‘Cocaine cowboy’ gets 11 years in prison after 26 years as fugitive

Gustavo Falcon is seen in an undated photo. A quarter-century after he vanished, the man dubbed the last of Miami's "cocaine cowboys" has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for a drug trafficking conviction.

A fugitive dubbed the last of Miami’s “cocaine cowboys” was sentenced Wednesday to 11 years in prison after being a fugitive for 26 years.

Gustavo Falcon, 56, aka “Taby,” played a key role in one of the biggest drug trafficking operations of the violent 1980s smuggling era, authorities said.

He was part of a gang that smuggled 75 tons of cocaine into the U.S. and made an estimated $2 billion during a time popularized by the “Miami Vice” TV show.

“That’s a lot of cocaine,” U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno said at Falcon’s sentencing hearing. “It’s so serious. He himself knows how serious it is.”

Falcon pleaded guilty in February to a single cocaine distribution conspiracy charge.

He was captured last April, living under the alias “Luis Andre Rice,” in Kissimmee, Fla., with his wife, Amelia, aka “Maria Ava Rice,” the Miami New Times reported.

U.S. Marshals arrested Falcon while he was on a bike ride with Amelia in the quiet town about 13 miles southeast of Disney World.

In an apologetic letter to the judge, Falcon said he fled because he didn’t want to lose contact with his wife and two children, who are now grown.

“I convinced myself that it was better to leave with my wife and children,” he wrote. “I was afraid that if I went to prison for a long time, my wife would move on, and my children would grow up without a father.”

Falcon’s attorney, Howard Srebnick, said that Falcon’s time as a fugitive forced him to live in seclusion, home-school his children and live a “very mundane, modest lifestyle.”

“He lived as a hunted man for 27 years [sic],” said Srebnick, who sought a nine-year sentence for Falcon, the New Times reported.


“I’m not proud of being on the run for 26 years,” Falcon told the federal judge in Miami, the newspaper reported. “That’s no way to live. I paid for it every day for 26 years.”

The judge said Falcon did not deserve any benefit for the restrictions he faced while hiding from the law.

“It’s very hard for me to consider a downward sentence for someone who enjoyed a quarter-century free with his family,” Moreno said, sentencing Falcon to 11 years, which is still less than what prosecutors had reportedly asked for.

“You still have to pay for it,” the judge said.

Falcon disappeared in 1991, when he was indicted along with his older brother Augusto “Willie” Falcon, Salvatore “Sal” Magluta and many others.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Clark said Falcon was the “right-hand man” to his older brother. His jobs included keeping transaction ledgers, collecting millions of dollars in cocaine profits, finding stash houses for drugs and organizing tractor-trailer loads of drugs to be shipped from Southern California to Florida.

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

Falcon, who was born in Cuba, is the 10th and final defendant to face justice in the case.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Amy Lieu

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