Helena Star: An Epic Adventure Through the Murky Underworld of International Drug Smuggling by Stewart Riley
Retired lawyer and debut author, Stewart Riley introduces us to one of his most famous cases he ever defended, “Helena Star”: The True Tale of the Motor Vessel HELENA STAR: This is the epic tale of the motor vessel Helena Star. On April 17, 1978, the U.S. Coast Guard seized the aging freighter 140 miles off Washington State’s coast with its hold loaded with 37 tons of marijuana—the west coast’s largest pot bust—worth an estimated street value of $74 million. Drug agents later seized the sleek Joli, a 61-foot sailboat, for its suspected role in the case. A past winner of the prestigious Victoria to Maui sailboat race, the Joli had been purchased from William Niemi, Jr., former president of Eddie Bauer, by champion freestyle skier Mike Lund. The attorney for the captain of the Helena Star, author Stewart Riley, provides an insider’s unvarnished account of the case from the trenches. The freighter and the conspirators involved were in the news from its seizure in 1978 to its death by sinking in 2013. This drug bust and the ensuing events comprise a true saga about the inner workings of a Colombian-American drug cartel, smuggling on a massive scale, money laundering, the capture of fugitives in Bolivia, suspicious deaths, the lives of high-profile individuals, and courtroom battles in Seattle and San Francisco.
What a great story and all true or alleged to be true. With all of the dodges and dives, faking and lies, it would be hard to make this up. It demonstrates the truism of human nature that each person is looking out for their own self-interests first. It is how we are built. This story was fun to read, it reminded me of when I saw this case in the news on TV. I was married and our first child was on the way. I recall thinking that someone had a lot of audacity to try and pull it off. Now I know the rest of the story behind the headlines, some forty years later. I am very happy to have learned the whole tale. Stewart is a good storyteller. I enjoyed his style; it is matter-of-fact prose. He doesn’t embellish a lot and doesn’t speculate a great deal beyond the obvious. Being on the inside of this case he was privy to far more than any mere mortal. He let the people involved speak for themselves whenever possible. This tale of intrigue and skullduggery doesn’t get lost in the weeds, the story moves along quite well, as all of the loose ends are eventually wrapped up. I award 5 stars to “Helena Star”.
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Tags: legal, true story, thriller, international law, supreme court, smuggling, drugs, contraband, freestyle skier, skiing
Copyright © 2021 Mark L. Schultz, except for the author’s introduction
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An avid reader, typobuster, and the Hyper-Speller. I am a husband, father, and grandfather.
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