MIAMI (CBS4) – Early on the morning of December 5, Eliseo Dellatore Castro, surrounded by friends and family, died at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
He was 63.
And his name wasn’t really Eliseo Dellatore Castro.
His real name was Luis Franco and he was a convicted Colombian drug trafficker who had been an international federal fugitive for nearly 30 years.
So how does a man on the run for decades up at Jackson racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in charity care at taxpayer expense? How could he have tricked the system into giving him free healthcare? Well to understand that we need to go back to 1982, and the early days of Miami’s notorious Cocaine Cowboy era.
Franco would hire his fellow Colombians to swallow condoms filled with cocaine and fly into Miami International Airport. Franco would accompany the smugglers on the plane – paying for their tickets and making sure they didn’t run with the merchandise. Franco made numerous trips between Bogotá and Miami before authorities caught on to his mule train and charged him with three counts of cocaine distribution.
“He was convicted of those charges,” says Barry Golden, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service. Golden told CBS4’s Jim DeFede that while Franco was out on bond pending sentencing, he fled.
Golden said after hiding out in Colombia, Franco tried to sneak across the border at El Paso in 1996.where he was apprehended by Border Patrol agents. The only problem — they didn’t know who he really was.
“He began switching his name around, using different variations, switching his last name and his middle name,” Golden told DeFede.
Franco pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of illegally entering the country, was sentenced to probation by a judge in El Paso and then immediately deported home to Colombia.
Four months later, the FBI notified the Marshals Service that Franco’s fingerprints matched those of a fugitive wanted in Miami.
Nevertheless, Franco found his own way back to South Florida, landing here sometime around 2000.
“And this time he came back into the US and obtained another fraudulent Florida driver’s license under the name Elisio Del Torre,” Golden explained.
Franco settled into a quiet gated complex in Doral with his wife Mery. He claimed to make a living as a mechanic. And in 2004 when he became ill and needed medical care he showed up at Jackson’s doorstep.
For seven years received regular dialysis treatments. Sources say he possessed two fraudulent Medicare numbers and anything the government didn’t cover the hospital wrote off as charity care.
Jackson officials wouldn’t discuss the case citing federal privacy laws.
But when Franco died in December, word leaked out that the 63-year-old may not be who he claimed to be and that he might actually be a federal fugitive.
Authorities scrambled to see if it was true and confirmation wasn’t hard to find — Franco’s death certificate listed both his fraudulent and real names.
But by the time authorities traced his body to a funeral home, they arrived too late. Franco’s remains had been loaded on a plane and shipped home to Colombia. In the end, it turned out, Luis Franco had succeeded in staying one step ahead of the law in both life and death.
Golden says as far as the Marshals service is concerned the Luis Franco case is over.
“If another agency wants to look at charging family members with aiding and abetting, then that’s on them, but from the Marshals service standpoint, it’s closed,” Golden said.