DEA arrests at least three in a Miami-Dade drug case with international ties

 

achardy@elnuevoherald.com

At least three people have been arrested in southwest Miami-Dade County as part of a federal investigation into possible Miami links to a transnational drug-trafficking organization.

According to a criminal complaint obtained by el Nuevo Herald on Monday, the suspects were picked up Feb. 20 at a residence near the junction of Southwest Eighth Street and the Homestead Extension of Florida’s Turnpike.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) case appears to be part of a broader investigation that began in California near the Mexican border.

In the complaint, filed in Miami federal court, DEA suggests that its agents initially did not have any intention of arresting suspects, but were forced to do so because of fears that an informant in the residence was about to be discovered.

DEA declined comment on the ground the case is still under investigation. Lawyers for the suspects either could not be reached for comment or said they preferred not to comment.

The complaint does not identify the drug trafficking organization in question, but it could be based either in Mexico or Colombia – two countries where criminal groups are capable of shipping significant amounts of narcotics to the United States.

The DEA complaint said investigators of the Inland Crackdown Allied Task Force, known as INCA, were involved in the case. INCA is a multiagency federal and California state anti-drug effort. The INCA website says the task force targets major Colombian and Mexican drug cartels.

According to the DEA complaint, the Miami case began to unfold in January in Chula Vista, midway between San Diego, California, and Tijuana, Mexico.

Agents of INCA learned during an investigation of a “transnational criminal drug trafficking organization” that a man named Manuel Jesús Pérez sought to acquire significant amounts of cocaine, according to the DEA complaint in Miami.

INCA then arranged for an informant to contact Pérez. Outfitted with a concealed recording device, the informant met Pérez at a Starbucks in Chula Vista. The complaint said Pérez told the informant he had “Miami customers” who could buy 50 to 100 kilos of cocaine.

Later that day, the complaint said, an undercover officer joined the informant at another meeting with Pérez who then revealed that his “customers” were Cubans who would only close the deal at a residence in Miami.

Two days later, the INCA undercover officer and the informant met again with Pérez, who this time was accompanied by another man who identified himself as Miguel Alfaro, a “Cuban from Miami.”

Alfaro told the informant and the undercover officer that he had traveled from Miami to California to negotiate the deal, the complaint said.

“Alfaro stated he was going to return to Miami to assess his money availability, but he thought he could possibly purchase 25 kilograms of cocaine in the Miami area,” the complaint said.

After more negotiations over the phone, INCA agreed to dispatch the informant to Miami to meet associates of Pérez and Alfaro.

On Feb. 19, the informant met with Pérez and Alfaro at the Bonefish Grill located in a shopping center on Calle Ocho between 147th and 137th Avenues in southwest Miami-Dade, the DEA complaint said.

A third man joined the group. He identified himself as Antonio Infante Rojas. Federal agents then watched the group board two cars and drive four miles to a residence in Coral Way Estates along the 2700 block of Southwest 115th Avenue. Property records and the complaint say the house is owned by Filiberto Casanova.

Casanova received the group and helped show the informant six packages wrapped in blue and vacuum sealed inside a FedEx box. The complaint said the informant was told the packages contained six kilos of cocaine.

He was also told, the complaint says, that the next day – Feb. 20 – he would be shown $350,000 to purchase 10 kilos of cocaine.

The informant returned to the residence Feb. 20 accompanied by Pérez and Rojas. The complaint says Casanova then placed the money in a black canvas bag.

At this point, the INCA informant known to law enforcement as a CS or confidential source attempted to leave the house to report to his law enforcement contacts, but was prevented from doing so, the complaint says.

“The INCA CS was asked to wait and not leave at that moment,” the complaint says. “The INCA CS then walked out the front door, but was asked to come back inside.”

To protect the informant, federal agents moved in and made arrests.

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