By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
Ray and Rafael Corona were convicted in 1987, and both are still in federal custody. Ray Corona is currently serving a sixteen-year sentence at a federal prison in Atlanta. He is expected to be a pivotal witness against Falcon and Magluta in their upcoming trial.
THE EASY WAY OUT
Augusto Jay, however, will not appear as a witness. Described by federal prosecutors as a top lieutenant in the Falcon-Magluta organization, Jay was indicted and convicted for drug smuggling in 1988. Jay, 35 years old, is serving a life sentence at the Marianna Federal Correction Institute west of Tallahassee. Asked several times to cooperate with authorities in the Falcon-Magluta prosecution, he refused.
"The thing that was surprising and disappointing to me," says Ken Bell, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted Jay in North Carolina, "was at the time of his sentence, Jay was 32 years old, he had a wife and two young kids, and he chose to serve a life sentence without parole rather than cooperate. It was misplaced loyalty and a perverted sense of honor."
In refusing to trade what he knew about his bosses for a lighter sentence, Jay merely highlighted a problem that federal agents had been encountering throughout their pursuit. From the outset, Falcon and Magluta surrounded themselves with people they could trust - mostly family members and childhood friends. Many, like Augusto Jay, shared the common bond of having fled Cuba as young children in the late 1950s and having grown up in Little Havana.
"We got caught up in the middle of the Cuban revolution," Jay says by phone from Marianna. "We were kind of transplanted here and left up in the air. We didn't have a real foundation in this country. We were being taught one thing in the house and we were watching another thing on TV. If you want to have a pretty girl, you have to have a nice car," he continues. "We didn't know what the meaning of all this was. The only way to get equality was through money, I thought." Drug smuggling, he says, was "the easy way out. You fall for it and you get trapped in this lifestyle, and then it snowballs."
Investigators believe Falcon and Magluta started off as small-time dope peddlers in high school. Of the two, Falcon was the charmer, the ambassador of the fledgling organization, the one who typically would establish important contacts. Once Falcon had set up a meeting, it would be Magluta who negotiated the fine points of the deal, weighing the risks against the benefits.
On his own, it's unlikely either man would have accomplished much. But together they were almost unstoppable. They worked their organization like any business, developing the equivalent of a corporate philosophy and a vision. They treated people fairly, recognizing the fact that violence is counterproductive. If you don't steal and you don't rob and you don't kill anybody or threaten anybody, Augusto Jay explains, you reduce the risk of having those things happen to you. "If you're a nasty person," says Jay, "you're going to have to deal with nasty people."
Not that the pair was immune to the nastiness inherent in their line of work, especially as business burgeoned. In 1985 Falcon's mother was kidnapped by a rival drug faction. The abduction was never reported to police, but according to law enforcement sources, Falcon paid a $500,000 ransom for his mother's safe return. Sources also say there were unsuccessful attempts to snatch Falcon himself.
Jay says that since his conviction, he has tried to enrich his life through prayer and Bible study, and he now counsels younger convicts about the evil excesses of the drug lifestyle. But religion has drawn another line for Jay to walk. God, he says, would not want him to testify against Falcon and Magluta. And if he violated that belief, the penalty would be far greater than anything mortal man could level against him.
Jay also believes that the U.S. government steamrolls drug defendants, violates their rights, and lies about them. By way of example, he cites prosecutors' claims that Falcon and Magluta accumulated $2.1 billion from their drug enterprise. "They're crazy," Jay responds. "$2.1 billion! That's just mad. That's just completely mad. The bigger the case, the bigger the glory for whoever is behind it. I'm not saying that no wrongs have been committed, I'm just saying they've been exaggerated."
When he died in 1980, Earl Dyess, Sr., sheriff of Hendry County for the previous twenty years, was hailed as a great lawman and a tireless fighter in the war against drugs. At Dyess's funeral, an aide to then-Gov. Bob Graham lamented, "Florida lost a friend and one of its top law enforcement officers."
In 1984 Jack Devoe, who owned his own aviation company at Opa-locka Airport, began cooperating with federal agents. During the late Seventies and early Eighties, Devoe told authorities, he and his men worked for Falcon, Magluta, and Augusto Jay, smuggling cocaine into South Florida. While they used several sites, their principal "off-load" point, Devoe said, was Falcon and Magluta's ranch near Clewiston, just south of Lake Okeechobee in Hendry County.