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“Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami", streaming now on Netflix, is the latest in a series of documentaries by director Billy Corben, capturing the height of Miami's cocaine wars in the 19080's.
“Cocaine Cowboys’ director Billy Corben told Oxygen.com in an interview on Tuesday that the newest edition of the franchise, which tells the story of Miami’s infamous billionaire drug lords Willy Falcon and Sal Magluta, tells the tale that inspired the series in the first place.
“Despite the fact that this is the fourth ‘Cocaine Cowboys’ story in the franchise, it is the first story that we had hoped to tell,” he said.
But it was other stories that blasted off the series in 2006, starting with the 1980s Miami cocaine trade documentary “Cocaine Cowboys.” It was followed up two years later with “Cocaine Cowboys 2.” “Cocaine Cowboys: Reloaded” was released in 2014 with never before seen footage and stories about the Miami cocaine wars. “Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami” marks the first docuseries in the documentary franchise.
Oxygen.com has rounded up all the main players from the four cocaine-crusted tales.
Griselda Blanco, known as “the queen of cocaine,” “the godmother” and “mafia’s mother” was a particularly ruthless player in the cocaine trade. Authorities believe she was behind the shipment of tons and tons of cocaine from Colombia to Miami in the 1970s and 1980s, CNN reported in 2012. A former Medellín Cartel leader, she has been linked to the notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar.
What really earned her notoriety was her ruthless nature and the many murders she was linked to. The documentary series explains that she has been linked to possibly 200 murders.
“People were so afraid of her that her reputation preceded her wherever she went,” said Nelson Abreu, a former homicide detective said in “Cocaine Cowboys.” “Griselda was worse than any of the men that were involved in [the drug trade].”
She lived in violence and she died by violence. She was gunned down at close range in Colombia in 2012 at the age of 69.
Jorge Ayala-Rivera was known as Blanco’s enforcer, responsible for carrying out murders on her order.
In fact, it’s believed he’s the triggerman for around 36 murders during the violent 1980s cocaine war in Miami, NBC Miami reported in 2017. He pleaded guilty in three of the killings in 1993. He’s currently behind bars, serving life.
He has cooperated with officials and even testified against the former “queen of cocaine,” which led to her conviction of three murders, UPI reported in 2013.
This mulleted star of “Cocaine Cowboys” was a drug smuggler for the Medellin Cartel and drug lord Pablo Escobar in the 1980s. He talks candidly in the series about how he routinely flew cocaine into South Florida from Colombia. In fact, he’s possibly one of the biggest drug smugglers in United States history, NBC Miami claimed in 2013. And, he made millions by being so.
But, like so many others, eventually, law enforcement caught on. He spent six years as a fugitive before getting arrested in 1990 and serving nine years in federal prison.
Even after starring in the franchise, he couldn’t escape his attraction to crime. He was convicted in 2018 for his role in an auto fraud, the Chicago Tribune reported. He was found guilty of mail fraud and conspiracy and sentenced to 12 years behind bars.
This reporter, known as “the queen of crime” covered more than 3,000 murders in Miami while working for the Miami Herald, MiamiBeach 411 reported in 2011. Many of those murders were connected to the drug trade, as she was considered a leading journalist on the cocaine wars in the 1980s. The Pulitzer Prize winner was reporting on much of the chaos before the rest of the world even caught on.
“She made it a point to incorporate as many of the murder victims as possible in our newspaper of record during that time,” Corben told the outlet. “We’d go back in the archives to read Edna’s stories. And without her, a lot of the stories, the names, and the victims in ‘Cocaine Cowboys’ would have been vanished and gone.”
Her 2009 book “The Corpse Had a Familiar Face” chronicles her eighteen years reporting on murder and mayhem.
This Cuban-American Miami cop was once the celebrated leader of CENTAC-26 (Central Tactical Unit) which investigated drug-related murders, the Miami New Times reported in 2002. It was created in 1980, a merge between Metro-Dade Police, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). He pursued South Florida's cocaine cowboys during their most violent years.
But then, he became a drug suspect himself, the New York Times reported in 1988. That was nothing shocking at that time in the city. More than 70 police officers had been indicted in corruption fueled by the drug trade by the mid 1980s. By 1988, Diaz became a private investigator who defended drug traffickers.
Sam Burstyn was a prominent Miami lawyer who represented a top lieutenant to former Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega.
He pleaded guilty to obstruction conspiracy charges for obstructing a federal grand jury investigation into a drug trafficking operation run by former clients in October 2005, the Associated Press reported in 2008. Prosecutors claimed he acted as a “house counsel” to drug organizations. He pleaded guilty the same year and was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in jail, the Ledger reported in 2006.
Willy Falcon and Sal Magluta
This pair, known as “Los Muchachos,” was accused of importing more than 75 tons of cocaine into Miami. Despite their drug lord status, Falcon and Magluta were popular in their community, known for their nonviolent nature and generosity. The latest docuseries notes that they even achieved a sort of “Robin Hood” status for using their cocaine money to give back to the community. They donated money to local schools and gave money to acquaintances so their kids could afford college.
When the pair were arrested in 1991, the witnesses in their upcoming trial became targets. While some survived attempted murders like car bombings and make appearances in the docuseries, three witnesses were killed.
Falcon took a plea deal on the money laundering charges in 2003 and was sentenced to 20 years behind bars, Esquire reports. He spent 14 years behind bars before he was released in 2017, NBC Miami reported in 2017. He was then deported to the Dominican Republic. Magluta is expected to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Leah Catucci contributed to this report.
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