Dumb Criminal of the Week: The NFL Player Who Wanted to Be a Drug Kingpin

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April 12 2013 2:19 PM

Dumb Criminal of the Week: The NFL Player Who Wanted to Be a Drug Kingpin

Sam Hurd of the Chicago Bears catches a pass over Roman Harper of the New Orleans Saints on September 18, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Sam Hurd of the Chicago Bears catches a pass over Roman Harper of the New Orleans Saints on September 18, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

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Name: Sam Hurd

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Crime: Conspiracy to possess cocaine and marijuana with intent to distribute.

Fatal mistake: Not knowing when to leave well enough alone.

The circumstances: As anyone who read the Mitchell Report knows, professional athletes are a bunch of hopheads. But ex-NFL player Sam Hurd takes the drugs-in-sports problem to a whole new level. In 2011, Hurd, then a wide receiver for the Chicago Bears, was arrested and charged with attempting to purchase huge quantities of cocaine and marijuana—five to 10 kilograms of coke and 1,000 pounds of weed, each week—in an apparent bid to become some sort of drug kingpin. According to documents filed in the case, the conspiracy began while Hurd was a member of the Dallas Cowboys; Hurd was to bankroll the operation, while a co-conspirator, Toby Lujan, made connections with suppliers.

This is not the worst criminal scheme I’ve ever heard. As an NFL player, you make a lot of legitimate money—money that you can use to purchase a lot of drugs. And nobody is going to suspect a pro football player of running a massive drug conspiracy. As anyone who watches Breaking Bad knows, sometimes the most successful criminals are the ones who hide in plain sight, concealing their illegal activities under a law-abiding façade.

But Sam Hurd is no Gus Fring. The initial scheme fell apart because Lujan’s connection was actually a confidential informant for the Department of Homeland Security. (Whoops!) While Hurd was out on pre-trial release, he allegedly tried to set up another deal to buy and sell more drugs—five kilograms of cocaine and 200 pounds of marijuana—this time relying on his cousin, Jesse Chavful, to make the connections. Unfortunately, Chavful’s connection was also a confidential informant, for the DEA. Hurd was arrested again.

Yesterday, Hurd pleaded guilty to the charge against him, but with an important caveat: The drugs, his lawyer claimed, were for Hurd’s personal use. “He’s a marijuana freak. He loves marijuana. He’s addicted to high-grade marijuana,” Hurd’s lawyer told the Chicago Tribune, going on to claim that Hurd only wanted the marijuana so that he could share it with his friends. What a guy!

How he could have been a lot smarter: Hurd should have found better co-conspirators. If you’re going to hide in plain sight, don’t get involved with idiots who will blow your cover, or try to buy drugs from people wearing caps that read “DEA.”

How he could have been a little smarter: Hurd should have blamed the whole thing on Jay Cutler. Nobody likes Jay Cutler.

How he could have been a little dumber: “Well, I wasn’t actually going to give the weed to my friends. But I was going to sell it to them at a price that’s practically giving it away.”

How he could have been a lot dumber: “I plead guilty to the charges against me, your honor.” (pause, leans in toward the bench) “Also, I’m looking to buy a lot of drugs.”

Ultimate Dumbness Ranking (UDR): I think this might be the dumbest crime I’ve covered thus far, primarily because it was so unnecessary. Hurd signed a contract with the Bears in 2011 that gave him a $1.35 million signing bonus. You’ve already won, dude! There’s no need to sell drugs. I understand that you might think something’s missing in your life, but you can always fill that void with charity work or reckless affairs with groupies. 9 out of 10 for Sam Hurd.

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at justintrevett@fastmail.fm.