Miami Fugitive Manuel Lopez-Castro Caught in Mexico After 26 Years on the Run

Man, 61, wanted in drug smuggling case, caught after disappearing in 1986: U.S. Marshals

By Brian Hamacher
|  Thursday, Feb 14, 2013  |  Updated 2:11 PM EDT
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Inside Miami's Crime History

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A former banker and Miami attorney who's been on the run for more than 26 years after he convicted of drug smuggling and money laundering has been caught in Mexico, authorities said Thursday.

Manuel Lopez-Castro, 61, was arrested Tuesday during a coordinated traffic stop by Mexican authorities in Cancun, according to the U.S. Marshals.

He was flown back to Miami where he's expected to make his first appearance in federal court Thursday. It wasn't immediately known whether he has an attorney.

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Authorities say Lopez-Castro and five other co-defendants were indicted in 1984, charged with operating a large-scale marijuana smuggling operation beginning in 1977.

The group imported and distributed as much as 600,000 pounds of marijuana, laundered the proceeds and profits and invested the money through foreign and domestic corporations, according to the U.S. Marshals.

Lopez-Castro, who worked as an attorney for Sunshine State Bank in Miami, laundered large sums of cash through the bank to defeat federal laws regarding reporting currency transactions above $10,000, U.S. Marshals said.

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He was arrested in 1984 and released on $250,000 bond. During his trial, Lopez-Castro was convicted of marijuana smuggling, money laundering, and obstruction of justice and was sentenced to 27 years behind bars.

He was supposed to surrender at the Federal Correctional Institution in Tallahassee on Jan. 28, 1986, to begin serving his sentence but he never showed up.

Lopez-Castro is believed to have fled to Spain, Costa Rica, Argentina, Venezuela and Panama before ending up in Mexico. His bond was forfeited, he was disbarred in Florida and his home on Old Cutler Road was seized by the government.

When authorities caught up with Lopez-Castro, he maintained that he was a Mexican citizen, and investigators learned he had obtained a fraudulent Mexican birth certificate 10 years earlier.

Lopez-Castro was being held at the Federal Detention Center in Miami.

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