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Miami marijuana trafficking family sentenced to prison

Posted on December 21, 2009 3:00 AM EST

Marijuana trafficking has apparently become a family affair in South Florida. The family in question operated a sophisticated scheme in which they were able to obtain 18 homes in Ft. Pierce, St. Lucie, Miami, Lee and Columbia counties. They used the homes to cultivate large quantities of marijuana. The mortgage fraud scheme occurred during the housing boom and the defendants were able to obtain homes using falsified financial documents. The marijuana trafficking ring was able to cultivate in excess of 1,000 pot plants worth an estimated street value of $1.3 million. South Florida and Miami criminal lawyers represented the defendants at the sentencing hearing in federal court.

The ringleader of the organized scheme to defraud and marijuana trafficking operation was Manuel Pupo. Pupo, a resident of Miami, ran the operation his hometown. Pupo's three brothers were also involved in the marijuana "grow house" operation. The four defendants entered guilty pleas in federal court to charges including conspiracy to distribute marijuana plants, operating a "grown houses", mail fraud and money laundering. Pupo received a seven year prison sentence while his brothers were sentenced to five years in a federal prison.

The marijuana operation came crumbling down when law enforcement officers in Port St. Lucie received an anonymous tip regarding individuals operating a grow house. Investigators were able to locate five more house involved in the ring. The investigation revealed that homes were obtained through mortgage fraud using fraudulent bank statements, fake tax returns and falsified W-2 forms and pay stubs. Many investigations into grow house operations have revealed that homes used to cultivate the marijuana were in fact obtained through various forms of mortgage fraud. The defendants were able to keep up with the numerous mortgage payments with the proceeds from the sales of the marijuana.

Despite the increased effort to curtail the number of "grow house" operations in Miami and the South Florida area, law enforcement authorities are still making large number of busts in what are becoming more frequent operations. Generally, law enforcement will spend months gathering information on numerous marijuana operations and conduct search and seizures of numerous houses on the same day. Remember, never consent to the search of the residence. Make law enforcement obtain a warrant before allowing entry into your home.

Miami Family Gets More than 5 Years in Prison for Marijuana Operation in PSL, The Miami Herald, December 18, 2009.
Categories: Drug Offenses