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2 Miami Jurors Accused of Taking Bribes

August 27, 2003

MIAMI (AP) _ Two women who were jurors at the 1996 trial of a pair of drug kingpins from the city’s ``Miami Vice″ era were charged Wednesday with taking bribes to acquit them.

``Their willingness to sell their votes and honor strikes at the very heart of our justice system,″ said U.S. Attorney Marcos Jimenez. The jury foreman was previously convicted of taking a bribe.

Gloria Alba and Maria Penalver were charged along with Alba’s husband, Isael; alleged middleman Raul Sarraff; and Penalver’s former boyfriend, Gerald Rodriguez.

Alba and Penalver were accused of taking payoffs to fix the case against drug smugglers Willy Falcon and Sal Magluta, who were said to have made a $2 billion profit on 78 tons of cocaine while turning Miami into the world’s drug capital in the 1980s.

The stunning acquittal of the two men led to the resignation of Miami’s top federal prosecutor and a rejuvenated investigation that has produced 41 convictions so far.

Prosecutors later put away the two men on dozens of other charges covering hits on witnesses, the jury bribes and laundering of drug profits. Magluta received a life sentence; Falcon is serving 20 years.

The Albas’ lawyer, Ruben Oliva, said the Albas admit getting less than $300,000 of a promised $1 million. Prosecutors said Penalver took about $20,000.

The foreman was convicted of taking more than $500,000 and is serving a 17-year sentence.

Prosecutors said the two women acted out of greed. But Oliva said Alba feared for her life after Sarraff showed up ``to make this offer she couldn’t refuse.″ Three witnesses against the drug kingpins already had been killed.

To Alba, the deal was ``either you play ball with us or you suffer the consequences,″ the lawyer said. ``Keep in mind, we’re dealing with a 20-something with a 7-month-old child.″

Penalver’s attorney had no comment. Rodriguez’s lawyer was out of town, and Sarraff’s did not immediately return a call.

The Albas and Sarraff could get 10 years in prison if convicted of obstruction of justice. Penalver faces a possible five years on a conspiracy charge, and Rodriguez five years for allegedly lying to the FBI.

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