'Cocaine Cowboys': Who Is Marilyn Bonachea and Where Is She Now?

Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami is the new true-crime documentary series of Augusto "Willy" Falcon and Salvador "Sal" Magluta and their $2 billion drug empire. More than a decade after the first Cocaine Cowboys documentary aired, director Billy Corben has been able to tell the story of Sal and Willy, two high school dropouts who rose to the top of the drug dealing game in the 80s and 90s.

In the documentary, many of Sal and Willy's acquaintances and loved ones give their first on-screen interview since Sal and Willy were convicted in 2002. Former drug smugglers who worked for Sal and Willy also feature, alongside former lovers, ex-wives, the police who worked hard to catch them and their defense lawyers.

Marilyn Bonachea is introduced in episode 1 of Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami, and she is a focus of episode 5, title "Femme Fatale." But who is she and where is she now? Newsweek has everything you need to know.

Who Is Marilyn Bonachea?

Born in New York to Cuban parents, Marilyn Bonachea was Sal Magluta's former girlfriend. The pair met when she was 15 years old.

They crossed paths when she worked at his parent's bakery in 1971 and then the rest is history.

In the Netflix documentary Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami, Marilyn reflects candidly on their courting days, recalling how she gave Sal one digit of her phone number every week until he had accumulated all seven numbers.

For 27 years, Sal and Marilyn were on and off and never made their relationship official. They went their separate ways in their late teens after Sal got one of the many girls he was dating pregnant. Regardless, she stayed by his side, including when he was arrested in 1991 on numerous drug trafficking charges.

As heard in Cocaine Cowboys, Marilyn even had a fake paralegal license to visit him in prison and took over Sal's finances.

She kept a handwritten and coded ledger that documented $7.7 million had been laundered on his behalf to lawyers, private investigators, friends, and family while he awaited trial.

After his 1996 release following his initial acquittal, months later Marilyn agreed to drive the ledger book over to Sal's home. However, on her way she was pulled over by police after a tipoff.

Not only did police recover the ledger, but they also found other documents directing associates to launder money for him.

In the documentary, Marilyn recalls the moment she got pulled over by the police.
"The ledger book showed bribery, payoffs, all the money that I gave out to people for Sal and they are going to find out just about everything," she said.

Marilyn was first arrested on suspicion of possession of marijuana before police uncovered the files in the back of her car.

At first, Marilyn tried to prevent police from searching her car, citing attorney-client privilege as she was posing as a paralegal but in the end, Marilyn could not evade the authorities.

Marilyn fled to New York after making bail and was in hiding for more than one year. Sal paid her thousands of dollars through his associates to stay in New York, to prevent her from testifying against him in the future.

It was not until April 1998, Marilyn turned her back on Sal and decided to cooperate with the authorities.

Where Is Marilyn Bonachea Now?

Marilyn Bonachea was arrested in April 1998 and was charged with perjury, obstruction of justice and smuggling cocaine.

Speaking in the documentary, Marilyn stated: "Everything Sal had, they threw on my list." At the time she faced a potential 200-year sentence.

She decided to cooperate with the authorities even agreeing to wear a wire while meeting a Colombian associate of Sal Magluta in September 1998.

During their meeting, Marilyn expressed her concerns that the bribed female juror from their 1996 trial might use her money to "endanger" Willy and Sal's organization, court documents reveal.

In the recording, the Colombian associate can be heard reassuring Marilyn the juror was "under control."

Overall, she testified against Sal, Willy, and their associates in six trials and was placed into the Witness Protection Program until 2003.

During the trial, she explained her role in the money laundering on Sal's behalf and how Sal would pay her $5,000 to $8,000 a month. She also deciphered the ledger book, a key part of the evidence responsible for convicting Sal and Willy.

In 2002, Sal was convicted of money laundering and bribery and was sentenced to a 205 years in prison. It was later reduced to 195 years. Today, he remains imprisoned at a supermax facility in Colorado.

As heard in Cocaine Cowboys, Marilyn shared that she had lost everybody close to her apart from her son when she testified against Willy and Sal at their trials.

Marilyn. now 65 years old, says she lives in Vero Beach, Florida, and works as a consultant.

Marilyn Bonachea Cocaine Cowboys
Marilyn Bonachea Was "Cocaine Cowboy" Sal Magluta's girlfriend for years. Netflix

Thankfully, the timing of Marilyn being ready to talk worked out in the end for director Billy Corben.

"This might be the fourth title in the franchise, but it's the first story we wanted to tell," Cocaine Cowboys director Billy Corben told Newsweek.

"Over 15 years ago, before the first Cocaine Cowboys documentary came out the story of Will and Sal, 'Los Muchachos,' was the one that we were pursuing. At the time when we were pulling up in Miami, it was the biggest drug trafficking case in history. We followed the case when we were in middle school when we were in high school when we were in college here at the University of Miami. So we pursued it but could not nail it down."

"The wounds were too fresh and people weren't willing to go on camera to discuss it," he said.

"Over the years people came out of the woodwork, they were released from prison or got out of the witness protection program and we began to kind of bank interviews and essentially build an archive of interviews of people involved in this over the course of many years, then we finally had enough material for the documentary."

Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami is streaming on Netflix now.