'Cocaine Cowboy' Arrested After 26 Years on the Run | NBC Bay Area
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'Cocaine Cowboy' Arrested After 26 Years on the Run

Gustavo Falcon was nabbed while on a bike ride with his wife

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    NBC 6's Julia Bagg has more after one of the most notorious drug dealers in Miami history was caught after over a quarter century on the run.

    (Published Thursday, April 13, 2017)

    One of the original "Cocaine Cowboys," a crew of notorious drug traffickers who operated in South Florida in the 1980s, was arrested Wednesday in Kissimmee after 26 years on the run.

    Gustavo Falcon, who also goes by several aliases, including Augusto Falcon and "Taby," was finally captured by a team of U.S. Marshals from Miami working with U.S. Marshals in the Orlando-Kissimmee area. 

    In March, the team focused on the address of a vacation rental property in Kissimmee after investigators learned Falcon may have been using the alias Luis Reiss. A search found a man by that name was involved in a crash in Kissimmee in 2013

    While the U.S. Marshals conducted the surveillance, they saw what they thought was Falcon and his wife exit the house to go on a bike ride.

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    "They were wearing helmets and sunglasses, so initially, it was hard to get a positive ID," said Barry Golden, with the U.S. Marshals Service.

    Authorities surveilled the pair for some time, and when they were able to confirm the man was Falcon, they stopped him as he rode his bicycle at a traffic light in Kissimmee.

    When agents stopped Falcon, he had fake driver's licenses dating back to 1997, using Miami addresses, federal officials said. The 55-year-old also had fake licenses for his wife, as well as his children, who are now in their 30s, according to U.S. Marshals. Authorities said Falcon and his wife obtained bogus social security cards. They were all living under the Reiss last name.

    Falcon did not resist the arrest and even confessed to his real identity, officials said. He was booked into the Osceola County Jail and was scheduled to make his first federal court appearance Thursday.

    "You can run, you can hide, but you can't run and hide forever," said Golden.

    The rental home management company was shocked to learn that a fugitive was hiding out in the house. The company said Falcon's wife, who went by the alias Maria Reiss, had been living there for at least 10 years and made all the payments. It's unclear how long Falcon lived at the home.

    "The husband, we barely saw any bit of him at all. I always thought he worked abroad," said Joe Rogers, Florida Scandi Vacation Homes. The property manager said the wife told them she worked from home selling items online.

    "We used to crack jokes like, 'What? Are you selling drugs or something? Because you could've bought the house.' You know, once you've rented it for a certain amount of years, at that price, you could've bought it," said Rogers. 

    On Thursday, the accused drug trafficker waived all rights to hearings in Orlando, and instead requested hearings to be held in South Florida. U.S. Marshals said Falcon may be extradited to Broward County in late April.

    Falcon was known as a "Cocaine Cowboy" - a name based off of a 2006 documentary based on the drug trade in Miami during the 1970's and 80's - and is the brother of renowned drug smuggler Augusto "Willie" Falcon.

    The two, along with Willie's partner Sal Magluta, were indicted in 1991 for trafficking cocaine on speedboats from Colombia to South Florida during the 1980s. Gustavo Falcon fled before his indictment.

    Willie Falcon and Magluta, whose drug charges were cleared, were eventually convicted of subsequent charges and remain in federal prison.

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    "Most people, when they flee, they flee to another country," former federal attorney Marcos Jimenez, who could have prosecuted Falcon, said Thursday. "It is very hard to evade justice, you can do it for a long time, like he did but eventually, it is difficult to live your life on the run and to be a fugitive."

    Jimenez said it could be a hard case to prosecute after all this time.

    "After so many years witnesses are missing, some people may no longer be around, it is hard to make an old case so it will be interesting to see what happens in terms of the outcome of the case," Jimenez said.