The Miami Herald reports that a “Cocaine Cowboy” who has been on the run for 26 years has been arrested and has pleaded guilty to drug trafficking this week.
Gustavo Falcon, 56, was arrested in April by U.S. Marshals in Orlando when he was bike riding with his wife. Officials thought Falcon was likely in Mexico or Colombia at the time, but Falcon had been living in the Kissimmee area under a false name since the 1990s.
In 1991, he was indicted with his brother and others for smuggling cocaine into the U.S., but he disappeared before he went to trial. His associates were initially acquitted because they bribed jurors, but were later retried for drug-related money laundering and convicted.
Sal Magluta is serving his life sentence in Colorado. Willie Falcon, Gustavo’s older brother, served 20 years and was released, but is now fighting deportation to Cuba.
Gustavo pleaded guilty to conspiring to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. As part of his plea agreement, he was held responsible for a 400-kilo shipment of cocaine from California to Florida in 1989. Additional cocaine shipments in the 1990s via tractor-trailer totaled 3,000 kilos.
However, prosecutors claim this was only a small fraction of the smuggling ring they oversaw.
After seizing ledgers from the organization, it was revealed that almost 9 tons of cocaine was distributed for over $142 million.
Gustavo awaits sentencing on April 11th. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, but as part of his plea deal could only face 11-14 years. The biggest part of the deal was that Gustavo’s wife and grown children wouldn’t face charges for harboring a fugitive.
*Photo credit Orange County Corrections via AP