MIAMI (AP) — The colorful past of a pilot who has long bragged about flying loads of drugs for Colombian cartels during Miami's "cocaine cowboys" era in the 1980s may come back to haunt him in an auto fraud case.
A federal judge agreed Friday to let prosecutors use as evidence much of Mickey Munday's open bragging about his past in media interviews, social media posts and in the 2006 documentary "Cocaine Cowboys." But U.S. District Judge Robert Scola ruled that most direct drug references can't be introduced.
"I'm trying to minimize the term 'cocaine cowboy' being used," Scola said at a hearing. "It's very prejudicial."
What Scola will allow in the auto fraud trial, which starts Tuesday, are references Munday frequently made about his prowess as a pilot, driver and boat captain. Prosecutors say it's relevant because Munday's alleged role in the auto fraud ring was transportation, similar to his 1980s work for Pablo Escobar's Medellin cartel and later the Cali cartel.
"If it flies, rolls or floats," Munday, now 72, frequently said, "I can drive it."
In addition, prosecutors will be able to use statements and social media posts Munday made about using tow trucks to smuggle cocaine. In those days, smugglers would pack the drugs into a car's trunk and put it on a tow truck, reducing the likelihood police would stop the truck — and if they did, the driver could simply say he had an order to pick up the car and no idea what was in the trunk.
"I took advantage of law enforcement weaknesses," Munday said in one Twitter post. "Think, when was the last time, if ever, any of you have seen a tow truck stopped by the police."
Munday's Twitter profile contains this description: "THE REAL Mickey Munday Original Cocaine Cowboy."
Munday served about nine years in prison during the 1990s after pleading guilty to smuggling charges involving many tons of cocaine. Most of his work for the Colombian cartels was between 1982 and 1986, the height of the hyper-violent drug smuggling era that engulfed Miami.
According to the auto fraud indictment, Munday and others ran a ring between 2008 and 2015 that used fraud to obtain cars that were about to be repossessed so they could later be resold at a profit. Munday, the indictment says, transported the vehicles, hid some of them at his Miami-area house and used his tow truck company as a cover for the illegal activity.
All told, prosecutors say the scheme involved 150 vehicles and $1.7 million in losses to financial institutions that had liens on the vehicles.
Munday's past as a "cocaine cowboy" and frequent bragging about it is one reason he was brought into the fraud ring, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Rothstein.
"All he does is talk about being a 'cocaine cowboy' and his past," Rothstein said.
Munday attorney Rick Yabor raised numerous objections to use of the smuggling evidence, said it has no direct bearing on the auto fraud allegations. Munday's defense is expected to claim he was unaware of fraud in the auto transportation business.
"He's talking about things that happened 30 years ago," Yabor said.
Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Miamicurt