Federal authorities bust marijuana trafficking rings
December 23, 2010
Federal law enforcement agents closed down two marijuana trafficking
rings. Seven individuals were arrested and in excess of 1,700 pounds of marijuana with a street value of approximately $2 million was seized. Some of the defendants will hire privately retained Miami criminal attorneys
while others will be represented by counsel from the federal public defender's office. The first bust occurred along the Miami River when law enforcement intercepted two boats coming from Bimini. The authorities' investigation began as the result of a tip. The bust occurred on a dock located behind a residence located on North River Drive. The floor compartments of the boats contained 90 bales of marijuana while the residence contained 15 plants and a fully functioning grow house. Three arrests were made and the defendants were charged with importing a controlled substance into the United States and possession and distribution of a controlled substance.
The second group of marijuana trafficking arrests occurred at sea when the United States Coast Guard stopped a vessel coming from the Bahamas. Forty-two (42) bales of marijuana were found floating near the vessel. Four individuals were removed from the boat and were taken to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where they are being held. The head of Miami Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Investigations commented that marijuana smuggling
into Florida has increased as a result of the strict enforcement underway at the United States-Mexico border. Both of these latest arrests were the result of joint operations conducted by Customs and Border Patrol, the Coast Guard and the Miami Police Department.
All of the defendants will be indicted in federal court
. The possible sentences these defendants receive either by plea or by way of jury trial will depend on the amount of marijuana seized by the authorities. The federal sentencing guidelines
in the "Drug Quantity Table" set forth the level offense for importation of marijuana cases. The levels range from a level 6 which requires that marijuana weigh less than 250 grams and a level 34 which requires more than 30,000 Kgs of marijuana. According to court documents, the amount of marijuana will be somewhere in the middle. A federal lab will be required to weigh the marijuana to obtain a fair weight. Of course, the defense will have the right to re-weigh the evidence if court allows it.
Other than the weight of marijuana, other factors will determine the potential sentences the defendants are facing. If a defendant only had a minor role in the offense, he or she will be entitled to a sentence reduction. If the government can prove that any of the defendants were the leaders or organizers of the ring, a sentence increase may be in the cards. Any of the defendants who decide to enter a plea deal early will receive a reduction for acceptance of responsibility. Any of the defendants who assist the prosecutors or law enforcement with their case or other cases can receive a 5K which allows for greatest sentencing departure. Ultimately, the final decision on a sentence is up to the judge, regardless of the opinions of the government or defense counsel.
Feds Arrest 7 Accused of Marijuana Smuggling, Miami Herald.com, December 18, 2010.