South Florida

Cocaine cowboy escaped Miami prison 38 years ago, fled to Peru. He’s back and behind bars

He was just another cocaine cowboy who got caught and sentenced to a dozen years behind bars.

But Fernando Garcia-Godos got lucky and escaped from a Southwest Miami-Dade federal prison way back in 1980, hiding for decades as a drug dealer under a different name in Peru.

This week, the long arm of U.S. justice finally caught up with the 65-year-old fugitive. U.S. Marshals deputies, with assistance from Peruvian authorities, brought Garcia-Godos back from Peru to complete his prison sentence.

On Thursday, a federal magistrate judge in Miami sent Garcia-Godos back to prison to complete the remaining decade or so on his original prison term, which stems from his guilty plea to drug import and distribution charges 40 years ago. A new charge of escaping from prison was dismissed.

“We unsuccessfully tried to block his extradition to the United States when he was in custody in Peru,” said defense attorney Leonard Fenn. He said they intend to continue the fight on technical grounds.

Garcia-Godos’ escape from prison was anything but spectacular. In fact, he didn’t actually break out of the Federal Correctional Institution on Southwest 137th Avenue.

On the evening of July 31, 1980, Garcia-Godos and other inmates were being escorted as part of a work release program to a facility for homeless boys known as Boys Town, located about two miles north of FCI Miami. Prison staff detected he was missing at precisely 8:22 pm, according to federal court records. Alerts were put out for his capture, but decades would pass without word of his whereabouts.

Then, the U.S. Marshals Service got a tip two years ago that Garcia-Godos was hiding in Peru. He was suspected of trafficking narcotics once again, operating in Central and South America for an organization called “Los Camellos” (The Camels). He was identified in Peru through his photograph, date of birth and fingerprints, according to a U.S. Marshals affidavit.

Garcia-Godos also held a Peruvian electoral registration card number and a Peruvian passport number. Both documents included a photograph that closely resembled his federal booking photographs in Miami from 1978, according to the affidavit by Marshals Deputy Sean McCaffrey, who headed a cold-case fugitive task force called “Operation Longline.”

The fugitive’s name on the Peruvian documents was Fernando Ricardo Garcia-Godos McBride. His fingerprints on file with the Peruvian government matched those from his booking papers in Miami from 1978.

The Marshals then received surveillance photos from Peruvian law enforcement of a man resembling Garcia-Godos entering an address in Lima, Peru, that was linked to the fugitive, the affidavit said.

Based on the 2016 affidavit and a provisional arrest warrant, Peruvian authorities took Garcia-Godos into custody in October 2016. He fought his extradition for nearly two years, but lost. He was flown back by Marshals deputies to Miami on Wednesday.

In this archival footage, the story of Willie Falcon and Salvador Magluta is reported on by Miami news station WPLG.