Multiple marijuana trafficking arrests were made by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents as part of an on going criminal investigation called "Operation Green Venom". The federal investigation has been ongoing since 2008 in an effort to curb the drug trafficking problem that has persisted from Miami up the eastern coast of the United States. The investigation is ongoing and to date has netted multiple arrests, $1.85 million and 225 pounds of marijuana. In total, 12 defendants were arrested, 10 from South Florida and two from New York. The 10 men arrested in South Florida are being held at the Miami Federal Detention Center. The defendants are facing extradition to New York to face charges of marijuana trafficking and money laundering.
It is unclear at this point whether the defendants will have their initial appearance in a Florida or New York federal court. In either case, the defendants will appear with their criminal defense attorneys who will attempt to secure bail or a bond for their clients. In federal court, in most instances, the initial appearance before a federal magistrate acts also as a bond hearing. The magistrate will decide on whether or not a bond should be set and the amount of the bail. The magistrate will make the determination by considering whether a defendant is a danger to the community or a flight risk. The defendants least involved in the in the marijuana trafficking operation will likely receive a better result at the bond hearing.
Federal, state and local officials have been cracking down on marijuana trafficking and grow house operation over the past three or four years. The down turn in the economy and the lucrative business of cultivating marijuana has led to a boom in the industry. As a result, Miami-Dade has created several narcotics teams that focus solely on investigating marijuana trafficking rings and grow house operation. The Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office has also taken a dim view on defendants charged with being involved in marijuana grow house operations. The office has created a special narcotics division that has created a policy that all plea offers on marijuana trafficking cases must go through their unit to get waivers of the minimum mandatory penalties which can sometimes be a difficult task..
The penalties for marijuana trafficking vary between state and federal court. Defendants face minimum mandatory penalties under the federal sentencing guidelines and the state statutes provide for three, 7 and 15 year minimum mandatory sentences depending on the amount of marijuana seized as part of the criminal investigation. The federal sentencing guidelines provide for increased sentences as the amount of marijuana seized goes up. The defendants in this case are charged with trafficking in excess of 1,000 pounds of marijuana and face up to live in prison with a 10 year minimum mandatory sentence. In either jurisdiction, the penalties for marijuana trafficking are severe. Any one being investigated for or having been arrested on drug trafficking charges should retain a criminal defense law firm experienced in defending these types of cases to defend the charges as the consequences of long term imprisonment and deportation are a distinct possibility.
10 From South Florida Arrested in Federal Pot Trafficking Probe, Sun-Sentinal.com, October 18, 2010.