Gustavo Falcon, part of the largest cocaine-smuggling operation in Miami's history, had been on the run for 26 years before his capture last year in Orlando.
Gustavo Falcon, part of the largest cocaine-smuggling operation in Miami's history, had been on the run for 26 years before his capture last year in Orlando.
Orange County Jail/HistoryMiami

Cocaine Cowboy Mario Gonzalez, Who Once Plotted to Assassinate Feds, Picked Up in the Redland

Last week, armored vehicles, two helicopters, and more than 40 officers picked up a notorious cocaine-era assassin who was first arrested a quarter-century ago after police shot and missed more than 130 times.

This time, Mario Gonzalez went down without a fight. He was picked up near SW 199th Avenue and 228th Street after being on the lam for several alleged crimes after his release from prison in 2014. He crashed into a fence, jumped out of the car, and was sniffed down by police dogs.

What you might not remember is that when picked up by cops in 1993 after being slightly wounded in a hail of bullets, he had a pipe bomb and enlarged photos of U.S. Marshals and Drug Enforcement Administration agents in the car.

Gonzalez was a star in Miami's most tangled cocaine story, that of Willy Falcon and Sal Magluta, the city's godfathers of coke. His story was related in what might have been the best series of cocaine stories ever written in Miami. One part of it, "The Further Adventures of Willy and Sal" by Jim DeFede, was published around the time he escaped police gunfire. Here's the opening of that story:

Mario Gonzalez was confident he would never be caught. Indicted in 1989 on federal charges of drug trafficking and weapons violations, he knew the cops were looking for him. He'd even seen his own picture on television, where he was described as a violent fugitive. But the 28-year-old Gonzalez never worried; he seemed to have a talent for staying one step ahead of the law. He'd move from hotel to hotel in Miami, never lingering too long in one place. As a further precaution, he equipped his red Chevy Blazer with a high-intensity spotlight mounted on the rear. The light was connected to an extension cord that ran up to the driver's seat. In a pinch, Gonzalez could quickly plug it into the cigarette lighter. Anyone foolish enough to try following him would be temporarily blinded.

Gonzalez is much older now — in his 50s — and apparently much wiser. He had a gun in the car but didn't fire it, according to the Miami Herald .

His arrest in 1993 scared the crap out of every federal agent involved in the drug fight. Back then, Falcon and Magluta were in jail and had contact with Gonzalez's brother, Augusto. The feds suspected he planned to kill all of the law enforcement types who might testify against them at trial.

In the end, Gonzalez was convicted of drug and assault charges. Falcon spent most of a 20-year sentence in jail for money laundering and now awaits deportation. Magluta got 205 years in prison.

As for Gonzalez, don't expect to see him around town anytime soon. Long ago, he compared himself to a Cuban political prisoner. Turns out that was a lousy comparison.


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