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Miami cocaine smuggling suspect considered a fugitive

January 10, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Miami cocaine smuggling suspect considered a fugitive

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One of two who have been charged in a cocaine smuggling plot that ended with a boat pursuit and an extensive manhunt in Key Largo, Flordia last summer, is now considered a fugitive.

James Lawrence King, the U.S. District Court Judge, declared the order on January 3rd for 29-year-old Carlos Leopoldo Alvarez, of Miami. Federal officials hunted Alvarez and Mario Brand, 32, on foot after they docked a cabin cruiser behind a canal-front house on July 14th, the Miami Herald reported.

Brand was captured soon after he fled, but Alvarez managed to escape. Multiple agencies were involved in the manhunt that day. Until this week, it had not been revealed whether Alvarez was in custody.

King states in the order that an arrest warrant was issued for Alvarez back in October.

Brand initially pleaded not guilty to multiple conspiracies, cocaine smuggling, and dealing charges on which a grand jury charged him back in July. If he would have gone to trial, he faced several life sentences. However, during a hearing on November 1st, he agreed to plead guilty to one count of importation of five kilos of cocaine. In exchange for his plea, the other counts were dropped by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Despite accepting a plea deal, Brand still faces a minimum of 10 years behind bars, court documents revealed. He is set to be sentenced in a Key West federal court on February 6th.

According to an arrest affidavit filed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Brand and Alvarez were on board a Grady White on July 14th as it traveled back from the Bahamas with a cargo of 32 kilos of cocaine. A crew on a flats skiff met the boat approximately two miles offshore, where the drug packages were transported to the smaller vessel.

The exchange was being monitored by U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations’ agents. Authorities chased both boats. The flats boat crew threw the cocaine into the mangroves. Officers managed to recover the drugs, but the crew escaped.

Before requesting his right to remain silent and to appoint an attorney, Brand told officials that he was hired for $14,000 to be the boat’s onboard mechanic during its voyage to the Bahamas to pick up the drugs and on the way back.

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