Meet the real Cocaine Cowboys behind the Netflix show who dropped out of school to build a $2BILLION coke empire

THEY were the school dropouts who became America’s most prolific drug traffickers and forged a criminal empire worth $2billion (£1.4bn) from smuggling more than 75 tonnes of cocaine.

Augusto Falcon and Salvador Magluta were pivotal in connecting some of the most notorious names in South America’s narcotics trade to the US black market.

They served as the middlemen for kingpin Pablo Escobar and his Medellin Cartel as well as the Cali cartel in Colombia. 

Dubbed ‘Los Muchachos’ – or ‘the boys’ – their exploits are the focus of the new Netflix docu-series Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings Of Miami, which is available to stream from today.

Filmmaker Billy Corben said: “They were celebrities but they were accessible. They were Robin Hoods."

Here we take a look at their story.

Cocaine, millions & powerboats

Cuban-born Augusto Falcon, known as ‘Willy’, and Salvador, known as ‘Sal’, were best friends who dropped out of Miami Senior High in Florida.

They were joined by Falcon's younger brother Gustavo and together started their life of crime in 1978. 

Their illegal activities were considered anything but low profile with the trio enjoying lavish lifestyles during their drug smuggling spree. 

Throughout the Eighties, Augusto and Salvador were big names in powerboat racing – winning three national championships and an Offshore Challenge between them.

They used their skills and knowledge of ocean-racing speed boats to transport drugs between South America and South Florida.

They were celebrities but they were accessible. They were Robin Hoods.

In 2005, the Tampa Bay Times reported that the men stashed millions in Florida banks, which they later splashed on grand properties.

It was claimed they also used offshore bank accounts and fake businesses in the Bahamas, Dutch Antilles and Panama to hide their profits. 

In 1991, police raided Augusto’s $9,000-a-month mansion and Salvador’s palatial home and arrested the duo.

Gustavo escaped the authorities and was on the run for 26 years before finally being apprehended.

While searching the properties, nearly $1m (£720,000) in cash and jewellery, one kilogram of gold and a small amount of cocaine was found.

Police also discovered ledgers that detailed the shipments of more than 55,000 kilos of cocaine – around 61 tonnes – between 1988 and 1991 alone. 

'Bribed & threatened jurors'

Records for their previous 10 years of operations were not found but the documents detailed how they were able to traffic drugs for so many years. 

They included “a staggering network of contacts”, details of planes and boats used in the coke trade and correspondence with Colombia's Medellin and Cali cartels.

The ledgers revealed their operation had stretched from South America to dozens of cities across America. 

Augusto and Salvador faced dozens of charges between them – including drug trafficking, hiring hitmen to kill snitches and more. 

In 1996, they were acquitted by a jury but not all was as it seemed. 

Three years later, it emerged that the cunning duo had bribed jurors and officials – some up to $500,000 (£356,000), according to Associated Press.

This discovery led to them being retried and while being held in jail, it was alleged that they tried to intervene with court proceedings yet again. 

'Major escape risk'

Prosecutors claimed the duo tried to bribe people, had threatened witnesses and ahead of their second trial two government witnesses died and two others were wounded 

The defence denied their clients played any part in the violence.

A court-ordered report found the men had paid off prison guards, which allowed them special privileges including a private mobile phone for $5,000 (£3,600)

They were described as a “major escape risk” and had collected a number of newspaper articles that detailed how previous prisoners had escaped.

Salvador was alleged to have seduced a paralegal and engaged in “unauthorised physical contact” – reportedly sex – while visiting on legal business. 

Sentencing & Castro payback fears

By 2003, Salvador was sentenced to 205 years in jail for a number of offences, which was later reduced by 10 years on appeal.

And Augusto received 20 years as part of a plea deal to accept guilt for one charge of money laundering.

Authorities tried to deport Augusto back to his home nation, Cuba – while he was a US resident because he had not passed the final stage of his citizenship test. 

His lawyers protested that his life would be in danger due to them donating “very generously” to certain political groups.

They included paramilitary organisations that had tried to assassinate Cuba’s leader Fidel Castro – they were unsuccessful and he died of natural causes in 2016.

Augusto was eventually deported to the Dominican Republican, where he currently resides, and Salvador remains at a Supermax prison in Colorado.

Corben said: “It is the most secure prison in the United States under some of the harshest conditions in the US.

“With some of the worst terrorists and violent offenders in this country, where he will serve the next 180 some odd years and you know, he will very likely die.”

Gustavo's 26 years on the run

While they took the rap, Gustavo remained on the run for 26 years until 2017 when he was finally arrested on a bike ride with his wife in Kissimmee, Florida.

He avoided capture with a number of fake ID cards, which were used by the criminal and his family, including two children who were in their thirties. 

But in 2013, Gustavo was involved in a car accident and mistakenly gave a Miami address that police knew was linked to forged driving licences in 1997.

Prior to then, authorities believed the drug trafficker had fled to either Cuba, Mexico or Colombia. 

It emerged that Gustavo and his wife had been living under the names Luis and Maria Reiss for 14 years at an address in Kissimmee. 

It was probably the most prolific smuggling operation we have found here in South Florida

In 2017, he was arrested by police and later was jailed for 11 years after pleading guilty to one count of cocaine distribution.

The charge was related to his part in arranging a 400-kilo shipment of cocaine from Southern California to South Florida in 1989.

Assistant attorney Christopher Clark told the Miami Herald that Gustavo was his brother Augusto’s “right-hand man”.

He held a number of roles within the criminal empire, which could have been worth more than $2.1bn (£1.5bn). 

They included maintaining transaction ledgers, collecting millions in cocaine profits, finding drug stash houses and arranging transportation of the drugs. 

Mr Clark said: “It was probably the most prolific smuggling operation we have found here in South Florida.

“Obviously, this case has had a long and winding road.”

Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings Of Miami is available to stream on Netflix now.

    Source: Read Full Article