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Pallet company in Plant City, Florida was million-dollar drug trafficking front: Authorities

December 25, 2016  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Pallet company in Plant City, Florida was million-dollar drug trafficking front: Authorities

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There was nothing among the tall stacks of wooden pallets to reveal any criminal activity in an industrial lot in Plant City, Florida In fact, a Spanish-language TV commercial shows a young woman discussing Velazquez Pallets as a family-owned business — the affordable business for all pallet needs.

“We’ll buy your pallets, and we’ll sell at a good price,” she stated.

However, authorities allege that was another commodity being sold.

In a federal plea filed last week, a 20-year-old man confessed that the business was a disguise for a Mexican cocaine distribution business.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Alexandro Velasquez worked as an accountant for the organization, which was headed by his uncle, 49-year-old Saul Velasquez-Bazan, court documents indicated.

When officials apprehended them and two others in August, they estimated that the drug ring had made over $2 million over the course of a four-month period, according to the plea agreement.

“It’s a significant amount. There’s no question about it,” said Gregory D. Lee, a former supervisory special agent for the DEA. “It shows they were significant players.”

Saul Velasquez-Bazan

Law enforcement officials maintain that the group provided between 20 and 50 kilos of cocaine a month to local dealers, selling kilos for $32,000 to $34,000 each. Alexandro Velasquez, the plea agreement says, assisted in keeping track of the profits and also planned for funds to be transferred to Mexico to pay their suppliers.

It is not clear how authorities caught on to the group. However, a criminal complaint filed in a separate case against Alexandro Velasquez’s uncle and two other men outlines a meticulous undercover investigation.

Authorities started to watch Velasquez Pallets. But, the probe took a turn in April at a Hooters restaurant, where two Hillsborough sheriff’s detectives, one who was a task force deputy with Homeland Security Investigations, began a conversation with Saul Velasquez-Bazan and another individual, Aaron Garcia. During the discussion, Velasquez-Bazan and Garcia confessed to selling cocaine and talked about how profitable such a business was in Florida.

One of the undercover agents exchanged phone numbers with the men. In the following weeks, the detective and Garcia met several times and traded large amounts of cash for cocaine.

In May, agents observed as a semitrailer pulled into pallet business. They saw Alexandro Velasquez hand two garbage bags to the driver, who then left. Law enforcement pulled over the truck and, during an inspection, discovered nearly $400,000 in cash in the bags. The money was en route to Mexico, the plea states.

Alexandro Velasquez, 20.

That same month, Garcia hired an undercover Homeland Security agent for a series of long-distance trips. The agent was informed that he would be delivering cash to the Mexican city of Matamoros, which sits on the border with Texas. On the way back, he was tasked with picking up kilos of narcotics — which Garcia called “munecas,” which is the Spanish word for “dolls” — in Houston and take them to Plant City.

A fourth suspect, Joseph Rumore, also came under scrutiny. In July, detectives watched him meet with Velasquez-Bazan and Velasquez in a parking lot in Tampa.

Velasquez received $70,000 from Rumore.

It all ended in August when all four men were apprehended. Authorities discovered $81,000 in a vehicle driven by Velasquez and his uncle.

Both men remain in custody without bail.

Alexandro Velasquez’s lawyer, Michael Giasi, said that his client was raised and went to school in Hillsborough County. He stayed with his uncle on a quiet street near their business.

A hearing has been scheduled for January 4th, but his sentencing has not yet been scheduled.

“There will likely be a prison sentence,” Giasi stated.

The cases against Velasquez-Bazan, Garcia, and Rumore is ongoing.

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