Lopez-Castro failed to show up on Jan. 28, 1986, at a federal prison in Tallahassee, where he was to begin serving his sentence.
U.S. District Judge James W. Kehoe signed a warrant for Lopez-Castro’s arrest. He had been free on bonds totaling $260,000 while he appealed his conviction. He was disbarred after his conviction.
Lopez-Castro’s parents had pledged their home as part of the collateral for the bonds. He had surrendered his U.S. passport, but had been known to travel frequently to Costa Rica and Panama.
Federal agents searched Lopez-Castro’s home at 8100 Old Cutler Rd. for information about his disappearance. Prosecutors eventually seized the property, which was valued at $350,000.
At trial, Lopez-Castro’s wife, Paulette, sat through nearly every day of the proceedings. She also vanished, according to a Miami Herald story at the time. The couple had two children, Manuel, 2, and Natalia, 6.
After the lengthy trial, the federal jury convicted Lopez-Castro, then 33, and smuggler Fernandez’s brother-in-law, Gerardo Jorge Guevara, 42. The jury also acquitted a third defendant, William Vaughn, 64, but failed to reach a verdict on the two main defendants accused of helping the marijuana smuggler buy his way into their South Miami bank.
The jury deadlocked in their deliberations of Ray L. Corona, 37, former board chairman of Sunshine State Bank, and his father, Rafael L. Corona, 64, the bank’s former managing director. They were retried in 1986, convicted and sentenced to prison for 20 and five years, respectively.
Both Coronas were charged with taking $2 million from Fernandez, known on the street as La Mentirita or “The Little Liar,” and using the money to buy the Sunshine State Bank in May 1978. Fernandez’s interest in the bank was concealed; on paper, the bank was purchased by the wife of a Panamanian money launderer.
Before the first trial, Fernandez pleaded guilty to smuggling some 600,000 pounds of Colombian marijuana into the United States from 1977-84.
Fernandez, testifying against his co-defendants, told the jury how he filled shopping bags with cash and gave the money to the Coronas to buy the bank, and then asked them to conceal his ownership of it.
Fernandez was sentenced to 50 years on narcotics charges.