HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Trafficker's Guilty Plea Ends Lengthy Drug Case
Pubdate: Tue, 17 Jun 2003
Source: Miami Herald (FL)
Copyright: 2003 The Miami Herald
Author: Larry Lebowitz, Miami Herald


Falcon Will Receive 20 Years, Forfeit Cash

Augusto ''Willy'' Falcon, half of the notorious Miami smuggling duo from the
cocaine heydays of the 1980s, pleaded guilty Monday to money- laundering
charges and closed one of the most tempestuous chapters in South Florida's
war on drugs.

In his raspy, accented voice, Falcon admitted in federal court that he and
longtime drug partner Salvador Magluta laundered millions of their drug
dollars to fix the outcome of their scandalous trafficking trial in 1996.

Falcon agreed to a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and to turn over
$1 million in cash to the government, under the terms of a plea agreement
that had been in the works for several weeks.

In return, federal prosecutors Michael ''Pat'' Sullivan and Michael Davis
dropped obstruction-of-justice and jury-tampering counts against Falcon
stemming from the tainted trial.

Sullivan, who had been litigating cases involving the pair, nicknamed ''The
Boys,'' for 13 years, said the plea not only brings closure to efforts to
bring them to justice, but it shows they should have been convicted of
smuggling more than 75 tons of cocaine between 1978 and 1991.

U.S. Attorney Marcos Daniel Jimenez agreed: ''We will do whatever it takes,
no matter how long it takes, to protect our system of justice,'' he said

U.S. District Judge Patricia A. Seitz, however, reluctantly signed off on
the deal, saying she was concerned the penalties were not harsh enough.

''While the court would have liked a higher sentence, I will accept the
settlement,'' said Seitz, who sentenced Magluta to 205 years in January.


But Falcon's defense attorneys, Richard J. Diaz and Jeffrey Weiner, argued
the plea deal gives the 47-year-old a chance at reclaiming a semblance of a

On his way back to jail, Falcon blew kisses to his ailing parents, Arsenio
and Mirta Falcon, both 74, and his three children, Aileen Martinez, 28;
Jessica Falcon, 23; and William Falcon, 18.

His wife, Alina Rossique-Falcon, was slain in a 1992 holdup attempt outside
a Coral Gables beauty salon. Her parents and sister were in the courtroom as

With the four-plus years he already spent behind bars awaiting trial, Falcon
could be released in about 13 years -- when he is 60 -- if he stays out of
trouble in prison.

What could happen next for the 11th-grade Miami Senior High dropout is
uncertain. Falcon, a Cuban citizen, could face deportation or prolonged
immigration detention, depending on U.S.-Cuba relations when he is released.

Falcon and Magluta, buddies since childhood, were well known during the '80s
for their championship racing boat teams, expensive homes and champagne

The government said it had plenty of evidence linking the pair to drug
trafficking for their showcase 1996 trial. But they were acquitted after a
five-month trial. Federal officials said some witnesses were murdered or
paid to remain silent or lie before the trial.

But the most stunning development came after the verdict, when prosecutors
learned at least one juror had been bribed.

Prosecutors said Monday most of the tampering evidence led back to Magluta,
not Falcon.

''In my mind's eye, I see a runaway train, with Magluta as the conductor and
Willy in the back,'' Weiner said. ``These two men factually, legally and in
every other way are different.''

Attorneys for both sides said Falcon had expressed interest in a plea deal
as early as 1992. But all potential deals were derailed because Magluta
refused to stop fighting his charges and prosecutors wanted an
all-or-nothing package with both men pleading guilty.

The pair's acquittals also had another well-publicized consequence: A
dismayed Kendall Coffey, the U.S. attorney at the time, resigned following
an altercation with an exotic dancer shortly after the verdict.

Three years later, jury foreman Miguel Moya was convicted of accepting
nearly $500,000 in bribes and sentenced to 17 1/2 years in prison.

As part of the plea deal, Diaz said Falcon will not be required to testify
against any past drug-trafficking associates, and prosecutors will drop any
potential retrial of the corrupted 1996 verdict.


The hearing lasted more than three hours as Seitz made both sides persuade
her to accept the deal. In addition to the prison term, she expressed
concern the $1 million forfeiture was too small, considering the hundreds of
millions of dollars Magluta and Falcon reportedly netted from smuggling. The
jury that convicted Magluta last year ordered him to forfeit $15 million.

But as Sullivan noted, Falcon will deliver cash before he is sentenced next
month. The FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, IRS and Miami- Dade police
are still digging -- literally -- for Magluta's share.

''The bird in the hand is worth the $15 million in the bush,'' Sullivan
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