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Arrests made at MIA for cocaine and heroin trafficking

August 13, 2010

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In largest drug bust at Miami International Airport since 2007, federal agents arrested 15 people on charges related to cocaine trafficking and heroin trafficking on commercial flights from Panama, Columbia and Venezuela. Federal law enforcement is still trying to find 13 other individuals purportedly located in Miami area, while others are located outside the country. For years, Miami criminal defense attorneys have represented clients that attempt to smuggle drugs into the country from Latin American countries on commercial flights.

The unsealed indictment alleges that the drug trafficking ring has been importing drugs through the airport since 2006. Many of the indicted defendants are cargo handlers at MIA. The investigation and arrests were made by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after a lengthy 5 year investigation. The Miami cargo handlers are accused of diverting the cocaine and heroin away from the U.S. customs inspection area to avoid detection. The federal law enforcement agents intercepted 204 kilograms of cocaine and 4 kilograms of heroin along with $74,000.00 in U.S. currency. The feds will mostly like seek an asset forfeiture of the cash in a civil asset forfeiture proceeding.

It seems as if the feds uncover elaborate drug trafficking schemes every 3 or 4 years at the airport. In 2007, ICE agents made numerous arrests of cargo workers who were also diverting drug laden cargo away from customs inspection points. Many drug traffickers along with the workers were arrested for their involvement in the South American drug trafficking ring. In 2005, DEA agents uncovered a drug trafficking network involving Haitian police officer, politicians, and airline employees that were moving cocaine for a Columbia organization. In 1999, federal authorities arrested 30 individuals along with American Airline and Sky Chef employees moving cocaine in carry-on baggage and in food carts.

The 15 people arrested appeared for their initial appearance in federal court on Friday. While most of the defendant were granted some form of pre-trial release, all of the defendants had to meet the "Nebbia" requirement prior to securing their release. A "Nebbia" requirement, simply put, requires that the person posting the bond show the money and property used to secure the release comes for legitimate sources and are not proceeds from drug trafficking operations. "Nebbia" requirements are also required to be met in state narcotics trafficking cases. Even if the defendants are able to make bond, the defendant face extensive minimum mandatory charges on the trafficking and importation offenses. The defendants that agree to cooperate early on the case, will receive safety valves which will allow for the waiver of the minimum mandatory sentences if they have no prior record. Those who cooperate in the prosecution in the case or others will also receive sentence reductions for their cooperation.

15 Arrested in Drugs Operation at Miami International Airport, The Miami Herald.com, August 13, 2010.
Categories: Drug Offenses
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