Cocaine Cowboys: The Truth About Willy And Sal's Friendship

When we think of drug dealers, our minds tend to either imagine the street dealer covertly handing off dime bags to whoever slips them cash with a subtle handshake, or we imagine ruthless cartel leaders of holed up in foreign countries, setting up elaborate smuggling operations on the backs of coerced workers. The "Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami" documentary dropping on Netflix on August 4, 2021, however, gives us a look into the life of a different type of drug dealer. The high-spending, lavishly living cocaine cowboys of '80s Miami.

The two most notorious cocaine cowboys of the era were Augusto "Willy" Falcon and Salvador "Sal" Magluta. These were just a couple of pals who got together to produce one of the most lucrative drug empires of the United States, according to the Miami New Times, by smuggling cocaine into south Florida and slinging it to whatever mysterious buyers could afford so much product. The pair were notorious not only for their work and their riches but for the closeness of their bond and the way they conducted themselves. They were truly partners in crime.

Their friendship was more than business

They say it's usually best to separate business and pleasure. The rule is meant to keep personal lives apart from business dealing because, in the pursuit of riches, people tend to get hurt along the way and no one wants to hurt their friends. So, many business friendships start and end in the board room or on the golf course. This wasn't true for Willy Falcon and Sal Magluta. In fact, their friendship is likely a factor in what made them rich.

According to the Miami New Times, the pair of cocaine emperors had been friends since they were young, attending Miami Senior High School and subsequently dropping out together, after which they chased the devil's snow-covered golden streets of El Dorado. It's just proof that making it to the top in your field doesn't necessarily take a fancy education. The future drug kingpins were likely far from well-off since, as The Borgen Project notes, most Cuban immigrants at the time were refugees, many of whom were poor. They doubtfully had the same business opportunities as folks with American accents, but hey, they made it rich in their own way. And isn't that all that matters?

From dropouts to drug kingpins

After high school, young Sal Magluta and Willy Falcon turned to the drug scene, and it wouldn't take too long for these guys to make a big name for themselves. According to Collider, the pair became known around town as "Los Muchachos," meaning "the boys" in English, for two reasons: Presumably the first is due to the fact that they were always together, and the second because they were viewed in the community as a couple of Robin-Hood-type figures. They were an inseparable force that smuggled in drugs and spread their wealth across their city.

The two, along with Willy's brother Tabby Falcon, were pros at mixing pleasure and business. Along with their drug dealings, they raced powerboats as part of a team they owned, which like New York Daily News points out, was a common practice among Miami drug dealers. It's one of the many ways the cocaine cowboys of the '80s smuggled in their products, plus it gave the friends a fun thing to do on the weekend.

By the end of their run, Willy and Sal were living like drug-dealer playboys. According to the Miami New Times, it's believed that throughout their career, they'd accrued more than $2 billion in cash and assets. 

They knew how to keep their mouths shut

If you ever find yourself in legal trouble, as the masterful Mark and Craig at Pot Brothers at Law will tell you, the first rule of getting out of a legal bind, whether or not you committed a crime, is to keep your mouth shut because anything you say will most definitely be used against you in a court of law. And cocaine cowboys, Willy Falcon and Sal Magluta, knew how to keep their mouths shut to protect each other.

According to Criminal Defense Lawyer, one of the more popular techniques used by interrogators involves lying to a suspect and telling them that their buddy in the other cell squealed on them or has already confessed. This, in turn, leads many suspects to throw themselves or their accomplices under the bus in hopes of getting leniency in court. There's a good chance the cocaine cowboys underwent this type of interrogation after they were arrested on charges of smuggling 75 tons of cocaine because, as Florida Politics points out, the case dragged on for five years, but Willy and Sal had locked lips, and the court had no choice but to acquit them of the charges in 1996. It probably doesn't hurt that the pair allegedly paid off witnesses and at least one jury member either.