Feds seize more than 300 kilos of cocaine in throwback bust at South Florida airport
It was a throwback bust straight from Miami Vice.
The government discovered 294 cocaine stones wrapped in plastic during a routine X-ray baggage check after a U.S. Virgin Islands charter flight landed at Opa-locka Executive Airport on Tuesday evening.
Total transport: 328 kg. Number arrested so far: six.
“The bricks were in several duffel bags and suitcases belonging to the only passengers in the private plane,” according to a criminal complaint from Homeland Security Investigations.
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The named passengers are: Shakim Mike, Teshawn Adams, Maleek Leanard and Roystin David. Mike and Adams are officers from the U.S. Virgin Islands Police Department and have been on duty since 2016, the authorities said.
“This creates a certain amount of stress for us because we know better,” Virgin Islands Police Commissioner Trevor Velinor said at a press conference on the department’s Facebook page. “I denounce any involvement in criminal activity, especially by law enforcement officers.”
All four of the defendants are US citizens residing in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. All but Adams will have hearings and sentences in federal court in Miami later that month in March on charges of conspiracy to attempt to distribute a controlled substance. Adams surrendered Thursday and made his first court appearance.
Only one of the defendants’ four lawyers could be reached for comment on Thursday.
“As the events of last week show, we must now more than ever obey the Constitution, according to which Mr. Leanard is considered innocent,” said his lawyer Marshall Dore Louis. “In line with this great document, I look forward to vigorously defending Mr. Leanard against these allegations.”
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When customs and border guards carried out the X-ray check of passengers’ luggage at Opa-locka airport, not everything went smoothly. One of the Virgin Islands police officers, Mike, fled the airport and was later arrested, the complaint said.
During questioning about the cocaine seizure, Adams told customs officials that he had agreed with Mike to smuggle the cocaine on the private charter flight from St. Thomas. According to Adams, Mike prepaid half of the charter fees, $ 11,000, and then gave Adams money orders to pay an additional $ 11,000, the complaint said.
Teshawn Adams told officials that another employee, Trevon Adams, was traveling from Tampa to Miami to pick up passengers with their load of cocaine and drive them to Orlando. Trevon Adams is among the roughly half a dozen defendants charged in the drug distribution case. He also has a hearing later that month and an indictment in March.
In addition, Leanard informed officers that Mike and Teshawn Adams had recruited him to help transport the cocaine.
During questioning, David said he knew Mike and Teshawn Adams from David’s work with the US Army National Guard. David also said he was unaware that the luggage on the flight contained cocaine, although he admitted that he helped load the bags for the trip from St. Thomas to Miami.
The customs officers were given permission to search David’s smartphone and found messages between him and Teshawn Adams that read: “move product”, “recruit flight attendants”, “invest all the money from our bricks”, “the big dogs in Santo Domingo.” to meet”. and “live from the airport trips”, so the complaint.
David also said the last words he heard from Mike before escaping from the Grandpa-locka airport were, “Oh, I think we should run.”
Investigators eventually conducted a “controlled” call between Teshawn Adams and Mike, during which a customs officer interrupted Mike and asked him to surrender, which he did.
During his interview, Mike stated “that in December 2020 a person in St. Thomas (Teshawn Adams) contacted them about smuggling narcotics on board a private flight,” the complaint read. “(Adams) offered Mike ($ 60,000) to $ 70,000 for his role in the smuggling company,” and Mike admitted that he helped pack the cocaine for the flight to Miami and that three of the bags were his.
Later, both customs officers and Homeland Security investigators tracked down Trevon Adams, and he agreed to surrender. Adams, who was in Tampa, said he should be paid between $ 9,000 and $ 10,000 to transport passengers and their cocaine on the flight.
In the course of the investigation, investigators found that another suspect, Anthon Berkeley, was traveling from Orlando to Miami to collect a kilo of cocaine from the plane shipment and deliver it to a buyer in Orlando. Berkeley told investigators that he should be paid $ 18,000 for the transportation job.
Berkeley, who was charged along with the other five defendants, will also have a hearing and trial in March later that month. His lawyer, Robert Perez, declined to comment.