South Florida

If you’re a ‘cocaine cowboy,’ don’t brag and then commit another crime

Mickey Munday talks to a reporter in Love Park in North Miami in 2016.
Mickey Munday talks to a reporter in Love Park in North Miami in 2016. AP file

There’s a moral to Mickey Munday’s story: If you’re a former cocaine cowboy, don’t brag about it while signing on in another criminal scheme..

Munday, a notorious pilot who flew cocaine loads for the Colombian cartels back in the 1980s, spent the following decade in prison before regaining his freedom. In recent years, he did a star turn in the “Cocaine Cowboys” documentary, sold the rights of his life to Paramount Pictures, and gave all kinds of media interviews on radio and TV. But on the side he was also playing a supporting role in an auto theft ring.

On Monday, a federal judge slammed Munday, 72, with a 12-year prison sentence for his recent trial conviction on the auto fraud-conspiracy charges.

“All of his comments have involved braggadocio and zero remorse,” U.S. District Robert Scola declared, after Munday insisted he wasn’t bragging about his past.

Scola’s punishment was harsher than the seven years proposed by a federal prosecutor and two years requested by Munday’s defense attorney.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Rothstein said Munday glamourized his life as a dope hauler for the Medellin and Cali cartels and used that notoriety to land his gig as a driver for the auto racket.

In January, a Miami federal jury convicted Munday 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.

“It wasn’t enough to talk about the past,” Rothstein said. “He couldn’t resist the urge to get back into the action. ... He traded in his wings for wheels.”

Before his sentencing by the judge, Munday shot back at the prosecutor, saying he distorted his life after he left prison, insisting that he wasn’t boasting about flying shipments from the Bahamas and Caribbean for the Colombian drug lords back in the 1980s. He also minimized his role in the ring.

“I have done everything I could to stay on the straight and narrow,” Munday told the judge, highlighting his talks with school kids and university students.

Munday, convicted of conspiracy and related mail fraud charges, acknowledged at trial that he transported the vehicles but maintained he didn’t know they were stolen or repossessed for the auto-theft racket.

The other nine defendants in the criminal network, which made about $1.8 million between 2008 and 2015, already pleaded guilty. Among them were a trio of cooperating witnesses who testified against Munday in the hope of possibly lower prison sentences.

Munday’s defense attorney, Rick Yabor, suggested that his client was only responsible for a fraction of the 150 cars stolen by the ring over a decade and that he should receive a sentence in the range of some of the other defendants — two to four years.

But Munday, unlike those cooperating co-defendants, took his chances at trial — and lost.

Prosecutors turned a spotlight on Munday’s past life as a dope smuggler and his role in the “Cocaine Cowboys” documentary that made the ex-pilot from Miami into a media celebrity. Rothstein said throughout the case, including in his sentencing memo, that Munday capitalized on his Miami Vice profile.

“The defendant has attempted to profit off his notorious past by starring in the documentary “Cocaine Cowboys,” building an online presence focusing on his identity as a “Cocaine Cowboy,” soliciting public appearances, participating in radio and television interviews, and creating a series of audio pod-casts entitled Tall Tales,” and, allegedly, selling the rights to his story to Paramount Pictures,” the memo said.

“The defendant’s commentary, conduct, and relentless efforts to turn his criminal conduct into celebrity has sent a message to the general public that encourages and glorifies criminal conduct.”

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 and been interviewed for various radio and TV broadcasts. But at trial, some of those statements came back to haunt him.

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