Ex-Qwest CEO Became BFFs With Drug Offenders in Prison

Paid other inmates to clean his cell with cans of tuna

By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 28, 2013 4:45 PM CDT

(Newser) – Former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio has emerged from his 54-month prison stint a changed man. The 64-year-old is thinner, healthier, and stronger, thanks to lifting weights and running; he's tanned, shaved his head, and grown a goatee; and his new best friends are a couple of drug offenders named "Spoonie" and "Juice." "I trust Spoonie and Juice with my back," he tells the Wall Street Journal. "I wouldn't trust the guys who worked for me at Qwest." While serving time for insider trading, Nacchio also got to know other white-collar criminals like traders Zvi and Emanuel Goffer, but he says he preferred the company of drug offenders.

And the drug offenders liked Nacchio, who they nicknamed "Joe-ski-luv." "We are like best friends now," says Spoonie, 45. "If he ever needs a lung or a bone, I'm there." At one of the two prison camps Nacchio served time in, his job was doing laundry—for which the former executive earned six cents an hour. But he eventually rose through the ranks to a tailoring job, which doubled his pay to 12 cents. He used the money to buy tinned tuna and mackerel from the prison commissary, which he then used as currency to pay other inmates to collect his mail and clean his cubicle. Nacchio says he now plans to write a book based on his experiences, which will be "a little bit like Woody Allen and Mel Brooks go to prison."

In this April 13, 2007 photo, former Qwest Communications CEO Joe Nacchio, front, walks with his wife.   (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, file)
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