‘Tony Montana’ pleads guilty to millions in jewel thefts

 

msanchez@ElNuevoHerald.com

Eight months after his arrest in a South Beach hotel, the jeweler who called himself “Tony Montana” pleaded guilty Tuesday to organizing the thefts of and later reselling millions of dollars worth of diamonds and other jewels.

Juan Guardarrama, 49, received a reduced prison sentence of 10 years in exchange for cooperating with authorities on other cases related to the criminal enterprise of stealing and fencing diamonds.

In the agreement, Guardarrama acknowledges his “willingness to cooperate in bringing to justice” others who have been involved in crimes including theft, racketeering, money-laundering and fencing of stolen properties.

The night of his arrest, Guardarrama thought he was buying more than a half-million dollars worth of stolen jewelry when he asked undercover cops whether they would “take out” a partner from his side business of growing medical marijuana in Colorado. He had earlier asked the cops if they would be interested in selling some of that marijuana in Miami.

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. The jeweler, whose nickname comes from a character in the 1983 Miami crime noir film Scarface, starring Al Pacino, faced more than 30 years in prison.

On Tuesday, Guardarrama pleaded guilty to the majority of the counts related to the jewelry operation, and authorities agreed to dismiss charges related to the marijuana and soliciting murder. As part of the deal, Guardarrama will surrender about $2 million in jewelry and money that was confiscated from his apartment in Denver.

His attorney, David Raben, declined to comment after Tuesday’s hearing before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Thomas Rebull.

Detectives from a multiagency task force had been investigating Guardarrama for more than four years when the arrest took place last June at Loews Miami Beach Hotel. Guardarrama had worked as a wholesale jeweler for close to two decades, and was a familiar face in the Seybold building in downtown Miami, a hub of diamond and jewelry commerce.

But much of what Guardarrama sold was stolen. Authorities say he was a key player in orchestrating heists and robberies for international jewelry thieves who have operated in South Florida and across the country since at least 2005. He worked with a group of mostly Colombians who targeted traveling jewelry dealers for assaults, and a separate group of Cuban-born welders who blowtorched their way into jewelry store safes.

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