TAMPA — Angelo Bedami claims that cardio was key to his drug-smuggling operation that spanned the 1970s through the early ’80s.
“I ran Bayshore Boulevard every day,” he said, “just in case I needed to run from the law.”
That day came, the lifelong Tampa resident said, when law enforcement was waiting for him on a Florida farm where a planeload of his drugs had landed earlier that day.
“I was heading to the plane when I saw them and then took off before they saw me,” Bedami, 73, said. “I ran in the woods along I-275 from six to two in the morning. It had to be 20 miles ... That’s one of my favorite stories.”
It might one day be in a biopic about the former mafioso whose associates included Tampa’s Santo Trafficante Jr., Colombia’s Medellin Cartel and former Panamanian military dictator and drug trafficker Manuel Noriega.
Bedami said he sold the rights to his life story and book, “Tampa’s Mafia Underground Airline,” to movie producer Karlee Perez.
She did not respond to a Tampa Bay Times email or voicemail.
According to her IMDB.com page, Perez is a former Tampa resident who performed for World Wrestling Entertainment before venturing into film.
“She has invested into acquiring the rights of some incredible IPs and life stories,” the IMDB bio says.
Acquiring rights to a story is just the first of many steps that go into making a movie, and there is no guarantee the project will be funded, filmed or distributed.
A script has yet to be written, Bedami said.
“I know it will be fantastic and exciting. I lived it. It’s a great story.”
Or tragic and criminal, depending whom you ask.
His father, Joe Bedami Sr., is alleged to have been Trafficante Jr.’s hit man. He disappeared in 1967 and law enforcement considered him dead. But Bedami recently claimed that his dad fled to Sicily, Italy, where he died around 1990.
His brother, Joe Bedami Jr., was arrested for counterfeiting. But Dick Cloud, a former Tampa police detective who was set to be a key witness in the trial, was murdered at home in 1975. Bedami recently claimed that was done to protect his brother, who was acquitted.
And by the time Bedami’s drug-smuggling operation was broken up, he said, they brought in 37 loads of marijuana and cocaine — from 1,500 to 15,000 pounds each.
“We got into some trouble,” he said.
There was the time, as Bedami tells it, he flew to Colombia to pick up 5,000 pounds of marijuana on credit. The suppliers sent his pilot back to Florida and decided to keep Bedami as collateral until they were paid. It took three months.
On a few occasions, his crew stole a plane, parachuted the drugs into the Gulf of Mexico and then purposely crashed the aircraft into the water to destroy the evidence.
And then there was the time he ran from that Kissimmee farm.
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“I made it to a rest stop,” Bedami said. “You should have seen the eyes of the guy who worked there when I asked for change for the pay phone. I looked like hell. But I got away.”
But law enforcement eventually had enough evidence on Bedami. In 1983, he was convicted of federal drug charges and served 36 months.
“The government took a lot of my money,” he said. “Millions.”
But they didn’t get it all, Bedami claimed, and now he hopes to earn more from the movie.
So, crime pays?
“Absolutely,” Bedami said with a laugh. “Absolutely.”