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Fugitive cocaine cowboy arrested

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MIAMI, April 14 -- Sal Magluta, a hunted fugitive since walking out of his passport fraud trial in February, is back in federal custody today (Monday) following his arrest in West Palm Beach, Fla. Federal agents took Magluta into custody without incident shortly before midnight.

Called one of south Florida's original 'cocaine cowboys,' Magluta was acquitted last year on drug smuggling charges but faced a second trial this year on the passport charges. During a break in the trial, Magluta walked out of the courtroom saying he'd be right back, and disappeared. He forfeited his $25,000 bond. Jurors convicted him of the passport charges in his absence. It wasn't the first time Magluta had disappeared while under federal investigation, but he never went far either time. The first time authorities found him hiding out in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a half hour north of Miami. Magluta and co-defendant Augusto 'Willie' Falcon had been implicated in what prosecutors called 'one of the biggest drug cases in the past 10 years.' The government contended the two masterminded cocaine smuggling operations on the Eastern Seaboard from the late 1970s until 1991. But jurors in that case were not swayed and acquitted both men. Falcon since has been convicted on firearms violations. The two men, who went to Miami High School together, liked to call themselves 'Los Muchachos,' Spanish for 'the boys.' They reportedly were among the first smugglers to switch from marijuana to the large- scale importation of cocaine through south Florida. ---

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Copyright 1997 by United Press International. All rights reserved. ---

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