Crime

‘Cocaine Cowboy’ deported to Dominican Republic after his bid to stay in U.S. fails

One of South Florida’s most infamous cocaine cowboys — Willie Falcon — has been deported to the Dominican Republic after his bid to stay in the United States failed following his 20-year prison sentence on a drug-related money-laundering conviction.

Falcon, 62, was deported earlier this month because he was a convicted felon without U.S. citizenship. He had been held in Louisiana since June 2017 by immigration authorities who at first sought to deport him to his native Cuba.

But Falcon, who recently lost his final federal court appeal to block his deportation, won’t be sent to Cuba as he and his Miami family members initially feared, according to federal officials. The Dominican Republic government agreed to accept Falcon as a resident.

Falcon and his partner in crime, Sal Magluta — who also was born in Cuba — became close friends while attending Miami Senior High School. Together they built a South Florida empire as cocaine smugglers for the Medellín and Cali Colombian cartels in a deadly drug trade that played out on Miami’s streets.

They boasted a flashy lifestyle of ocean-racing boats, nightclubs and trips to Las Vegas. But while they amassed a fortune, the Boys, as they were dubbed, became public enemy No. 1 for the feds.

Falcon’s deportation was first reported Monday by CBS4’s Jim DeFede. He reported that Falcon was deported to another country, without identifying it.

Falcon’s lawyers tried to block his removal from the United States to Cuba by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They asserted that his clandestine role in helping finance a CIA-backed plot in the 1990s to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro would lead to his death by the government if he were sent back to Cuba.

An immigration judge, however, rejected his petition in March to stay in the United States under an international human rights treaty, the United Nations Convention Against Torture, according to sources familiar with the decision. The 1984 U.N. treaty forbids nations to transport people to any country where there is reason to believe they will be tortured, among other provisions.

Falcon’s immigration lawyers, Steven Goldstein and Ada Pozo, declined to comment Monday on their client’s deportation to the Dominican Republic, which happened on Nov. 6.

In his bid to block his deportation to Cuba, Falcon disclosed a secret about his past partnership with Magluta. After the high school dropouts became the Colombian cartels’ go-to smugglers at the peak of the Miami Vice era, they donated substantial drug-trafficking profits in the mid-1990s to Cuban exile paramilitary groups aiming to kill Castro, according to former law enforcement sources and people with knowledge of their donations. The former Cuban leader died in 2016.

While Magluta has been serving a 195-year sentence in prison after being convicted on drug-related charges, Falcon faced the U.S. deportation order to Cuba after completing his 20-year sentence on a money-laundering plea agreement.

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Sal Magluta, left, and Willie Falcon, on the town in Las Vegas in 1991, before they were convicted on drug-related charges. From trial evidence/U.S. Attorney s Office

Falcon, who was born in Cuba and holds the status of a lawful permanent resident in the United States, has been treated differently from other Cuban nationals convicted of felony crimes in this country.

More than 28,000 Cuban nationals convicted of felony crimes in the United States have not been deported to Cuba because the U.S. had no diplomatic relations with the Communist country until 2015. Of those Cuban felons released into U.S. society, about 2,000 were involved in murders in Florida and other states since the early 1960s, according to federal records.

In 1991, Falcon and Magluta were indicted along with about a dozen associates on charges of conspiring to import and distribute 75 tons of cocaine worth $2 billion dating back to 1978.

The feds’ “criminal enterprise” case against Willie and Sal seemed like the end of the road. But in 1996, the high-profile Miami trial ended with implausible acquittals for Falcon and Magluta. After the trial, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI discovered that Falcon and Magluta had bought off the jury foreman to win their case.

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