The lead defendant among 55 people arrested or sought by federal agents as members of South Florida cocaine- and heroin-trafficking networks plans to plead guilty rather than go to trial as he originally demanded, court records show.
Hiosbani García, 44, is expected to plead guilty at a hearing tentatively scheduled for early May, according to Miami federal court documents.
“Having carefully reviewed the evidence, my client has decided not to gamble at trial and rather attempt to reduce his prison exposure by entering a guilty plea,” García’s attorney, Richard John Díaz, told el Nuevo Herald Tuesday.
The plea deal marks a pivotal milestone in two interlocking cases which earlier this year helped federal agents unravel drug networks that operated throughout South Florida, from the neighborhoods of West Little River and Liberty City in Miami to other cities in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Some of these suspects had trafficking connections to other U.S. cities including Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas. Suspects included Cubans, Haitians and Mexicans, according to court records and federal officials familiar with the case.
The investigation, which began in 2014, uncovered an elaborate cocaine trafficking network involving 32 suspects in Miami-Dade, according to court documents.
A second heroin-trafficking case implicated 20 suspects in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach counties and other cities.
In all, 55 defendants were identified as members of the networks, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami, which originally made the announcement about the cases in January.
Beginning in fall 2014, law enforcement officers opened an investigation into an individual who allegedly trafficked in crack cocaine in Liberty City, according to one court record that summarizes the case involving 32 defendants.
During the initial stages of the investigation, undercover officers purchased drugs and a gun from the suspect and his associates, the court document says.
After the purchases, investigators obtained court authorization for phone wiretaps, which led to the suspects’ main drug suppliers, according to court records.
“The communications intercepted over the wiretaps, and the parallel law enforcement surveillance operations, uncovered a vast drug trafficking network in South Florida that spanned from multi-kilogram cocaine suppliers down to local crack-cocaine distributors and their associates,” the document said.
It added that García, the lead defendant, was “at the top of the supply chain” because he regularly obtained and sold bulk quantities of cocaine generally consisting of multiple kilograms valued at between $30,000 and $32,000 per kilo.
How the network worked was outlined in detail in the court document, a so-called prosecution “proffer” to provide the judge information to decide whether defendants should be freed on bail or held pending trial.
The proffer said García regularly supplied another defendant, Reinaldo Gómez-García, with multiple kilograms of cocaine at a time.
Gómez-García in turn broke up the bulk supply and sold the cocaine in kilogram quantities to several smaller distributors throughout South Florida, the proffer said.
The indictment in the cased listed eight such distributors allegedly supplied by Gómez-García.
One mystery the proffer does not clear up is the cocaine originally came from a foreign narcotics-trafficking cartel.
But the proffer did contain a possible link between drug trafficking and some of the gun violence associated with the business.
“On March 26,” the proffer said, “law enforcement seized four firearms, including an AK-style assault rifle, approximately 100 rounds of ammunition, and a currency-counting machine.”
Some of the 32 defendants have agreed to plead guilty, including García. His guilty plea hearing has been scheduled for May 2.
Gómez-García also agreed to plead guilty and his sentencing hearing has been set for June.
“We also reviewed the government’s evidence in the case, and it seems the government has an overwhelming case against Mr. Gómez-García and for that reason he decided to accept responsibility for his conduct and enter a guilty plea,” Gómez-García’s attorney, Oscar Arroyave, told el Nuevo Herald Tuesday.
According to a proffer in the case involving 20 other defendants, a wiretap in the García case led investigators to the heroin-trafficking network based in Miami and linked to defendant Morris Moore.
According to court records, Moore’s alleged supply network negotiated purchase of heroin from Mexico at $65,000 kilo.
Moore has agreed to plead guilty and a hearing has been set for the end of April.
Several defendants are still at large.