Cocaine, money and real estate. It was the holy trinity that Miami high-rollers worshiped from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. And the Popes were a pair of Miami high school dropouts named Augusto Guillermo Falcon and Salvador Magluta, who were just known. under the name of Willy and Sal or los muchachos (the boys).
The link between drug trafficking, money laundering and real estate is one of the dominant themes of “Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami”, the recently released six-part Netflix documentary series from director Billy Corben that chronicles the rise and fall of Falcon and Magluta.
Falcon and Magluta ruled a vast, $ 2.1 billion drug-smuggling empire that transported 75 tons of cocaine to the United States from 1978 to 1991, according to the federal government. In hunting down Falcon and Magluta, authorities seized more than $ 16 million in real estate.
Some of these properties make appearances in docuseries on Falcon and Magluta, which have used family members as fronts for their real estate transactions.
Brickell Key condos, Miami
In the series, Falcon and Magluta, the minions of Pedro “Pegy” Rosello, recalled that Sal owned a penthouse apartment on Brickell Key. The unit’s nickname paid homage to the popular 1983 film starring Al Pacino about a fictional Cuban-born cocaine baron. “We called him Scarface,” Rosello said. “So we were going to party and Sal gave us an extra key. After clubbing, we were going to hang out at Scarface.
According to court documents and old press clippings, authorities seized two penthouses at Brickell Key One, 520 Brickell Key Drive. Completed in 1982, this was the first residential building completed by Swire Properties on the man-made island.
A penthouse, a 2,800 square foot unit with five bedrooms and four bathrooms, was worth $ 435,000 when the federal government seized it. It sold for $ 585,000 in 2003 and traded five more times, most recently in 2020 for $ 398,000.
The other condo, a 3,000 square foot unit with three bedrooms and four bathrooms, was valued at $ 455,000. The penthouse was bought at auction for $ 163,000 in 1999 by Thomas Axon, chairman of the board of directors of national mortgage services company Franklin Credit Management Corp., who then transferred ownership to his ex-wife.
The Mutiny Hotel, Coconut Grove
The Mutiny Hotel, a Coconut Grove institution, featured an infamous members-only club where music icons like Rick James and George Michael and other celebrities mingled with Miami’s top coca dealers. Dubbed Miami’s Studio 54, The Mutiny was a 12-story ode to decadence developed and owned by Burton Goldberg, known at the time as the city’s “Hugh Hefner”.
Falcon, Magluta, and his crew were founding members, making multi-million dollar deals over endless dinner, drinks and banging. They also rented venues for coke-fueled orgies.
In “Kings of Miami,” Ralph “Cabeza” Linero, who served eight years in prison for his role in managing shipments for Falcon and Magluta, described The Mutiny as “the Wall Street of the cocaine trade in years. 80 “.
When los muchachos and their team wanted to let other drug dealers party at the club know that they had cocaine to sell, they placed a Burger King children’s cardboard wreath on the table, Linero said. “It was a sign to everyone at the club that ‘Hey, we’ve got some gear, let’s talk about it,’” he said in the docuseries.
As the Cocaine Cowboys era faded, The Mutiny’s cache did the same. Goldberg sold the property at 2951 South Bayshore Drive for $ 17 million in 1984 and six years later he moved to California where he turned into an alternative medicine guru.
The Mutiny’s new owners faltered and lost the historic property to foreclosure in 1986. A decade later, Miami developer Ricardo Dunin bought the hotel in 1996 and converted it into a condo hotel that now owned by individual investors and the operator Provident Hotels and Resorts.
La Gorce Island, Miami Beach
On October 17, 1991, local, state and federal law enforcement officers raided a two-story white house on La Gorce Island in Miami Beach, where they apprehended Magluta and several of his cronies. . That same day, Falcon was recovered from a Fort Lauderdale mansion where he was locked up. The crime counts were on the loose following a federal indictment accusing them and members of their organization of cocaine trafficking.
In episode two of the Netflix series, Rosello reveals that he switched to Magluta and provided investigators with his location, the waterfront property at 98 East La Gorce Circle.
“It was either cooperating or spending the rest of my life in prison,” Rosello said. “So I gave them Sal. I drew like a map. This is how they found La Gorce.
Inside the five-bedroom house, which Magluta was renting for $ 5,000 a month, officers found her wallet along with fake passports and driver’s licenses with Magluta’s picture on it, but only a small bag of cocaine. One of the men arrested with Magluta gave the location of Falcon investigators, according to news reports.
At the time, the property was owned by a couple named Isaac and Maria Benmurgui, who paid $ 240,000 for the house in 1978. It has changed hands four times since then, most recently in 2019 for a company run by the luxury home builder Philippe Harari.
Tours Champlain South, Surfside
In 1987, Rosello was a high-flying lieutenant in the Falcon and Magluta empire who rode in exotic cars and rented condos in luxury apartment buildings. “Kings of Miami” explores Rosello’s backyard with Alexia Echevarria of fame “The Real Housewives of Miami”. He takes her to his apartment, a unit on the fifth floor of Champlain Towers South, the oceanfront condo tower in Surfside, according to Cocaine Cowboys manager Billy Corben.
The property is now known around the world as the condominium which partially collapsed in late June, killing 98 people.
In 1988, the federal government initiated civil forfeiture proceedings to seize the 2-acre ranch with a five-bedroom house and accompanying stable at 12000 Southwest 49th Street. Investigators claimed Falcon and Magluta were using the property as a communications base to coordinate their cocaine races by plane and boat, according to news reports. Magluta’s wife Isabel and sister-in-law Arlene Solis bought the ranch for $ 190,000 in 1980, according to records. Five years later, an entity run by Magluta’s parents paid $ 233,000 for it.
During a deposition in 1989, Isabel Magluta claimed her name, address and that Sal was her husband, but she then argued the law against self-incrimination 59 times. A federal judge approved the seizure and the ranch was auctioned for $ 300,000. The government pocketed $ 192,000 after paying off the mortgage.
The ranch last traded in 2004 for $ 2.1 million.
The buildings of Fontainebleau
Falcon and Magluta weren’t just prolific ghost buyers of Miami real estate. They were also developers, according to authorities. Assistant US Attorney Christopher Clark, who was part of the team that prosecuted Falcon and Magluta, said they were using their fathers to act as presidents of construction companies who developed apartment buildings in the Miami area.
Company records show the fathers, Arsenio Falcon and Manuel Magluta, held senior positions at companies called World Land Investments, Bright Construction Corp. and Ridgewood Development Corp. Among the projects these companies built were three apartment complexes with 40 units each in the Fontainebleau area. of Miami-Dade unincorporated near Miami International Airport at 8401, 8425 and 8500 Northwest Eighth Street.
According to the US government, the properties were each worth $ 3 million and were built with the proceeds of illicit drugs. Court documents show the government set up its own property management company to operate the buildings shortly after foreclosing on them. But despite the collection of rents, the government has reportedly refused to make mortgage payments. The lender, Citibank and Ridgewood Development, who owned the buildings, filed petitions to force the government to pay all rents, profits and income for the outstanding mortgages.
In 1993, Citibank bought the apartment complex at auction and 10 years later the properties were sold to Hialeah developers Marty Capparos Jr. and Maurice Cayon, who converted the units into condominiums.
Atlantis on Brickell, Miami
Another Magluta-owned crash pad in the Brickell area was an 11th floor condo tower unit that put Arquitectonica on the map. The Miami-based architecture firm designed the signature building at 2025 Brickell Avenue, which is known for its glass facade, a primary color scheme, and a five-story palm courtyard at the center of the structure. The element gives the impression that the building has a square hole in its center. The Palm Trees Courtyard features a red spiral staircase, Jacuzzi, and a palm tree that can be seen from the ground floor.
Completed in 1982, the 20-story, 96-unit luxury condominium is featured in the opening credits of the hit TV series “Miami Vice”. According to the government, the Magluta condo was valued at nearly $ 157,000 when it was foreclosed. It last traded in 2013 for $ 525,000.