Famed drug kingpin Pablo Escobar's brother Roberto was also a member of the Medellin Cartel and served as his Pablo's accountant, which we assume involved approving some eye-popping expense receipts. After Pablo's death, Roberto was left partially deaf and blind by a letter bomb and served years in prison. And in 2014, Vice found him eking out a living by giving drunken backpackers $30 tours of Pablo's old house, while claiming to have cured AIDS by studying horses. It seemed like a fairly sad existence, but things took a wild turn very shortly after that, because this is the kind of story where a horse-based AIDS cure doesn't count as a particularly zany plot twist.
Roberto Escobar, as it turns out, is now the world's foremost telecommunications tycoon, at least if you believe him. How did he achieve this incredible turnaround? By selling a $350 solid gold unbreakable folding smartphone branded with Pablo Escobar's face, obviously. Roberto claims that his phone is so groundbreaking it will completely obliterate Apple and Samsung. In fact, he's published a whole book about it.
According to Roberto, Apple and Samsung are running a massive scam by overcharging for folding phones, which is why he's used groundbreaking technology to design the Escobar Fold, which retails for just $350 and comes with Pablo's face as the built-in screensaver. We'd tell you more, but the ads are light on actual demonstrations of the phone and heavy on scantily clad models. Because when you've got a really great product, people don't want to know how it works, just if it will inexplicably delight 14 Belorussian lingerie enthusiasts. The phone did receive at least one fully clothed endorsement from former Donald Trump campaign manager Cory Lewandowski, who was paid a whopping $55 to rave about the phone on the Cameo app.
Some naysayers have said that the phone is clearly a Samsung Galaxy Fold with some gold tinfoil glued to it. (Sure, you can literally peel back the foil to reveal a Samsung logo, but who can really say?) Since the Galaxy Fold sells for over $1,000, you'll be unsurprised to hear that most people who buy Escobar Fold never actually seem to receive it. Instead, they get a string of excuses, a copy of Roberto's book, and sometimes a vaguely ominous message suggesting that if they want a refund so badly they should come to Colombia and look for it. Who could have guessed that buying a gold phone from the Escobar family could turn out to be a dicey proposition?
Roberto also says he plans to sue Apple for $30 billion for ripping off their customers, which is even more ambitious than the $1 billion he demanded from Netflix in exchange for featuring his brother in Narcos. Roberto promised to "close their little show" if Netflix didn't comply, but nothing seems to have happened, unless he was playing the long game and actually rallied the remnants of the Medellin Cartel to create negative Twitter buzz about faux feminism in Girl Boss.
The quest to destroy Apple is really only the tip of Roberto's business iceberg. For example, he also launched a GoFundMe campaign claiming to have unspecified information that could "take down" Donald Trump. He nobly offered to release that information in exchange for $50 million. GoFundMe eventually removed the campaign, which Roberto insisted was clearly a move by Trump to censor him. To avoid such problems, he launched the ESCOBAR cryptocurrency, pledging to issue $1 billion in crypto as part of his project to defeat the president. Sadly, the offering must have failed to hit the bar, since Roberto never got around to releasing his devastating secret information.
Although it's possible he just became distracted by his flamethrower war with Elon Musk. You see, shortly after Musk started selling a limited line of toy "Not A Flamethrower" flamethrowers, Roberto claimed that the Tesla founder had stolen his own idea for a flamethrower, apparently on the basis that he once met a Tesla engineer. Roberto angrily threatened to sue, saying "I am OK to settle this right now for $100 million. Tesla shares is OK or cash. I will win in court, and you will lose more than $100 million. Maybe I will make myself new Tesla CEO with the courts." He also started selling a knockoff flamethrower, since "I want the people to be able to burn money, like me and Pablo used to do. I burned probably a couple of billion dollars over the years." And you were definitely burning money by ordering that flamethrower.
This is actually the sickest burn the flamethrower produced.
As you might've figured out from the above tales, Roberto was always kind of a card. His biography is the source of a bunch of outlandish stories, like the one about the cartel losing 10 percent of its money to rats and water damage each year, which is wildly implausible unless they were coating it in gravy and throwing it in a rat pit. But he was selling a story, and every good biography dealer knows you have to cut the facts with a little exaggeration to hit your margins. Also, let's not forget the horse thing. But did he really, at the age of 73, pivot to becoming a shady cryptocurrency guy?
Well, a lot of it likely has to do with Olof Gustafsson, a 26-year-old Swedish bitcoin entrepreneur who became Escobar's business partner at some point before 2016. It's very unclear how exactly they met, but Gustafsson is now CEO of Escobar Inc., speaks on Roberto's behalf, and appears to manage all of the 73-year-old's new business ventures. It may also explain why Roberto Escobar appears to have briefly held a trademark on the name "Bitcoin" (the copyright office later transferred the unenforceable trademark claim to alleged inventor Craig Wright).
Under Gustafsson's leadership, Escobar Inc. has launched at least two Escobar-branded cryptocurrencies in recent years. As well as the Trump-themed ESCOBAR, there was dietbitcoin, which launched with a statement from Roberto claiming that the CIA had invented bitcoin and that only dietbitcoin was safe against US government monitoring. He also released an e-book to promote the new coin, which sounds suspiciously similar to his smartphone book. Escobar Inc. helpfully explained that "everyone should...buy as many dietbitcoin's as you can afford. The value will be very high as we are identical in numbers to Bitcoin, except we are 4000 times cheaper right now." Which is certainly ... one view of economics.
A cynical person might suggest the strategy here is to make a big, insane claim (the CIA invented bitcoin, Elon Musk stole my flamethrower, I can defeat Donald Trump with my cocaine secrets), knowing that the Escobar name will get the media to cover it, then use the attention to promote various get-rich-quick schemes. Although to be clear, we're definitely not suggesting that. We all have the greatest respect for honesty and integrity of the Escobar family and any elderly hitmen they may continue to know, and sincerely look forward to receiving our golden phones once all those shipping delays get cleared up.