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Reputed 'cocaine cowboy' makes prison deal

Sentencing in July will be for money laundering conspiracy and $1-million in restitution.

Associated Press
Published June 17, 2003

MIAMI - A reputed drug kingpin from Miami's era of cocaine cowboys pleaded guilty Monday to money laundering, ending a 14-year saga of investigations into fast-boat cocaine smuggling, witness hits, jury bribery and drug profits stashed as cash.

Willy Falcon agreed to serve the maximum 20-year prison term for the money laundering conspiracy charge and will forfeit $1-million as restitution. Jury and witness tampering charges will be dropped at sentencing in July.

Falcon and partner Sal Magluta, who lost at trial and is serving a life sentence, reportedly made a $2-billion profit on 78 tons of smuggled cocaine while turning Miami into the drug capital of the world in the 1980s.

Falcon, 47, has completed a firearms sentence and was being held without bail for trial July 14. He has about 131/2 years left on the sentence he will get in July because of years spent awaiting trial. Falcon and Magluta were known in Colombian drug circles simply as "the Boys," the Miami end of a drug pipeline that helped popularize cocaine and transform it into a high-volume business.

The two Miami high school dropouts who gained fame as powerboat racers were acquitted of federal drug charges in 1996. It turned that they had the help of two bribed jurors: the foreman, who was sent to prison, and a mystery woman who has never been prosecuted.

Falcon waved to his parents and three children leaving court. His wife was killed walking out of a beauty salon in 1992, an attack blamed on street thugs.

The arrests of Falcon and Magluta in 1991 followed years of cat-and-mouse encounters with the law. After skipping out on a 14-month sentence for a 1979 state drug conviction, the partners began smuggling cocaine by air to the Florida Keys and a Hendry County ranch starting in 1980, authorities said.

Speedboats started carrying cocaine from the Bahamas to Florida in the early 1980s. A California smuggling arm was launched about the same time, and the pair disappeared when they were due at a Los Angeles court hearing in 1987.

Magluta, 48, was indicted in 1999 as the more ruthless of the two, accused of ordering hits on three witnesses, including a lawyer shot dead in his office. He was cleared of those charges at trial last August, but ended up with a life sentence for bribing jurors in the 1996 trial and laundering drug money.Falcon has completed a 10-year sentence for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm .

Falcon and Magluta were blamed for the downfall of a U.S. attorney, who reportedly drowned his sorrows over the 1996 courtroom loss at an adult nightclub before the jury bribery scheme came to light.

Prosecutors responded with a sweeping attack on anyone associated with Falcon, Magluta and their drug organization and won more than three dozen convictions.

Prosecutors are still pursuing charges against Falcon's fugitive brother and two Colombians targeted with extradition. Magluta's father and son face sentencing in September on related charges.

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