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Ref: Research Papers
Organized Crime Training Program
Vol. VIII, about 1971

By: Rafael Aguirre

I.    Its Origin......................................    1
II.  Rise and Fall of the Cuban Mafia..     3
III. Structural Skeleton.......................     5
IV. Cuban Lottery.............................      8
V.  Corruption and Solution...............    10
Bibliography......................................    11


The purpose of this paper is to inform the reader that a crime confederation, made up of groups of Cubans does exist.  This syndicate of crime, in only a ten year span, has risen at a pace unparalleled by any other group, and it is still gaining momentum.

The term "Cuban" will be used throughout to facilitate reference to the Cuban criminal element, and it is not meant to generalize on the nationality.

Much is being written on the rise of the Black and Puerto Rican Mafia but nothing specifically on Cubans.  Unfortunately much of the existing material dealing with Cuban criminal activities were found by this writer to be part of active intelligence files and therefore not available for publication.

For this reason there will be a noticeable lack of footnotes and bibliography.

Page 1

The Cuban criminal element in Dade County is a well organized, politically powerful, crime confederation.  Ironically, this has not been achieved in the traditional way, that is poor immigrants struggling through a visa quota to enter the United States; once here, using force and violence to reassert themselves as other groups before them have done, like the Irish, Jews, Italians.  On the contrary, Cubans were indiscriminately welcomed with open arms as political refugees.

Unfortunately, mingled with the bulk of honest citizens, come the professional criminal.  Men who in Cuba had lived outside of the law, arrived to this country seeking to continue, covered by the protective mantle of a democratic government, their illicit trade.  The criminal element which arrived in this country after Castro took over was not the ghetto material in the classical sense.  It was a well trained, crime-wise, sophisticated element, with established connections throughout Latin America, and the American underworld.

Connections with the American mob were cemented in the latter part of the 1950's when in 1956 Meyer Lansky moved the bulk of his casino operations to Cuba.  There he formed a partnership with Santos Trafficante which controlled all the major gambling casinos on the island.  The corruption and complete mob control which flourished in Cuba from 1956 to 1959 is paralleled only by what occurred in Chicago during the Capone era.

Page 2
Everyone, from the policeman on the beat to the President of the Republic, received his cut from the mob.

The Central Intelligence Agency played a big part in the rapid growth of the Cuban syndicate by providing it with expert training in the use of firearms, explosives and clandestine methods of operation.  In 1960, in an attempt to overthrow the Castro regime, thousands of Cubans were recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency and trained in clandestine warfare.  Prior criminal experience combined with the new found techniques resulted in a highly polished criminal which in some instances makes a Cosa Nostra member look like a cub scout.

On December, 1970 Dennis Dule, then an agent with the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, stated before a hearing of the Greater Miami Crime Commission that there was such a thing as a Cuban Mafia.  Mr. Dale was nor far from the truth and he can be accredited with being the first person to publicly recognize that such a thing as a Cuban criminal organization existed.  Although the writer does not agree with the term Cuban Mafia, for reasons which will be explained, enough intelligence has been gathered by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies which indicates the existence of a Cuban crime confederation.  A confederation made up of small, organized groups, loosely connected, with no strong central government and complete local Autonomy, which control large gambling operations, and practically all of the drug importation into south Florida.

Page 3

The term Cuban Mafia denotes an organization having the same structural make-up as, or at least connected with, the Italian Cosa Nostra.  While this may have been the case at one time, it is certainly not so now.  There are no Capodecinas, Consiglieres, or Commissions in the Cuban groups.  Moreover, the Cubans are regarded as unpredictable, and too violent by the now public relations conscious Cosa Nostra.  They have been left alone to do their own thing, and are doing it quite successfully.

In 1959, after being chased out of Cuba by Castro, Trafficante did attempt to cash in on the potential profits of a well organized lottery operation, in the rapidly expanding Cuban colony in Miami.  He did it by helping old friends from Cuba like Domingo Echemendia,* and Evaristo Garcia Sr. and taking a cut from their operations.  "My father saw Trafficante and Trafficante introduced my father to J.D. and that's how my father started operating out here.  "We knew Trafficante from Cuba, and there we did favors." (1) There were other Cubans working for Trafficante in Miami at that time, including Evaristo Garcia.

Garcia took over Echemendia's operation after the latter died, and extended it to include shylocking.  On December 3, 1967; at a meeting of the Cuban gambling combine of Miami, Santo Trafficante proposed Evaristo Garcia Sr. as lay-off man and senior-banker for this area.  With Trafficante's backing he was considered the "Number One Man" for Cuban gambling interests. (2) His handle on bolita operations based on the Puerto Rican lottery was estimated at $40,000. per week.  (3) That's a yearly operation of over $2,000,000. which did not include shylocking activity.

*Echemendia had fronted for Trafficante as part owner of the Tropicana Casino Nightclub which was considered as one the world's finest.  He died in 1965

Page 4
In June 1969, Garcia, his son Jr. and Lazaro Milian, were indicted by a federal Grand Jury and charged with obstruction of justice.  Later that same year, the elder Garcia jumped his $100,000. Bond and fled to Costa Rica where he still lives in order to avoid prosecution.

Garcia Jr., Lazaro Milian, and Oscar Alvarez, continued with Trafficante's rapidly decaying Cuban operation.  It did not last very long.  Milian and Alvarez had themselves been arrested on October 1968 by Dade County deputies for conducting a lottery operation.  At the time of the arrest Milian and Alvarez assumed that the arrest was nothing more than a shake-down by the deputies for more money.  They attempted to bribe the deputies, consequently, additional charges were placed on the two subjects.  Surprised and angered by the detectives' actions, they complained that they had been making regular payments to another deputy in order to operate free from police harassment.  This outburst led to the infamous Celona confessions.

Milian and Alvarez were convicted, and after serving 8 months in minimum security confinement, were given 5 years probation.  On Jan. 1971; Garcia Jr. and Lazaro Milian fled to Costa Rica to join the elder Garcia.  The subjects are not expected to return to the United States.  Since the break-up of the Garcia operation no evidence of any king has turned up indicating that Trafficante has any control over Cuban gambling activities in Dade County.

Page 5

Cubans who upon arrival in the United States were relocated in other cities throughout the nation, make for valuable connections on a national level.  Internationally, connections have been made with Cubans who migrated to other countries directly from Cuba; in addition to those who have fled the United States fearing prosecution for crimes committed.  One such country is Spain, which had been to the Cubans what Italy is to the Italian-American mobsters.  No other group has enjoyed the mobility, ready-made connections, and freedom of operations as the Cubans have.

A factor which has made difficult for law-enforcement to view the Cuban groups in perspective is the lack of organizational structure.  Unlike the Cosa Nostra, there are no families or members with formal ranks.  A Cuban group may consist of a group of men, working for a financial backer rather than a boss.* Each having different levels of responsibility, but no defined rank position.  They are held together by the profit motive, not any family or group loyalty.  If the particular illicit activity becomes unprofitable or risky due to police concentration, the backer may discontinue its' financing and disband the group.  The members may then look for other going groups which may need their services.  The backer himself may change the type of activity and continue operating; or may lay low until the pressure sub-sides, then continue with his activities.  It is interesting to note that the Cosa Nostra, after being the dominant force in organized crime in this country for over forty years, is moving more towards the nebulous structure described above.

*Boss as used here, denotes gang leader or family head.

Page 6
Publicity and new laws given to law-enforcement agencies to fight organized crime have made it too risky to be boss.  In addition, the respect and prestige that rank and formal membership once brought to the old timers, is not much sought after by their college educated descendants.

The swift, smooth, unnoticed rise of the Cuban groups, has been unparalleled by any other group in the history of crime in this country.  There are several reasons which have made it so, some have already been explained in preceding chapters.  Let us examine others.  No other ethnic group has been so openly received by this country.  This has made possible ample ethnic reserves to draw from.  As of February 28, 1970, one of every four citizens in Dade Country was of Cuban origin, with 240,716 resettled elsewhere in the United States. (4)

Another reason has been the lack of competition by existing groups in control.  Besides being as clannish, or perhaps more so, as the Cosa Nostra, they are also more apt to violence since they have been unhindered by the public lime-light from which other groups suffer.  Because the Cuban community has had a relatively low incidence rate of street crime i.e. rape, muggings, assaults, robberies, the Cuban groups have been completely ignored by the public in general.

Page 7

"There is a confederation of Cuban hoodlums who make up a triangle of associates in a conspiracy to smuggle drugs into the United States." (5) The triangle refereed to, is made up of Cubans who reside in the United States, South American and Spain.  This confederation has become strong to the point of dealing direct in major drug transaction; thereby eliminating a middle man.  In some instances it has played the role of middle man for other groups dealing in narcotics.

Cubans dealing in Spain and South America are dealing directly with conversion laboratories operating in Marseilles, France and various countries in South America.  The Cuban confederation has set up its own smuggling routes into the United States involving shipments values in millions of dollars.  Cubans are the major importers of heroin and cocaine into the United States today.

"They're moving tremendous amounts of heroin and cocaine to the point where they rival, if not surpass, the traditional organized crime elements in the United States." (6) One can easily measure the rate of growth of the Cuban confederation by observing that the illicit drug trade in this country is being rapidly monopolized by an organization which has been in existence for less than 15 years.

Page 8
The large sums of money which are required for high-level deals come from the same source which usually finances all other types of illicit ventures, illegal gambling.  Aside from the few who started by dealing in small quantities of drugs and later bank-rolled themselves into the big time; profits from illegal gambling operations have been the starting point for most.  Cuban owned business chains have been established in the hub of Dade County by profits from illegal gambling.  Most of those businesses today are being used to front all types of illicit activities, from liquor and meat high-jacking, to cocaine shipments; the most prevalent being, of course, gambling.

The gambling situation in the Cuban community is somewhat unique.  Generations of Cubans have grown up with gambling as a way of life; for Cuba had its own national lottery.  All forms of gambling were legal; from cock-fighting to casino operation.  The common numbers operation was illegal; However, a policeman betting a quarter on a number with the local writer was a common sight.  Gambling in the Cuban community is extremely widespread, it permeates social life; yet, gambling arrests are relatively few compared to other sections of the city.

A great number of old honest, law-abiding citizens, proud of having worked all their lives, view writing numbers and selling lottery as an opportunity to earn extra income which would keep them out of the welfare rolls.  The advantages of hiring these people are twofold. First, no one wants to arrest a 65 old woman for writing numbers; if they are arrested, chances of a jail sentence are almost nil.

Page 9
Second, by giving the old folks a chance to make some extra money the operation Robin-Hood image is enhanced; thus perpetuating the operation.  The biggest lottery and numbers operation in Dade County is financed and operated by a Cuban banker.* His name is not mentioned here for obvious reasons; however this has been verified by intelligence exchange with other law enforcement agencies and extensive use of confidential informants.

*Banker as used here devotes who finances a number operation, not connected with legitimate banking profession.

Page 10

No knowledgeable person in law-enforcement will argue that vice cannot exist in a community without some form of official corruption.  Is there vice in the Cuban community of Dade County?  Most definitely yes; as we have already observed.  Is there corruption?  The answer can only be one, yes.  However, corruption may only be incidental to the real problem or perhaps result of it; and not the true cause.  The real problem, as was the case with the Cosa Nostra, may be failure to recognize that there is a Cuban confederation of crime; that a criminal conspiracy to beat the system does exist in the Cuban community.  We must educate the public as we educate ourselves

The Kefauvers and the McClellans have already served their need by placing a name tag and giving a face to one ghost.  Let us not have to resort to them again.  Let us do our own identifying.  Let us attempt to combat this new ghost now; before the next grant is issued to teach us all about the Cuban Crime Confederation.

Page 11
1.  Taped conversation of Echemendia's son in 1966 Miami Police Dept. records.
2.  Miami Police Department Records.
3.  Miami Beach Sun, Sunday, June 22, 1969
4.  Fact Sheet, February 28, 1970, Cuban Refugee Center
5.  John Enright, Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, "Latins moving most heroin." Miami News, Friday, February 10, 1972
6.  David Connoly, Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, "History of Narcotics" lecture given at Biscayne College, Organized Crime Training Program, January 31, 1972

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