Spanish drug trafficker sentenced in Miami to 150 years in prison

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 29, 2014 4:28 PM

By Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI (Reuters) - The Spanish head of a transatlantic cocaine-smuggling ring dubbed “Los Miami” was sentenced in federal court on Monday to 150 years in prison on charges of laundering more than $14 million through waterfront condos and exotic sports cars.

A jury convicted Álvaro López Tardón, 39, of more than a dozen money-laundering charges in June.

U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard also ordered $14 million in property forfeitures and a $2 million fine.

Prosecutors said Lopez Tardón was the head of an international narcotics trafficking and money-laundering syndicate that distributed 8 tons of South American cocaine in Madrid and laundered the proceeds in Miami.

The money was smuggled into Miami by couriers and wire transfers through Lopez Tardón’s exotic car dealership and other companies he controlled in Madrid, prosecutors added.

His trial included testimony from members of the Spanish National Police, a member of the Spanish national wiretapping agency and the Spanish tax authority.

At the time of his 2011 arrest, federal officials seized 17 luxury cars, including a 2008 Bugatti Veyron and a 2003 Ferrari Enzo, from López Tardón and four associates, including his brother, who is also indicted in the United States but is now in custody in Spain.

Federal officials confiscated more than a dozen condominiums and 26 bank accounts as part of the case.

López Tardón lived in a Miami Beach penthouse from 2001 to 2011 and made the bulk of his purchases through a shell company, according to court documents.

His empire began to crumble when officials in 2011 arrested a confidant alleged to be López Tardón’s personal Santeria priest, who was carrying more than 21,000 euros ($27,000) in a briefcase through Miami International Airport.

A former partner later admitted to hiding cocaine inside Peruvian pepper crates destined for Spain, and an ex-girlfriend confessed to funneling López Tardón’s cocaine money into Miami’s booming condominium market. Both pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2012.

López Tardón’s defense attorney, Howard Srebnick, argued the proceeds came from his family’s luxury car dealership and gourmet food shop in Madrid, and the defense offered wire transfer records as proof there was nothing to hide.

(Editing by David Adams and Peter Cooney)