But the AK shipment had a problem. Diveroli told me not to worry. Diveroli had been caught selling cigarettes and was running with David Packouz and Alex Podrizki and their crowd of delinquent Orthodox Jewish kids who smoked dope around the beachfront.
The plane has been seized on the runway in Kyrgyzstan. Diveroli would take care of all the details—managing the supplier, overseeing delivery, and attending to the paperwork. Once he had the company, the license, an Internet connection, and an ample supply of pot to modulate his manic nature, Diveroli had everything he needed to succeed—except money.
No organization on the planet spent more money than the Pentagon, he knew.
The Bosnians had slipped a thousand substandard AK rifles alongside nine thousand good-quality guns that were delivered to Baghdad. Some of the contracts were for nonlethal goods, like boots and helmets. Merrill said his last name was Thomet, pronounced in the German way—toe-met.
Diveroli thought that the contract was so small, in the context of Pentagon procurements, it might just fall through the cracks and not come to the attention of the large corporations who dominated the business. Dealing with the Pentagon presented logistical and practical considerations, like performance.
It was May 24,and the e-mail said that a cargo plane had just lifted off from a military airstrip in Hungary and was banking east over the Black Sea toward Kyrgyzstan, some three thousand miles away.
The term referred to the record the government kept of how private contractors fulfilled the terms of the contracts—the quality, quantity, and timeliness of deliveries were all closely monitored. To Diveroli, competing on FedBizOpps was like rolling the dice in a vast game of craps.
Inside the Green Zone, in the gardens of what had been the Republican Palace under the rule of Saddam Hussein, a business center was established as the place for private contractors to gather to peruse the various contracts for goods and services posted on the bulletin board each day.
The contracts posted on FedBizOpps were for rivets and forklifts and generators, but also for guns, grenades, and rocket launchers. The Bush administration had recently created rules to favor small businesses in federal contracts—and what company could be smaller than a one-man operation apparently run by a kid?
Alone in a notoriously lawless country, Diveroli and Podrizki were trying to negotiate with an Albanian mafioso taking kickbacks, as well as a Swiss gun dealer running the deal through a Cyprus company seemingly as a way to grease the palms of shadowy operators allegedly associated with the prime minister of Albania.
So Diveroli gave himself a 9 percent margin. When Diveroli saw a contract to supply ten thousand bulletproof helmets to the Iraqi army, he began to scour the Internet for potential suppliers.
Panicking, as any nineteen-year-old might, Diveroli called Ralph Merrill to ask if he had any other contacts who could supply the AKs quickly. The arrangement was that Diveroli would split the profits 60—40 with his uncle, with the youngster receiving the smaller share.
Bidding online, on the website where the Pentagon posted defense contracts for public competition, the stoner dudes had beat major corporations to win the Afghan contract. As Diveroli sat in his apartment in Miami Beach lighting a bong, the perils of war were little more than an abstraction.
Merrill explained that La Scala was really just a broker for Henri, the Swiss arms dealer Merrill was friendly with. Authority was passed to an interim Iraqi government. Diveroli had virtually no overhead, no staff, and few of the expenses normally associated with running a company.
He had to deliver to protect his performance record, as best he could, in the chaos that was enveloping Iraq and grinding flights to a halt because of insurgent RPG fire. Creating sham companies in the Cayman Islands and Lebanon, Custer Battles used fake invoices to grossly inflate its prices.
It made Thomet one of the few reliable sources in the market. At the tender age of eighteen, Efraim Diveroli had resolved improbably—but with true fervor—to turn himself into a gunrunner.
Alex Podrizki, the only one with a college degree and a modicum of military experience, was taciturn, cautious, determined to ensure that none of the ammo they shipped to Afghanistan was substandard.
Diveroli said he only needed the money for thirty days. He had an uncle who dealt arms, so the business was kind of in his family, but nothing like the level he took it to. Diveroli was now dealing directly with a serious arms dealer who had high-level contacts throughout the Balkans.
There was also the possibility of bidding on more contracts through Diveroli. I had to put on my best arms-dealer face. A used Communist AK could be had for a few dollars, or a live chicken in some African countries.
They say you have to pay a three-hundred-thousand-dollar fine for every day the plane sits on the runway. Three days later, Jerry called: But I had to get my shit together.
He was beginning to believe he was the equal of or even better than hardened arms dealers like Henri Thomet. Despite their youth, all three of the dudes were highly capable, in their different ways.Unafraid and unrelenting, UNSTOPPABLE is your ultimate guide to reaching peak and pushing the boundaries.
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