Sal Magluta and Willy Falcon, famously referred to as Los Muchachos, ran the Florida drug scene from the 70s to the 90s, smuggling over 75 tons of cocaine and amassing over $2 billion. The new Netflix documentary, Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami, details Sal and Willy’s rise and fall.
It uses interviews from the pair’s associates, rivals, police, lovers, and advocates to detail how the Cuban-born duo ran their drug operation in South Florida. By the time the authorities caught up with Falcon and Sal, the pair’s business had spread to New York, D.C., and California. Eventually, Sal and Willy went to prison in the early 2000s.
Sal Magluta is alive and will likely die in ADX Florence, a supermax prison in the U.S
In 1991, a grand jury indicted Sal Magluta, Willy Falcon, and other key players in the drug business. The drug kingpins hired the best legal team money could buy, and following a lengthy trial, the jury acquitted Sal and Willy.
The acquittal perplexed prosecutors, who had presented tons of incriminating evidence during the trial. A closer look at Willy and Sal’s finances explained their acquittal: The pair had paid off the jury foreman and several other jury members.
“Later, it turned out that Augusto Falcon and Magluta had bought off witnesses and at least one member of the jury, a foreman who did 17 years in prison after accepting $400,000,” per the Associated Press.
Several prosecution witnesses had also been murdered before they could testify against Willy and Sal. Determined to put the pair behind bars, prosecutors brought bribery, money laundering, and murder charges against Falcon and Sal in 2002.
Willy negotiated a plea deal, but Sal decided to try out his luck in court. Sal was acquitted of murder but was found guilty of bribery and money laundering. The judge sentenced Sal to 205 years in prison, but the sentence was later reduced by ten years.
Sal Magluta is alive in ADX Florence, a supermax prison often referred to as the ‘Alcatraz of the Rockies.’ The prison holds some of the most infamous U.S. criminals, including former drug lord El Chapo. Billy Corben, the filmmaker behind Cocaine Cowboys, told Newsweek:
“Sal is in Florence, Colorado, in a supermax prison. It is the most secure prison in the United States under some of the harshest conditions in the U.S., with some of the worst terrorists and violent offenders in the country, where he will serve the next 180 some odd years and you know, he will very likely die.”
A judge denied Magluta’s petition for compassionate release
In August 2021, Magluta’s lawyers filed a petition seeking compassionate release for Sal. Court records and accounts by family described Sal as an elderly man ailing from kidney disease, diabetes, ulcerative colitis, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress.
Consequently, Sal sought compassionate release to home arrest with his elderly mother, son, and grandchildren in the Miami-Dade suburb of Westchester. Magluta’s attorneys claimed that the inhuman conditions Sal had been subjected to more than made up for his crimes.
“As a result of the conditions in which he has been incarcerated – namely, indefinite solitary confinement in the nation’s most brutal prison facility – he has been render[ed] physically sick and mentally ill. Further incarceration would be both excessive and inhumane.”
The petition described Sal as a remorseful man who poses no danger to society. It reiterated that Magluta’s lengthy incarceration has caused ‘wrought damages to his body and mind.’
Per the petition, Magluta has spent more than two decades in solitary confinement, spending most of the day in ‘a tiny, cement cell about half the size of a parking space.’ It cited Sal’s exemplary disciplinary record as evidence that Sal has reformed.
Sal’s attorneys claimed that his minor violations point to his deteriorating mental health. They added that wardens at ADX Florence had reported Magluta as ‘suffering from a serious mental illness.’ The petition further stated that Sal was on suicide watch after eating a bag of pills.
The petition contained a four-page letter from Sal asking the court to grant release. “I would ask the Court to find some way that I can, under the terms of the court’s parameters, be used in any [fashion] to share my experience and the consequences of living outside of God’s will and the law,” Sal wrote.
U.S. District Court Senior Judge Patricia A. Seitz declined Sal’s petition. She stated that Sal’s health claims lacked basis and asserted that he remained a danger to society.
Judge Seitz brushed off Sal’s alleged suicidal inclinations, viewing them as cries for attention – it ‘was the only way he could get anyone to listen to him.’ The judge described Sal’s symptoms as exaggerated, terming them ‘a means to assist with facilitating said transfer.’
She also objected to Sal’s proposed living conditions as they would put him among family members who ‘aided him in earlier illegal activities.’
Willy Falcon’s whereabouts are unclear following his release from prison in 2017
Willy Falcon pleaded guilty to money laundering and received a 20-year sentence. He served his time and secured release in 2017.
Falcon never acquired U.S. citizenship, so he faced deportation to Cuba. However, his lawyers argued that he would face danger in Cuba due to his support of anti-Castro organizations. He was, therefore, deported to the Dominican Republic, where he didn’t spend much time. Billy Corben explained:
“They deported him to the Dominican Republic where when word got out that he was there, people in the D.R. were upset about that. And he was asked to leave.”
Corben has an idea of where Falcon is, but he isn’t sure. “Willy is out and about,” Corben said. “I think I know where he is, but I can’t confirm it so I won’t say, but he was released several years ago.”
Willy and Sal’s convictions proved unpopular in South Florida because the pair were perceived as heroes in the community. “They were celebrities but they were accessible,” Corben explained. “They were Robin Hoods.”