One day in early August, the Gulf Trader docked in Miami after a journey from Cap-Haïtien, a port city in northern Haiti.
Federal agents immediately searched the vessel from top to bottom because they had received a tip from an informant that a load of cocaine was stashed aboard.
Though they initially didn’t find anything, agents continued their investigation, and their persistence paid off. Cocaine was indeed on the vessel — but extremely well concealed.
An arrest was made, and the defendant is now awaiting trial in federal court in Miami. The elaborate operation seemed to indicate that the Gulf Trader was part of a broader drug-smuggling operation.
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The case began Aug. 3 when the Gulf Trader arrived in Miami. The vessel docked at a shipping yard on the Miami River at 555 NW South River Dr.
“Upon arrival, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers searched the vessel,” according to a criminal complaint filed by a special agent of Homeland Security Investigations, a unit of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
When nothing was found, HSI special agents and other officers initiated a 24-hour-a-day surveillance of the vessel and the shipping yard.
It wasn’t until Aug. 11, eight days after the initial search began, that agents witnessed unusual activity.
Hector Genaro Levy, the 64-year-old Nicaraguan captain of the Gulf Trader, was seen going back and forth several times between his boat and the shipping yard’s office — just before a man arrived at the dock in a gray Kia SUV, according to the criminal complaint.
Agents observed a similar scene the next day, Aug. 12, but this time Levy was seen wearing baggy clothing that concealed his body and legs, the complaint said.
The third time Levy walked between the boat and the office, agents decided to question him.
“Agents identified themselves as Customs officers and conducted a pat-down of Levy,” the complaint says. “During the pat-down search, agents discovered two brick-shaped packages of cocaine concealed in Levy’s groin area.”
Agents then conducted a new search of the Gulf Trader and the shipping yard, which resulted in the discovery and seizure of an additional 55 cocaine-filled brick-shaped packages, the complaint said. It noted that 42 of the packages were found hidden in the ceiling of Levy’s quarters on the Gulf Trader, and 13 under his bunk.
Two additional packages, similar to those linked to Levy, were also found in the Kia, the complaint said.
After being arrested, the complaint says, Levy acknowledged possession of the cocaine-laden bricks — but refused to identify any accomplices.
Levy has since been indicted and pleaded not guilty. A federal judge has set trial for November.
“His position is that he has nothing to do with the cocaine,” said Andre Pierre, Levy’s attorney. “He’s an experienced captain who for years has plied the waters of Latin America and the Caribbean and who simply works to support his family.”