| Crime |

The Five Craziest Miami Crime Stories From the First Half of 2017

Devon Arthurs (left) murdered two roommates after abandoning his neo-Nazi beliefs and becoming a Muslim. Another roommate, Brandon Russell, was arrested in the Keys on charges of stashing bombs and radioactive materials.
Devon Arthurs (left) murdered two roommates after abandoning his neo-Nazi beliefs and becoming a Muslim. Another roommate, Brandon Russell, was arrested in the Keys on charges of stashing bombs and radioactive materials.
photos: Tampa Police Department/John Kittlesrud via Flickr CC
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Well, 2017 is officially halfway over — and when it comes to crime news, Miami always crams more insanity into six months than most cities do in a year. This year has been no different: We've been subjected to a handful of criminal plots that could each form the basis of a true-crime Netflix series.

Compared to the average Florida year, Miami is having a 2017 that's comparatively low on strange, unbelievable murder plots but high on terrorist conspiracies, astounding government corruption, and unbelievable tales left over from the cocaine-riddled 1980s. Here are the year's most interesting cases so far:

1. Colombia's top anti-corruption official getting caught taking a bribe at Dolphin Mall

Two men casually wandered through Dolphin Mall earlier this month, past the teenage shoppers and kiosks hawking watches, and headed for a quiet bathroom. One man gripped an envelope stuffed with $10,000 in cash. The other waited for a handoff in a stall. And lurking in disguise nearby, federal agents watched it all go down.

One of those two men, the feds say, was none other than Luis Gustavo Moreno Rivera, Colombia's chief anti-corruption official. Moreno was taken into custody in Bogota this afternoon and charged with spearheading his own brazen corruption campaign that centered on nearly $200,000 in bribes he tried to wring out of a former Colombian politician in Miami.

Even in the long and storied history of Latin American corruption bleeding into the Magic City, the allegations in the federal case against Moreno and a lawyer who allegedly helped him set up the scheme are startling. Moreno allegedly even traveled to the States to give an anti-corruption presentation to the feds just before taking bribes in Miami.

2. A bunch of stoners allegedly throwing a "medical marijuana" party with 50 pounds of weed just six blocks from a police station

Most sensible Americans these days believe in ending the War on Drugs. The facts are clear that low-level drug arrests ruin lives and tear families apart. Some day, selling weed in Florida will no longer feed thousands of new prisoners into the state's broken criminal justice system.

But that day has not yet come, and until ganja is truly legal in the Sunshine State, it's not a great idea to throw a gigantic, open-air "medical marijuana" celebration fueled by 50 pounds of weed. That's exactly what a group of Miamians attempted to do this past weekend by throwing what sounds like among the greatest stoner sessions in human history — only to get busted in a house that sat a mere six blocks from Miami Police headquarters.

3. A neo-Nazi in the Keys planning to bomb the Turkey Point nuclear power plant

For the past year, Brandon Russell has saluted the flag and worn the uniform of the Florida National Guard while serving his country as a private first class. But in his suburban Tampa apartment, Russell and his three roommates pledged allegiance to a whole different ideal. Russell's bedroom was decorated with neo-Nazi and white supremacist propaganda and a framed photo of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. His garage was full of guns, ammo, and high-powered materials for bomb-making.

Russell is now in federal custody after Monroe County Sheriff's deputies arrested him in Key Largo this past Sunday. He was busted after a bizarre and bloody massacre last Friday, when one of his three neo-Nazi roommates — 18-year-old Devon Arthurs — apparently converted to Islam and then executed their other two housemates.

4. One of Miami's most famous Cocaine Cowboys finally getting caught after living in suburban Orlando after 26 years on the run

Twenty-six years ago, the feds busted Miami's biggest smuggling operation of the Cocaine Cowboys era: a $2 billion pipeline run by high-school pals Willy Falcon and Sal Magluta. It would take another decade of contentious court battles before the pair was finally convicted, wrapping up one of the nation's most massive drug cases.

But there was always a loose end. Just before the two were indicted in 1991, Gustavo "Taby" Falcon, Willy's brother, vanished. He hadn't been seen since — until yesterday, when federal agents found him in a rented home in Kissimmee. Falcon was nabbed as he returned from a bike ride with his wife and hauled off to Orange County Jail in a neon Nike shirt.

5. Miami's Iron Addicts Gym getting raided for blatantly selling steroids

Federal agents have charged Richard Rodriguez and eight others in Miami and Phoenix with running a massive illegal steroid operation. Rodriguez and his cohorts would buy illegal steroids from China, repackage them in Phoenix, and sell them through Rodriguez's Miami-based website, prosecutors say. "The defendants made millions of dollars through the illicit online sales of anabolic steroids," U.S. Attorney Robert L. Capers says.

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