The incredible true story that inspired “Scarface” and“Miami Vice”, rakontur
"Cocaine Cowboys" Mickey
Photos and story by David Bowling
Cocaine Cowboys is a 2006 documentary film directed by Billy Corben and produced
by Alfred Spellman and Billy Corben through their Miami-based media studio rakontur. The film explores the rise of cocaine and resulting crime epidemic that
swept the city of Miami in the 1970s and 1980s. The producers of Cocaine
Cowboys use interviews with law enforcement, journalists, lawyers, former drug smugglers and gang members to provide a first hand perspective
of the Miami drug war.
Born and raised in North Miami, a graduate
of North Miami High and Miami Dade College he aspired to take over his fathers concrete block business. But in the 1970’s
a recession slowed construction to a grinding halt and left Mickey searching for other ways to make a living. What he
found was transporting drugs. Bringing in marijuana from Jamaica he was netting an annual income of two million dollars
a year. Two years later he became one of the original and most successful persons bringing cocaine from Columbia
into the U.S., making over 2 million dollars each trip. The
early 80’s were the bloodiest time in Miami’s history, not even Chicago’s early days with Al Capone
comes close. But Mickey wasn’t the typical “cocaine cowboy”, he didn’t drink, smoke, or take
drugs. And he despises guns. He has no moral issues with how he lived his life; he told me “I never
dealt drugs to anyone. "I’m like the UPS guy; I delivered packages from point A to point B". Those
deliveries cost him 9 years of his life. In 2006 the documentary Cocaine
Cowboys was released. Mickey Munday has gone from drug trafficker, to fugitive, to prisoner, and now a movie
He helped build the Miami skyline you
– Why did you start trafficking drugs?
Mickey – Well, even with the recession I
was doing okay. I had a motorcycle company and some real estate, but I just wasn’t getting anywhere. I wanted
to start making money but I wanted to do it with the least amount of exposure. So I got a plane.
MLM – Did you have your pilot’s license before this or did
you get it for the sole purpose of trafficking drugs?
Mickey – (Laughs) Funny thing is I’ve never had
a pilot license.
MLM - How did you learn to fly?
Mickey – I’d always had boats and operating a plane
is very similar to a boat. Plus, I had a couple of friends that worked at Miami Flight Center. But every plane
is a little different so when I was looking to buy a plane they would take me on a test flight and I’d watch them
and pay attention to what controls did what.
– So without a pilot license you just walked in, bought a plane, and flew off?
Mickey – I paid forty two thousand dollars cash, no they didn't ask to see a license.
I went to several places but found the one I liked in Denver. Then, with my girlfriend I flew
it home. At the time you couldn’t get Coors Beer east of the Mississippi, and my girlfriend loved Coors Beer.
So after I bought the plane we filled it full of Coors Beer. I remember when we got in the air she said over
500 times “we’re gonna die, we’re gonna die”. After a while she starts drinking the beer.
Then she had to pee. I said I ain’t landing, not for you to pee. I was still setting myself up to land.
I was pretending to land on landing strips in the air. So we ending up cutting the tops out of the beer cans and she
had squat down between the seats. After we got back she didn’t say a word about the flight, only that I watched
– What was the most fun, the high point at this time of your life?
– Just being able to do whatever you wanted to do. Not having to worry about a bill. I got to go places
and do things. I never dressed flamboyant, I didn’t have this long hair that I have now, but I had a few more
motorcycles. It was just nice to sit down with five or six people and be able to pick up the tab. I Just didn’t
have to worry about money.
Also I got to do some things that no one even
knew about. One time a woman that was a friend worked at an apartment building for a guy who kept trying to get in her
pants. She didn't want anything to do with him. She was a single mother who needed her job. So I bought the
building. The first thing I did was fire him and let her run the place.
MLM - During the early 80’s Miami became
the murder capital of the U.S. What concerned you more, getting arrested or ending up at the morgue?
Mickey – I’ve always thought that if you have to get a gun
because of what you do or where you live, then you need to get another job and move. When I started out I had over two
dozen guns. I finally came home one day and said this is nuts, I’m gonna drop one and shoot myself. So
I got rid of every one of them. I’ve always had dogs, so if I was a little apprehensive about going somewhere
I’d take six dogs. And they were junkyard dogs, if I pointed at you they’d get you. I was really only
worried about getting robbed. So you try to stay as low profile as possible. I always complaind about what everything
cost. That way no one knew I what I had. I had a beautiful house but didn’t have any furniture.
That worked also because I was single, if I brought a girl home she may want to sit on the couch, the only furniture in the
house was in the bedroom.
- Why didn’t you quit while you were ahead, didn’t you think they’d catch up to you eventually?
Mickey – Actually the night they came to get everyone was
going to be our last trip.
MLM - The night they came to arrest you, you
took off. How long were you on the run?
– 6 years. That night I went out in the Everglades and watched them all night; they didn’t want to get wet,
they didn't want to get their uniforms dirty. .
MLM – Where did you go?
– I've never told anyone that, it's not something I talk about.
- Can I be the first?
Mickey – (pauses) I ended up in Virginia.
I’d never been there, didn’t know anyone there, and I was 125 miles from the coast; I figured they’d think
I’d be by boats, little did they know I like race cars too.
– How did you live, did they freeze your assets? Did you have money put away that you could access to live on?
Did you continue in the drug business while you were on the lam?
– They took everything they could. They even took an inheritance that they had no right to. They took some
real estate that they’d probably been better off without. I worked as a mechanic. I couldn’t continue
in the trade, all my tools were gone.
- Where were you when the Federal Marshall’s found you?
– Richmond Virginia. My ex girlfriend turned me in. To this day I don't know why.
MLM - How do feel about the man who
turned you in, Max Mermelstein?
Mickey – Max and I got along fine. I never understood him,
the most he would have done is 5 years.
MLM – Do you think he was weak?
Mickey - I think he was a piece of shit!
He died of lung and bone cancer, both are very painful, so I guess he got his due.
I’ll tell you a story you'll like about Max. We had gone to Panama and rented the penthouse at a five star hotel.
On the way Max picked up a prostitute. Then we stopped at a store and bought her new clothes. She took off the
makeup, washed up, and looked very nice. Good looking young girl. When we got back to the hotel the security guy
said something to Max. Max speaks fluent Spanish and I don’t speak any so I didn’t know what had happened.
All of sudden you see the hotel manager yelling at the security guy, they’re taking all the flowers in the place and
all the best wines and everything is going up to our room. Finally I asked Max what happened. He told me on the
way in they told him “you can’t bring that whore in here”. He said “you just called my wife
MLM – Did you meet Noriega while you were
Mickey – I met him once. He confiscated
a plane that I had sent down there. I went to see him and brought fifty thousand dollars in an attaché case.
He wanted a hundred thousand. I sent him the money and never sent a plane there again. He was all about money!
MLM - What do you do for a living now?
– I’m retired.
- You got out of prison in 1999 and in 2006 the documentary “Cocaine Cowboys” came out. With the films popularity
how did your life change?
Mickey – I’m invited to a lot of parties.
MLM - You had an interesting time making a commercial.
– We were shooting a commercial for Last Rights Inc. in The Keys by Gilbert’s (Lake Surprise) it was made to look
like we were smuggling something in. We transported these bags to the planes, dropped them in the water, and then picked
them up in the boat. What happened was we had already finished shooting and the big production cameras were gone.
So I guess somebody called and said we were picking up something. Every agency was there, Coast Guard, DEA, FBI, Police,
Marine Patrol, everyone! Well, when you see the commercial it’s shirts in the bags, but the shirts didn’t
have enough weight to drop them from the plane. So, we used sand and phone books. All of these agencies were stepping
all over each other to be the first on the scene and get the arrest. Once they opened the bags and saw the sand and
phone books you should have seen how fast they were trying to back away and give the case to someone else. It’s ashamed
though how badly we were treated; even after they figured out we were just filming a commercial. One of them even stole
a very expensive camera.
MLM – Any regrets?
Mickey - I regret losing a fantastic woman, but if I’d never been
in the position I was in I probably would have never met her.
MLM – Are you and Jon Roberts
– Yeah, I talk to him to once in a while. He has a beautiful wife and a great kid.
MLM – What’s in the future
for Mickey Munday?
Mickey – I’ve been doing some voiceovers
for my short stories, and believe it or not I’ve been asked to do some modeling. It’s fun being infamous!