As we get into the nitty gritty of Netflix’s Cocaine Cowboys, one thing is for sure: no one is innocent. In a rare twist of events, even the jurors had a hand in letting the drug kingpins off easy. Cocaine Cowboys chronicles the rise (and fall) of Sal Magluto and Willy Falcon as they built one of the biggest drug empires of all time, while hiding in plain sight.
While we might expect a $2 billion drug operation to get busted, Magluto and Falcon were savvy, likeable, and tried to be non-violent. Because of this, they slid by the law with the community on their side. So, when the jurors had a chance to make a difference in Magluto and Falcon’s sentencing, a couple of them latched onto the opportunity.
A few jurors in the ‘Cocaine Cowboys’ case were bribed to acquit Magluto and Falcon.
When you’re a drug kingpin with a $2 billion empire, you can certainly afford to bribe some jurors to let you off the hook. It would have almost been silly of Magluto and Falcon not to at least try!
And with their charm and connections within the community, the bribe was pretty easy for them to pull off. Magluto and Falcon knew the jury foreman, Miguel Moya, prior to the trial, so it was easy to get him on board.
With the help of Moya, the defendants were able to bribe two other jurors, Gloria Alba and Maria Penalver, into acquitting them during the trial. And it worked!
Magluto and Falcon got off scot-free, but federal prosecutors wouldn’t give up on trying to put them behind bars — which was not good news for Alba and Penalver.
The bribed jurors in ‘Cocaine Cowboys’ eventually served time behind bars.
Sometimes, money is the only answer. But that notion can also get in the way when it means disobeying the law. Some people are very good at getting away with money-making schemes, like Muglato and Falcon. But others might not be as savvy. For Alba and Penalver, it took seven years, but law enforcement finally caught up with them.
Alba pled guilty to obstruction of justice and three weeks after she did, Penalver admitted to a conspiracy charge. Up until this point, prosecutors believed that only one juror had taken a bribe, but that was not the case.
Alba received $300,000 of a $1 million bribe and Penalver took home $20,000. Both received five years in prison for tampering with one of the most prolific drug scheme trials in history.
Not only that, but their loved ones were also charged with crimes related to the 1996 Magluto-Falcon trial. Alba’s husband, Isael, was sentenced to almost five years, and their bagman, Raul Saraff, was sentenced to a full five years. In addition, Penalver’s ex-boyfriend, Gerald Rodriguez, was sentenced to six months because he knowingly lied to the FBI about her bribe.
Alba’s lawyer, Ruben Oliva, argued, “These are good people who did a very bad thing. They had an enormous blind spot when presented with what was an immense carrot.” The investigation came to a head after their bank statements and spending were assessed — it was easy to figure out that they got some dirty money during the trial.
But it all came back to Moya, the foreman who convinced these two vulnerable young women that it would be easier to take the cash. In 1999, however, Moya was caught red-handed, and was sentenced to 17 years in prison, a much more severe sentence than either Alba or Penalver received.
No one knows where these jurors are today, but it’s likely that they want to stay out of the spotlight and off social media after causing such a stir just a couple decades ago.