Surfside condo had a connection to the cartel: How a 'Cocaine Cowboy' called Champlain South home

Asia's Tech News Daily

Pedro Rosello was a young man when he rented a two-bedroom condo with an ocean view on the fifth floor of what was then one of the newest luxury buildings in Surfside, Florida just outside Miami.

Surfside condo had a connection to the cartel: How a 'Cocaine Cowboy' called Champlain South home
© USA TODAY Cocaine smuggler Pedro “Peggy” Rosello lived at Champlain Towers South in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

It was 1988, the peak of the Miami drug wars, and Rosello was a self-made millionaire with fast cars and expensive suits. Flush with cash, he enjoyed a wooden bar inside his condo and the Jacuzzi in the master bedroom. In the garage sat seven different Porsches, a blue Ferrari, and a Lotus – the type of sports car driven by James Bond in the 70s film. 

Rosello, whom friends called “Peggy,” appeared every bit the part of a successful businessman. He could have been a banker or a lawyer or a doctor. Instead, he was a “cocaine cowboy,” a drug smuggler for one of the most lucrative cocaine empires in the world.

Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

Rosello built his fortune on cutting corners and dubious deals, just like the place he called home – Champlain Towers South. 

In the end, he said, “the building fell, just like our once cocaine empire.” 

USA TODAY interviewed Rosello from his cell inside the low-level Federal Corrections Institute in Miami where he’s serving time for drug-related offenses. He was among dozens of former residents that reporters contacted as part of a months-long effort to catalog the forces at work behind the June 24th collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside. 

Read the full investigation here –Left to rot: Collapsed condo born of botched construction and evidence of money laundering

Surfside condo had a connection to the cartel: How a 'Cocaine Cowboy' called Champlain South home
© Florida Department of Law Enforcement Pedro “Peggy” Rosello

The tragedy killed 98 people in one of the deadliest such disasters in recent history and put a spotlight on how development, construction and maintenance of the 40-year-old building could have contributed to its downfall. 

USA TODAY found red flags from early condo sales in the building that experts say often indicate money laundering. Many of the buyers came from outside the U.S. and purchased units with LLCs that can hide their identities. Mortgage loans on several units came from secret or questionable sources. The developer’s own attorney used a trust account with an unidentified source of money to shell out more than $4 million in high-interest loans to early buyers at Champlain South. 

Experts told USA TODAY cutting corners on construction often accompanied money laundering. At Champlain South, engineers noted an incorrectly designed pool deck and improperly constructed support columns. 

Reporters also found troubling evidence that the building’s decay emerged earlier and was ignored longer than previously known. Residents noted flooding in the garage in 1981, the year the tower opened. By 1996, according to permits for the work, contractors were making major repairs to the concrete in the garage ceiling, the underbelly of the improperly designed pool deck. 

Many of these problems were addressed in isolation and not as a major problem that could lead to collapse. And condo residents delayed repairs even after warnings of major structural issues. 

Rosello, who is featured as a main character in Netflix’s new documentary series “Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami,” said he didn’t notice the problems discovered by USA TODAY. For him, he said, Champlain Tower South was a place where he could lead a lavish, drug-fueled lifestyle while staying under the radar. 

“Viví la vida,”the millionaire drug smuggler said in Spanish. “I lived the life there.”   

In #CocaineCowboys: The Kings of Miami episode 2, the Miami Beach apartment that Pegy takes @Alexiae_Says to in 1987 was a unit he owned on the 5th floor of the Champlain Towers South — the Surfside condo that collapsed in June

— Billy Corben (@BillyCorben) August 10, 2021

‘Drug capital of the world’

By the time Champlain Towers South broke ground in 1981, the Miami-Dade County morgue was overflowing with dead bodies.  

In order to keep up with demand, the medical examiner’s office had to rent a refrigerated truck from Burger King to keep the cadavers on ice.  

In the first seven months of 1981, the homicide count was 296. By the end of the year, the number had climbed to 621. More often than not, police blamed the assassination-style deaths on the Medellin Cartel’s drug business in Miami. 

South Florida – which at the time became known as the “Drug Capital of the World”– was also dealing with one of the worst race riots in the state’s history and a Cuban refugee crisis. To understand how the building declined and fell from its inception, “timing is key,” said Nicholas Griffin, who wrote a book exploring the pivotal era in Miami. 

“This is all going on at exactly the time they are putting together the Surfside deal,” Griffin said. “So you can imagine how far down the bottom of the list honest inspections of potential building disasters would be. Seeds were planted that took 40 years to grow and then collapse.”   

Jorge Valdes, who was not involved in Champlain South but helped build dozens of homes, apartment complexes and high-rises in the Miami region as a chief money launderer for the Medellin Cartel in the 70s and early 80s, said cutting corners in construction while laundering drug money “wasn’t just common – it was expected.” 

Surfside condo had a connection to the cartel: How a 'Cocaine Cowboy' called Champlain South home
© Miami Herald archives An advertisement for Champlain Towers appeared in the Miami Herald on July 20, 1980.

“The era we’re talking about is when Miami suddenly came out of the ashes. So how do you rush to fulfill the demand? You cut corners. You attached roofs with paper clips. You bribe the inspectors,” said Valdes.  

“You wanted to put up real estate as quickly as possible because the money was flowing,” he added. “We could buy any building inspector at any given moment. There were no stringent codes. There were no money laundering laws.”  

But Hurricane Andrew changed the game, Valdes said, specifically for people laundering drug money and constructing buildings for cheap. 

“Nobody thinks the building is gonna come down when you’re cutting corners, but now, especially after Surfside, I would pray for any building built before Andrew,” he said. 

Regardless of its foundation, the glitzy and swanky Champlain Towers still allured the rich and wild. 

It was on the sand. Windows framed ocean views. It was discreet.  

“All the attention was still on South Beach, so I could walk into an elevator knowing nobody would catch on to me,” Rosello said.  

Surfside condo had a connection to the cartel: How a 'Cocaine Cowboy' called Champlain South home
© Courtesy of Billy Corben Pedro “Peggy” Rosello reclines on his bed in his fifth-floor condo at Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida. Rosello, who was featured in Netflix’s new docuseries “Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami,” smuggled drugs while living in the building from 1988-1991.

At the time, Rosello was smuggling cocaine for Augusto “Willie” Falcon and Salvator “Sal” Magluta. The pair, which started dealing drugs in 1978, had built the largest cocaine smuggling operation on the East Coast and one of the top five in the world. 

Rosello’s job then was to ship drugs from the Medellin and Cali cartels in Columbia and help distribute them across the United States. It was a lucrative business, amassing an estimated $2.1 billion by the time Rosello decided to switch from renting to buying inside Champlain Towers South.

In fact, he said, he was weeks away from purchasing the fifth-floor, two-bedroom condo he was renting under an alias when the whole empire came crumbling down.  

In 1991, authorities indicted Rosello for his role in the cocaine operation. He ultimately tipped off DEA agents and U.S. Marshals to the whereabouts of Magluta, who was hiding as a fugitive at his mansion on La Gorce Island in Miami Beach.

Rosello was convicted of cocaine trafficking as part of the Falcon and Magulta case. He testified at their trial and was sentenced to 24 years behind bars. He got out after serving less than five years. 

“Who knows?” he said. “If I would have bought (the condo), my son, ‘little Peter,’ could have been the one living there at the time of the collapse.” 

While he was in prison, problems at Champlain Towers South became more evident. Contractors were starting to make major repairs to the concrete in the garage ceiling, the underbelly of the improperly designed pool deck. Fifteen years after the building opened, concrete at its base was already falling apart. 

No one knew it at the time, but Champlain South was sinking at a rate of about 2 millimeters a year in the 1990s, according to a study of historical satellite data in 2020 by Shimon Wdowinski, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environment at Florida International University. USA TODAY first reported on the study hours after the building collapsed. 

Cracked walls or shifting foundations can be clues that sinking has affected the stability of a structure, experts said. Residents of the building might have noticed changes. 

By that time, Rosello was long gone from Champlain Towers South. But still getting into trouble.

In 2007, he was arrested for having sex with an underage girl and put on 12 years probation. He was arrested again in 2012 for violating that probation. 

And in 2017, he was picked up during a traffic stop in South Florida with two kilos of cocaine that federal agents say he admitted he was going to sell. He is expected to be released from prison for that offense in February 2022.  

Surfside condo had a connection to the cartel: How a 'Cocaine Cowboy' called Champlain South home
© Courtesy of Billy Corben Pedro “Peggy” Rosello lived on the fifth floor of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida, from 1988 to 1991. Rosello, who was featured in Netflix’s new docuseries “Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami,” said Champlain South offered an under-the-radar haven for his fast-living lifestyle.

Before his latest apprehension, Rosello had been filmed as a main character for the Netflix series, which aired earlier this year. The docuseries, directed by Billy Corben and produced by Alfred Spellman and David Cypkin, is about how drug lords used the city of Miami as a way to smuggle cocaine into the country.  

But it wasn’t just Champlain South that was on the map for kingpins. Falcon’s mother, who is now deceased, lived next door in the North Tower– the collapsed tower’s twin. 

“This place was important. So many stories,” Rosello said.  

In between chuckles, he told a reporter his most “embarrassing memory” from his time at Champlain Towers South. 

“I was at a club and took a girl home that night,” he said. “Little did I know that she had a boyfriend who followed us home. When we got upstairs, we did our thing and did some coke.” 

But then, her phone rang. Her boyfriend was downstairs.  

“So I went down wearing what I was wearing: underwear and brown leather boots, waving a bat. That’s it.” 

 He laughed. 

“Talk about cocaine cowboy!” 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Surfside condo had a connection to the cartel: How a ‘Cocaine Cowboy’ called Champlain South home

Internet Explorer Channel Network
Asia's Tech News Daily
News Related


Nayanthara & Vignesh Shivan purchase luxury house in Chennai's Poes Garden; Reports

© Provided by Pinkvilla Nayanthara and her fiance Vignesh Shivan have reportedly purchased a luxury house in  Poe’s Garden, Chennai. It is 4BHK posh and furnished flat in Poes Garden, ... Read more »

Bigg Boss 15 Weekend Ka Vaar: Salman Khan slams Karan Kundrra and says 'ishq mein nikamme ho rahe'; Tejasswi Prakash leaves host irritated as she gets defensive

© Provided by Bigg Boss 15 has failed to gain TRPs. The show is considered to pretty dull despite some very known celebrities being a part of it. Now, ... Read more »

Aamir Khan apologises to KGF 2 team for choosing same release date, offers to promote Yash's film

Aamir Khan apologised to KGF: Chapter 2 team for choosing April 14, 2022, as the release date for his film, Laal Singh Chaddha. Aamir Khan recently announced that his upcoming ... Read more »

Santhwanam, 27 November 2021, Written Update: Sreedevi accepts Ambika's requests

© Provided by Pinkvilla As the episode starts, Aparna advises Hari that he should start looking after her father’s business. Hari asks her if she has gone crazy and tells ... Read more »

Weekly Rundown: NoBroker, Spinny, Upstox turn unicorns; Indifi, Dream Sports score large VC cheques

© Provided by Business Today Weekly Rundown: NoBroker, Spinny, Upstox turn unicorns; Indifi, Dream Sports score large VC cheques With every passing week, India’s startup sector continues to produce more ... Read more »

IND vs NZ, 1st Test: Ashwin and Umpire Nitin Menon Get Involved in a Heated Exchange, Rahane Intevenes

© Provided by News18 IND vs NZ, 1st Test: Ashwin and Umpire Nitin Menon Get Involved in a Heated Exchange, Rahane Intevenes Veteran India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin engaged in a ... Read more »

Malaika Arora, Tara Sutaria, Esha Gupta Among Celebrities Snapped Out And About

Malaika Arora snapped outside her gym. Nushratt Bharruchha snapped at the airport. Aayush Sharma snapped during screening. Tara Sutaria snapped during screening. Aly Goni snapped in Juhu. Ravi Dubey snapped ... Read more »

Watch Neil Bhatt And Aishwarya Sharma's Love Story In Pre-Wedding Video

© Provided by Lehren Watch Neil Bhatt And Aishwarya Sharma’s Love Story In Pre-Wedding Video It’s hard to keep calm as the popular Television actors Neil Bhatt and Aishwarya Sharma ... Read more »

Masaba Gupta shares loved-up note and pics on Satyadeep Misra's birthday. His reaction takes the cake

Fashion designer Masaba Gupta has shared a loved-up post on her rumoured boyfriend Satyadeep Misra’s birthday. Masaba and Satyadeep reportedly began dating last year. However, neither parties have publicly confirmed ... Read more »

Chelsea legend Paul Canoville: Footballers ‘must step up in fight against stabbings'

Chelsea legend Paul Canoville is encouraging footballers to call out London’s knife crime epidemic. © Crimestoppers Paul Canoville (centre), with school children and Kenya Lamb from Fearless The retired midfielder ... Read more »

Chair of South African Medical Association says Omicron cases are mild so far, but it's too soon to the determine risk of severe disease

© Michele Spatari/AFP/Getty Images Doctors Without Borders nurse Bhelekazi Mdlalose performs a COVID-19 test on a health worker at the Vlakfontein Clinic in Johannesburg, South Africa on May 13, 2020. ... Read more »

Gaby Hoffmann: ‘I really love my job, but I don't want to do it that often'

© Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Vivien Killilea/Getty There were only a few occasions when the famed self-portraiture artist Cindy Sherman took photos of someone else and, at just five ... Read more »

61 test positive for coronavirus on arrival in Netherlands from South Africa

© Provided by PA Media Passengers sit in their seats aboard KLM Flight 598 on the tarmac at Schipol airport in Amsterdam after it landed from Cape Town, South Africa ... Read more »

Git and Bucko: A Cup final with the heart and soul of Dublin

THE HA’PENNY BRIDGE is an obvious meeting point. The link between north and south. Neutral territory, of sorts. Clerys’ clock was another suggested starting place, and while this rendezvous isn’t ... Read more »

David Moyes content for West Ham to build gradually ahead of clash with big-spenders Man City

© REUTERS David Moyes West Ham nov 21 David Moyes has echoed new West Ham shareholder Daniel Kretinsky’s long-term view of developing the club ahead of facing Manchester City. The ... Read more »

France detects highly pathogenic bird flu on poultry farm in north - farm ministry

PARIS (Reuters) – France has detected a highly pathogenic bird flu virus on a poultry farm in the north of the country, the farm ministry said on Saturday. The authorities, ... Read more »

'Profanity, jeering': UNH president seeks apology from students protesting sex assault

University of New Hampshire President James Dean is seeking an apology from students protesting an alleged sexual assault on campus, for using profanity, jeering and ridiculing him when he tried ... Read more »

Storm Arwen: Second man killed after being hit by falling tree

© Getty Images storm arwen.jpg A man has died after a tree fell on him in Ambleside, Cumbria Police said. Police, ambulance and fire service personnel all attended Vicarage Road ... Read more »

How to eat: charcuterie

Photograph: Glasshouse Images/Getty Images Had you taken a random sample of 200 British people 20 years ago, hardly any of them would have heard of charcuterie. Today, the air-dried landscape ... Read more »

'He was always the star', 'Such an exciting talent' - Journalist raves over Leeds ace

© Provided by This is Futbol Joe Gelhardt Speaking on the latest episode of The Athletic Football Podcast, George Elek has labelled Leeds youngster Joe Gelhardt as a ‘star’ and ... Read more »

Be selective! Going may get tough for India Inc in coming quarters

Markets experienced Friday blues and erased the long-standing gains made till lifetime highs of 18,600. Although the sell-off eased a bit as the week passed by, the nervousness among market ... Read more »

D-Street Week Ahead: Market to remain jittery; defensive sectors may shine

The Indian equity markets were just consolidating and trying to find a base for themselves in the first four of the last five trading sessions. However, the final session on ... Read more »

DWP confirms benefit cap rates will remain unchanged as payments rise - rules explained

Universal Credit, PIP and other benefits will be rising from April 2022 as the DWP confirmed payments will increase by 3.1 percent in 2022, in line with the Consumer Price ... Read more »

Knicks face tough test vs. red-hot rival Hawks

The Hawks are starting to play like the club that routed the Knicks in five games in the first round of last spring’s NBA playoffs and advanced all the way ... Read more »

WHO avoids Greek alphabet Xi and names new Covid variant Omicron. Here's why

© Provided by Hindustan Times WHO skipped Nu and Xi. (Photo: Twitter/@MartinKulldorff) The new variant of Covid identified first in South Africa has been named Omicron by the World Health ... Read more »

HT legal team bags 2 awards at 7th edition of INBA Annual Awards

© Provided by Hindustan Times The “Legal Team of the Year 2021” was given by INBA on Constitution Day.  (HT Photo/Sanjeev Verma) HT Media Limited’s legal team, headed by Dinesh ... Read more »

As fear of new COVID-19 strain grows, Maharashtra Health Minister makes BIG demand from PM Narendra Modi

© Provided by DNA Amid the rising fear of the third wave of COVID-19 and the new SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.529 – dubbed as a ‘variant of concern’, the Maharashtra government has ... Read more »

‘Super-messy but incredible': UK supermarket luxury mince pies tested

Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian Aldi Specially Selected all-butter mince pies, £1.49 for six An Aldi Specially Selected all-butter mince pie Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian Overall 3/10. Unpleasant cold. Much better ... Read more »

Traore returns, Lage axes £60k-p/w beast in 2 changes: Wolves predicted XI v Norwich - opinion

© Provided by Football FanCast Lage 2 After securing a 1-0 win over West Ham United last weekend, Wolves are back in action today with an away clash against Norwich ... Read more »

Solomon Islands police find three bodies after riots

© AP PRI212220233.jpg Solomon Islands police have found three bodies in a burned-out building, while more than a hundred arrests were made following rioting in the South Pacific capital in ... Read more »

Stephen Sondheim: Musical theatre's greatest composer dies aged 91

American composer and songwriter Stephen Sondheim has been praised as a “musical theatre giant of our times” after his death aged 91. The great composer and lyricist died at his ... Read more »

Liverpool eye up move for 'incredible' attacker with Salah-esque scoring return in 2021/22

Liverpool are among a host of top clubs still interested in signing Fiorentina sensation Dusan Vlahovic, according to a report which has emerged. © Provided by Transfer Tavern fiorentina star ... Read more »

Holiday camp chain Butlin's to be put up for sale amid staycations boom

The owner of Butlin’s is preparing to put it up for sale amid a boom in British staycations, sparking a potential bidding frenzy for the country’s best-known chain of holiday ... Read more »

Nigel Pearson offers verdict on Bristol City individual playing for his future

© Provided by Football League World Championship – Coventry City v Bristol City Callum O’Dowda is one of six players who will become a free agent at the end of ... Read more »

Shirley Ballas reveals kidneys are cancer-free after health scare

Shirley Ballas has revealed her kidneys are cancer-free after a recent health scare. © Bang Showbiz Shirley Ballas’ kidneys are cancer-free after a recent health scare The 61-year-old ‘Strictly Come ... Read more »

Peng Shuai: Man claiming to be her friend says WTA chief ‘ignored' her email asking not to be disturbed

File: An email, allegedly written by Peng Shuai, was shared by a man who claims to be her friend (AP) A man who earlier shared a video of Chinese tennis ... Read more »

Several key documents about commuter housing have disappeared from the Storting: “Unacceptable”

Several key documents about commuter housing have either been deleted or otherwise disappeared from the Norwegian parliament’s (Storting) archives. “Unacceptable,” President of the Storting Masud Gharahkhani says. The Storting’s regulations ... Read more »

Labour calls on Government to boost UK's Covid-19 defences

The Labour Party has called on the Government to boost the country’s Covid—19 defences after a new variant was discovered in South Africa. The new strain – designated Omicron – ... Read more »

Preece backs Gerrard to recall 'outstanding' £50k p/w Villa ace today after training reveal

Ashley Young will replace Emiliano Buendia in Aston Villa’s starting line-up for their Premier League clash with Crystal Palace, The Birmingham Mail‘s Ashley Preece has predicted. © Provided by Transfer ... Read more »

The Hall case in the Poconos and malice in the US | Moving Mountains

Kenosha, Wisconsin is 779.0 miles from the capitol of our Poconos. Brunswick, Georgia is 874.8 miles away. Yet they have one thing in common with us: Americans are killing Americans. ... Read more »
On you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic