Miami: See It Like a Drug Dealer

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1. Harold Ackerman Cali cartel's man in Miami. Busted in 1992 along with seven subordinates and 6000 keys of cocaine. Seized ledgers indicated Ackerman's outfit did $56 million in business in Miami in the ten months before his arrest. He kept a low profile at his North Miami Beach home.

2. Juan Acosta A Colombian hit squad in 1989 gunned down the attorney in his Miami office. He had just received a subpoena to testify before a grand jury about some of his clients, including Willy Falcon and Sal Magluta.

3. Brickell Avenue A banking bonanza accompanied Miami's cocaine boom, and it was concentrated along Brickell. In 1982 a reported 44 American banks were licensed to make international transactions and 36 foreign banks opened local branches.

4. Cigarette Racing Team In 1987 Don Aronow was murdered on NE 188th Street in North Miami Beach, near his Cigarette Racing Team manufacturing plant, which produced the famed Cigarette go-fast boats favored by drug runners everywhere.

5. Cocoplum This posh bayside Coral Gables neighborhood has been home to a number of high-profile traffickers (FBI agents called it Cocaineplum), including Colombian kingpin Hernan Arboleda, who in May 1996 fled his waterfront mansion at 286 Costa Nera Rd., leaving behind more than three million dollars in art, jewelry, and furnishings. His abrupt departure came just hours after federal drug agents searched his opulent home.

6. The Collection In 1993 federal agents seized Armando "Mandy" Fernandez's prized luxury-car dealerships in Coral Gables after they indicted the former speedboat champ on drug-trafficking charges. Fernandez was sentenced to eighteen years in prison after pleading guilty. Thanks to his ex-business partner, developer Ugo Colombo, The Collection lives on at 200 Bird Rd. in Coral Gables.

7. Rafael and Ray Corona Father and son were convicted in 1987 of racketeering. The feds busted them using a marijuana smuggler's money to buy Sunshine State Bank, based in South Miami. In a 1991 sworn affidavit, Ray Corona admitted to laundering tens of millions of dollars for Willy Falcon and Sal Magluta.

8. Sonny Crockett He drove a Ferrari, wore Versace suits, and lived on a sailboat with his pet alligator Elvis. During Miami Vice's run, Crockett's vessel was docked at the Miami Beach Marina (300 Alton Rd.) and the Bayside Marina (401 Biscayne Blvd.).

9. Dadeland Mall On July 11, 1979, two men emerged from a party supplies panel truck that was really an armored "war wagon" stuffed with weapons. They casually walked over to the Crown Liquors store, removed two submachine guns from a paper bag, and sprayed the place with bullets, killing a Colombian drug trafficker and his bodyguard. Two store employees were wounded. Thus was launched the era of the cocaine cowboys.

10. Dean Investments International FBI and DEA agents set up this fake corporation in a Miami Lakes shopping center as part of Operation Swordfish. Their dummy investment firm washed about $19 million for various drug dealers. The money-laundering probe led to the indictment of 61 people, of which only half were apprehended.

11. Drug Enforcement Administration Last year the DEA confiscated 14,329 kilos of cocaine in Florida (the agency will not release figures for Miami-Dade County alone). Local investigations are run out of the Miami field office (8400 NW 53rd St.), largest in the nation.

12. 843 Auto Sales This car dealership at 843 NW 27th Ave. provided Miami River Cops with vehicles.

13. Severo Escobar A local operative for Colombian trafficker José "Pepe" Cabrera Sarmiento, he was charged in 1992 with distributing some 15,000 pounds of cocaine. Feds grabbed his $200,000 Brickell condo, along with his condo in Key Biscayne, a home in Miami, and property in Hialeah.

14. Federal Bureau of Investigation The FBI's North Miami Beach office (16320 NW Second Ave.) employs more than 700 special agents and support personnel to combat federal violators from Vero Beach to Antarctica.

15. Florida's Turnpike Colombian hit man Conrado "El Loco" Valencia Zalgado, racing along the turnpike in his Audi in April 1979, opened fire with his MAC-10 on rival drug runners who were trying to evade him in a Pontiac Grand Prix. After the shootout, authorities found a handcuffed corpse in El Loco's abandoned car.

16. Joe Gersten On the morning of April 30, 1992, the day after Gersten reported his Mercedes had been stolen from his Coral Gables estate, a small-time drug dealer and a hooker told police they robbed Gersten at knifepoint while the county commissioner was smoking a rock with another prostitute in a dope hole on NE 31st Street, just east of Biscayne Boulevard. Gersten fled to Australia rather than face prosecution.

17. Great American Bank of Dade County This Miami financial institution had the distinction of being the first to go down as part of Operation Greenback in 1982. Four bank officials were charged with laundering some $96 million in drug proceeds.

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.