Michigan millionaire Marty Tibbitts lived a normal life as a telecommunications executive in the extremely wealthy Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe— or so it seemed. Below the surface, literally, he was secretly financing a worldwide drug smuggling operation before his untimely death in a 2018 plane crash, according to federal prosecutors. He takes the meaning and definition of stealth wealth to a whole new level!
Tibbets was the CEO of Clementine Live Answering Service, but he was known by the code name “Dale Johnson” to many of his drug trafficking colleagues. His double life became public as part of a federal indictment against Ylli Didani, which was unsealed earlier this week. The 43-year-old alleged leader of the drug ring and Tibbitts oversaw a cartel that allegedly sold cocaine in 15 countries. Didani faces charges of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances on a boat in U.S. jurisdiction, conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, and money laundering, and was recently arrested in North Carolina.
According to federal authorities, Tibbitts was the money guy and bankrolled Didani’s operation, and the investigation into his involvement began in 2015. He is said to have issued a check to the cartel for $864,000 in 2016 and later flew by private plane to Washington, D.C. to give Didani $350,000 in the dead of night. The indictment says that the Michigan man provided the cartel more than $1.8 million in total, including $12,000 to develop a remote-controlled submarine.
Tibbetts and Didani were allegedly working together on “the Torpedo,” which would attach to the hulls of cargo ships with strong magnets. The submarine would be filled with cocaine, unknowingly carried out into foreign waters by the cargo ships, and tracked via GPS. From there, the underwater drone would detach from the host and be retrieved by a fishing boat, which would bring the cocaine back to shore.
The indictment alleges that the two paid an unidentified company $12,000 in cryptocurrency and wires from an Albanian bank account to develop the submarine. The company, according to the feds, did not know what the “underwater hull scrubber device” was going to be used for.
Shortly thereafter, Tibbetts unexpectedly died at 50 years old in a plane crash and the development came to a halt. Tibbets, an aviation buff, was flying a vintage fighter jet and nosedived into a dairy barn in Wisconsin, taking 50 cows with him. The death sent the organization into a spiral and scrapped the plans for the Torpedo, as the “money man” was no longer. Didani scrambled to find new financing, which he allegedly found in the United Arab Emeritus, but the feds were already all over him. Dutch authorities seized 753 kilograms of cocaine that was hidden among bananas in 2019, and in 2020, Dutch police followed a tip from the United States DEA and confiscated 644 kilos of cocaine in duffel bags.
In interviews with The Detroit News, Tibbits’ neighbors were surprised to hear that he drug lord.
“I think anybody who would hear something like this would be shocked,” a neighbor named Ari Buchanan told the paper.
Oddly enough, this was not the first instance that a drug-smuggling operation used a submarine in Detroit. In 2020, a Canadian man used a “James Bond-style” vessel to smuggle drugs and money back-and-forth across the Detroit River. Neither the man, nor Tibbits and Didani were successful in their efforts, and the feds shut both operations down.