Last of ‘cocaine cowboys’ nabbed after 26 years on the run

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Last Of ‘Cocaine Cowboys’ Nabbed After 26 Years on The Run

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A quarter-century after he vanished on the eve of a major drug indictment, the last of Miami's fabled "cocaine cowboys" was in custody Thursday, nabbed on a suburban bike ride with his wife near Disney World.

Prosecutors say the man living under an assumed name is Gustavo "Taby" Falcon, who was part of a homegrown drug gang that used super-fast speedboats to smuggle 75 tons of cocaine in the 1980s "Miami Vice" era.

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Falcon, 55, had been on the lam since 1991, when his older brother Augusto "Willie" Falcon and fellow drug kingpin Salvador "Sal" Magluta were indicted by a federal grand jury. U.S. Marshals spokesman Barry Golden said investigators were surprised to find him living in a typical pink stucco home in a quiet, middle-class Kissimmee suburb.

"Nobody thought Gustavo Falcon was still in the United States," Golden said.

At his initial court hearing Thursday in Orlando, Gustavo Falcon agreed to be sent to South Florida to face charges of conspiracy to import cocaine into the U.S. He was ordered held without bond, court records show.

Augusto Falcon and Magluta were small-time drug dealers when they dropped out of high school in the late 1970s to begin building their cocaine empire that would amass more than $2 billion, according to trial evidence. They eventually owned world-class ocean racing boats and lived like royalty.

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Mickey Munday, who did prison time for flying cocaine loads for Colombia's Medellin Cartel, said the pair was known for their honesty in business deals — legal or otherwise — and the expertise of their boat-building operation.

They also drove flashy cars and lived in seaside mansions, even when murders and shootings linked to their organization brought police scrutiny.

"They were so flamboyant," Munday said. "Everybody in the world knew what they were doing. Why attract attention to yourself?"

Gustavo Falcon was not viewed as a top leader of the organization, and vanished just ahead of a 1991 indictment that charged him along with his brother, Magluta and others. He had not been seen since until Wednesday, when U.S. marshals surveilling his rented home in Kissimmee watched him and his wife leave their garage for a bike ride.

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A neighbor, David Pera, said he frequently saw the couple riding their bikes and never saw them in a car. An older model pickup truck sitting in the driveway never moved, he said.

"I'd say hi, they would say hi, and that was about it," Pera said Thursday.

It took an exhaustive records search to bring the marshals there. Weeks earlier, they discovered a Florida driver's license issued to a Luis Reiss, traced back to a South Florida home that had been owned by Gustavo Falcon. Then they found 2013 car accident involving Reiss, which eventually led to the house he was sharing with his wife, Amelia. She also had fake identification, in the name of Maria Reiss.

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