Looking back, Ramirez said she was naive, stupid and reckless, saying that she thought Tocayo was working in the auto parts business. She said he kept his real job — collecting drug debts and killing snitches — secret.
But his behavior grew suspicious. “There were certain things that I started to notice, and I realized the situation was serious,” she said.
One of Tocayo’s targets was Bernardo Gonzalez, who ran the Bahamas-Miami drug operation for Magluta and Falcon. They used Miami Vice-style powerboats to haul the cocaine loads to South Florida. Gonzalez pleaded guilty to drug and tax charges in 1991 and agreed to cooperate with authorities.
Ramirez said Tocayo had told her that he needed to find Gonzalez because he owed him money. “He didn’t say he was going to kill him,” Ramirez told The Herald.
Before Gonzalez could testify against “The Boys” — Magluta and Falcon’s collective nickname — he was gunned down at his West Miami-Dade home on June 22, 1993. His brother Humberto was also killed.
Meanwhile, Miami prosecutors were preparing for their high-profile drug-smuggling case against Falcon and Magluta — a trial that would end with an improbable loss. Prosecutors soon learned, however, that the duo had bribed a handful of jurors to help rig their 1996 trial.
Prosecutors regrouped and started targeting the pair again, as well as more than 40 of their associates, including Ramirez. She and others, including Tocayo, whose real name was Griseldino Caravajal, were charged in 2000 with the witness-tampering murder of Gonzalez.
Before her 2001 trial, prosecutors offered a plea deal for five years in prison because they said she had a “lower-level” role in the witness hit.
Her lawyers, then-assistant federal public defenders Reuben Camper Cahn and Mary Barzee, advised her to reject it because they believed that even if she were convicted, Ramirez would have faced three to 10 years’ imprisonment. The reason: The attorneys believed the murder charge was flawed without any allegation of premeditation, and the statute of limitations had expired.
But Judge Lenard disagreed.
Later that fall, a federal jury found Ramirez guilty of the Gonzalez murder. The jury also convicted Jairo Castro, a valet at a Hialeah disco, of the killings of Gonzalez and another government witness, Luis Escobedo.
Eduardo Lezcano, Magluta’s brother-in-law, was also found guilty of those murders and the killing of another federal witness, Juan Acosta.
“They’re all in it together,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Allan Kaiser, who worked with prosecutors Pat Sullivan and Michael Davis on the case, said during closing arguments of their trial. “They don’t have to have their finger on the trigger to be held liable.”
To help make their case, prosecutors struck controversial cooperation deals with the Caicedo Ramos brothers, who admitted receiving $120,000 apiece for organizing the hit on Gonzalez.
The brothers, placed in the witness protection program, pleaded guilty to soliciting to commit murder and were sentenced to 20 years each. Their sentences were later reduced to six years for their cooperation.
Both brothers testified that Lezcano gave them the names and addresses of the three targeted government witnesses who were killed.
The brothers said Ramírez provided housing for them and their boss, Tocayo, in the Kendall townhouse where they stored the gun used in the Gonzalez murder. She was not directly involved in the hit, however.
Phanor Caicedos Ramos also said that Tocayo had told him that Ramirez volunteered to kill Gonzalez — an accusation she now says was absurd, adding that she doesn’t even know how to use a gun.
“I did my part and I helped them out,” Ramirez said. “I know I was wrong and I paid my price.”
Juan Carlos Caicedo Ramos said he threw the Gonzalez murder weapon — a 9mm Norinko semiautomatic pistol — into the lake behind the Kendall townhouse.
Diaz, the retired Miami-Dade homicide detective, found the gun in the lake. Police matched the barrel with the shell casings found at the Gonzalez murder scene.
For their part, Magluta, 58, was eventually convicted at trial, and Falcon, 57, pleaded guilty on drug-related charges. Magluta is serving a 195-year prison sentence, Falcon 20 years.
Ramirez, ironically, said she had no clue about Miami’s biggest drug smugglers until after Gonzalez’s murder.
“I had never heard of them,” she said. “I never knew them at all.”