The Riddle That Cracked the Case

Rather than retrying all the original charges against Falcon and Magluta from their 1996 trial, prosecutors may simply take the strongest counts from their case three years ago and incorporate them as an element of the larger racketeering indictment.

On a related note, I'd like to clarify something I reported earlier this year. In detailing the steps the government was taking in building a RICO case against Falcon and Magluta, I noted that Manuel Mattos, the triggerman responsible for murdering Miami attorney Juan Acosta in 1989, had struck a deal with prosecutors and had appeared before the federal grand jury investigating Falcon and Magluta. Although he doesn't dispute that he appeared before the grand jury earlier this year, Mattos has taken offense to the inference he is now a government informant, or as he put it, "a rat."

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

I know this because Mattos has taken to calling me from prison to complain about my stories. Call me old-fashioned, but when a Colombian contract killer calls to demand clarification, I tend to listen very carefully. Even if he is in prison.

And so here is Mattos in his own words: "I killed Juan Acosta. I don't know Willy. I don't know Sal. I don't snitch on nobody."

To elaborate briefly, Mattos pleaded guilty last year to second-degree murder and was sentenced to more than 40 years in prison, which in itself, he says, should be proof he did not cut a sweetheart deal to be an informant.

He appeared before the grand jury, he says, merely to explain how he and accomplices went to Acosta's Miami office and shot him repeatedly at point-blank range. He says he has never met or spoken to either Falcon or Magluta and has no idea if they ordered Acosta's murder. (Prosecutors suspect Acosta was killed because he was about to become a government witness against Falcon and Magluta.)

Mattos says he regrets the crime. He was young and foolish in those days, he says, and he made a mistake.

Related Stories by Jim DeFede
"Right Out of a Movie," August 27, 1998

"In Pursuit of Willie and Sal," February 25, 1999

"In Pursuit of Willie and Sal, Part Two," March 4, 1999

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