Locked Up Abroad: Cocaine in Brazil

The largest country in South America and the fifth largest in world, Brazil has been gaining in popularity with tourists in the last decade. Home to several beaches, the Amazon rainforest, and complex system of rivers, Brazil attracts many ecotourists interested in exploring the diverse topography. In 2011 over 5.4 million visitors chose Brazil as their travel destination, bringing in over $6.775 billion.

Tourism is not the only thing that has made Brazil’s economy one of the fastest growing economies in the world. With major exports such as automobiles, coffee, and ethanol many people are predicting Brazil will become one of the largest major economies in the world. Part of the country’s economic growth can be attributed to the commodities prices of certain exports like soybeans and beef.

Unfortunately Brazil’s economic boom is not the only thing increasing interest in the South American country. Due to its convenient location near the Atlantic Ocean, Brazil is a point of transit for the international drug trade route. It is also conveniently located near three of the largest cocaine producers in the world—Bolivia, Peru and Colombia. In addition to being a path for drug trafficking Brazil is also one of the largest consumers of cocaine in the world, second only to the United States. Cocaine is a stimulant drug derived from the leaves of the coca plant. The plant thrives best in tropical climates thus making areas that are close to the Brazilian boarder, like the Amazonian lowlands of Peru, perfect for cultivation.

When Samuel Lebowitz, the subject of Locked up Abroad: Hasidic King of Coke, found himself as part of the drug ring in Brazil he was in awe of the amount of money he was making. However, he was not conscious of the impact his career choice was having on those who were buying and consuming drugs. It was not until he befriended a teenage addict while imprisoned in Israel that he was able to finally see the harsh reality of drug addiction. When the teenager died in Samuel’s arms his role in the world of drugs turned from dealer to anti-drug advocate.

The increase in drug addiction has been more than Brazilian healthcare systems can hand handle. An estimated 1.2 million citizens are believed to addict to crack cocaine—a cheaper, processed version of cocaine. As a result of the addiction many Brazilian hospitals have seen an increase in babies born addicted to crack cocaine. The issue has many calling for more drug prevention programs and prenatal care for mothers.

In recent years Brazil has attempted to crackdown on drug trafficking with the strategic boarder plan. An operation, setup by the federal government in June of 2011, aims to minimize crime with the assistance of federal law enforcement from neighboring countries. This enhancement of security along the country’s borders resulted in the confiscation of 14 tons of marijuana and cocaine in the first five months of its initiation.

While Samuel Lebowitz may have had a change of heart about being a drug lord, Brazil and surrounding countries are still fighting the war against drugs. As coca farmers and drug traffickers begin to expand their crops and routes to areas with less surveillance, the threat of an increase in drug related addictions and violence is looming.


Don’t miss Locked Up Abroad: Hasidic King of Coke, July 16 at 10p et/pt


  1. Johnathan
    July 18, 2012, 12:51 am

    This guy is an even worse liar than that Eric Audrey dude from the first episode of the season. The sorry he told sounds slot like a Hollywood movie. He wants us to believe he went from a lowly drug mule to a partner to the don of Hasidic Jew drug smugglers. This BS is pure comedy. He goes to prison where he is able to overpower and shank some huge satanic cult member? Dude please stop already. Who is verifying these people’s stories? Obviously, they are not doing their job. I need proof if I am going to continue to watch this show, otherwise I’m gonna have to find something else to watch. If these stories are real then they are good, but as fiction they are awful and I can find much better made up stories to watch than this.

  2. Al-B
    July 18, 2012, 2:00 am

    Another exaggerated but enjoyable tell by another person who claims to have had no clue what drugs were at the age of 24. LOL!

  3. Snuffy
    July 18, 2012, 10:07 pm

    Yeah, not sure if it passes the sniff test…pun intended.

  4. Michael
    July 18, 2012, 10:11 pm

    This guy is reading a script that he wrote while he was high on the cocaine he dreamed he was smuggling. How could you film this without laughing out loud. Did anyone bother to verify any of this crap!

  5. Neil
    Steamboat Springs, CO
    July 19, 2012, 6:38 am

    Hey, great episode 88. You should run it again on April Fool’s Day!

  6. Pachoo
    July 20, 2012, 5:55 am

    I simply can’t believe that Nat Geo filmed this completely made up story. What a waste of resources lol. Did no one bother to do an ounce of fact checking? Hell, no fact checking was needed. Simply listening to this guy’s completely unbelievable story should have been all you needed to hear to realize it is 100% bullshit.

    Seriously, you guys should be embarrassed that you produced and arid this crap. My friends and I were laughing through the entire episode…it was such obvious bullshit.

  7. Chris
    July 20, 2012, 6:02 pm

    This guy has the strangest way of communicating. He asks a question, then quickly answers it himself! How strange! Then oops, he exclaims when something goes wrong. I don’t know if it’s true or not. But very entertaining! Great story! Pulls you in! Thanks!

  8. Dave
    July 22, 2012, 1:26 am

    Did anyone see the emblem on the car he was driving at the end? A Mercedes!! And he was talking about kids staying away from fancy cars!
    He must have been able to keep all of his cash.

  9. Roger C.
    July 25, 2012, 8:51 pm

    Not everyone is lying guys. Many Hollywood movies are grounded in reality, you know. This guy’s story was not unbelievable at all. How would you know anyways? He did spend years in prison. Think that happened without a reason? Look at him! He clearly knows how to handle himself and is slimy. I thought he was very honest. I think it was the flashbacks that may have raised red flags, but let’s be honest, obviously, they weren’t accurate.

  10. Jeremy
    July 28, 2012, 6:07 pm

    I love this show. I feel I have a good idea on when I hear bs. This guy is full of it.. This episode was a waste of airtime.

  11. Krystina Wood
    October 10, 2012, 3:40 pm

    I really wish he’d stop saying “I had no choice”. He had every choice in the world, and the choices he made landed him in prison. This is why he’s upset. He was more than happy to be involved in drugs, continuing funding terrorism through the drug trade, murder and exploitation whilst he was making money out of it. I used to enjoy this series, but starting to get a little tired of all the “I have no choice” that I hear week after week.

  12. Cohen
    October 10, 2012, 4:01 pm

    Well knowing the person in the show personally i know a few things about his story.

    Listening to the story told here sounds amazing but is far from the truth, it uses a bit of truth and is expanded like a movie script, it makes you wander what is truth on TV these days or what was ever true ? or do you we live in a continues movie 🙂

  13. Jokable
    October 11, 2012, 10:42 am

    Can’t believe Nat Geo are pushing this rubbish out. This guy couldn’t tell the truth to save his life! How he managed to keep a straight face is beyond me! Really I’m not watching this programme any more.. it used to be so much better(i.e. believable) . Time to finish it Nat Geo, If you can’t get people who have genuine stories then time to invest in a new factual programme otherwise you’ll lose viewers.. like me!

  14. Ugottabekidding
    November 7, 2012, 5:31 am

    Reic Audrey now this guy. Try keeping it real will you or just give up on any creditibility and call it Banged up abroad goes lame.

  15. Common Sense
    November 8, 2012, 4:03 pm

    It’s quite a shank that can go through and come out the other side of a human body…. but then it was quite a story.

  16. Md
    December 7, 2012, 10:34 pm

    Great story. Better than any movie. I found it credible and within the realm of possibility, even if parts may have been exaggerated.

  17. Kyle Gubbe
    February 23, 2013, 4:06 am

    So heart wrenching to hear if his prison trails while killing countless others with his beautiful plates. How much godly wealth did you hide away while killing or enslaving countless others?

    Have a pulled pork sandwich on me!

  18. Jason
    April 29, 2013, 6:17 pm

    There is so much BS in this episode it felt like watching some Hollywood movie. There are couple of big RED flags:
    1. You cannot come up in society and at age 24 not know what drugs are, and that it is illegal to transport and distribute. You just have to listen / read / watch the news or hear from other people and you’ll know…
    2. No drug king makes one a partner in the drug trade just like that for transporting his money and wife. It takes time to climb the ladder and you start at the bottom
    3. Hasidic Jew gang having a shootout in Sao Paolo with local gangsters?! Really?!?!?
    4. Some knowledge of Aikido is enough to overcome a violent inmate with a knife and then to top it off the inmate falls on his own knife grip which goes through him and kills him?!?!

  19. Roland
    June 25, 2013, 4:53 am

    Ye it’s quite unbelievable…more like a movie to me…a B category action

  20. gary
    September 11, 2014, 3:53 pm

    red flag:
    he kills an inmate n yet not punished fr extended stay i prison fr a murder. yet realeased an year or so earlier.

  21. Philiip
    June 4, 2016, 11:06 am

    Did there ever exist a Jewish drug gang in São Paulo?
    It is possible because it has a large Jewish community but is there any proof the such a criminal organization ever existed?

  22. Pedro V.
    São Paulo
    March 2, 4:00 pm

    What a big mistake airing this episode. Pure unrealistic fiction. And so many telling signs that the guy was full of it. Perfect porcelain plates made of cocaine? Car bomb assassination attempt? Hot boss’s wife tries to sleep with him? Goes from mule to partner of drug boss in a few months? A HASSIDIC drug lord at that. Overpowers murderer in prison and kills him with his own weapon? Goodbye credibility, Natgeo.