Features

No Way Out

Everyone agrees that Rudy Martinez should be set free. So why is he still in prison?

Illustration by Brian Stauffer

This is how it happened.

Cindy Pluff is a bold, ambitious woman who left home at age 16 to become a prostitute. Tales that begin that way usually end in woe and victimization, but hers is a chronicle of upward mobility. Several men tried to come between Pluff and a dollar during her outlaw days. Things didn’t go so well for them, but she always came out smelling like a rose. Now she owns a legitimate business based in Stillwater, but in the early 1980s she worked in Las Vegas under various names, among them Cynthia Glamour and Miss Glamour Puss. More than 100 arrests for prostitution eventually made her persona non grata on the Strip, and in 1984 she turned up in Chicago with a string of working girls, nominally under control of a pimp known as “Baltimore.” Pluff functioned as madam.

In Chicago, Baltimore and Pluff began frequenting a nightclub called Coconuts, owned by José Rodriguez, whose nickname was “Cabeza” because of the brainy way he organized cocaine distribution on Chicago’s north side. Rudy Martinez, 19, a protégé of Cabeza’s, was the assistant manager of Coconuts.

“We called Cindy ‘La Blanca,’ you know, the white gal,” says Martinez. “We were definitely aware she was around. You couldn’t miss her. She drove a white Mercedes and bought lots of champagne and drugs, but we didn’t pay much attention. You see, the Latin Kings are not into prostitution. In fact, we used to deal pretty severely with pimps who came to Uptown to recruit girls. But Pluff and her friends weren’t local, so it didn’t matter to us.” One evening, the doorman told Martinez that La Blanca and another girl were outside, and the other girl was bleeding. They wanted to talk to him. Pluff told Martinez that Baltimore had punched the other girl in the nose. He was miffed that they spent their time at Coconuts instead of walking the street.

“I asked her what she wanted me to do,” says Martinez. “She said she’d like me to give this guy Baltimore a beat-down and tell him to get out of town. So I called José and asked him how I should handle it. He said go ahead and do what she wants, then bring her and her girls over to his place after the club closed.”

Thus began the ill-fated romance/business partnership between Pluff and José “Cabeza” Rodriguez.

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At first, Pluff and her girls entertained the steady parade of men who came to the club from Colombia to do business with Rodriguez. But she had her eye on bigger things. By 1987, Pluff was a major cocaine distributor in the Twin Cities. Rodriguez was her main source, but she had others, including Colombian Tirso Ringifo. She ultimately employed her parents and six siblings in various roles, creating a sophisticated distribution network for an ever-increasing amount of product.

By 1987, Pluff was a major cocaine distributor in the Twin Cities. She ultimately employed her parents and six siblings in various roles, creating a sophisticated distribution network for an ever-increasing amount of product


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