One Saul nobody should call is Saul Rodriguez, the 39-year-old crybaby killer who headed a murderous gang known to stash kidnapping victims in a basement with a large macaw parrot trained to repeat two words.
“F--k you!…F--k you!…F--k you!”
Not even other criminals want much to do with this Saul. He not only turned rat, he also blubbered and sniveled like some oversize psychopathic baby when he was sentenced in Chicago last week to 40 years for three murders, 29 kidnappings, stealing millions of dollars, and distributing millions more in narcotics.
The killings included a contract hit and a torture murder in which the victim’s ears were burned off before his strangulation with an extension cord as part of a vain effort to elicit the location of drugs and money. A third homicide claimed Rodriguez’s best friend.
“[Rodriguez] then showed up at the funeral acting like a mourner,” prosecutors noted in a pre-sentencing memorandum.
Among those Rodriguez kidnapped were six children as young as 5, a pregnant woman, and an elderly grandmother. He scored $2.5 million in cocaine by grabbing one of the identical Flores twins, who were the exclusive Chicago representatives of the Sinaloa cartel.
Two of the numerous kidnap victims knew Rodriguez and unwittingly called him for help in putting up the ransom, with the understanding they would pay him back. He left them thinking he was a fine friend in a pinch, just the Saul you would want to call, or at least until you learned the truth.
“The man who saved my life,” one of the victims recalls thinking of Rodriguez for a time.
Rodriguez’s partner in crime after crime after crime was a Chicago police officer named Glenn Lewellen. The two first met back in 1996, when the cop arrested Rodriguez for selling pot and took him to an unmarked warehouse the Chicago police used as a kind of black site. Lewellen arranged for the charges to be dropped after Rodriguez agreed to become Confidential Informant 96-20, code-named Bill Pager because he owned a beeper store.
The written agreement Rodriguez signed forbade him from continuing to deal drugs, but Lewellen assured him those were just some words to be ignored.
“Lewellen told Rodriguez: Keep doing what you have been doing. Keep dealing drugs,” the prosecutor would say at trial. “Rodriguez continued to sell drugs in the community with Lewellen’s, a police officer’s, blessing, which put Rodriguez in the best position to gain information about other drug dealers.”
The arrangement provided for Rodriguez to receive a $1,000 reward for every kilo of cocaine recovered as a result of his tips—$750 per kilo more than he made dealing the stuff.
“Lewellen stood by and watched as the Chicago Police Department paid him $40,000 to be a police officer while they paid Rodriguez $800,000 to be an informant,” the prosecutor would report.
By 1998, Lewellen and Rodriguez decided to change the nature of their partnership.
“One criminal and one cop turned criminal, working together to steal drugs and drug money for profit,” the prosecutor would say. “And they made over $1 million doing it.”
Rodriguez and Lewellen became what prosecutors would term “the CEOs” of a crew of violent criminals.
“Rodriguez planned and directly participated in all of the crew’s criminal activities,” the prosecutor would say. “As for Lewellen, he not only planned and directly participated in many of the crew’s violent crimes, he also served as the crew’s guardian angel.”
The prosecutor would add, “Instead of arresting this crew, Lewellen led them…Lewellen served both as the sword and the shield of this crew, which allowed them to commit crimes for years to come.”
On September 11, 2001, when the rest of the country was transfixed by the 9/11 attacks, Rodriguez and Lewellen decided it was a perfect day to rob some drug dealers of 80 kilos of cocaine. The two CEOs subsequently pooled the proceeds of their numerous crimes and founded a real estate firm they called R&L Development.
“R&L, Rodriguez and Lewellen,” the prosecutor would observe.
They bought a green Crown Victoria and outfitted it with lights and a siren to make it indistinguishable from an unmarked police car. Kidnap victims such as the Flores twin imagined they were being arrested when they were first nabbed. They were cuffed with plastic ties and blindfolded before they realized otherwise.
In the meantime, Rodriguez heard that his best friend had slept with an ex-girlfriend. Rodriguez arranged to have the best friend’s car burned and to have drugs planted at his home. The best friend was arrested and freed on bail. Rodriguez then had him murdered.
“He took it like a gangster,” Rodriguez later testified.
Two other murders followed. The kidnappings included the owner of an auto rim shop that Rodriguez patronized. The Rodriguez underlings who carried out the snatch scrolled down through the man’s cellphone, asking who might have money to pay the ransom.
“Why don’t we call Saul?” the victim said. “Let’s call Saul.”
The men dialed the number and held the cellphone to the bound victim’s ear. Rodriguez quickly agreed to “pay” the $700,000 ransom. The victim made good on a pledge to pay back his good friend Saul, with interest. It came to $800,000.
“It took me about three years,” the victim later testified.
Another call to Saul came from an elderly bar owner he knew and arranged to have kidnapped.
“She told me that they had kidnapped her and that she needed my help to pay the ransom,” Rodriguez later testified. “She sounded really scared.”
In April 2009, the crew went to rip off what they believed was a dealer’s 600-kilo stash of cocaine but what was in fact a DEA sting. They were arrested and Rodriguez found himself facing life in prison. He of course agreed to cooperate and testify against his former partner. Lewellen was convicted at trial and sentenced to 40 years.
Rodriguez was initially promised a reduced sentence of 35 years, but he could not help being Rodriguez. He was caught smuggling a cellphone into the federal lockup. He also worked hard at ingratiating himself with a high-ranking boss of the Sinaloa cartel.
The cartel boss, Vicente Zambada, had been locked up thanks to the Flores twins, who had also agreed to cooperate after being arrested. Rodriguez now provided Zambada with everything he had learned of the twins when he was planning to kidnap one of them, including where their families lived and the location of a barbershop and a restaurant they owned.
“He wanted to get some information to try to kill them,” Rodriguez later said of Zambada.
In response, the government moved to revoke the deal with Rodriguez and asked U.S. District Court Judge Joan Gottschall to give him 40 years. Rodriguez appeared in Chicago federal court for sentencing last Friday and blubbered for what reporters estimated to be 10 long minutes, using tissue upon tissue as he begged for no more than 30 years.
“I don’t want to do bad no more,” he said.
Others who spoke included the sister of his murdered best friend. She recalled how Rodriguez had gone to her brother’s funeral after arranging to have him shot to death.
“How could you, Saul?” she asked.
The judge gave Rodriguez the 40 years. One voice that was not heard was the parrot, which could have offered two perfect words for sending the crybaby killer off to prison.