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Feds seize over 300 kilos of cocaine in throwback bust at Opa-locka airport

Opa-locka airport (James McCloskey/WikiCommons)
January 16, 2021

It was a throwback bust right out of “Miami Vice.”

The feds discovered 294 plastic-wrapped bricks of cocaine during a routine X-ray baggage inspection after a U.S. Virgin Islands charter flight landed at Opa-locka Executive Airport Tuesday night.

Total haul: 328 kilos. Number arrested so far: six.

“The bricks were inside several duffle bags and suitcases belonging to the only passengers on the private plane,” according to a criminal complaint filed by Homeland Security Investigations.

The named flight passengers are: Shakim Mike, Teshawn Adams, Maleek Leanard and Roystin David. Mike and Adams are officers with the U.S. Virgin Islands Police Department and have been on the force since 2016, authorities said.

“This brings a level of stress for us because we know better,” said Virgin Islands Police Commissioner Trevor Velinor at a news conference shown on the department’s Facebook page. “I denounce any engagement in criminal activities, specifically by law enforcement officers.”

All four defendants are U.S. citizens residing in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. All but Adams have detention hearings later this month and arraignments in March in Miami federal court on a conspiracy charge of attempting to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance. Adams surrendered Thursday and had his first court appearance.

Only one of the four defendants’ lawyers could be reached for comment Thursday.

“”As the events of last week demonstrate, now more than ever we must all honor the Constitution, under which Mr. Leanard is presumed innocent,” his attorney, Marshall Dore Louis, said. “In line with that magnificent document, I look forward to vigorously defending Mr. Leanard against these charges.”

When Customs and Border Protection officers did the X-ray inspection of the passengers’ baggage at the Opa-locka airport, not everything went smoothly. One of the Virgin Islands’ cops, Mike, fled the airport and was arrested later, the complaint says.

During questioning after the cocaine seizure, Adams told Customs officers that he arranged with Mike to smuggle the cocaine on the private charter flight from St. Thomas. According to Adams, Mike paid half of the charter fees, $11,000, up front, and then gave money orders to Adams to pay another $11,000, the complaint says.

Teshawn Adams also told the officers that another associate, Trevon Adams, was going to travel from Tampa to Miami to pick up the passengers with their cocaine load and drive them to Orlando. Trevon Adams is among the half-dozen defendants charged in the drug-distribution case. He also has a detention hearing later this month and an arraignment in March.

In addition, Leanard told the officers that Mike and Teshawn Adams recruited him to help transport the cocaine, according to the complaint.

During questioning, David said he knew Mike and Teshawn Adams from David’s work with the U.S. Army National Guard. David also said he did not know the baggage on the flight contained cocaine, though he admitted helping load the bags onto the plane for the trip from St. Thomas to Miami.

Customs officers obtained permission to search David’s smartphone and found messages between him and Teshawn Adams that read: “moving product,” “recruiting flight attendants,” “invest all the money from our bricks,” “meeting the big dogs in Santo Domingo,” and “living off the airport trips,” according to the complaint.

David also said the last words he heard from Mike before he fled the Opa-locka airport were: “Oh shit, I think we should run.”

Investigators eventually conducted a “controlled” call between Teshawn Adams and Mike during which a Customs officer interrupted and asked Mike to voluntarily surrender, which he did.

During his interview, Mike “explained that in December 2020, an individual in St. Thomas had approached [Teshawn Adams] about smuggling narcotics aboard a private flight,” according to the complaint. “[Adams] offered Mike [$60,000] to $70,000 for his role in the smuggling venture,” and Mike admitted he helped pack the cocaine for the flight to Miami and that three of the bags belonged to him.

Later on, both Customs officers and Homeland Security investigators tracked down Trevon Adams and he agreed to surrender. Adams, who was in Tampa, said he was supposed to get paid between $9,000 and $10,000 for transporting the passengers and their cocaine on the flight.

As the probe progressed, investigators uncovered that another suspect, Anthon Berkeley, was going to travel from Orlando to Miami to pick up one kilo of cocaine from the plane shipment and deliver it to a buyer in Orlando. Berkeley told investigators that he was supposed to be paid $18,000 for the transport job.

Berkeley, who was charged along with the other five defendants, also has a detention hearing later this month and arraignment in March. His attorney, Robert Perez, declined to comment.


(c) 2021 Miami Herald

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