Last Of The “Cocaine Cowboys” Caught After 26 Years On The Run

Along with his brother, he helped turn Miami into an epicenter of the '80s drug trade. 

By Benjamin H. Smith

Almost 26 years to the day since his arrest warrant was issued, "Cocaine Cowboy" Gustavo Falcon is finally in custody. On April 10, 1991, Falcon was charged along with his brother Augusto and their partner Salvador Magluta with smuggling 75 tons of cocaine into the U.S. between 1978 and 1991. Authorities were surprised to find him living anonymously with his family in Orlando, Florida, just 200 miles from his native Miami, according to The Miami Herald. “Nobody thought he was in the United States,” said Barry Golden, a deputy and spokesman with the U.S. Marshals Service.

Salvador "Sal" Magluta and Augusto "Willy" Falcon ran one of South Florida’s biggest cocaine rings during the 1980s. Using speedboats to ferry cocaine from Colombia to the Caribbean and ultimately to the United States, they were responsible for turning Miami into an epicenter of the drug trade, hiring hit men to dispose of business competitors and snitches. Their exploits were chronicled in the 2006 documentary Cocaine Cowboys, and a follow-up is currently in production and will focus exclusively on Magluta and Falcon, according to Rolling Stone magazine.

55-year-old Gustavo "Taby" Falcon went on the lam shortly before his 1991 indictment came down. Fox News reports that authorities caught a break in 2013, when Falcon was pinged after being involved in a car accident in Orlando, for which he used a fake ID with a Miami address. “We figured this all out a month ago," said Golden, adding, “We pulled his driver’s license and saw it was the same Gustavo Falcon."

Falcon and his wife Amelia were living under the names Luis and Maria Reiss, for which they had obtained fake drivers licenses for themselves and their two grown children. After months of surveillance on their home, deputies arrested Falcon Wednesday after he and his wife had gone for a bike ride. Ironically, Falcon’s brother Willy is scheduled to be released this June following a 2003 plea deal.   

[Photo: Orange County Jail]

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