By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
Typically, when one of his pilots flew a load of cocaine from Colombia or Bolivia - usually with a stopover in the Bahamas - Devoe would fly cover, or countersurveillance, during the south Florida leg of the trip. By watching for DEA or Coast Guard planes, he could warn a pilot away from the ranch so that its landing strip wouldn't be discovered. Once the plane was on the ground, Devoe claimed, there was no reason to worry. "They told me that the sheriff was on the payroll to guard the road or to assist them in the smuggling at the ranch," Devoe stated in a 1989 sworn deposition. For a brief time, he added, the operation was halted when the sheriff died. "[Falcon and Magluta] said it will be some time before the new sheriff is on the payroll," Devoe stated. "I believe it was a month or so before we did another trip."
Devoe is currently in the federal witness protection program, after having testified at numerous trials across the United States, including that of Carlos Lehder, one of the founding members of the Medellin cartel and one of Falcon and Magluta's principal suppliers.
Although he never named the "sheriffs," investigators say Devoe was referring to Earl Dyess, Sr., and his son, Earl Jr. (After the elder Dyess was stabbed to death outside his house in 1980, his son replaced him and has been re-elected ever since.) In 1984 the Florida Department of Law Enforcement quietly began investigating Devoe's claims of corruption in Hendry County, but Russell Clark, a former FDLE agent who led the investigation, says that because Devoe was quoting his bosses and never actually saw either of the Dyesses, it was impossible to corroborate the allegation that Falcon and Magluta controlled the sheriffs. "It very well could have been some deputies," Clark says.
The issue became moot a few years later, investigators say, when Falcon and Magluta sold their ranch near Lake Okeechobee and moved their operations closer to home.
THE PANAMANIAN CONNECTION
With their illicit importation business booming, Sunshine State Bank couldn't possibly launder and conceal all the proceeds. Ray Corona told federal agents that he had introduced Falcon and Magluta to Miami attorney Juan Acosta, so that Acosta could help them take advantage of offshore bank accounts and corporations.
Acosta was of particular assistance in setting up Panamanian corporations through his friend Guillermo Endara. Enterprise Ramadan Inc., Pilea S.A., and Hassid Enterprise Inc. were three of the Panamanian corporations incorporated by Acosta through Endara's law firm. Each company was involved in buying property in and around Miami, the ownership of which was later transferred to members of Falcon's and Magluta's families.
The 62-year-old Acosta was gunned down in his northwest Miami office in 1989, in front of his secretary. "He was very distinguished. He was very nice. I don't know why anybody would want to kill him," his housekeeper said at the time. The case is still open. Miami homicide detective Ron Illhardt believes the murder was the work of a Colombian hit squad - Acosta had reportedly set up a deal to smuggle a load of cocaine through the Bahamas but the shipment was intercepted by U.S. officials and the Colombians blamed him.
Defense attorney Frank Rubino, who will begin preparing for the Falcon-
Magluta trial after he completes his work on the Noriega case, says he will attempt to subpoena Guillermo Endara as a witness. In spite of Endara's claims to the contrary, Rubino says Endara met with Falcon and Magluta on several occasions and was aware he was dealing with drug traffickers. "We can't force him to come up here," Rubino says, "but I'd like to ask him a few questions as to his relationship with Willy and Sal and whether he's willing to vouch for the things he's done for them, and for their character."
The Panamanian president's endorsement of his clients would carry some weight with an American jury, Rubino speculates; it was, after all, the United States government that put him in power. But Rubino admits seeing Endara on the witness stand is unlikely. "I think the government will do their very best to shield him," he says, "and I'll tell you why: they sure don't want to invade again and replace him with someone else."
Besides the Panamanian connection, Falcon and Magluta availed themselves of dummy corporations in the West Indies and the Caribbean. In 1983 an investigation into a bank robbery and murder in England led Scotland Yard to the door of Shaun Murphy, who had helped the thieves launder cash through offshore accounts in the British Virgin Islands. When Murphy, feeling the squeeze, turned informant for British authorities, he also had plenty of information for American lawmen.
Most of Murphy's business had been conducted with Americans, and when he opened his files to DEA inspection in 1986, they read like a Who's Who of the U.S. drug trade. The biggest case that initially spun out of the so-called Isle of Man investigation were the arrest, indictment, and conviction of powerboat racer and pot smuggler Ben Kramer and Miami lawyer Mel Kessler, who had become a money launderer for his wealthy, crooked clients.