Former President Donald Trump may be the most famous person to face charges in Miami, but he’s by no means the only known defendant to appear at the federal court building downtown.
Like its global status in business, Miami is also at the crossroads of crime.
We’ve seen a rogue gallery of the rich and famous walk through the door of the courthouse here: an American terror suspect, a former leader of Panama, drug kingpins so notable they were known only by their first names.
Let’s take a look at some cases that are only found in Miami:
About: General Manuel Noriega was the leader of Panama. He was also a drug runner.
Indictment: A federal grand jury in Miami indicted Panama’s leader in 1988 on drug trafficking charges.
Process: Noriega surrendered to US forces in 1990 and was flown to Miami where he was tried and convicted.
Sentencing and sentencing: A jury convicted Noriega on 8 of 10 counts of drug smuggling and racketeering. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison, which was eventually reduced to 30 years by the judge.
About: Padilla was a Chicago gang member who, according to federal prosecutors, became an al Qaeda recruiter after moving to Fort Lauderdale. Prosecutors say he trained with Al Qaeda in the years leading up to September 11, 2001. He was one of the first Americans to be detained as an enemy combatant by the US government after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Indictment: After three years held as an enemy combatant in a Navy brig in South Carolina, a federal grand jury in Miami in November 2005 indicted Padilla on charges of conspiracy to assassinate U.S. citizens, conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, and material support to terrorists. .
Process: A jury found Padilla guilty of conspiracy to commit murder and finance terrorism in August 2007.
Sentencing and sentencing: In September 2014, a federal judge sentenced Padilla to 21 years in prison based on his 2007 conviction. He was originally sentenced to 17 years in 2008. The additional three years were extended because an appeals court ruled that his criminal past was given insufficient weight when he was originally convicted.
Willie and Sal
About: Willy Falcon and Sal Magluta are best known as WIllie and Sal, or ‘Los Muchachos’. They are also known as partners in years of cocaine trafficking. Willie and Sal, Miami Senior High School dropouts, were recognized as “Cocaine Cowboy” kingpins who delivered South Florida a lethal dose of drug trafficking in the 1980s. The partners used their speedboats to transport Colombian cocaine from the Caribbean to South Florida.
Indictment: A 1991 Miami indictment charged the pair with conspiracy to import and distribute 75 tons of cocaine worth $2 billion between 1978 and 1991.
Process: in 1996, the high-profile trial in Miami ended with acquittals for both men. After the trial, the US law firm and the FBI discovered that Falcon and Magluta had bribed the jury foreman. In 2002, they were tried again on charges including drug-profit laundering and conspiracy.
conviction: Falcon accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and was released in 2017. Magluta received a life sentence.
Yahweh Ben Yahweh
About: He called himself the Black Messiah and he was the leader of a murderous cult. His teachings led his followers into a web of racism, murder and terror in the 1980s. Yahweh Ben Yahweh preached racial and religious separatism from his Temple of Love on Northwest 62nd Street in Liberty City. Born Hulon Mitchell Jr. in Oklahoma, he died at the age of 71 in 2007.
Indictment: He was indicted in 1990. Federal prosecutors charged him with plotting 14 murders in Miami-Dade County and two attempted murders, and with ordering the firebombing of a Delray Beach neighborhood.
Trial and Sentencing: Though suspected of 20 counts of murder, he was convicted of one count of conspiracy. He served 11 years of an 18-year federal prison sentence.
About: He is a rapper and supporter of Donald Trump.
Indictment: A Miami grand jury indicted Lil Wayne on federal gun charges in 2021.
Process: The rapper entered a guilty plea to possession of a firearm as a convicted felon, leading to an earlier felony dating back more than a decade in New York.
Excuse me: President Trump pardoned Lil Wayne, then 38, who could face several years in prison. During the presidential campaign season, Lil Wayne had expressed support for Trump, tweeting a photo of them together at the Trump National Doral Golf Club in October.
About: He was best known as the charismatic mayor of Hialeah in the 1980s. In 1977, Raul Martinez began his political career by winning a seat on the Hialeah City Council and becoming the second Cuban-American Hialeah council member. In 1981, he became mayor, the first Cuban-American to hold that seat in a major U.S. city. As a strong mayor, Martinez also led the city as chief executive.
Indictment: Martinez was indicted in 1990 on charges that he extorted nearly $1 m
illion in cash and real estate from developers in exchange for zoning approvals. He was suspended from his job as mayor and he accused prosecutors of pursuing a politically motivated case.
Process: Martinez was convicted in 1991. He remained free. With his case on appeal, he ran again in 1993 and won. His conviction was overturned a year later.
Aftermath: Prosecutors tried two more times, but both trials ended in hung juries and the case was dropped in 1996. He stepped down as mayor in 2005.