Wednesday, February 21, 2024 | The Latest Buzz for the Appraisal Industry

‘Narcos: Mexico’ Real DEA Agent Talks Crime and Appraising

If you haven’t caught the popular drug cartel series, Narcos, on Netflix yet, you are in for a treat. The series is back for Season Four telling the true story of a DEA station chief, Agent James Kuykendall. Today, James has exchanged his Agent badge for his role as a Texas certified appraiser.

Narcos: Mexico, documents the rise of the Guadalajara Cartel in the 1980s and the discoveries made by Agent James Kuykendall and Agent Enrique Camarena.

Buzz: How involved did you become with the production of the show?

James: I was a consultant for the show for about a year. I had a great deal of input how the story was told but the producers filmed it how they saw best. I spent some time with the actor who plays me, Matt Letscher. We got to know each other well, so he had a great understanding of what it was like for me during that time.

Buzz: How accurately were you portrayed in the filming of your real-life drama?

James: Matt captured many of the good qualities that guided me through this difficult case and held back on some of the bad ones that I may have displayed at the time. Overall, his depiction of me was very accurate.

Buzz:  What about the rest of the storyline, such as the violence that was portrayed?  Did that actually happen the way it was represented on the show?

James: The way the show re-enacted the events were very accurate. Some of the violence was exaggerated but much of it is an honest depiction of how things actually occurred. A few small details are indicative of what happened but not entirely authentic. For example, Kiki (Agent Enrique Camarena) was already in Mexico for well over a year before I arrived. The story was told on the show a bit differently. They did things like that so they could have the traffickers arrive at the same time as Kiki. In reality, the traffickers had been slowly transitioning their operations to Jalisco, Mexico for about 15 years. For the most part, the story line was very close to what actually happened.

Buzz:  Were there any specific concerns that you wanted to make sure the producers of the show conveyed to the viewers?

James: I was very concerned that the show treated the DEA personnel with respect, which they did. The Mexican government was very corrupt back then, as it is today in many areas. There were Mexican officials involved at every level protecting the drug traffickers. There were a great many of them involved in the kidnapping and murder of Agent Camarena. So, did the show embarrass the Mexican government? Most likely, but I don’t mind. That is fine with me.

Buzz:  What were you expecting when you arrived at the office in Mexico?

James: I was in Houston for nearly a year and a half before my assignment in Mexico and many of the cases that I was engaged with involved operations coming out of Mexico. Prior to that, I spent many years working the Texas-Mexico Border, but I did not expect to see a situation where the traffickers were living openly in Mexico while freely working their operations. I certainly did not expect to find such a sophisticated trafficking operation. These were huge revelations to me.

Buzz:  After the mission was complete what lead you to become a Real Estate Appraiser?

James: Well, I was a DEA agent, essentially a police officer. Like most cops my first job after retirement was as a private investigator. I stayed in that role for a number of years before I dabbled in some other professions. I eventually arrived where I am now, a Real Estate Appraiser. It somewhat just happened as time went on.

Buzz:  Have you ever walked into a house you were appraising, and the show was on? Or has someone ever recognized your name as you were appraising their property?

James: The show was just released in November and my community may not be small, but it is not very large either. Many already know me and my past. Some of them have seen the show and connected the dots. As time goes on things may change, but right now things are pretty much normal for me.

Buzz:  Is there anything that you are hoping viewers better understand by watching the show?

James: The same problems exist now, just as they did in the 1980’s. Hopefully, the Mexican or U.S. government will find a way to end the corruption and curtail drugs from coming into the United States. Just sealing the border and enforcing the laws that already exist would make life better for law-abiding citizens of the U.S. as well as Mexico.

Buzz:  James, thank you for joining us.

James: It was my pleasure.

If you would like more information on James’ story, you can purchase his book Silver or Lead here.

Tom Armstrong, MAI

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