Browsing: Organized Crime

anibal_mustelierMiami-Dade County Department of Corrections

When the U.S. Marshals issued an arrest warrant for Anibal Mustelier back in 1995, Mustelier had a thick head of bushy brown hair sprouting atop his head. His face was unblemished, and light stubble gave his face a youthful glow.

After Mustelier, 66, was arrested on Sunday, his latest mugshot shows that his hair has faded to gray, and his goatee has turned shades of salt and pepper. His cheeks have sunken, and wrinkles snake across his forehead.

He had, after all, spent 26 years in hiding, after working as an alleged “contract killer” and hitman for Colombian drug cartels, including Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel. Some even linked Mustelier, also known as “The Ghost,” to Fidel Castro himself.

According to a 2001 Sun-Sentinel report, Mustelier was “feared even by the toughest drug smugglers of Miami’s Cocaine Cowboy days, but at the same time he was an esteemed professional.”

But according to arrest reports obtained by New Times, Hialeah police finally caught the 5’4″ Mustelier after police say he was caught executing a bungled armed robbery on a Hialeah bank.

beechcraft_b_200_king_air (1)Carlos Menendez San Juan via Flickr Creative Commons

Dear non-Miami residents: This city is trying to move on from its days as the nation’s drug-crime capital. We’ve built an entirely new, “hip” neighborhood miles from the beach, where the world’s best visual artists visit every December. We’re trying to invest in startups. We even might ban liquor sales on Ocean Drive after 2 a.m.

But damn if our decades-long Colombian drug-cartel habit isn’t hard to kick. Case in point: Last week, the U.S. government filed paperwork in the Southern District of Florida to seize a $600,000 propeller plane allegedly used to run “multi-kilogram shipments of cocaine” between Colombia, Panama, the Caribbean, and the United States on behalf of famed — and currently incarcerated — drug lord Daniel Barrera Barrera.

featimg_10_29It is 1:33 p.m. on November 21, 2011, and Lawrence Chapa has a few more minutes left to live. The burly truck driver is sitting in the cluttered cabin of his red Kenworth T600, an 18-wheeler parked at the dead end of Hollister Street in suburban northwest Houston. There is a newspaper propped open before his worn and wrinkled face, a pair of cell phones tucked in his jeans, and 31 black bags stuffed with marijuana stacked in the sleeper compartment behind him. It has been a long trip for Chapa, to the Mexican border and back. Now he is near the end.

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Thanks to Scarface, Miami Vice, and Rakontur, everyone knows that 1980s Miami was the world capital of illegal substances. But few realize that 60 years before the Cocaine Cowboys era, another brand of underworld smugglers had already turned South Florida into the Wild West. At the height of Prohibition, Dade County was a rumrunning capital where insane shootouts lit up the Miami River, bootleggers flaunted their cash on the beach, and liquor flowed in on the tides.

laspalmasiiCourt testimony paints an operation that was stunning both in scope and brutality. The girls were reportedly locked inside a room above the bar for hours, sometimes days at a time. Medeles or an employee, like her daughter Delia Diaz, would escort “special clients” to the girls’ room, explaining which ones had worked at the brothel longest and which ones were “fresh meat.” For men willing to spend $350 to $500 for an hour with a girl, sometimes as young as 14 years old, Medeles had hardly any rules. Just don’t hit them in the face, she told clients. It depreciates their value.

The case against Medeles and her co-conspirators specifically mentioned 12 victims, many of whom delivered agonizing testimony at Medeles’s sentencing. Prosecutors, however, insist that given the size and duration of the operation, it’s likely hundreds of girls were victimized at Las Palmas II.


For two decades, Tony Galeota ran Porky’s — Miami’s most notorious strip club, a place where Russian and South American mobsters mingled with athletes, politicians and priests, and where drugs and sex were sold as often as cold beers. Time and again, Galeota avoided arrest, even when the feds busted his partner in an elaborate scheme including trying to buy a Soviet-era submarine to smuggle drugs to the States. But three years ago, Galeota moved to Panama, where prostitution is legal, to try to go legit. Big mistake. Now he’s rotting in Panama’s worst prison. Miami New Times has the story


​In the late ’90s, Chris Paciello was the star of a reborn South Beach — opening nightclubs, dating Madonna, hanging out with J-Lo. But behind the scenes, the guy was a mobbed up goon from New York. He eventually plead guilty to planning a mob murder of a Jersey housewife, doing six years in the pen. Today, he’s out of jail, back in SoBe, and opening a ritzy new club. But new FBI files show why he’s free: Paciello ratted out all the top bosses in the Bonanno crime family. The snitch has also already gone back to his old ways, getting a DUI for flying down a Sobe street in a new sports car. Miami New Times has his whole mob saga


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Joaquin Guzman-Loera

​The Sinaloa drug cartel recently suffered what Arizona law enforcement agencies are considering a “significant blow” — a 15-month investigation has led to the arrest of more than 200 people, the seizure of hundreds of pounds of various drugs, and close to $8 million in cash. The Phoenix New Times has the full story.


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Midday reading from the Village Voice Empire: It was the night of March 11, 2008, and the pair was haggling over the estate of a mutual friend named Badri. Up for grabs was a global package of real estate and business assets worth between $2 and $8 billion. The most valuable piece was Fisher Island, a posh 216-acre enclave just 200 yards from South Beach but accessible only by chopper or boat. Miami New Times has the story.

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