The last of South Florida’s drug-smuggling “Cocaine Cowboys” has been arrested — some 26 years after he went on the lam — while on a 40-mile bike ride with his wife near the Orlando suburb where they apparently lived under assumed names.
The Miami Herald reports Gustavo “Taby” Falcon, 55, was booked into the Orange County Jail Wednesday evening and is charged with smuggling tons of cocaine into the United States in the 1980s along with his notorious brother, Augusto “Willie” Falcon.
He is expected at a first appearance hearing in Orlando on Thursday and likely will be transferred to Miami.
The organization was linked to dozens of murders and shootings. The 2006 documentary “Cocaine Cowboys” detailed suitcases full of cash, hit men with machine guns, drug-laden speedboats and nighttime drops of drugs in South Florida’s swamps.
Deputy marshals arrested Falcon and his wife, Amelia, at an intersection near Orlando during their bike ride, said U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Barry Golden. He said Falcon had obtained fake driver’s licenses for himself, his wife and their two adult children, using Miami addresses. Gustavo Falcon and his wife went by the names Luis and Maria Reiss.
Golden said marshals caught a big break when Gustavo Falcon was involved in a car accident near Orlando and used a fake driver’s license with a Miami address. That led marshals to trace him to his history in South Florida.
“We figured this all out a month ago,” Golden said. “We pulled his driver’s license and saw it was the same Gustavo Falcon.”
The family had been under surveillance by marshals at the home they were renting in Kissimmee, which is near Orlando. Golden said they’d been living in the Orlando area since 1999, which surprised marshals who thought Gustavo Falcon was hiding out in Mexico or Colombia.
He was last seen in South Florida in 1991. Gustavo Falcon’s brother and Salvador “Sal” Magluta were recognized as kingpins of the organization, which used their speedboats to haul loads of cocaine smuggled from Colombia. A 1991 federal indictment charged the two brothers, Magluta and several others with smuggling 75 tons of cocaine into the U.S. between 1978 and 1991.
Willie Falcon and Magluta were acquitted of the charges in 1996. Authorities later discovered they bought off witnesses and at least one member of the jury.
Magluta was retried and convicted of drug-related money laundering charges in 2002 and sentenced to 205 years in prison. That was reduced to 195 years in 2006. Willie Falcon then accepted a plea deal in 2003 on similar charges. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison and is scheduled for release in June.
Jail records don’t list an attorney for Gustavo Falcon.
Republished with permission of The Associated Press.