In Pursuit of Willy and Sal, Part Two

Having lost their case against the drug kingpins, federal prosecutors vowed to convict jury foreman Miguel Moya of bribery. Didn't quite work out that way.

"Did you know this Eddie?"
Following one of the calls, Moya said he had to go out and would return later. "When he got home," Perez continued, "I was asleep. I heard the door and I just went to see him."

"What happened?"
"He showed me he had brought in a bag of money."
"And what did he say or what did you say to him?"
"What it was for."
"You asked him what it was for?"
"And what did he say?"

"It was, it was for the jury, in order to persuade the jury for a -- in order to -- one moment. In order to persuade the jury for a not guilty conviction or to plead -- I don't remember exactly the words. But it was in order to persuade the jury."

"Now, when your husband told you he got this money to persuade the jurors, what did you say to him?"

"That it was crazy."
"And was that the only time money came into the house?"
"What I can recall, I think there was another time that some more came in, but it just wasn't, wasn't that much. But I can't recall. It was -- I believe it was after the jury was over."

Although Perez's testimony was explosive, her demeanor on the witness stand sharply undercut her credibility. Her voice was flat and difficult to hear. She refused to make eye contact with the jury, and hung her head down, causing her blond hair to cover portions of her face. Her uncertainty about such memorable events raised doubts about her veracity, and at times it seemed she didn't completely believe what she was saying.

"Did you ever ask Mike how much money there was?"
"I think at one point I had asked him how much it was worth or how much he had gotten, and he just got upset at me.... He got upset with me and he just tossed different amounts."

"He got angry or upset with you for asking?"
"Yeah, I usually didn't ask those questions. I never asked anything about the jury or the trial. I wasn't interested." She claimed Moya eventually told her different amounts. Sometimes he claimed to have received $100,000 or $200,000, she testified. Another time he mentioned $500,000, she said.

As Perez spoke she became increasingly difficult to understand, until finally Judge King stepped in.

"I don't think the jury is hearing hardly anything she's saying," he observed, evidently annoyed. "Can we get her to speak up? They can't hear her answers." Turning to Perez, King continued, "You've answered the question a half-dozen times where the money came from. I haven't heard you yet."

Obviously frustrated, King then took over questioning Perez. The 71-year-old judge is notorious for shanghaiing witnesses, and in a matter of minutes he had fired off more than two dozen questions for Perez. Julie Paylor could only stand quietly to the side and wait for the judge to finish. When it was over, however, the damage had been done.

Under questioning from King, Virginia Perez estimated the ten or fifteen bundles of cash her husband brought home one night contained no more than $30,000 -- far from $500,000, and certainly nowhere near enough to buy a $198,000 home in the Keys. Paylor tried asking Perez a few more questions, but within minutes King jumped in again, humiliating both the witness and the prosecutor. Eventually Paylor just gave up.

Perez was already a wounded witness when defense attorney Curt Obront began his cross examination. Any sympathy Perez might have elicited from jurors Obront sought to destroy by noting that during her marriage to Moya, she had an affair with a married City of Miami police officer.

Obront's main goal, however, was to undermine her story about Moya coming home with a bag of money during the Falcon-Magluta trial. Federal agents interviewed Perez on several occasions during the summer of 1998, but each time she denied her ex-husband had done anything wrong. On July 29 that changed, and Perez agreed to become a government witness. Obront wondered what happened on that day.

"How many agents came to your house before you went to the FBI office?" he asked.

"They didn't come to my house," she said.
"Where did they meet you?"

"Okay. You met them on I-95. They called you or beeped you? How did they meet you?"

"They were following me from Boca."
"Oh, okay. There wasn't any kind of a chase, was there?"
"Give or take, yes."

Perez said she was eventually stopped on the roadway by as many as eight federal agents. "Would it be fair to say you were a little intimidated by all those agents at that time surrounding you?" Obront asked.

"At that time I didn't know what was going on."
Following the car chase, Perez was taken to FBI headquarters in North Miami-Dade, where agents told her the only way she could avoid going to jail would be to cooperate. They showed her the videotape of the FBI's Jack Garcia talking to Moya, emphasizing that portion of the tape in which Moya claimed he told her about the bribe. They introduced Perez to Raquel, the salsa-dancing female undercover agent. And they told her how Moya frequented brothels.

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