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Federal judge sentences Miami cocaine smuggler to almost four years in prison

March 1, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Federal judge sentences Miami cocaine smuggler to almost four years in prison

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A judge sentenced has sentenced a Miami boat mechanic accused of smuggling at least 32 kilos of cocaine on board a vessel from the Bahamas to Key Largo in July, to nearly four years behind bars on Monday afternoon in Miami.

Federal officials apprehended 32-year-old Mario Brand after a brief foot pursuit through the Sexton Cove area on July 14th. Brand was with at least one other suspect, Carlos Alvarez, 29, of Miami, but he managed to flee.

The two men had docked a Grady White cabin cruiser, registered under Alvarez’s name, behind a canal-front home in the neighborhood. The vessel traveled from Freeport in the Bahamas carrying several loads of cocaine, which were transferred to a flats skiff about two miles off the coast of Key Largo.

Multiple agencies were involved in the manhunt throughout Key Largo. The search included federal agents going house-to-house with dogs and several helicopters overhead. It is not clear how many individuals were involved in the smuggling operation, but so far, Brand is the only one to be sentenced.

Fugitive Carlos Alvarez managed to evade arrest and still remains at large

On January 3rd, U.S. District Court Judge James Lawrence King officially declared Alvarez a fugitive and he remains at-large.

A federal grand jury in Miami indicted him back in October on conspiracy to import cocaine, importation of cocaine, conspiring to possess with the intention to sell cocaine and possession with the intent to sell cocaine. If found guilty, he faces life behind bars.

Brand had initially pleaded not guilty to multiple cocaine smuggling, dealing, and conspiracy charges. He was facing several life sentences if found guilty during a trial. However, he agreed to a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to the importation of five kilos of cocaine.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office dismissed the remaining charges as part of the plea agreement.

Judge Michael K. Moore sentenced him to 3.8 years behind bars on Monday along with three years of supervised release, The Florida Keys News reported.

Mario Brand, who was apprehended back in July, received a four-year prison sentence

Before requesting his right to remain silent, Brand told agents last summer that he was hired for $14,000 to be the on-board mechanic on its trip to the Bahamas to pick up the cocaine. His lawyer, Patrick Trese, pointed to his client’s functional role in the operation in a February 23rd motion to seek a lighter sentence. Moore had the choice of giving Brand 10 years.

“The defendant played no role in the transaction or in making the arrangement for the buying, selling or transportation of the cocaine,” Trese stated. “He was present for the purpose of repairing the boat being used for travel purposes.”

According to a U.S. DEA arrest affidavit, Brand and Alvarez were on board the Grady White on July 14th as it moved back from the Bahamas with the drugs.

They gathered with the flats boat, not realizing that agents were following the transaction with U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations. The officers chased both vessels. The flats boat crew threw the coke into the mangroves. Agents seized the drugs, but the skiff’s crew fled.

DEA agents in the Bahamas received information that the boat was departing Freeport with the contraband. The agents contacted DEA and Customs colleagues in South Florida.

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