Forensic Artist's Simple Discovery Led Feds to a 'Cocaine Cowboy' - NBC 6 South Florida

Forensic Artist's Simple Discovery Led Feds to a 'Cocaine Cowboy'

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    How a Simple Discovery Led Feds to a 'Cocaine Cowboy'

    A forensic artist named Samantha Steinberg is credited with leading the U.S. Marshals to Gustavo Falcon, who’s now serving an 11-year prison sentence for his involvement in one of America’s most prolific cocaine trafficking organizations based out of South Florida. NBC 6 anchor Johnny Archer reports.

    (Published Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019)

    For about a quarter century, Gustavo Falcon managed to hide in plain sight. But that came to an end for the last of the so called "Cocaine Cowboys" when a random picture fell into the right hands.

    Falcon was captured by federal agents in April 2017. But his capture was in part due to an unsuspecting sketch artist with the Miami Dade Police Department.

    A forensic artist named Samantha Steinberg is credited with leading the U.S. Marshals to the fugitive, who's now serving an 11-year prison sentence for his involvement in one of America's most prolific cocaine trafficking organizations based out of South Florida. Her simple discovery shook up a decades-old case and brought a notorious drug dealer to justice.

    In 2008, Steinberg created her first age progression photo of Falcon for America's Most Wanted. But the image garnered no tips or leads.

    Last Cocaine Cowboy Sentenced to 11 Years in Prison

    [MI] Last Cocaine Cowboy Sentenced to 11 Years in Prison

    Gustavo Falcon, who was on the run for over a quarter century before being captured last year, was sentenced for his role in a massive smuggling operation.

    (Published Wednesday, April 25, 2018)

    Ten years later, she had learned about a documentary being made on the Cocaine Cowboys.

    "I was kind of just filling time on a Tuesday afternoon," said Steinberg. "At the time I thought it would be important as law enforcement to have an updated age progression of Gustavo Falcon and it had been 10 years since we had done the original one."

    Steinberg started sifting through images of Cuban men in their 50's. She wanted to use different pieces and parts from photos to age the original photo they had of Falcon from the 1990's. That's when she randomly came across a driver's license picture of a man named "Luis Reiss" with a Hialeah address.

    "At first you question yourself as to, 'Am I seeing what I think I'm seeing?" said Steinberg. "Because I think this is the fugitive that we have been looking for."

    The picture she discovered was Falcon living under an alias in Central Florida. Steinberg's tip was sent to the U.S. Marshals. Weeks later, agents zeroed in on Falcon's hiding place just a few hours away in Kissimmee, Florida.

    Steinberg was praised for her work, which was crucial in finding Falcon and locking him up for the next decade. She was awarded the Exceptional Service Award by the Miami-Dade Police Department for her part in helping crack the case. The award being the highest award a civilian can get in law enforcement.

    "I'm just grateful to facilitate closure in a case or justice in a case," said Steinberg.

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