Florida Drug Suspects Facing RICO and Trafficking Charges
A major drug bust in central Florida last week led to the arrest of 24 suspects, according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel. The Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives directed the two and a half year investigation called “Operation Island Heat,” which reportedly uncovered an elaborate drug and gun operation being run out of an area restaurant. La Terraza Restaurant in Orlando was an alleged front for the trafficking and distribution activities. According to the report, the suspects were smuggling cocaine into the country from Puerto Rico and exporting weapons back to island. The drugs were then allegedly sold, along with marijuana and heroin on the streets of Orlando.
In addition to the drugs, agents claim that the suspects were also selling guns out of the eating establishment. Authorities reportedly found 33 illegal firearms when the restaurant bust occurred. The two alleged leaders of the group have previous drug convictions, including a prison stint for trafficking cocaine. They are now been charged with racketeering under the Florida RICO Act and the trafficking of cocaine
Florida RICO Act
RICO stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization. The Florida RICO Act enables prosecutors to charge multiple parties to an offense all at once, using their alleged collective planning and actions against them. It also allows the state to present evidence of past convictions when prosecuting a new case. For a RICO conviction, the defendant must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to have:
- Participated in a pattern of racketeering activity
- Committed actions to further an illegal activity;
- Participated in at least two racketeering incidents with substantial similarities, that
- Occurred within five years of one another.
A RICO conviction can carry a possible sentence of 30 years in prison, with significant monetary fines. To fight against these steep penalties, a defense lawyer can argue against the allegation of a racketeering pattern. A lack of knowledge is another possible argument, along with client withdrawal from the illegal activity. Even if it appears that the facts are stacked against a defendant, the state must still prove its case and a skillful Miami RICO lawyer is vital to presenting a successful defense.
Drug Trafficking under Florida Law
Drug trafficking involves the illegal transport of narcotics nationally or internationally. In Florida, the term encompasses the production, circulation and sale of illegal narcotics. Trafficking charges are possible for any person who knowingly sells or attempts to sell a controlled substance. It can apply even if you do not physically receive or handle any currency in exchange for the product. Trafficking convictions are subject to hefty penalties under Florida law. A marijuana trafficking conviction can result in a 15 year sentence, while an oxycodone trafficking conviction can carry a 25 year sentence, depending on the amount of product. These extensive sentences demonstrate the seriousness of drug trafficking charges, but there are numerous defenses that can be successfully argued with representation by an experienced Florida criminal lawyer.
If you are facing Florida RICO or drug trafficking charges, Miami defense lawyers Mycki Ratzan and Jude Faccidomo can provide you with an aggressive and comprehensive defense. Contact Ratzan & Faccidomo, LLC today at 305-600-3519 for a confidential and free consultation.