Cocaine Cowboys: How Much Willy And Sal's Empire Was Really Worth

In the 1970s and 1980s, Miami was a hotspot for trafficking illegal drugs into the United States from South America. There was a lot of money to be made in the illicit drug trade, first with marijuana imports, and later through the smuggling of cocaine over the border. Two young Miami men, Augusto "Willy" Falcon and Salvador "Sal" Magluta, were ready to take advantage of it.

Both first-generation immigrants, the Miami Senior High School dropouts got their start selling marijuana in high school, before moving on to harder stuff, like drug trafficking and money laundering. Soon, "they were like gods in the doper community. All the other smugglers talked about how invincible they were. All you'd hear was, 'Willy and Sal this' and 'Willy and Sal that.' I don't think there was a police agency here that didn't have something going at some time to try and catch them," Sean Convoy, a supervisor for the U.S. Marshals Service in Miami, told the Miami News Times in 1992.

Willy and Sal's drug empire was worth over $2 billion

Throughout the 1980s, Falcon and Magluta built up a massive drug empire that was worth an estimated $2 billion during its heyday, according to Rolling Stone. So much cash was flowing into their hands that they had practically run out of places to spend it all, despite living an incredibly lavish lifestyle that included beachfront mansions, expensive powerboats, personal jets, and pricey vacations, per the South Florida Sun Sentinel. As a result, they also invested large amounts of money into many legitimate businesses and building projects throughout Miami. According to Time, much of the economic boom that occurred in Miami during that time was funded at least partially by the illegal drug trade, and Falcon and Magluta sat at the very top of it.

However, in 1991, the party came to an end when they were taken into custody. The infamous Cocaine Cowboys were accused of importing over 75 tons of cocaine into the United States and indicted on drug smuggling charges, according to NBC Miami. In 1996, they were acquitted of the charges, but only because Falcon paid off the witnesses and at least one jury member. In 2003, Flacon pled guilty to using profits from cocaine smuggling to pay for their acquittal, while Magluta was convicted of drug-related money laundering and sentenced to 205 years in prison, per the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

The story is the subject of a limited documentary series on Netflix, "Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami," scheduled to stream starting Wednesday, August 4; the trailer is posted on YouTube.