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.

Agents then told Perez that if she didn't turn against Moya, her parents could be indicted for money laundering because Perez gave them some of the cash.

"You were told you had two choices," Obront summarized. "One, to cooperate, or two, to be indicted because you were a target of this investigation, right?"

"Yes."

Prosecutors took a week to present all their witnesses, then turned the floor over to defense attorneys. By this point in the trial, the defense strategy was well-known. Obront had laid it out for jurors in his opening statement, and now it was time to deliver. Their case was going to center on one witness, Ray Perez.

A former City of Miami police officer, Perez had left the force in 1984 after just four years. "I didn't want to be a police officer anymore," Perez told jurors.

"What business did you get into after you left the police department?" asked defense attorney Paul McKenna.

"I got into the business of the drug world, narcotics. I was involved in importation of a large amount of cocaine from Colombia, through Mexico, into the United States."

Between 1984 and 1988, Perez claimed, he helped smuggle nearly 5000 kilos of cocaine into the country in ten separate trips. The cocaine would be flown from Colombia to a secure landing strip in southern Mexico, he disclosed. The drugs would then be hidden inside motor homes and driven across the U.S. border by American senior citizens. Once inside the United States, the coke was shipped to either Miami or Los Angeles for distribution. Perez testified he received between $120,000 and $150,000 for each successful trip.

In addition to smuggling drugs across the border, Perez told jurors he was also responsible for sneaking cash out of the country. Neither Perez nor his boss, David Posada, wanted to keep a lot of money in Miami, so both began sending their dollars to family members in Mexico for safe keeping.

"And who did you use to transport that money back to the Mexican border?" McKenna asked.

"I used my uncle and my cousin," Perez declared. "They did about fifteen money trips." Perez said Miguel and Jose Moya were paid between $25,000 and $30,000 per trip.

In addition to having his uncle act as a money courier, Perez once asked Jose Moya to stash 400 kilos of cocaine at his house. Perez told the jury he was in a bind, there had been a foulup involving a delivery, and he needed a place to hide the coke. Jose Moya agreed, and Perez testified he gave him $100,000 for his assistance. Perez also testified that his cousin and uncle had been involved in smuggling marijuana from the Bahamas to the Florida Keys by speedboat. Based on Perez's testimony, the Moyas would have earned well in excess of $500,000 during the Eighties; more than enough to cover their spending in the Nineties.

Perez also recalled that the Moyas kept their money in a floor safe. As part of their case, defense attorneys went to the house the Moyas occupied at the time, tore up the floor, found the old safe, and dragged it into the courtroom to show jurors.

Ray Perez's smuggling days came to an end following a pair of arrests in 1988. He said he knew that becoming a government informant would be his only hope for minimizing his sentence, and so he began working with investigators.

"Did you tell them about Miguel and Jose Moya?" McKenna asked.
"No, sir, I did not. First of all, Jose and Mike, they are like my father and my brother, and they are family and I tried to protect them. And second of all, it's because they were very low on the scale of the organization. And the government specifically made it clear to me the agents didn't want any gofers."

Following his arrest, Perez said, Miguel and Jose Moya visited him in jail. "I explained to them the situation I was involved in," Perez recalled, "that due to the incarceration process that I was in, I had no choice but to become a government witness. And I instructed them to be very careful about spending the money. Because otherwise, if they did [spend it] and the heat got on them, I was going to be left with no choice but to testify against them. And I didn't want to do that."

Perez pleaded guilty and was sentenced to fourteen years in prison. Within a year he began testifying as a government witness in a major California drug case; his sentence was then reduced to four years in prison and five years probation.

Released from prison in 1991, Perez promptly went to see his uncle and cousin. In 1988 he'd given his uncle $50,000 to hide for him. When he came to collect it, he said, he reminded Miguel and Jose they still had to be very careful about how they spent their drug money. If any of it were traced to him while he was on probation, he would end up back in prison.

This portion of Perez's testimony was critical for the defense team. Throughout their case, prosecutors reiterated a simple point: If Miguel and Jose Moya had made hundreds of thousands of dollars with Ray Perez in the mid-Eighties, why did they wait until after the Falcon-Magluta trial in 1996 to spend it? Prosecutors claimed the timing of the spending proved there was no money from Ray Perez, that the Moyas weren't involved in the drug business, and that the cash must have come from Falcon and Magluta.

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