Gregorio Martinez, accused of cocaine trafficking, acquitted by federal court in Miami

After being arrested in Fort Lauderdale in a $ 4,000-a-night Airbnb rental housing 900 pounds of cocaine, Gregorio Martinez is a free man.

Following a seven-day trial earlier this month in federal court in Miami, the 36-year-old was found not guilty of cocaine trafficking. Accused at the origin of four offenses each punishable by a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, Martinez is now part of the less than 1% of federal defendants acquitted at jury trial.

“The government is accusing people of really horrible things that they then have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt,” Martinez’s lawyer Matthew E. Ladd said. New times. “But what the government didn’t have was something explicit as to why my client was at home.”

Martinez was arrested on July 3, 2019 as part of a larger operation led by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Dominican national was apprehended when ICE and DHS officers raided the Fort Lauderdale vacation rental and caught Martinez trying to jump off a 54-foot yacht that had fallen. moored for hire to be unloaded. Several bricks of cocaine were found on board and all occupants of the boat and the house were arrested.

Martinez has been charged with conspiring to import a Schedule II controlled substance into the United States from a location outside the country. But during his trial, the jury did not accept prosecutors’ argument that Martinez was involved in drug trafficking activity.

“The government never explained why my client was there,” Ladd said. “They suspected it was to unload the boat and drive the drugs north. But they had no evidence of that beyond the fact that he was just present. We argued that this was not enough, that there was a reasonable doubt as to why he was there, and the jury accepted.

Some defendants associated with the case are cooperating with the authorities and others have been convicted, but Martinez is the only one to be acquitted so far. Reached by phone, he said New times he is hiding somewhere in the northeast for fear of expulsion or reprisals. Asked to comment on his arrest and acquittal, Martinez hesitated to speak.

“I don’t know what to say. I’m scared of them,” Martinez said. He did not specify whether “them” meant his co-defendants, their associates or the authorities, then hung up.

After decades of relative calm on the drug front, the Caribbean is experiencing a revival of drug trafficking, according to officials. Last June, $ 1.1 billion worth of cocaine was intercepted in Pennsylvania – the largest coke bust in US history. Martinez’s co-defendants appear to be part of a larger network that has reemerged amid political chaos in Venezuela, according to corroborating witness statements in court documents.

Asked about the recent upsurge in drug trafficking in South Florida, United States Assistant Prosecutor Marlene Rodriguez said federal prosecutors took reports of drug trafficking “very seriously”. She declined to comment on Martinez’s acquittal.

Interestingly, the cocaine bust in Fort Lauderdale isn’t the first time a vacation rental has been used for drug trafficking to Florida in recent years. Court documents show that in 2019, 34-year-old Angel Rosario was accused of having attempted the same ploy twice by bringing over 1,200 kilograms of cocaine from the Dominican Republic to an Airbnb in Miami Shores. The trend towards high-end rentals on the waterfront seems to suggest a renovation of old cartel roads with some 21st century ingenuity and convenience.

Although the Fort Lauderdale home was rented by a separate property management company at the time, Airbnb communications manager Charlie Urbancic confirms that the cocaine nozzle was the third known incident since 2018 associated with rentals at short term of Airbnb in the South Florida market.

“We have zero tolerance for reported behavior and work with law enforcement when these issues are brought to our attention,” Urbancic said.

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