The Riddle That Cracked the Case

In 1996 state troopers stopped a car belonging to a woman named Marilyn Bonachea. Inside her vehicle officers found ledgers and other material allegedly relating to Falcon and Magluta's drug empire. Based on that material, federal agents obtained a warrant to search Bonachea's home in upstate New York; among the myriad items seized was an address book. Three years after its confiscation, the book yielded a bit of treasure: names attached to the 205 cell phone.

The telephone number appeared twice in Bonachea's book, once next to the name Alfred and once next to the name Brittany. Investigators were left to wonder: Alfred and Brittany who? There were no last names.

With the beginning of the second Moya trial just a couple of weeks away, Paylor and the agents scrambled to learn more about Alfred and Brittany. Luckily, next to Alfred's name in Bonachea's book was a second phone number. When they checked this number against those in Magluta's electronic organizer, they found it alongside the name Alfred Alonso.

Prosecutor Julie Paylor (right) believed Miguel Moya's ex-wife (left), and so did the jurors
Shirley Henderson
Prosecutor Julie Paylor (right) believed Miguel Moya's ex-wife (left), and so did the jurors

They had struck pay dirt.

Alfredo "Alfred" Alonso is considered one of Sal Magluta's oldest and most trusted friends. He came to federal court nearly every day and sat through the entire Falcon-Magluta trial in 1996. He visited Magluta in jail on weekends or days when court was in recess.

In 1997 Magluta skipped bond while he was on trial for using a phony passport. Federal agents later discovered that Alonso had leased the car Magluta used for his escape. Last year Alonso pleaded guilty to aiding a fugitive and was given probation. So close is Alonso to Magluta and his family that at his daughter's school, if an emergency arises and school officials can't reach him or his wife, they are instructed to contact Magluta's parents.

The name of Alfred Alonso's daughter? Brittany.

Now one of Magluta's closest friends was connected -- through Eddie Gutierrez -- to the Miguel Moya bribery case. As Paylor and the agents continued to dig, they found an even more startling connection. Tracing the lives of Alonso and Moya, investigators soon discovered they had attended Coral Park High School together. Prosecutors now had the link between Moya and the Falcon-Magluta organization they lacked in the first trial.

"We knew it was there," says Nucci. "We knew there had to be a more provable link." The connection hadn't been established before the first trial, Nucci explains, because their investigation of Moya had been leaked to the press, which forced them to indict him sooner than they would have liked. After the first trial ended in a hung jury, Nucci says, Paylor and the agents on the case did a phenomenal job sifting through all the evidence.

In that first trial, which I chronicled earlier this year, Moya claimed that his extra cash came from the proceeds of numerous drug transactions from the Eighties and had nothing to do with his service on the Falcon-Magluta jury. The defense strategy was novel, to say the least. Attorneys proclaimed their client's innocence on the bribery charges by claiming he had been part of a drug-trafficking ring. The move succeeded in befuddling several jurors, causing the panel to become hopelessly deadlocked.

Last month, for his second trial, Moya had a new defense attorney, Thomas Scalfani, and a new explanation for his sudden wealth. It wasn't the result of drug-trafficking, Scalfani ventured. It was the result of good luck: Moya had won several hundred thousand dollars gambling. Jurors didn't buy it. After a two-week trial, they took less than two hours to convict Moya on thirteen separate counts.

Prosecutors will now try to build a case against Gutierrez and Alonso, though without Moya's cooperation that may be difficult. Contacted at his home, Gutierrez refused to answer questions about the Moya case. Alonso could not be reached for comment.

Investigators are also continuing to look at the possibility another juror may have been involved in the bribery scheme. This time they are concentrating their attention on a female juror. In the past prosecutors have suggested that Moya may have had a romantic affair with this female juror during the four-month-long Falcon-Magluta trial. The juror denies she's done anything improper.

The next big step for the federal government, however, will be a new round of indictments against Falcon and Magluta, which could be announced in the next two weeks. As I reported in February, authorities have been assembling a massive indictment against the pair under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statutes. Prosecutors are expected to allege that Falcon and Magluta were in charge of a criminal organization that engaged in acts of money laundering, obstruction of justice, retaliation against government witnesses, and murder. Given the conviction of Moya, they might also include charges of bribery and jury tampering.

Prosecutors might also include in the RICO indictment some of the same allegations made in the original case against Falcon and Magluta. Typically, under a constitutional doctrine known as double jeopardy, a person cannot be charged with a crime for which he has already been acquitted. But because Moya was convicted of taking a bribe to help acquit Falcon and Magluta, double jeopardy may no longer apply.

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