Smell of marijuana leads Feds to a drug-distribution ring

A whiff of marijuana smoke helped federal authorities recently dismantle a drug-distribution ring in Miami.

Three men found in a police raid on a house in Miami on Jan. 6 were subsequently linked to a fourth man charged in a separate drug-trafficking case, according to records in Miami federal court.

The arrests at the Miami residence at 1353 NW 29th Terr. were connected to at least one other ongoing case in federal court. In addition to 8.3 pounds of marijuana, agents also found 413 suspected Xanax bars and more than $4,800 in cash, according to a criminal complaint.

The arrests are the latest in a series of raids by federal agents and local law enforcement aimed at ensnaring individuals involved in the trafficking and distribution of marijuana and other drugs.

The Miami case began Jan. 6 when police received information regarding the smell of marijuana coming from the residence, according to the criminal complaint.

Authorities entered the residence after obtaining a search warrant. They found three men inside, including two who later were identified as Álvaro Ulloa and Edgardo Martínez, according to court records.

When agents checked the suspects’ backgrounds, they discovered that Martínez was a federal fugitive sought in a separate case that charged him and another individual identified as Michael Vado with drug trafficking and possession of a firearm, according to court records. The records also show that Ulloa and Vado are cousins.

An indictment against Vado and Martínez charged both with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana, possession with intent to distribute marijuana and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

If Vado and Martínez are convicted on all three counts in the Nov. 6 indictment, they could face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, according to a penalty sheet in court records. That’s because the count covering the firearm calls for a maximum penalty of life in prison. If they are convicted of either count one or two, but found not guilty of firearm possession, the penalty would be five years in prison for each charge.

Vado and Martínez have pleaded not guilty and are now awaiting trial. Ulloa has not yet been arraigned.

Saam Zangeneh, Martínez’s attorney, said his client will fight the charges.

“My client pleaded not guilty and now we are conducting our own defense investigation,” said Zangeneh. “We have not yet seen the government’s evidence.”

Frank Gaviria, Vado’s attorney, echoed Zangeneh’s comments.

Frank Prieto, Ulloa’s attorney, said prosecutors have yet to link his client to any trafficking network.

“My client has not been indicted and, quite honestly, the evidence is lacking.”