Orlando Cicilia

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Orlando Cicilia
Spouse(s)Barbara Rubio
RelativesMarco Rubio (brother-in-law)

Orlando Cicilia is a Miami, Florida man indicted as part of a ring of drug smugglers and dealers that was broken up by federal authorities in 1987 in an investigation code-named "Operation Cobra." Cicilia is married with Barbara Rubio, the older sister of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio.[1]

Drug ring[edit]

The federal indictment alleged that the ring had been in operation for some 10 years, smuggling $75 million worth of cocaine and marijuana into Louisiana and Florida.[2][3] It also alleged that members of the ring had become aware that one of their group, Larry Nash, had become an informer for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms. Nash was murdered, and his body was cut up with a chainsaw and burned.[4] Cecilia, described as a "second-tier associate" of the drug ring's kingpin, Mario Tabraue, was sentenced to 25 years in prison; Cecilia was released in 2000, after serving 12 years and also being an informant.[5][2][3]


Cicilia's wife, Barbara, is the sister of Marco Rubio, who was in high school at the time Cicilia was arrested.[2] In 2011, Rubio, was a United States Senator whose name was frequently mentioned as a Vice-Presidential nominee on the Republican ticket, and Univision wanted one of its star journalists, Gerardo Reyes, to tape an in-depth Rubio interview.[2] In the course of negotiations over the interview, Rubio's staff learned that Univision had uncovered the details of Cicilia's history as a drug dealer, and asked Univision not to broadcast it, arguing that it was an unfair intrusion into the lives of private citizens.[2] Reyes argued that since Rubio had made his personal story part of his political campaigns, it was legitimate to explore how the arrest had shaped Rubio's life and career.[2] Ultimately, Rubio refused to do the interview, and, in July 2011, Reyes broadcast the story of Cicilia's arrest on Univision.[2][6]

Three months later the Miami Herald ran a detailed report on Cicilia's arrest and Rubio's attempt to kill the Univision story by Marc Caputo and Manny Garcia "The inside story: Univision's war with Rubio over immigration and drug story" on page one.[2][7] The Herald alleged that Univision had offered to kill or soften the story about the Senator's brother-in-law if Rubio would do an interview with Jorge Ramos on Al Punto.[2] Writing in the Columbia Journalism Review, Erika Fry concludes that several aspects of the Herald's assertion that Univision offered a quid pro quo, "don't add up."[2][8]

Real estate license[edit]

Cicilia's criminal past came back into the headlines in 2015, when, with Rubio running for the Republican Presidential nomination, the Washington Post revealed that while he was majority whip of the Florida State Legislature Rubio wrote a letter of recommendation supporting Cecilia's application for a Florida Real Estate license.[9] Rubio did not mention in the letter that Cicilia is his brother-in-law. Failing to disclose the relationship in the letter is not illegal, but can be construed as a conflict of interest. Ex-convicts are permitted to hold Florida real estate licenses.[10]


  1. ^ "Investigating Republican Marco Rubio's American Dream backstory". The Independent. 2015-12-14. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Fry, Erica (January 2012). "Univision, The Miami Herald, and Marco Rubio, the GOP's rising star". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  3. ^ a b Murphy, Tim (7 May 2014). "This Former Cocaine Kingpin Is Lobbying Congress to Let Him Keep His Cheetahs (and Liger)". Mother Jones. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  4. ^ "Florida Drug Ring Reported Broken: 7 Accused of Being in Group That Smuggled Marijuana for at Least 10 Years". New York Times. AP. 17 December 1987. ProQuest 110705801.
  5. ^ "Drug Smuggler Gets 100 Years ; 5 Others Also Sentenced for Deals Broken Up by Operation". Orlando Sentinel. 14 April 1989. ProQuest 277418730.
  6. ^ Auletta, Ken (9 January 2012). "War of Choice". The New Yorker. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  7. ^ "From the Herald archives: The inside story of Univision vs. Rubio (reprint)". Miami Herald. 2 October 2011. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  8. ^ Campo-Flores, Arian (10 October 2011). "GOP Backs Rubio in Univision Clash". Wall Street Journal.
  9. ^ Higham, Scott (30 December 2015). "How Rubio helped his ex-con brother-in-law acquire a real estate license". Washington Post. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  10. ^ Wofford, Taylor (30 December 2015). "Marco Rubio Used Public Office to Help Brother-in-Law: Report". Newsweek. Retrieved 25 January 2016.