Feds: 10-Year Drug Ring Bribed Police, Killed Informant
MIAMI (AP) _ Federal agents have broken a ruthless pot-smuggling ring that killed an informant and cut up his body, bribed Miami and Key West police and trafficked a half-million pounds of marijuana, authorities said Wednesday.
At one time, the indictment said, the ring used Miami police officers to collect, count and disburse drug profits.
Six of seven people indicted in the case were arrested by a multiagency federal task force Wednesday. The seventh was in custody in another state.
The ring operated for at least 10 years, smuggling $79 million worth of pot and some cocaine into Louisiana and Florida, said Richard Gregorie, chief assistant U.S. attorney here.
The smugglers used violence and bribed officers to protect their operation, Gregorie said.
Mario Tabraue and his father, Guillermo, headed a group which authorities said had been purused by four police agencies during the decade. The son faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment plus 205 years if convicted on all counts, while his father faces 40 years on the indictment.
Both also face confiscation of their property, including Mario Tabraue’s Miami jewelry store, which was allegedly used as a front to distribute the marijuana.
The case was called ″Operation Cobra″ because the younger Tabraue ran an exotic pet store and ranch, where he kept a giraffe, a cheetah and rare birds.
When the men were arrested at their Dade County homes early Wednesday, Mario Tabraue’s wife allegedly tossed a bundle of $50,000 in cash out the back window, said Lloyd E. Dean, assistant special agent in charge of the Miami FBI office.
The money was caught by a federal agent, Dean said.
Agents confiscated three machine guns - a Mac 10, a Mac 11 and an Uzi, said James Brown, special agent in charge of the ATF in Miami.
In July 1980, members of the group apparently became aware that Larry Nash was an informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. They allegedly took him for a ride in Mario Tabraue’s car and shot him twice with a .380 Baretta.
″Mr. Nash was murdered and mutilated,″ said Dean. ″His body was cut up with a chain saw and then burned.″
The ring paid bribes totaling $150,000 to former Key West Deputy Police Chief Lt. Raymond Casamayor and other Monroe County officials, the indictment said. Casamayor is serving a 30-year prison sentence in a separate case.
The indictment also charges that from the fall of 1977 until at least the end of 1979 Mario Tabraue had Miami police officers collecting, counting and disbursing large amounts of cash made from the ring.
No Miami officers are charged or named in the indictment. ″But the investigation is still continuing,″ said Gregorie. ″Beyond that I can’t discuss it.″
One 15-count indictment charges the Tabraues and Francisco Quintana, allegedly his main supplier, with conspiracy to possess and distribute marijuana and cocaine, possession of drugs with intent to distribute them, and racketeering. All three men were ordered held without bond Wednesday.
Their operation imported brought 500,000 pounds of marijuana and 95 kilograms of cocaine through Louisiana, the Florida Panhandle, the Naples area, the Keys and Dade County, the indictment charges.
In two separate but related indictments, a federal grand jury charged Orlando Cicilia, Randy Chatfield, Phillip Epstein and Raymond Van Nostrand with racketeering in connection with the Tabraue operation. Chattfield was already in custody in annother state in an unrelated case.