NBC 10 I-Team: Former kingpin opens up about drugs, cops and the mob
He drove a flashy black Mercedes convertible.
Scantily clad women partied at his secluded East Greenwich Estate off of South County Trail.
His pets? Wolves, a pack of them.
In the 1980s and 90s, Charles Kennedy was living the high life -- literally.
“Business was very good,” he said. “No matter what I had, I never had enough.”
Pot and cocaine made him millions, he said. The drug ties ran to Mexico, South America and Canada.
Kennedy got his start with mobsters like Gerard Ouimette and safe cracker Arthur "Bucky" Barrett, who was later murdered by Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger.
For years, Kennedy played cat and mouse with police.
“I studied counter-surveillance. I was cautious. I never had a phone in my house,” he said in an interview with the NBC 10 I-Team.
Police couldn’t catch him and named Kennedy “The Ghost.”
“I frustrated them,” he said.
In the heyday of the drug wars, Brian Andrews was detective commander with the Rhode Island State Police. He vividly remembers making some attempts at nailing the Ghost.
“He was a fast-moving guy, he was a difficult guy, difficult to nail down,” said the retired detective.
Andrews told the NBC 10 I-Team he would send a trooper to pick up Kennedy's garbage.
“We'd go through the garbage but we weren't finding anything in the garbage either, so he was pretty disciplined like that,” Andrews said.
Kennedy's kingdom came crashing down December 1995.
“Law enforcement, DEA, get your hands up who's in the house?” said Kennedy.
The cops came hidden in the back of an animal control van. Kennedy thinks an old Columbian associate gave him up. Police searched the house. They found a hidden spot where he would stuff jewelry up a wall.
“You risk your life every day and you are truly hunted,” said Kennedy.
He received a 15-year sentence in federal prison. Hard time. When asked if he ever tried to escape? Kennedy said no.
“The thought enters everybody’s mind, but no I didn't.”
The Ghost was moved around in the prison system. He did a stint with drug kingpin George Jung, played by actor Johnny Depp in the movie Blow.
At Fort Dix, another inmate noticed Kennedy's subscription to the Providence Journal. It was none other than former mayor Buddy Cianci.
“It was never, ‘Poor me.’ I never heard him complain,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy gained his freedom in 2009, but he was broke and busted. Long gone was the secluded estate and the fancy cars. The government had seized all his assets.
“Prison will completely disenfranchise you unless you have a good support network. It is so hard to get employment, to get housing,” he said.
The former millionaire now struggles to pay the bills. And he laughs in the irony that he was busted for marijuana, but now carries a medical marijuana card, which enables him to smoke the product and also grow it.
Kennedy’s resurgence on the Providence scene has propelled him toward a new life. He's part of the hit podcast called Crimetown. And he contributed to a book called “Chasing the Ghost” written with former Providence Journal reporter Bill Malinowski, who sadly passed away from ALS last summer.
Now 63 years old and a grandfather, The Ghost has few regrets even looking now at his old mug shot.
“That guy had a lot of fun,” he said. “And he employed a lot of people. He circulated that money. He was good for the economy. Think of all the investigators working overtime on me, chasing me something they couldn't catch.”