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Key Figure In Drug-Smuggling Ring Draws 100 Years

April 14, 1989 GMT

MIAMI (AP) _ A man who used an exotic animal business as cover for a drug-smuggling ring that was broken up by the federal government’s ″Operation Cobra″ was sentenced Thursday to 100 years in federal prison.

Mario Tabraue, 34, drew the sentence for his February convictions on charges of racketeering and 13 narcotics counts.

Tabraue didn’t speak during the sentencing hearing, but his attorney, Richard Sharpstein, asked U.S. District Judge James W. Kehoe to consider the defendant’s ″redeeming social values.″

″He was young, foolish, took a stupid road, but he was a caring, loving individual with his family,″ Sharpstein said.

The prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Chaykin, asked for ″a substantial period of incarceration.″

″The government has been accused of ‘puffing up’ this case, but there are very few cases involving drugs, murder and obstruction of justice such as this one,″ Chaykin said.

The case was called ″Operation Cobra″ because Tabraue owned an exotic pet store and ranch, where he kept a giraffe, a cheetah and rare birds. He was arrested in December 1987.

During the three-month trial, the government presented testimony and documents implicating Tabraue and some of his co-defendants in large-scale cocaine and marijuana trafficking. There also was testimony concerning the murder and dismemberment of a government informant, Larry Nash, and the slaying of Tabraue’s wife, Maria.

Tabraue was acquitted of complicity in his wife’s death, which followed a domestic dispute.

Five other defendants convicted by the same federal court jury also were sentenced by Kehow in separate hearings.

They were Orlando Cicilia, sentenced to 35 years; Miguel Ramirez, 25 years; Jose Labrada, 25 years; Eduardo Fernandez Carduli, 20 years; and Jose (Pepe) Acosta, 20 years.

Tabraue’s father, Guillermo Tabraue, 61, pleaded guilty to income-tax charges stemming from the drug operation after the jury could not agree and a mistrial was declared in his case. He is due for sentencing on May 27.