In the late 1970s and early 80s in South Florida, it was a time of drugs, ruthless shootouts and bloodshed.
A time viewed as the Cocaine Cowboy era because of the drugs and brazen murders that followed.
A lot of the cocaine that made it to South Florida came from Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar.
“I called him Mr. Escobar. I didn’t even know his first name at first,” said Mickey Munday.
Munday was in the middle of it all and is probably one of the biggest drug smugglers in U.S. history you don’t know.
Introduced to Escobar by a friend, Munday flew in loads of drugs to the United States. How many runs?
Munday says, “I get asked that all the time. I never kept track.”
The self-taught pilot revisited Opa-Locka airport where it all started and shared his drug stories that played out like a Hollywood movie.
Stories of drug smuggling, the millions that came with it and being on the run as a wanted fugitive. Stories the 67-year-old frugal repo man shares with NBC 6 as if it were yesterday.
Munday says, “Before it was all over with, I was getting paid five thousand a key and I would make runs for two to five hundred and so the last trip I did, I grossed two and half million dollars a trip.”
Munday ended up making millions being a drug smuggler for Escobar.
“They would give it to me in suitcases and duffel bags nicely folded up,” says Munday.
But instead buying flashy things, Munday would buy real estate saying, “I would buy four warehouses, I would buy an apartment building, I would buy a huge track a land to one day develop. I spent my money on real estate.”
Munday continued working for Escobar, and one story he recalls is calling the feared drug lord stupid to his face.
“Yea and four guys got up and left the room. There were 10 people or so in the room and 4 of them immediately got up and left.”
Nothing happened to Munday, who admits he used the wrong choice of words. He was trying to convey to Escobar that he was losing money with how he was transporting the drugs. Escobar listened and used Munday’s unique methods of flying so he wouldn’t be caught, picking odd areas to land his small aircraft.
“I would rather land out in the field somewhere where there’s nobody there at all. It’s mountainous there can’t be people,” said Munday.
In South Florida, Munday would pick rural areas near canals and use flat surfaces as landing strips like one area in Florida City. He said the surfaces were hard and made of natural rock that made it safe to land.
“This one is way out way out. Nobody would be out here at night. Nobody,” said Munday.
But as the money and drugs continued to grow—so did the brutal killings. And the United States government soon got involved in cracking down on drugs, and Munday soon found out that he was no longer flying under the radar of the law, when a special unit tried to ambush him at one of hideouts.
“They came there to specifically arrest me. They really didn’t know who the other people were. They knew they would catch other people. But I was the specific target. They got everyone else and I got away cause I happen to like the bushes and the weeds. I got away in the greenbelt which is basically a swamp.”
Munday wouldn’t say how he managed to escape capture by law enforcement officials, but he managed to get away and became a fugitive on the run from the law for six years until a former friend turned him in to police.
“They had their thumb on me for a very long, long time,” said Munday.
He would serve almost nine years in federal prison, and would be on parole for 10 years. But a documentary called Cocaine Cowboys would make Munday an overnight legend to people all around the world. People would literally travel the globe to meet him.
“I’m having a good time with it. I mean really,” said Munday.
On one particular night, Munday went to meet up with fans at Tobacco Road in downtown Miami.
“When I was doing it, it was an adventure yes. But the people I was working for I called them all crazy and nuts,” said Munday.
That included Pablo Escobar who like many of Munday’s old business associates are dead or in jail. As far as going back down the path of drug smuggler again? Munday says he hasn’t or at least that’s what he told Jawan Strader with a chuckle.
“That would be foolish. Nobody’s ever thought I was foolish. They may think I’m crazy, but not foolish.”
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