’Cocaine cowboys’ smuggler convicted in car fraud case

A pilot who once smuggled tonnes of drugs for Colombian cartels during Miami’s "cocaine cowboys" era in the 1980s has been convicted of playing a key role in a fraud ring that stole at least 150 cars using a fake paper trail.

Mickey Munday, 72, was found guilty by a federal jury of mail fraud and conspiracy charges, each of which carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence.

Several others in the fraud ring previously pleaded guilty and testified against Munday, saying his role was transporting the cars and hiding them until they could be sold.

Munday showed no emotion when the verdict was read and he was taken immediately into custody.

US district judge Robert Scola set a date of March 29 for sentencing. Munday’s defence team maintain that he was not aware of the car fraud.

Munday spent most of the 1990s in prison after pleading guilty to drug smuggling charges involving tonnes of cocaine from Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel and also the Cali cartel during the 1980s.

He frequently bragged about his exploits in media interviews and social media posts, and had a starring role in the 2006 documentary Cocaine Cowboys.

"If it flies, rolls or floats, I can drive it," Munday has frequently said.

Assistant US Attorney Joshua Rothstein said Munday told investigators in an interview that the fraud operation was called the "hokey-doke scheme" and he was in charge of getting the vehicles to Florida from around the country.

"He was the head of the transportation division of the hokey-doke scheme," Mr Rothstein said. "It was a scheme that stole cars with paper."

According to trial evidence, the scam 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 car 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.

All told, testimony showed the group stole about 1.7 million dollars (£1.2 million) from banks and other lenders between 2008 and 2015.

Some in the ring said Munday’s colourful past as a big-time drug smuggler made him a natural fit for the operation.

Munday did not testify in his own defence. His attorney, Rick Yabor, insisted that prosecutors had not proven that Munday knew the operation was fraudulent and that Munday was simply transporting the vehicles.

PA

 

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