, handcuffs, leg irons. A federal agent sat beside him. A second car followed to make sure nobody trailed them or attempted an ambush. Not that anyone expected trouble. This was merely standard procedure when transporting a government cooperator.
That's what Whitaker was now: a cooperator. It felt surreal. One year ago he was in Mexico, living the most fulfilling life he'd ever known in his chaotic, troubled years on the planet. He had been bringing in obscene amounts of money by selling black-market steroids and human growth hormone online. He had a multimillion-dollar apartment in a country club in Guadalajara. He had a cabin in the mountain town of Mazamitla. He had lots of cars—an orange 4Runner, a BMW, a Jeep. He'd even funded the construction of a local hospital. Sure, he had to live under an alias and was on the run from US Secret Service agents who were trying to nail him for a long-standing multicount fraud complaint. But he had a lawyer on retainer, and at least the local cops were easy to pay off.
That life ended on March 19, 2008, when a Mexican immigration agent nabbed Whitaker and brought him back to LAX, where the Secret Service promptly arrested him. He was facing a potential sentence of 65 years in prison. Sixty-five years. That meant spending the rest of his life behind bars. The thought was unbearable.
Advertisement - story continues below
Whitaker began thinking of ways to knock years off his sentence ...