Crime

Cocaine Cowboys fame could be used in new federal case against ex-drug smuggler

Former cocaine smuggler Michael “Mickey” Munday talks to a reporter in North Miami in 2016. The 72-year-old, who made millions flying loads of cocaine in from Colombia to South Florida, is facing federal trial for fraud.
Former cocaine smuggler Michael “Mickey” Munday talks to a reporter in North Miami in 2016. The 72-year-old, who made millions flying loads of cocaine in from Colombia to South Florida, is facing federal trial for fraud. AP

Michael “Mickey” Munday, a colorful ex-pilot who helped make Miami the epicenter of 1980s narco-trafficking, became something of a celebrity after appearing in the 2006 documentary, “Cocaine Cowboys.”

Fame could come back to haunt him.

Federal prosecutors — who have charged Munday in connection with a fraud ring involving stolen cars — are now asking a judge to allow them to show jurors excerpts of the film, as well as tweets and other media appearances that show Munday was well-versed in the art of smuggling.

“For over 10 years, the defendant has openly advertised himself as a ‘Cocaine Cowboy,’ a criminal mastermind, an expert in moving contraband through the use of cars and tow trucks, and a master in employing his tradecraft to avoid law enforcement,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Rothstein wrote in a motion to the court.

Munday’s defense lawyers will fight the request at a hearing Friday morning in Miami federal court. They declined to comment. The trial is scheduled to begin on Tuesday before U.S. Judge Robert Scola.

Munday, 72, was indicted last May along with seven other men. He is charged with conspiracy and mail fraud.

He spent nearly all of the 1990s in federal prison for smuggling 10 tons of cocaine from Colombia to Miami on behalf of the Medellín and Cali cartels. He was featured prominently in “Cocaine Cowboys,” a widely praised documentary by Miami filmmakers Billy Corben and Alfred Spellman. It chronicled the wild and violent days of Miami’s cocaine trade in the 1980s.

Since his release from prison, Munday has taken a role in Miami’s art community, building a “Love Lock” park next to his Miami home and welding metal sculptures. He’s also talked openly about his past, appearing on TV news shows, giving radio interviews and posting on his Twitter account.

It was that criminal background that prosecutors say led one of the fraud ring’s organizers to enlist Munday. The co-defendant, Mark David Johnson, is expected to testify that he brought in Munday to the operation “because of his reputation as a Cocaine Cowboy and his statements about his prowess as a criminal and a contraband smuggler.”

Prosecutors say Munday was part of a ring that stole cars, or bought them through straw buyers from South Florida dealerships, re-selling them while forging new titles and blowing off the vehicle loans.

According to court documents, Munday convinced deadbeat car owners to “turn over their vehicle to him at a discounted rate” and drove the cars from Missouri to Florida, sometimes hiding them at his home, away from financial lenders who held the liens. He also used his tow-truck company as a front, agents said.

Believing Munday will try to claim he had no idea he was involved with criminals, prosecutors want to use excerpts of Munday explaining code words for illegal drugs such as “children in the water.” In the new fraud case, prosecutors say, Munday used similar terms, calling the cars “problem children” and “orphans.”

Prosecutors also pointed to numerous interviews in which Munday brags that in the 1980s, he tried to be an inconspicuous “logistics man.”

“I had the philosophy if you don’t buy it, you don’t sell it and especially don’t use it, you will never have any problems. You become the UPS of the smuggling industry,” he said in a TV interview cited by prosecutors.

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