Drug Smuggler turns into a celebrity

A former international drug smuggler who purchased for-hire advertisements in the National Post has become something of an international media celebrity, thanks in part to the Internet.

Brian O’Dea was scheduled to appear today on the ABC television show Good Morning America with host Diane Sawyer, after copies of his ad — along with news stories about his gambit — were circulated by e-mail around the world.

The Wall Street Journal recounted his story in yesterday’s issue after one of its reporters received the e-mail, and Reader’s Digest is producing an article about him.

Producers for Oprah Winfrey, the superstar talk-show host, have also expressed interest, though they have not scheduled an appearance. The BBC and Radio Ireland are among the overseas broadcasters who have arranged interviews with him.

“Initially it was a little overwhelming, but what surprises me is that it goes on,” Mr. O’Dea said. “I suppose this has happened because I’m someone who speaks out about something most people would keep secret.”

Mr. O’Dea, a 52-year-old who was born in Newfoundland but now lives in Toronto, threw caution to the wind last month by running a frank advertisement on this newspaper’s classified pages.

The ad touted the management and organizational skills he acquired as a marijuana importer in the 1980s, noting he helped distribute more than $100-million worth of Vietnamese-grown cannabis on the northwest U.S. coast.

It also pointed out he has completed a 10-year prison sentence for his crimes and is determined to support his family “through legal and legitimate means.”

The media response was intense: Mr. O’Dea pegs the number of media calls to his home at about 200, with no end in sight.

As for job offers, he has sifted through more than 150 responses to the ad — many from reporters and jokesters. But he has identified 15 expressions of interest from prospective employers, a handful of which he deems promising.

“They’re not all jobs I would want,” he said. “But they’re all kind to have called.”

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