What Took Medellin’s Top American Pimp So Long to Get Caught?
Prostitution is legal in Pablo Escobar’s old hometown, but pimping is not—and according to police Colombia Jake was pimping little girls.
American tourists visiting Medellín knew him as “Colombia Jake,” the friendly local American guide who made sure they had a good time. He could fix them up with an apartment, rent them a motorbike, or arrange for them a “Pablo Escobar tour,” visiting the grave and some of the houses of the infamous drug lord who, for better or worse, put that lovely old Colombian city on the map in the 1980s as a capital of cartel depravity.
Medellín has changed since then, but as a local newspaper columnist lamented recently, there lingers “a mafia culture, defying the law and common sense” amid “absurd inequality, where the few opportunities that many people (many women, in this case) may have are to denigrate themselves in front of those who abuse them, those who take advantage of their bodies to satisfy their morbid curiosity.”
It’s a city where, as The Daily Beast reported in May, girls as young as 10 are recruited by the remnants of the cartels, and their virginity sold to the highest bidding sex tourist.
So it’s the kind of place a pimp can make a good living, and according to the Colombian National Police, who arrested him in July and charged him with abusing a girl younger than 14, Colombia Jake fit right in.
The wonder of it is that Jake, a 53-year-old former high school baseball star from Florida whose real name is Jay Harry Drivas, wasn’t nabbed long before. Even by the low standards of “escort service” advertising, his cobbled-together websites—including colombiajake.com—were crude, crass, and to the point.
When Drivas was arrested in Medellín, after what police claimed was a months-long investigation, they said they found $10,600 in cash, as well as cocaine and ecstasy, at his three-bedroom property. They found an inflatable tub there as well (which figures in some of his publicity pictures), and they found a 13-year-old girl (some reports say 12), who is now with social services.
Prostitution by women over 18 years of age is legal in Medellín, but pimping is not, and pimping minors definitely is not. Drivas now faces up to 20 years in a Colombian prison. If, as local police suspect, he used prostitutes to sell drugs to clients, that could push his jail time higher still.
The “Colombia Jake” homepage and related sites will be presented in court as evidence, and they’ve already been plastered all over the Colombian press.
Gen. William René Salamanca, director of the Specialized Protection and Services branch of the National Police told the Bogotá daily El Tiempo that the web pages were key to the arrest. But they finally made the case using an undercover officer who spoke good English. Those who spoke Spanish got nowhere.
“The supposed client asked for the services of an underage girl, and the North American [Drivas] agreed,” El Tiempo reported.
The most easily accessible Jake websites show photographs of women in bikinis sitting by an inflatable pool, and a topless woman giving a naked man a massage. Others feature a grinning Drivas in a hot tub with his arms around two women.
There’s also a YouTube testimonial illustrated with more girls and the voice of someone called “Dr. Bruce,” who claims he’s the kind of guy who goes to Super Bowls and has seen a lot of action in a lot of places. “Nobody is killin’ it like you are,” says the voiceover of anonymous Dr. Bruce.
“I’m here to help make sure you have the Best Vacation of your Life!” Jake boasts in blue type with a lot of capital letters: “That’s why guys come here to Enjoy the Beautiful Women, Suites and Tours, but most guys end up lonely at night because finding a fun reliable Girlfriend Experience Date in a short period of time is very difficult. I know lots of Beautiful Girls with Personality, to go have fun with!”
A testimonial on medellinsex.com, a website linked to colombiajake.com, praised his “rent-a-date” service:
“While he can set you up for a quick bang in the room (just like at a casa or club), what was the highlight for me was the Rent-a-date. On two different nights (with two different girls), they’d arrive just outside the hotel in a taxi, I’d hop in and we’d go to a party district… You really feel like a man—The Man—when a hot paisa is all over you and laugh and kiss you in public. After a couple of hours of this, back to the hotel room for about an hour of private time.”
Another Jake-linked photo site is more explicit still: “What you can’t have in the USA!” it boasts. “These fun semipro/student girlfriends want to Drink, Dance and come back to my Hotel or another Hotel for Luv! Contact me today!… The Hot Girlfriend Dates are extra usually between you and her from $50 to $95 dollars and from 1 to 6 hours of fun and action! I have a lot of others even Hotter, who don’t want to be pictured!”
Brazen as this pitch may be, such a site could be said to edge inside Colombian law, given that prostitution by adult women acting on their own is legal. Which is why the charges brought against Drivas are based on what police described as his parallel operation, because there were two: one used the blatant websites and the services of some 200 women, “the other, more low-key, included the services of underage girls,” according to Gen. Salamanca’s interview with El Tiempo.
Clients came from American cities as diverse as Cheyenne, Wyoming; Lincoln, Nebraska; Dallas, Texas; and Atlanta, Georgia, according to Salamanca. He told El Tiempo that U.S. law enforcement is now tracking down some of those gringos who exploited minors.
So, who is Colombia Jake/Jay Drivas? He seems to have started out as a more or less all-American boy. Reportedly born in Massachusetts, he spent most of his life in Florida around Orlando, and was on the baseball team at Lake Howell High School in Winter Park.
He studied business at Florida State University and was on the Lambda Chi Alpha Florida State Baseball Team, as well, before taking various jobs with medical systems companies. He was divorced in 2001, after having two children.
Drivas’s dark side appears to have been with him for some time and, according to Pinellas County Court records, in the mid-1990s he was jailed for a year and three months for attempted sexual battery and six months for battery.
Court documents obtained by The Daily Beast from the Pinellas County sheriff’s office show that the attempted sexual battery for which he was imprisoned occurred in September 1994 and was investigated as an attempted rape.
The victim, whose name was redacted, told investigators that Drivas had hired her to work at a brokerage firm and on her first day they were driving around doing some errands when they stopped off at his apartment to talk about her new position.
The police report says: “As she exited the restroom, she was met by Jay in the hallway, who put his arms around her and attempted to kiss her. The victim immediately pushed him away and said: ‘This is not right.”’
In a copy of the sheriff department’s interview with the victim, obtained by The Daily Beast, the victim said Drivas tried to persuade her to kiss him by saying, “People in the office always fall in love.” As he kept pressing himself on her she said, “This is wrong.” To which he replied, according to the interview, “I’m your boss and I think it’s right.”
Drivas was “grabbing her chest,” and she pushed him off again, the police report says. Then he pushed her into the bedroom and onto the bed where he unzipped her top and kept trying to unzip her skirt. The victim fought him off again and told him to take her back to work, which, finally, he did.
Additional charges against Drivas relating to earlier allegations of attempted sexual battery, kidnapping, and aggravated assault are in the county court records.
A female victim alleged that she was out jogging on the street near her apartment when somebody “came out of the bushes and grabbed her.” She said a man she identified as Drivas was “telling her to shut up as she was screaming for her life.” He allegedly put her in a choke hold, forced her to the ground, and demanded money. When she said she didn’t have any he began to tie her hands up, but her screams attracted the attention of a passerby and Drivas is said to have fled.
The heavier charges from that case were not pursued, according to the court records. They show Drivas pled no contest to a lesser charge of battery and was placed on probation.
A man who knew Drivas well when he was living in Florida, but who asked not to be identified, said that he left for Colombia six years ago in order to avoid paying child support for his two children, now aged 18 and 20. The Colombian police have reported that he settled in Medellín seven years ago.
The same man, who knows the family, said that Drivas has had limited contact with his children since then, apart from sending them messages trying to get them to visit him in Colombia, something their mother refused to let them do because of his lifestyle.
“Jay wanted to live the way he wanted to live and he felt he was living a better life than anybody else,” said his acquaintance. “He’s one of these guys who wants things for free. He has no moral compass at all... He thought had the best life anyone could have. Now he has the worst life imaginable.”
According to locals in Medellín who spoke to The Daily Beast, Drivas arrived there at a time when there were relatively few foreigners in the city.
James Lindzey, a lawyer and businessman based in Medellín, said that Drivas started off renting out apartments and motorcycles, but appears to have become involved in prostitution at some point afterward.
He said that he knew Drivas as an acquaintance in the expat community, which was small back then, and recalled him as a tall, athletic man who would hang out in the sports bars.
Lindzey said that around two years ago Drivas came up to him in a bar and started screaming at him because he would not help him promote his business on the website for his law firm.
Lindzey had heard rumors he was involved in prostitution and had turned him down because of them, he said. “He seemed like he had a screw loose. He was furious.”
In some ways Drivas is lucky to be alive.
In June, gangsters murdered their third foreigner in two weeks in Medellín and homicides are up 80 percent as rival drug cartels, the figurative heirs of Escobar, wage war on each other.
In Lindzey’s opinion, anyone involved in the prostitution business would have come onto the radar of the drug lords, who might have them killed for stealing their women or encroaching on their turf.
Like many other residents and natives of Medellín, Lindzey is concerned that the Colombia Jake story will harm relations between expats and tourists and the local community. Medellín has become one of the most popular places in Colombia for foreign visitors, not least because of its year-round warm weather: “Where Spring is Eternal,” as conventional tourist literature puts it.
There is a growing tech sector, a booming medical tourism industry, and rising numbers of Americans are retiring there thanks to the cheaper cost of living.
But the sex tourism industry is an undeniable draw, too, and the authorities have long looked the other way. What seems to have sparked the crackdown are the recent homicides.
Police recently tried to clear out the area around Parque Lleras, which is popular with tourists and is where many drug dealers and prostitutes hang out. When that didn’t work— the crowds just moved to another park— the authorities began to target pimps, which is when Drivas got caught.
According to the news site El Colombiano, he has tried to kill himself twice since his arrest, including trying to jump from the 17th floor of one of the court buildings.
Drivas is currently being held in the Penitentiary La Paz (Itagüí), a grim, maximum-security prison that is so overcrowded that it has an occupancy of 966 people but only enough beds for 328.
Col. Paulo César Cruz Delgadillo, the chief of the criminal investigation unit for children and adolescents at the Colombian National Police, told the website Vivir En El Poblado that they had “done their part” as far as Drivas was concerned.
The arrest was reportedly coordinated with the U.S. Embassy in Colombia, but whether or not America seeks Drivas’s extradition is up to them, the colonel said. The Department of Justice and the Department of State declined to comment. Nobody from Immigration and Customs Enforcement was available for comment.
Several relatives of Drivas reached by The Daily Beast either did not return calls or hung up when reached on the phone. But not everyone was so reticent.
Kristin Proper, the mother of Drivas’s ex-wife, called Drivas a “scumbag” and said that she was “not surprised at all” by his arrest.
When told that he could be spending the rest of his life in jail, she said: “That would be lovely.”