Ref: Research Papers
Organized Crime Training Program
Vol. VIII, about 1971
THE CUBAN CRIME CONFEDERATION
By: Rafael Aguirre
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. Its Origin......................................
II. Rise and Fall of the Cuban Mafia.. 3
III. Structural Skeleton....................... 5
IV. Cuban Lottery.............................
V. Corruption and Solution............... 10
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.
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.
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.
RISE AND FALL OF THE CUBAN MAFIA
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
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.
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.
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
TRIANGLE OF DRUGS
"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
"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.
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,
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.
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.
CORRUPTION AND SOLUTION
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.
1. Taped conversation of Echemendia's son in 1966 Miami Police Dept.
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
End of Page
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