Routine Traffic Crash Helps Officials Find ‘Cocaine Cowboy’

Gustavo Falcon was driving a five-year-old Chevrolet Impala when he pulled up to a stop sign on Livingston Road at County Road 545 in Osceola County on a hot, sunny afternoon in May 2013.

With his wife in the passenger seat, he came to a full and complete stop and, Falcon would later tell a Florida Highway Patrol trooper, looked both ways.

Seeing that, a northbound bicyclist on the sidewalk approaching from Falcon’s right side said he felt it was okay to continue into the intersection in front of the stop sign and the stopped vehicle.

But Falcon suddenly pulled into the intersection and struck the 44-year-old bicyclist from Clermont, causing a minor injury that did not require emergency medical services and only $50 in damage to the bike.

The bicyclist “came out of nowhere,” Falcon told the trooper.

Wednesday, it was the US Marshal’s Service fugitive task that came out of nowhere, swooping down on Falcon while he was on his own bicycle ride, one which ended in the arrest of the last of the so-called Cocaine Cowboy fugitives.

It turns out, a marshal’s service spokesman tells NBC 6 News, that otherwise unremarkable car-versus-bicycle crash played a key role in authorities finding Falcon, who disappeared in 1991, shortly before the federal court unsealed charges against him, his brother, Willie, and the rest of the drug conspiracy.

In March, they learned Falcon was using an alias: Luis Andre Reiss, date of birth January 1, 1960. One look at the photograph on the fraudulently obtained driver’s license and authorities know Reiss was, in fact, Falcon.

But the driver’s license included a Hialeah address, and there was no sign of Falcon living there.

So authorities searched databases and found “Reiss” was the driver of that Impala in the May 2013 crash near Kissimmee, and that a passenger was “Maria Reiss,” who turned out to be Falcon’s wife, Amelia Falcon.

The search then focused on Kissimmee, and authorities soon discovered Falcon was renting a house less than three miles from the crash scene under the name “Reiss.”

That led to surveillance and Wednesday’s capture.

There were still hints of a Miami connection around Falcon.

The Impala was owned by VFB, Inc., also known as Van and Car Rental of South Florida, a now-dissolved corporation that once did business at 2726 NW 35th St, Miami, sandwiched between scrap metal and discounted car parts businesses, a mile and a half east of Miami International Airport.

And both his and his wife’s driver’s license had that Hialeah address, a house in the 2100 block of West 53rd Street that appears to have no connection to them.

There was some other, minor fallout from the crash back in May 2013.

The bicyclist sued the man he thought was Luis Reiss and the owner of the vehicle, VFB Inc., but the case became largely dormant in October 2014 and, after being set for dismissal for failure to prosecute, it was formally dismissed with prejudice in April 2016, usually indicating a settlement was reached.

Calls to the bicyclist and attorneys for him, the now-dissolved VFB Inc. and “Reiss” have gone unanswered or not been returned.

Falcon also had a couple of other encounters with law enforcement while using the fake driver’s license. On May 27, 2009, “Reiss” was cited by Osceola sheriff’s deputy for having a vehicle with no registration, but the charge was dismissed.

On July 15, 2008, driving a 2006 silver Dodge van in Winter Park, he turned right on red onto Fairbanks Ave. at the end of the off-ramp from eastbound Interstate 4 in Winter Park, got a ticket and paid the $136 fine.

Court records do not reveal if he paid cash.