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
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By Kyle Swenson
Permeating the U.S. Attorney's concern about intimidation of government informants and witnesses is this irony: Earlier this year Willy Falc centsn and Sal Magluta themselves were prepared to become witnesses for the prosecution. Sources familiar with the negotiations provided these details: Falc centsn and Magluta offered to plead guilty in return for prison sentences of less than 40 years. With their expected cooperation in other criminal cases, their time could be reduced to less than twenty years. To sweeten the offer, Falc centsn and Magluta agreed to turn over $30 million in cash and to lead DEA agents to 4000 kilos of cocaine -- nearly four and a half tons -- they have allegedly stashed away.
DEA officials urged the U.S. Attorney's Office to accept the deal in the belief that Falc centsn and Magluta would make important government witnesses. Furthermore, a plea bargain on federal drug-smuggling charges would not preclude state prosecutors from filing murder charges against Falc centsn and Magluta if they could be tied to the killings of attorney Juan Acosta, the Gonzalez brothers, or witness Luis Escobedo.
But the offer was rejected by Richard Scruggs, then chief of the criminal division for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami. (Scruggs, who is now an assistant attorney general under Janet Reno, will not comment about the proposed deal.) Prosecutors, who have already sold off nearly $25 million in confiscated property, were reportedly unhappy at the prospect of Falc centsn and Magluta essentially buying their way out of one of the biggest drug busts in U.S. history.
With the loss of that opportunity for lenience, Willy Falc centsn, 38, and Sal Magluta, 39, now face life in prison without the possibility of parole. Today they are about as far removed from the legal wrangling as the government can place them. Magluta is in the federal prison in Atlanta (the construction crane has been removed), and Falc centsn is in the penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, two facilities considered to be among the harshest in the federal system. Both men are locked in solitary confinement.
Defense attorneys claim the government is trying to break their spirits. Federal officials say they are merely getting a taste of what they can expect for the rest of their lives.