Feds auction high-end cars seized from drug lord
There was an auction at Marlins Park on Wednesday. The items on the block weren’t high-priced baseball players but the finely tuned, spectacularly expensive automotive fleet of a notorious Miami drug kingpin.
By Wednesday morning, a shiny black 2006 Ferrari Enzo was likely on its way out of town, having already received a bid of more than $1.9 million. And the number was climbing.
A sparkling black Bugatti Veyron that can rocket to more than 250 miles per hour already was fetching more than $900,000 with a day to go before the auction closed.
“This is definitely the highest we’ve ever had bid for one particular asset,” Joshua Scully of Apple Auctioneering said of the popular sleek black Ferrari, which had received 105 bids — with the top bid almost doubling its asking price.
The iconic sportscars have a sordid past. Six of the 10 on the auction block had at one time belonged to drug kingpin Alvaro López Tardón, whose South America-to-Spain cocaine pipeline netted him hundreds of millions of dollars if not more, federal lawmakers believe.
López Tardón, who was convicted of conspiracy and money laundering by a federal jury in Miami 2014 and sentenced to 150 years in prison, lived in Miami and spent his money here. And when he eventually got busted here, the U.S. Marshals Service seized his assets and made plans to put them up for auction.
The feds say López Tardón also amassed millions of dollars worth of jewelry and more than a dozen properties in Miami. Those assests are expected to go to auction later this year.
López Tardón, 44, was arrested in 2011 after going on a wild, $20 million spending spree of proported cocaine profits in Miami. Federal law enforcement said he bought 13 expensive condos, including penthouses on South Beach and Brickell and 17 luxury cars.
After his conviction, his property was seized by the U.S. Department of Justice. The U.S. Marshals Service took over from there and evaluated the property and got it ready for auction. The profits will go to fund future concealed and hidden asset investigations. If it were a fraud case, the injured party would receive some of the money.
The Marshals service has about two of these auctions each year. To enter this auction, bidders had to pony up $25,000. The bids are made online and end at 11 a.m. Thursday. None of the bidders — 75 of them had bid in excess of $3.5 million by Wednesday — were at Marlins Park. And their names were not disclosed.
The U.S. Marshal Service does background the bidders to make certain nefarious entities aren’t making any of the buys.
By mid-day Wednesday, three of the vehicles on the auction block, the Ferrari, a Rolls Royce Ghost and one of the fastest cars in the world, the 2008 Bugatti, had fetched bids of close to $3 million.
The U.S. Attorney’s office argued López Tardón was the boss of a Spanish cocaine ring dubbed “Los Miami.” It claimed López Tardón used shell companies and straw buyers in cash deals to buy the luxury cars, the jewelry and the condos.
His drug-smuggling empire began to crumble in 2011 not long after Santaria Priest Vincente Orlando Cardelle was caught smuggling cash through Miami International Airport. López Tardón argued in court that the millions of dollars he spent in Miami came from a family-owned exotic car dealership and epicurean shop in Madrid, not from drug trafficking.
Amost Rojas Jr., the U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Florida, said he hoped López Tardón was watching the auction either on television or online, from the comfortable confine of his jail cell.
“That’s what the criminal’s final goal is, to spend this kind of money,” said Rojas. “Right now he’s sharing a cell and a steel bunk bed. I hope he’s sitting in his cell looking at this.”
The auction was run by the Apple Auctioneering Company, an Opa-locka firm owned by Mike Scully. His son works there, too. So does an 18-year-old named Ocean Commander, who spent the better part of the morning smoothing smudges and making the vehicles shine.
Scully said security is tight around the warehouse where the vehicles are stored — so tight he wouldn’t even disclose the location.
“You know it,” he said. “Gone in 60 seconds.”