Two packages shipped to Miami by a “suspicious” customer from a UPS store in Las Vegas led federal agents to detect a possible South Florida methamphetamine-distribution ring, according to federal court records.
The shipments, delivered to two separate Miami addresses, led to the arrests of two suspects, Guillermo Cougles Pérez and Luis Álvarez Barcenas, who are now awaiting trial in Miami federal court.
It’s only the latest suspected drug delivery via a parcel shipping company that leads to the discovery of narcotics trafficking involving Miami. In October last year, federal agents arrested a Guatemalan in Vermont after officials in Miami discovered a $5 million heroin shipment addressed to a Mexican restaurant in Manchester, a Vermont town near the New York state line. That particular heroin shipment was detected by Customs and Border Protection officers in Miami when they decided to inspect two parcels that had arrived from Guatemala.
In the case of the meth shipment, it was Drug Enforcement Administration special agents who found the illegal shipments after a UPS store manager in Las Vegas, Nevada, contacted the agency on March 30, according to a DEA criminal complaint filed in Miami federal court.
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“The manager reported that a suspicious customer wearing a white baseball cap paid to express ship two separate parcels to different locations in Miami,” the complaint said.
When agents checked the parcels, they found some baby diapers and bubble wrap, but they also found packages filled with methamphetamines weighing a total of four kilograms, the criminal complaint said.
Federal agents later created two parcels to resemble the original ones, outfitted them with sensors to detect when the package was opened and had an undercover officer deliver them to the two addresses, according to the criminal complaint.
At the first address, the parcel was opened shortly after it was delivered. That’s when agents raided the apartment and found Cougles, one of the defendants, holding the transmitter used to track the parcel, the complaint said.
Cougles then admitted to the agents that he was responsible for the drugs and exonerated other family members in the apartment, the complaint said.
At the second address, Álvarez — the second defendant — received the parcel and shortly after left his apartment carrying the package, which he then placed inside a plastic garbage bag and hid it under a fence behind the apartment building, according to the complaint.
After Álvarez was arrested, he told agents that he had agreed to receive the drugs for Cougles because he was going to be paid $100 to $200 per parcel, according to the complaint.
It added that Álvarez had been receiving parcels every 15 days since December 2015.
The complaint does not say whether either Álvarez or Cougles identified the person who shipped the parcels in Las Vegas or whether they disclosed other details.
Cougles, 39, and Álvarez, whose age was not reported in court records, have since pleaded not guilty and demanded trial.
“We look forward to our day in court,” said Faith Mesnekoff, Álvarez’s attorney. Cougles’ attorney, Gennaro Cariglio, declined to comment.