With his wrists handcuffed and ankles in chains, an Argentine man known as The Wizard appeared in Miami federal court in preparation for pleading guilty in a drug-trafficking case initially filed in New Jersey.
Franco Daniel Lombardi, accused of representing the Sinaloa cartel in Honduras, is also linked to a second drug-trafficking case filed in Miami.
If Lombardi pleads in the New Jersey case filed by a federal grand jury in August 2015, it will be the second time he has taken the plea in a drug-related case.
Lombardi pleaded guilty in November before U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard in connection with money-laundering charges linked to proceeds from the distribution and sale of cocaine, according to court records.
Lenard set a Feb. 27 hearing at which she plans to sentence Lombardi in the Miami case. The date for the hearing in which Lombardi plans to plead guilty in the Newark case has not yet been set because prosecutors in New Jersey have yet to finalize the paperwork to transfer the case to Miami, according to Lombardi’s lawyer, Paul Domenic Petruzzi, who spoke in court Friday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Edwin Torres.
Lombardi, 45, is the second suspected member of a Latin American drug cartel extradited to Miami in recent months.
On Nov. 17, the alleged Colombian drug lord Henry de Jesús López Londoño, also known as “My Blood,” was extradited from Argentina to face cocaine-trafficking charges. Londoño, also 45, pleaded not guilty Nov. 28.
The case against Lombardi in Miami began on June 18, 2015, when a grand jury indicted him.
The Newark indictment was filed in August last year, linking Lombardi to heroin trafficking.
Lombardi lived in Honduras, where he operated a restaurant and had other investments.
After U.S. authorities opened an investigation, Lombardi was found in Honduras, where police arrested him and sent him to Miami in April.
Press reports in Honduras described Lombardi as a financial representative of the Mexican Sinaloa cartel once led by prominent Mexican drug trafficker Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, recaptured in January 2016, six months after a daring escape via a tunnel from a maximum security prison near Toluca, in central Mexico.
After his arrest in the Roatán, Lombardi was sent to Miami on April 4, according to court records.
Pending now is the New Jersey case.
At Friday’s hearing, Lombardi’s lawyer asked the judge for more time so the prosecutors in Newark can finish the paperwork for his client’s the case to be transferred to Miami. Torres scheduled another hearing for month’s end.