Authorities say a fence for stolen diamonds who calls himself “Tony Montana” didn’t know he was dealing with undercover cops when he dug himself a deeper hole by soliciting their help in other criminal enterprises.
Juan Antonio Guardarrama, 49, was in a Miami Beach hotel room about three weeks ago to buy more than a half-million dollars worth of what he was told was stolen jewelry, according to authorities. But during the negotiations, he asked the undercover cops whether they could traffic some of his Colorado-grown medical marijuana into South Florida.
If that wasn’t enough, he then brought up some problems he had been having with a business partner who had “disrespected” him. According to the arrest report, Guardarrama wanted this partner “taken out.”
He asked the undercover cops to do the job.
The charging documents against Guardarrama read like a scene from a movie. The fact his street alias was taken from the main character of Scarface, the classic Miami crime noir film, just scratches the surface.
According to authorities, this Cuban immigrant rose from being a small-time bookie in Sweetwater to becoming a key player in a criminal enterprise that finds targets for international jewelry thieves and reintroduces their stolen goods into the market.
“Guardarrama has extensive experience and knowledge in the jewelry business, as well as extensive contacts in the commerce of diamonds and gold,” according to an affidavit in support of his arrest. “In many cases, Guardarrama has personally bought the stolen jewelry or diamonds, and on other occasions, Guardarrama has acted as a broker facilitating deals between the robbers and other buyers.”
His arrest on June 7 came after a four-year, multiagency investigation that has led to convictions of several thieves in South Florida. Apart from the evidence from two undercover operations, prosecutors are counting on the testimony of several convicted jewel thieves who are serving prison time for their involvement in the criminal organization.
Last week, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office charged Guardarrama with more than a dozen felony counts, from racketeering and money-laundering to dealing in stolen property and soliciting first-degree murder.
“It wouldn’t be the first time a defendant is overcharged,” said Jonathan Blecher, one of his two defense attorneys.
Guardarrama was born in Ciego de Avila, Cuba, according to police records. In 1984, a year after Scarface hit the theaters, he immigrated to the United States with his mother.
He graduated from Miami Senior High School in 1985 and studied English and business at Miami Dade College. It is unclear what he did immediately after dropping out.
His first run-in with police was a disorderly intoxication arrest in 1990. A year later, he was arrested and later convicted after a road-rage incident on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach. According to court records, Guardarrama got out of his car and threatened the other driver with a semiautomatic pistol.
In 1994, he was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol. Three years later, he was arrested and convicted of assault, extortion and illegal bookmaking. Records show Guardarrama had threatened to kill a man who owed $13,500 in gambling debts outside a Mexican restaurant in Sweetwater.