In Discovery's gripping new series, Finding Escobar's Millions, two former members of the CIA are on the hunt for the lost millions of one of recent history's biggest criminals—Colombian drug lord, Pablo Escobar. The men bring a tactical approach to treasure-hunting and are out to answer the question: Where did Escobar stash his cash?
When Escobar led Colombia's powerful Medellin drug cartel in the 1970s and 1980s, he made hundreds of millions of dollars and hid much of it in stashes, called caletas, around the country. These hidey-holes were tucked within walls and floors or buried barrels stuffed with cash. And while some caletas have been found by the Colombian government, there are potentially thousands left. And many of the men who helped Escobar hide the money are dead, taking the locations of the stashes to their graves ... until now.
Discovery Channel has set the date for the 2017 'Alaskan Bush People' Christmas special.
In Finding Escobar's Millions, Doug Laux and Ben Smith lead a team of experts to Colombia on a 45-day mission to uncover hidden cash, gold, guns and jewels. And instead of heading into the unknown armed with bravery and a shovel, they're using the skills they developed in the CIA to narrow down the search akin to looking for a thousand needles in a million haystacks: Laux's strength lies in his ability to persuade reluctant sources into providing information, and Smith has a knack for intel, insight and analytics.
Laux shares that his interest in finding Escobar's cash hoard comes from a desire to provide closure to the people and government of Colombia by using his set of very specific CIA skills.
"My job in the agency was finding people — finding bad guys," he shares. "So, you have kind of that same scenario here, if it's anything that somebody wants to keep a secret, and they keep in the dark, that's kind of where Ben and I thrive at getting in there and shining some light on it."
Smith (who is so recently separated from the CIA that he still uses an alias) also echoes a desire to help Escobar's victims find closure. But also shares, "I've always been attracted to sort of big, grand adventures and new opportunities to really dive into the shadier parts of the world and this seemed like a great opportunity. I thought, 'why not?' It's out there, this really fascinating history, and characters that are pretty dark, and I want to shake that tree and see what comes out."
And the process is incredibly dangerous, the men reveal. While many saw Escobar as a murderous villain, others saw him as a modern-day Robin Hood who transformed a Medellin garbage dump into a thriving community of loyal citizens.
But, in the series, Smith and Laux discover that even the most fervent Escobar supporter gets dollar signs in his eyes when they see the team's tech gear and sense the potential for a payday. "Once it was clear and they fully understood our goals and that we were just trying to find this cash, and that we would then have a conversation with them about what we found, and they're thinking, 'Well shoot, I don't have the ability to look through these walls!'"
In this exclusive look at the Nov. 17 episode, Laux creates a plan to search the luxurious prison that Escobar built for himself and his associates.
Take a look:
The need for careful planning and preparation for each and every dig is important, the former CIA agents share.
"Colombia is the size of Texas," says Laux. "We're not going to find [Escobar's treasure] with just technology alone. A human is going to bring us to the X, period. And that's the same way it worked in our old jobs. You need HUMINT — human intelligence, and that's the only way we're going to find it.
"So when we dig holes, it's because somebody showed us. Somebody brought us to that X and said, 'you know, this is where I think is a good spot.' It's never just done ad-hoc, 'Hey let's just throw a dart and dig there today.' We always have some source saying this is where you should start. When it's all said and done, I had mentioned to Ben, I was like, 'Don't be surprised if we get a call from somebody who says hey, you never met me but... I know X, Y and Z.' And that would be pretty tempting to want to go take a look at what he has to say, I can tell you that much."
Of course, the duo knows that there are still people out there and hope that seeing this story will inspire them to come forward. Just don't expect to find Doug or Ben on social media. "That's just the nature of espionage," Laux laughs. "I don't want to be found."
Finding Escobar's Millions, Fridays at 10/9c, Discovery Channel