Even after being demolished, the Miami Beach mansion formerly owned by Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar continues to reveal its secrets, hidden underneath the concrete.
On Monday, workers razing the property at 5860 N. Bay Rd. found a metal safe.
“This is real. It’s still locked. It’s very, very heavy. We can’t believe it — now Pablito is my best friend,” joked Christian de Berdouare, founder of the fast-food chain Chicken Kitchen, who owns the property with his wife, television journalist Jennifer Valoppi.
The safe was found at about 11 a.m. when Miguel Mato, who was operating an excavator, knocked down the last walls on the 7,336-square-foot home, which sits on a 33,000-square-foot lot overlooking Biscayne Bay.
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“We had left one of the walls because they had to film a scene for the documentary... when I started to knock it down, a piece of rubble hit the foundation, the floor sunk and I saw it,” Mato said. “It was something gray. I grabbed it with the excavator’s claw, realized it was a safe and started to yell to tell them.”
Valoppi is filming a documentary about the mansion and its connection to the drug trafficker Escobar, who lived in South Florida in the 1980s. Authorities believe the property was used as a hideout for Escobar’s henchmen and to unload tons of cocaine. Escobar was shot and killed by police in 1993 in Colombia.
The safe was hidden beneath the entrance of what had been a large pink mansion consisting of four bedrooms, a pool, six bathrooms and a garage. The safe is about two feet by two feet and weighs between 600 and 700 pounds, according to Mato.
De Berdouare said the safe is still locked, and its contents — if any — are unknown.
“I think that it has gold or diamonds,” he said. “Who knows?”
It is well known that the former boss of the Medellín Cartel had accumulated such an immense fortune that he hid part of his profits in secret compartments, in the walls of his house, and even buried them in the floor.
Escobar bought the mansion in March 1980 for $762,500, according to Miami-Dade County public records. His name appears on the title of the house and in the paperwork transferring the property to the current owners.
In 1987, U.S. authorities confiscated the property, along with $20 million in properties the Colombian drug dealer owned across Florida.
Attorney Roger Schindler bought the home from the U.S. government in 1990 for $915,000. In 2014, de Berdouare acquired the mansion for $9.65 million. He plans to build a more modern house in its place.
De Berdouare and Valoppi had been previously notified by workers about another safe that was found hidden under a slab of marble floor. But they said that one was stolen in the last 30 days, and police are investigating the disappearance.
Last Tuesday, a white or cream-colored package, approximately one foot long and wrapped in plastic with metal seals on the ends, was also found. Forensic tests by Miami Beach police determined it did not contain drugs.
The safe found on Monday will be placed in a bank vault, where it will stay until the property owners decide to unlock it. They plan to open it after they finish Valoppi’s documentary on the history of the mansion.
For the moment, the property will be under 24-hour security until all rubble is removed.
David Spencer, a treasure hunter from Kellyco Metal Detectors, said the search for valuable objects will continue for another two weeks.
“We will return when they clear out the remains of the house,” Spencer said. “We will search the entire area.”
El Nuevo staff photographer C.M. Guerrero contributed to this report.