Jeffrey Meranto. Phoenix Businessman Arrested Later in life. Sent to prison and life beyond

Early Retirement – My Best Worst Day, part 4

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                                                                   The Ride . .

No one can prepare themselves for incarceration, ( although I surely tried! ). The one thing I learned before going in was, “Keep your mouth shut, don’t ‘see anything,’ do your own time, and your ride won’t be too bad” These were words that were given to me by a ex-con whom I met at some seedy bar prior to going to prison. The “Ride,” he was talking about was the sentence that The Judge was shortly to impose.

Doing time, being imprisoned was somewhat like a surreal carnival complete with rides, unusual food, and a group of individuals who could easily staff any Ol’ Time Carnival Sideshow. . or Pirate Ship.

Nearly 3 years had gone by since I first “went down,” that is to say, I had been in prison almost 3 years. I was a porter inside my cell block swinging a mop back and forth up and down the cell block with the other porter, ‘Joe Taco.’

“Dirty dogs, the dirty dogs,” exclaimed Joe, “can you believe it? They gave me Cancer. The bastards.”

‘Joe Taco’ got his name from his business. Joe owned hundreds of Taco Trucks and Taco Stands from New York to Los Angeles.

Every year since he’d been in prison either the I.R.S. or The Immigration Dept. , or both, would come to visit Joe and try to get him implicated in new charges. To everyone, especially Joe, this was absurd since Joe was doing ‘all day’ meaning he had a life sentence without the possibility of parole. But still the Government Agents would come and threaten him. Mostly trying to implicate his family in wrong doing since his was a family owned and operated business with Joe making all the big decisions from inside.

He’d been in prison for 19 years, had 3 Heart Attacks, one minor Stroke, and now Cancer. Joe attributed all of this to the stress caused by the continued ongoing investigations he went through for 19 years.

“Can you believe it? And honest Jeff, I’m tellin’ the truth. . ” said Joe, ” They’re killing me with all this stress. And me Jeff, you’re lookin’ at a man who is doin’ time for somethin’ he didn’t do.”

I met lots of guys who said similar things to me about they’re incarcerated for something they didn’t do but, when Joe said this to me I could tell he was being truthful.

Over 25 years before Joe owned several Taco Trucks in New York some local toughs were forcing most of the vendors to pay for protection. Joe refused and according to him one of his trucks got torched. So a few short days afterwards 4 or 5 of the ‘tough guys’ were found shot to death. The best suspect for the murders was Joe.

Not that Joe talked much about what he was in for, he didn’t. Mostly he’d just say something like, “Look how they treat me, and I’m a guy who’s in for somethin’ he didn’t do.”

The I.R.S. would come after him because his business dealt mostly in cash. Immigration came after him because he employed  a lot of people who might not be in the Country Legally.

“I’m tellin’ you what Jeff. I ain’t gonna do it no more. Gonna go for early retirement and cheat these pricks outta a few years. That’s what I’m gonna do.”

What Joe was saying was he refused all treatment for his Cancer and was going to die, Intentionally. Thereby cheating The Government from taking the rest of his life a day at a time. “Early Retirement”

Weeks went by and Joe’s health failed rapidly. I’m not sure if his Cancer was super aggressive or if Joe just willed himself to die.

The last time I saw Joe he was being wheeled out of the cell block on a gurney. I was sweeping the bottom tier and as they pushed Joe past me he grabbed hold of my arm and motioned me to bend close so I could hear him.

“Tell everyone Jeff, tell everyone I’m in for something I didn’t do.” His voice barely a whisper.

“I will Joe, I will.”

“Tell ’em I didn’t wipe the prints off the gun I used to kill those pricks with Jeff. That’s what I didn’t do. I didn’t wipe the prints off the gun.” His smile wide and peaceful as they pushed him away.

So for the years I spent in prison, I met at least one man who truly was in prison for something he didn’t do.

 

 

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Mrs Jeffrey Meranto. . . The Planner

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Jeffrey Meranto

When one is first sentenced to prison there is a feeling of being completely out of control.You’ve lost your fight for freedom and now you have to come to grips with it all. But how do come to terms with something so beyond anything and everything you’ve ever known? Believe me everyone comes to this point and most everyone knowingly or unknowingly develops some strategy for coping – for getting through the first part of the nightmare some plan of action. And that’s what I did. I’m a guy so I did what guy’s do I developed a plan.

This is not to imply that Ladies don’t plan. My wife for example plans out everything. She plans events, she plans things to do, she even plans time between things to do so we can do things that just come up while we wait to do other things that she has previously planned for us to do. She is by far the best planner ever.

 We recently went back East to visit relatives in Minnesota and my Bride, as is her way, planned out the entire trip for us. She planned dinners, lunches, places to stay and places not to stay, she even planned allotments of time between planned events so we might catch our breath or do something fun and wonderful that we hadn’t planned to do. Got it?

One day between seeing her Cousins and sleeping at some lake we had “nothing  planned” and she asked me if I had any ideas. I had, since childhood wanted to see “The World’s Largest Ball of Twine Rolled By One Man” and once when she and I were in Minnesota years before I had made attempts for us to go but, she had always had other plans, (this was before she added into her planning strategy plans to do nothing or plans to do other things theretofore unplanned). So I, being aware of her meticulous planning methods, and her complete lack of desire to join my quest, had kept silent concerning The World’s Largest Ball Of Twine Rolled By One Man until we were between plans and being between plans I pounced –  made mention of my long-held desire and waited for her rebuff.

“Seriously? You want to drive an hour to see a ball of string? Why?”

“Look, you know I mentioned this years ago when we were here before. And it’s twine not string.”

“Twine, string who cares? It’s just a ball made out of rope Jeff, er. . Twine a ball of twine. Ok so we’ll go. But only because you never did get that Schwinn bicycle you wanted when you were a kid. Twine. . Seriously?”

So off we went to my delight. Until we got there at Darwin Minnesota and I discovered that I had forgotten my camera. But I did have the opportunity to fulfill a boyhood dream! I recommend it to any guy out there. Imagine the years of the years of time dedicated to this. It weighs in excess of 9 tons. Unfortunately I, as I stated had “forgotten” my camera so all I have to show you is what I could pull up on the internet.

Jeffrey Meranto's Dream Vacation

 Driving back my lovely wife say’s to me, “So, did you enjoy yourself?”

“Are you kidding, that was great!” I exclaimed.

“I knew you’d like it, that’s why I planned for us to go there today.”

“You planned,” began my retort, ” right, you can’t stand it that I finally got to see it! But I love you for going with me.”

“Jeff baby, look in my day planner,” she said to me.

And sure enough she had it scheduled in our her plans, listed as ‘MUST SEE’

Sitting back watching the scenery I asked her, “So . . why tell me now? Why didn’t you just say something ahead of time?”

“Because honey, I had to plan that you wouldn’t have your camera. We’d still be there with me snapping pictures of you with your ball of string. You know how you are!”

“So where is my camera?” I asked.

“I let my nephew David  use it!”

“The kid with the blue Mohawk?”

“Yes.”

“It’s not a ball of string. .”

“I know honey, I know I was there. Twine, it’s twine. Happy now?”

And I was.

Jeffrey Meranto – My Best Worst Day part 1

Jeffrey Meranto Slipping Into Darkness

It’s odd how a person’s mind functions under stress. As I was placed “Under Arrest” and the Agent told me, “Mr Meranto you are under arrest for narcotics violations,” I didn’t think of my family, I didn’t think of the possibility of years, even a lifetime in prison, I didn’t wonder about what they were saying, or the fact that DEA Agents were swarming into my business like so many uninvited ants invading a picnic, I thought about our cat.

My wife and I had gone down to an animal shelter looking to buy a puppy and we walked away with a mangy old cat. She was secluded in a small cage away from the other animals due to a horrid case of ringworm that made her appear like something come back from the dead. Seeing her all alone and defeated in her small cage we knew she would never be adopted so we asked about her. We were told that her ringworm was “aggressive” and that she had not responded to treatment. Long story short she was slated to be “put down.”

7 months of salves, ointments, emollients, balms, creams, lotions, and dips. 7 months of scratches and bites. 7 months of plastic then rubber then finally leather gloves. 7 months of searching under beds, chairs, cupboards and cabinets to find her so we could continue her treatments. 7 months of playing “Mad Scientists” and she was finally free of her mangy coat.

And I sat with my hands cuffed behind my back watching the DEA thanking God that our cat was healed from ringworm.

Meranto – Jeffrey

Processed Into The System

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Jeffrey Meranto Mugshot

The events that follow an arrest are to be best thought of as being written by some far away Russian Novelist. The only thing missing was the sound of the wind blowing across the snowy steppes as I was placed inside a van that had no windows only steel mesh where the glass should have been.

Hours of waiting, being moved from holding cells to interrogation rooms then on again to the same cells only on a different level then back to the same interrogation rooms rearranged and repainted each time but, the same none the less even though they were in different buildings. Always the same cell always the same room just in different locations.

As I was being marched towards the camera for my “booking” picture I caught a glimpse of my reflection and I was 10 years old again. We had gathered for some family event. Well fed and eager to be away from each other we scrunched together so some balding Uncle could take a Family photo. My Mother in a moment of madness attempted to tame my wild hair.

“MOM!” I exclaimed loudly, as she was using the one sure cure-all that all Mothers use for everything from cleaning a smudged face, to putting the shine back on your Sunday School Shoes, or, as was in my case, to slick down some cowlick – Saliva. My Mother had spit in her hand and was applying it with vigor to my head.

Satisfied and looking at my hair she gave the nod that all was in order. Click. One month later when our copy of the photo had arrived my Mom said, “Oh Jeffrey.” My hair had a mind of its own and while I might behave for fear of having my Mom tell my Dad, my hair had no such inclination and the picture proved it. There I was my head sprouting horns left, right, and center. The photo was framed and set on the mantel and for years I had to look at it with my many sets of wet horns.

As I stood there in the jail having my picture taken I remembered that old family picture and thought to myself, “This one’s going to look even worse.” And I think I was right.

We all have bad days. We all have worse days. From the time of my arrest until after my release from prison I view as one day, ” The Worst Day” of my life. Time stopped. I woke up, went to work, and got arrested. I went to sleep that night in a jail cell trying to determine how old it was by peeling away the successive layers of paint. Year one white, years  following yellow, beige, grey, black, and blue. Years later I wake up in a hotel room with green and gold drapes after being released from prison . . next day the alarm rings – stretch then yawn. Day two.

Jeffrey Meranto Phoenix Businessman steps in POOP

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Family Man, Retired Phoenix AZ Business Man Jeffrey Meranto

  I have never worked for anyone other than myself. I write this with a bit of pride but, not for myself . . for my Father.

When I was eleven years old my Father and I were out shopping in the old Christown Shopping Mall. Big stuff back in those days!

We got whatever it was that my Dad wanted to purchase and we did some window shopping. Just wandering about the various stores him looking at tools and things that he thought might be useful around the house me looking at every pretty girl in Phoenix who happened to be there. And at that time in Phoenix Christown was where they were.

(Eleven was when pretty girls began to matter to me! Leading me to later be married to The Prettiest Girl in Phoenix AZ! My Wife, my Bride who has stuck with me through all the good times and bad.)

Jeff Meranto's Dream Bike. 1960 Schwinn banana seat with apehanger handle bars

Jeff’s Dream Ride

And then there it was, the one thing that could turn my eye from all those pretty girls. . a 1960ish Schwinn Bicycle. Not just any Schwinn bike this was HOT, Banana Bike Seat, Apehanger handle bars, 3 speed with a stick shift! WOW!

“DAD, I Gotta have it!” The words escaped from my mouth before I had time to concoct any plan of action that might somehow someway convince my Father that his eldest son who, lacked nothing in life, “NEEDED” this latest new toy.

It was more than $50.00. My Dad looked at the price tag. “FIFTY DOLLARS?!?! Jeffrey, you could get a used car for FIFTY DOLLARS. JEFF you are NOT getting this bike.”

That was that, when DAD looked at me with that “DAD LOOK” I knew I was doomed. Every boy knows that certain Dad Look that says “are you crazy, are you even my child, or did you get mixed up with some other boy at the hospital and I brought the wrong kid home?”

So we drove home. Me looking wistfully out the window dreaming about how cool I’d look riding that bike and my Dad no doubt looking me over making certain that there were familiar family features imprinted upon my face assuring him that daft as I might be, I truly was his offspring. . .

After two days of  wandering  around listlessly and aimlessly because of unhappiness over my unfulfilled “Need” of a new bike my Father called me into the living room and told me that if I really wanted that bike I should WORK for it. And he gave me an idea. Take the lawn mower around the neighborhood and mow lawns. Sometimes Fathers Can Be Brilliant!

So I did just that and I attacked my neighborhood with all the fervor any young 11 year old on a quest can muster. After one solid week of knocking on doors, dragging the mower, mowing lawns, repeat I had amassed about 13 dollars. I could see my prize nearly in my grip, wind whipping through my crew cut scalp as I popped wheelies within the confines of my imagination!

My Father asked me, “So how’s it going? How much didya’ make this last week?” I was so excited, “13 Dollars Dad!” He smiled his Dad Smile then asked me, “And how much do you plan on giving me?” “Huh?”, was the best I could answer.

“For the use of my mower. Rental fees for using my lawn mower. What do you think is fair?”

My very first Bubble burst.”POP!”  I had never thought of Anything like that which he being a Father very well knew. He explained to me some basic facts of business which I can put here in brief: “It’s a ‘Dog eat dog world’ .”

By the time I had gotten enough cash to purchase that bike I bought my own lawn mower, which my Father would charge me storage fees for, and truly entered into the world of small business ownership. 4 years later with two high school guys as employees I had 3 lawn mowers, 2 gas powered edgers, and and assortment of odds and ends for lawn and garden grooming.

We were moving after I turned 15 and my Dad helped me find someone to buy my client list plus the equipment for a good profit! Then the I.R.S. came into play, “POP”, my second Bubble burst.

So due to my Father’s wisdom I have always owned my own business and I’ve never worked for anyone other than myself. Which leads us to later in my life when I owned several businesses including a Jet Ski sales business. which is where my troubles began.

jeffrey meranto's bubble

Just prior to my stepping in Big Doo-doo the economy was good, very good. But everyone was talking about ” The Bubble ” and when it would POP. I was up to my ears in debt and everyone I knew kept talking about The Bubble Busting.

One day my Grandson came to spend the weekend and while I was unpacking his things I saw he had brought his own bath stuff . . including a bottle of Mr Bubble. “POP”
Looking back on it, I Laugh, BUT at the time I was panicked. 
Then one day at my business a young guy walks in and asks if he can make a purchase with CASH. 
What do you think I told him?
Long story short, he makes several purchases each time with CASH. So I ask him straight out, “What do you do for a living?” Turns out he’s a Student at The University and he point blank tells me he sells “POT” He’s ready to graduate without any debt. Before he leaves he tells me that he has stopped selling the stuff as he’s about to graduate, But if I ever want any to call him before the semester ends and he’ll get me some for his cost.
Why oh why I ever mentioned it I’ll never know but I did. I was at an upscale club in Scottsdale and I said something to a bartender. The next thing I knew he was introducing me to a “friend of his.” Some guy with a ” Back East ” accent who was ” in the market.”
He wanted 100 kilograms. I was thinking 100 baggies as in Ounces and I thought that was a lot!
I called the Student he said he’s never bought that much before he’d have to get back to me. When he did he gave me a price and I thought “That’s got to be Some Good Pot” as I was thinking Ounces NOT KILOGRAMS! But I also felt better because I never thought this Back East Guy would want to give me that kind of cash.
I asked the kid what the markup would be on resale, he said ” Easy Double & That’s Passing Along A Discount.”
I was more than nervous I was flat out afraid. So I met with the buyer told him the outrageous price and he told me ” No Problem. Meet Me Tonight.”  My heart stopped. The rest of the story is a blur. The bottom line is the Back East Guy was a Government Agent. My one and only sale was to the Feds.
They told me to give them my supplier & the student. I kept thinking how that young boy had his entire life ahead of him, my wife also brought that up to me after I told her the whole story. So my wife and I agreed I would keep my mouth shut and I would dance to whatever music the Prosecutor played.
Possession of Narcotics?? I asked my attorney if they were serious. My attorney said that they were angry because I wouldn’t talk to them and the Federal Prosecutor wanted to make an example out of me. I still wonder, ” An Example Of What & To Who? “
So now even to this day I’m still an example. My charges of Possession of Narcotics & Tax Fraud still haunt me. The fines totally wiped me out financially.
So to anyone and everyone who might be worried about some “BUBBLE BURSTING” there are worse things. Yet even those worse things can be lived through.

Come Back For My Next Post Where I Describe In Hilarious Detail ALL The Bump and Grind that a naive businessman turned wanna be pot dealer can get up to!

 

 

 

 

 

Jeffrey Meranto’s “Slam Bang Clang” Brush With The Law [ in brief ]

My name is Jeff Meranto. I am  approaching  the twilight of my life and in doing so it is my desire to record a few facts in order to Set The Record Straight.

A number of years ago I was arrested for Marijuana in Phoenix AZ.  Anyone who types in Jeffrey Meranto, or even Jeff Meranto into a Search Engine will readily see this. At least they will be able to read what the Government put out there.
I admit the general facts of what they wrote. I admit this. I also admit that it was WRONG. I also admit that I became confused by GREED.
 
When I was arrested the Government offered me ” A Deal ” Turn in someone and go completely Free or go to prison.
They said to me, “Mr. Meranto, You’ve got a family you have a life. Don’t be a fool give us some information and you can go home tonight. We will erase EVERYTHING. No Charges, NOTHING. “
They were right. I do have a Family. I had a good reputation as well and they promised me they would destroy both. I found out that this is how Prosecutors operate. Give us something and we will treat you right or keep your mouth shut and be destroyed.
 
It’s all over now so I feel that I can write down how One Middle Aged Family Man with his own business got himself so deep so quick into so much poop and how that continues to haunt me even to this day. .