'Last Of The Cocaine Cowboys’ Busted After 26 Years On The Lam

By Keri Blakinger 04/14/17

The feds finally nabbed Gustavo Falcon while he was out on a bike ride with his wife. 

Gustavo Falcon
Gustavo Falcon Photo via YouTube

After more than a quarter century on the run, a member of the so-called “Cocaine Cowboys” 1980s drug-trafficking ring is finally behind bars. 

Before his arrest Wednesday, Gustavo Falcon, now 55, had last been seen in South Florida in 1991, just before he was indicted for conspiring to distribute 75 tons of blow valued at around $2 billion. 

But before he could face trial on the charges, Falcon vanished. 

For 26 years, the feds thought he was hiding out in Mexico or Colombia, according to the Miami Herald. Instead, he was living comfortably with his family in the Orlando area. “Nobody thought he was in the United States,” said Barry Golden, U.S. Marshals Service spokesman. 

Falcon is accused of trafficking blow throughout the '80s as part of a notorious drug ring that included his brother Willie and business partner Salvador Magluta. Known as the Cocaine Cowboys, the future kingpins started as Miami Senior High School dropouts. 

They allegedly used speedboats to move Colombian cocaine from the Caribbean to Florida between 1978 and 1991. 

But then in 1991, Magluta, the Falcon brothers, and a number of other accused traffickers were charged for an alleged drug distribution scheme—and for hiring Colombian hitmen to off snitches. While Gustavo Falcon fled and went into hiding, his brother and their partner both stood trial. 

In 1996, they were acquitted, but prosecutors later discovered they’d paid off three jurors. In a retrial, Magluta, the ringleader, was convicted and sentenced to 205 years in prison. A sentence reduction in 2006 got it knocked down to 195 years. 

After seeing the outcome of Magluta’s trial, Willie Falcon took a plea and was hit with 20 years in prison. He’s slated for release in June. 

But through it all, Gustavo Falcon stayed on the lam. U.S. marshals hunted for the wanted man, but it wasn’t till 2013 that they finally caught the break they needed. 

It was after Falcon and his wife got into a car wreck near Orlando—and forked over their fake IDs and Hialeah address—that feds caught on to Falcon’s new fake identity. 

To fly under the radar, Falcon had gotten fake drivers licenses for himself, his wife, and their grown children, according to Golden. Using the name Luis Andre Reiss, Falcon had even gotten fake Social Security cards. 

Eventually authorities traced the trail back to a Kissimmee home that Falcon and his family were renting. 

“We figured this all out a month ago,” Golden told the Miami paper. Last week, deputy U.S. marshals trailed Falcon and his wife on a 40-mile bike ride. Eventually, they picked him up at a Kissimmee intersection in the afternoon. At first, Falcon stuck with the phony name on his license, according to CNN. But eventually he admitted his real name and said he’d been living in the area for nearly 20 years. His wife was not arrested, according to an Associated Press report. 

The day after his arrest, Falcon agreed in federal court not to fight his removal from Orlando to Miami. 

“He’s the last of the Cocaine Cowboys,” said Golden.

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.