LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - One of the biggest drug dealers Louisville has seen was released from prison and is devoting his life to encouraging young people.
Robert Hayes attended Iroquois High School in Louisville. As the son of a preacher and homemaker, he admits he was taught right from wrong. However, his life took a turn for the worse at age 13, when his mother died.
"I was mad, I guess I was mad at God and the world because I wondered why God took my mom," Hayes said. "When I was at school I would see the other kids with their moms and I wondered why mine had passed and it hurt inside."
Hayes began dabbling with the wrong crowd as a young teen. Eventually, he said many referred to him as one of the biggest drug dealers in Louisville.
"I sold poison to my people," Hayes said. "I sold poison to people who were then distributing it down to a lower level."
The "poison" Hayes speaks of is also known as cocaine.
MORE ON WAVE3.COM
+ Arson victim to receive surgery from non-profit as she battles bullying
+ Sheriff: Dangerous man surrenders peacefully, now off the streets
+ Victim of Beechmont neighborhood shooting dies
"I could go anywhere I wanted to," Hayes said. "If I wanted to get up and fly somewhere I could, if I wanted to get up and buy a Jaguar or Bentley, I could. I had the cash money to do that."
His "business" was so large, he said he didn't even have to touch the drugs he sold, he had other people do it for him. In 1998, at age 29, Hayes was arrested and charged with conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with attempt to distribute. He was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison and lost everything he owned.
"In the end, I lost everything," Hayes said. "It is like the word of God, what's the man to gain the world and lose his soul? I had the best of the clothes, jewelry and women but I just don't want to live that lifestyle anymore."
Hayes served 17 years in federal prison. Meanwhile, his six children were raised by their mothers.
Since Hayes was released from prison, he has devoted his life to preventing others from following in his footsteps. He spent Tuesday evening sharing his life story in front of dozens of kids at Park Hill Community Center. Because he understands the frustrations youth face at home, school and in the streets, he hopes his story will inspire them to look past the life he chose.
He produced a movie, "Winner Take All," that was filmed in Louisville, Indiana, Miami and Key West. Hayes is depicted through a character named Ron. The story is a timeline that reflects closely to experiences Hayes had while growing up, along with being arrested.
Hayes films the movie every year, allowing people to try out with using particular skills to ultimately learn the ins and outs of movie making.
This is only one of the ways he's hoping to provide youth with opportunities. He's also a part of The United Presidential Blessing Foundation. It provides an opportunity for young men and women to learn hands on skills after school, such as plumbing or other trades that can be used in everyday life.
"So when they are done learning these trades, they can use the skills right here in Louisville instead of breaking into someone's house, picking a gun up or picking a pack of drugs up," Hayes said. "I want to help the children and give back because God gave me a second chance."