Right Out of a Movie

Last month Miguel Moya was walking to his car in an employee-only parking lot at Miami International Airport when he was approached by a large and rather ominous-looking fellow. The man stood approximately six feet four inches tall and appeared to weigh in excess of 300 pounds. His face was pinched into a scowl, as if he had just gulped down some curdled milk. His demeanor was just as sour.

"I'm from Willy and Sal's people," the man growled as they stood alongside Moya's car.

Willy Falcon and Sal Magluta were reputed to be two of the biggest drug smugglers in U.S. history. They were accused of importing 75 tons of cocaine -- two billion dollars' worth -- into the United States during the Eighties and early Nineties. They were legends, mythic figures in both the drug and law enforcement communities.

There was no need, however, for this hulking beast to recite Willy's and Sal's pedigrees to Moya. Over the course of their four-month federal trial in late 1995 and early 1996, Moya served as foreman of the jury that ultimately acquitted the boys, as they were known, on sixteen different charges. It was the biggest drug trafficking trial ever lost by federal prosecutors anywhere in the country.

Moya, a balding 35-year-old ramp mechanic, stood about seven inches shorter than his unwelcome visitor and had to crane his neck in order to look him in the eye -- or at least to look him in the chin. The man told Moya there was a problem, and showed him a piece of paper. He said it was a copy of a secret federal indictment that accused Moya of taking a bribe in the Willy and Sal case. He'd obtained it by paying off someone at the courthouse. Moya said he didn't know what the man was talking about and that he never took any money.

The man grew insistent: What did you do with the money we gave you?
Moya again protested that he hadn't taken any money.
The man jabbed his finger at the paper and told Moya that the indictment alleged he'd recently bought a house in the Keys.

Moya responded that his parents bought the house.
The indictment also claimed that Moya purchased a Rolex watch. How could Moya afford a Rolex watch?

"I worked for that," Moya replied.
And the trip to Hawaii? The man told Moya authorities knew about his two-week excursion. Did Moya think the feds were stupid? Didn't he know they would be watching him after the verdict?

Moya told the man he paid for that trip with his credit card.
Moya's protestations of innocence angered the man. "You're playing games with me," he snarled. "You're playing games. I guess I'll have to tell Willy and Sal you're playing games."

As he prepared to walk away, the man asked Moya another question: "Did you ever see the movie Pulp Fiction?"

Moya said he hadn't.
"Well, I'm Wolf." He then explained that Wolf was a hired killer called in to clean up after other people's mistakes. Moya was making a mistake, the man warned. Moya was in fact becoming a mess that he might have to clean up, he said menacingly.

Once again he pointed to the secret indictment and asked Moya what he intended to do about it. "I don't know," Moya responded, his pleas of ignorance quickly evaporating.

The man told Moya there was a good chance prosecutors would try to make a deal with him, a deal in which they would want Moya to implicate Willy and Sal in the bribery scheme. Moya said he'd "take twenty years" in prison before he'd ever do something like that. He would never reveal where the money came from. "That goes down with me," Moya insisted.

Then the man informed Moya that Willy and Sal had arranged for an accountant to meet with him so they could figure out a way to either hide or justify his expenditures.

"I see," Moya replied.
The man became angry at Moya's indifference and barked: "Damn! Son of a bitch! You spent all the money, didn't you?"

Moya stammered: "I left it -- gave it to my family."
The man asked Moya who else he'd told about the bribe. He wondered if perhaps Moya had gotten drunk some night and told a few friends.

"No, no, no, no man," Moya protested, adding that the only people who knew were "my wife, my parents."

As the conversation came to an end, the man gave Moya a phone number and told him to call it and he'd give him instructions on how to get in touch with Willy and Sal's accountant. The man then turned and walked away.

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Jim DeFede
Contact: Jim DeFede