Author: Evan Wright

2012, Byliner Originals

Filed under: Nonfiction

How to Get Away with Murder in America is the mind-blowing story of a psychotic Miami mobster and his right-hand hitman, who get protection from their heinous crimes because of ties to the CIA.

The mobster—Albert San Pedro—rapes and later marries his own step-daughter. That’s the kind of monster he is. On the business side, he smuggles hundreds of kilos of coke into the U.S. each month, and simultaneously corrupts the Miami government so thoroughly that he sits next to Ronald Reagan during a gala dinner celebrating victory in the war on drugs. Yeah. Really.

The hitman, Ricky Prado, joins the Air Force special forces, and later becomes a fireman and then a CIA paramilitary officer. Before and even during Prado’s CIA career, he works for Albert as a “Transworld detective,” the on-the-books cover for his real job, killing people. 

Usually, just Ricky’s connection to shady people should be enough to get his CIA application denied, let alone his criminal activity. (The usual MO, Wright points out, is for CIA-trained assets to become criminals after they’re cut loose from the agency, as hundreds of Bay of Pigs operatives did.) Ricky withdraws his first application because he’s afraid of the background check, but a CIA officer encourages Ricky to reapply because, in Reagan’s new aggressively anti-Communist CIA, they needed highly trained agents to kill people in South America.

Indeed, Wright says, “On a transactional level, there was little difference between the jobs [Ricky Prado] is alleged to have done for Albert in Miami and what he did for the U.S. government in the Nicaraguan guerrilla war.”

As if the story of this gross aberration of law enforcement wasn’t enough, Murder in America also follows a Miami-Dade police officer named Fisten who gets tasked onto a federal Organized Crime Squad. Fisten winds up targeting Ricky and Albert for a few of the many murders they committed.

The title of the book gives you a clue as to how this works out for Fisten, but the degree of backlash is shocking.

The investigation lasted nearly five years and resulted in racketeering convictions for several men, but not for San Pedro or Prado. “They kicked our asses,” Fisten says. “My reputation was shot. I wound up in uniform. My partner killed himself.”

That’s all I’m going to say about the substance of the book (and all of that is from the first third). By now, you probably know whether or not this interests you.

Wright’s not really a stylist, and the sensitive nature of this material makes it impossible for him to really get into the minds of any of the participants except Fisten (in fact one law enforcement officer Wright talks to repeatedly warns him to stay away from the story altogether).

That means Wright’s left with a just-the-facts bare-bones story, like an in-depth newswire item. But since the bare-bones facts of this case are jaw-dropping, that’s more than enough for a compelling narrative.

We’ve liked Byliner originals in the past, and this is another winner. Even better, Byliner has updated its distribution method so that you can get their originals without going through Amazon. At $3, this one’s a steal.

Similar reads: Three Cups of Deceit, by Jon Krakauer