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12 years’ prison for “cocaine cowboys” pilot for stolen cars

A smuggler who flew loads of drugs for Colombian cartels during Miami’s “cocaine cowboys” era in the 1980s was sentenced to 12 years in prison Monday for using his old talents in a sophisticated auto theft ring.

U.S. District Judge Robert Scola imposed the relatively harsh sentence – more than four years higher than prosecutors recommended – because of the intricacy of the theft scheme, a total loss of about $1.8 million and because 72-year-old Mickey Munday boasted and bragged constantly for years about his cocaine smuggling past.

“All of his comments have involved braggadocio and zero remorse,” Scola said at a hearing.

Munday spent most of the 1990s in prison after pleading guilty to drug smuggling charges involving tons of cocaine from Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel and also the Cali cartel during the 1980s. He frequently talked about his exploits in media interviews, social media posts, and in a starring role in the 2006 documentary “Cocaine Cowboys.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Rothstein said Munday transferred his abilities to evade law enforcement to the auto theft ring because he couldn’t resist getting back into the criminal game.

“It wasn’t enough to talk about the past. He couldn’t resist the urge to get back in the criminal action,” Rothstein said. “He traded his wings for wheels.”

But at the hearing, Munday said much of what he said over the years was enhanced or fictional and that he was hoping to land a movie deal for his life story’s rights.

“I write about what I know. I combine stories,” he said, adding that he had no arrests after his original release from prison until 2017 for the car theft ring. “I have done everything I could to stay on the straight and narrow.”

Munday also mentioned how he had converted an abandoned field near his home into a “love locks park” with a fence upon which people could hang padlocks as symbols of love and affection. The field also features an iron sculpture of the word “love” and interlocking hearts carved with a lawnmower into the grass.

“We turned junk into something people can appreciate,” Munday said.

Trial evidence showed the scheme involved obtaining cars that were about to be repossessed by a bank or other financial institution or through purchases at dealerships by straw buyers. Using tow truck and auto wholesale businesses as fronts, the group created a false paper trail that ended with them having clear ownership of the vehicles, which they then sold at a profit.

Most of the losses were suffered by banks and other lending institutions, although some people testified they had their credit ruined by the scheme because they wrongly thought their car loan would be paid off. At least 150 cars were stolen between 2008 and 2015.

Nine other people involved in the theft ring pleaded guilty to various charges and received sentences of between two and four years.

Defense attorney Rick Yabor sought to minimize Munday’s role in the operation, calling him a low-level “go-fer” who only transported eight cars personally and was not a mastermind by any means.

“Mr. Munday had a lower responsibility than these other individuals,” Yabor said. “His involvement was very minor.”

Yabor, who asked for a two-year sentence, said a stiff prison term “flies in the face of fairness.”

Munday can appeal both his conviction and sentence. Yabor didn’t immediately comment.

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