Where Is Cocaine Cowboys' Marilyn Bonachea Now? - True Story of Sal Magluta's Girlfriend

UniqueThis 63 Aug 6

Marilyn Bonachea met Sal Magluta while she was employed at his parents’ Miami bakery one summer when they both were in high school. She refused to give him her phone number at first, she says in Netflix’s new docuseries Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami. Over time, though, she relented, giving him a single digit of the number each week, until ten weeks went by and he could call her. They began dating soon after. Little did she know that a summer job at a bakery would change the course of her life forever.

Sal Magluta would go on to rule the Miami cocaine scene alongside his partner Willie Falcon in the 1980s. The two high school dropouts came to control the largest cocaine smuggling organization on the East Coast and one of the biggest in the world, earning more than $2 billion by bringing at least 75 tons of cocaine into the U.S. from Colombia over the years. Marilyn was Sal’s on-and-off girlfriend, not always in his life but never too far away.

cocaine cowboys the kings of miami marilyn bonachea in episode 1 willy sal of cocaine cowboys the kings of miami cr courtesy of netflix © 2021

Marilyn stood by Sal’s side after his 1991 indictment on drug trafficking charges following many years of evading the police, and even secured a fake paralegal license in order to visit him in prison. While he was incarcerated, she kept a handwritten ledger of all his payments to lawyers, private investigators, friends, and family at his request. The ledger documented $7.7 million she had laundered on his behalf while he was in jail awaiting trial.

After his 1996 release upon acquittal, Sal insisted Marilyn hand over the ledger book to him. She held onto it for a few months, until he finally convinced her to bring it over. The police were tipped off, and she was apprehended on her way with the book in her trunk. It was the state’s ticket to finally nailing the elusive Sal Magluta.

With the ledger book in code only she could understand, Marilyn fled to the New York area after she made bail at Sal’s instruction. He paid her thousands of dollars to stay in hiding in upstate New York so she would not be persuaded to testify against him. For more than a year she remained in hiding until she was arrested in April 1998. At the time, she was on medication for bipolar disorder and depression, and authorities sent her to rehab.

cocaine cowboys the kings of miami l to r salvador “sal” magluta and augusto “willy” falcon in episode 1 willy sal of cocaine cowboys the kings of miami cr courtesy of netflix © 2021

Bonachea was facing 200 years in prison before that September, when she agreed to cooperate with the government in the case. She wore a wire to help the state nail drug kingpin Jorge Valdez, and testified in six trials against Falcon, Magluta, and their associates. Her account supported the government's charges that Magluta had been spending his drug money from prison, even after it was frozen by court order. Sal Magluta was convicted of money laundering and bribery in 2002, and today, he remains in federal prison serving a life sentence.

Marilyn Bonachea was put in the Witness Protection Program until 2003. In Cocaine Cowboys, she explains that she lost everyone in her life aside from her son when she chose to testify against her former friends and aid the government. According to her Linkedin, Marilyn, who graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor’s degree in Speech Communication in 1991, still lives in Florida today, just slightly north of Miami. She’s 65 years-old and works as a consultant.

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