Miami Vice Era Officially Over

The Miami Vice era went out with a whimper today as Willy Falcon was sentenced to 20 years in jail and a $1 million fine for his cocaine activities in Miami in the 1980's. The sentence and fine were part of a plea bargain. Falcon paid the fine last week, but came up $270 short. Then it was discovered that $400 of bills were counterfeit. His lawyers made up the shortfall.

Falcon's partner, Sal Magluta, was sentenced to life in prison some years ago. Police say the two earned $2 billion from turning Miami into the cocaine capital of the nation. They spent $20 million on lawyers for themselves and their associates during more than a decade of legal travails.

Their story is actually a lot more interesting than the article makes it sound. Here's what we remember:

They were first tried together and convicted in 1996, represented by the formidable team of Roy Black of Miami, Marty Weinberg of Boston and Albert Krieger of Miami. It was a huge loss for the Justice Department, which had turned dozens of South Florida drug traffickers and and a bunch of drug lawyers into cooperating witnesses at the trial. The lawyers had been threatened with money laundering charges for taking fees in drug money. Four were prosecuted.

Then it turned out that the jury foreman had been bribed. He ultimately got 17 1/2 years. In 1999, the Government filed new charges against Magluta and Falcon, this time charging them with ordering assassinations, bribes, threats and perjury to escape drug charges. Magluta went to trial and was convicted on the juror bribery charge. He was acquitted of ordering the murders of three cooperating government witnesses, including a lawyer who had been murdered in his office. Nonetheless, under the federal sentencing guidelines, which allows judges to sentence defendants for acquitted conduct if they are convicted of any of the charges against them (yes, you read that right), the judge considered the guidelines for the murder charge and Magluta got life.

Falcon was completing a ten year sentence on an illegal possession of a weapon charge when the 1999 charges came down. A few months ago he entered the plea deal, and was sentenced today. In imposing sentence, the Judge " ... called Falcon a gentleman, wished him "all the best," and told him, "Each day is the beginning of the rest of your life."

We still have not even scratched the surface of this fascinating case that dominated the South Florida news for years. Hopefully, someone will write an objective book about it. It's been a long time since there's been a good read on the drug trade like Snowblind, and this case has all the earmarks of another one.

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