South Florida

Once jailed as Miami cocaine cowboy, he’s now headed back to prison for auto fraud

Mickey Munday is pictured in Love Park in North Miami. Federal prosecutors used his past as a pilot from Miami’s “cocaine cowboy” era during his trial on charges of participating in an auto-theft ring.
Mickey Munday is pictured in Love Park in North Miami. Federal prosecutors used his past as a pilot from Miami’s “cocaine cowboy” era during his trial on charges of participating in an auto-theft ring. AP

Michael “Mickey” Munday spent years behind bars for his role as a swaggering pilot who hauled loads of Colombian cocaine way back in the 1980s.

Now, the 72-year-old Munday is heading to prison again — this time for a less glamorous part in an auto-theft ring.

On Wednesday, a Miami federal jury convicted him of driving stolen or about-to-be-repossessed cars from Missouri to Miami — vehicles that were then resold with forged titles, leaving lien holders like banks and loan companies with nothing. He also used his tow-truck business as a front, according to prosecutors.

Munday, convicted of conspiracy and related mail fraud charges, was immediately ordered held at the Federal Detention Center by U.S. District Judge Robert Scola. He will decide the punishment for the former “cocaine cowboy” on March 29. Munday faces between eight and 10 years in prison.

“Before and throughout the trial, he maintained his innocence,” said Munday’s defense attorney, Rick Yabor, whose client acknowledged he transported the vehicles but maintained he didn’t know they were stolen or repossessed for an auto-theft ring. “Unfortunately, the jury disagreed.”

The other nine defendants in the auto-fraud network, which made about $1.7 million between 2008 and 2015, already pleaded guilty. Among them were a trio of cooperating witnesses who testified against Munday at his three-day trial in the hope of possibly lower prison sentences.

Before trial, prosecutors had hoped to turn a spotlight on the “Cocaine Cowboys” documentary that made the ex-pilot from Miami into a media celebrity.

But Scola, the judge, ruled that Munday wasn’t facing drug charges this time around, so he limited references to the defendant’s notorious past.

Scola allowed prosecutors to show Munday’s Twitter page, in which he dubs himself the “original Cocaine Cowboy,” and one short clip from the film. The reason: The fraud ring’s leader eventually testified that he recruited Munday specifically because of his notoriety from the 2006 documentary.

“If you speak to anyone who has talked to Mickey Munday, all he does is talk about being a Cocaine Cowboy and his prolific past as a smuggler,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Rothstein told the judge before trial.

In the documentary by Miami filmmakers Billy Corben and Alfred Spellman, Munday detailed his role moving more than 100 tons of cocaine for the Medellín and Cali cartels. He spent most of the 1990s in prison.

In recent years, Munday has built an active social-media presence, appeared on his own podcast called “Tall Tales” and been interviewed for various other radio and TV broadcasts. But at trial, some of those statements came back to haunt him.

Among them: Munday, in the “Cocaine Cowboys” clip, talking about using tow trucks for contraband because the drivers could deny knowing anything about the goods. Prosecutors allege he used a tow truck to move stolen cars to Miami.

“Whenever you bring up someone’s past about cocaine cowboys, it’s prejudicial,” said Munday’s attorney, Yabor. “It certainly didn’t help at his trial.”

Miami Herald staff writer David Ovalle contributed to this report.

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