South Florida Synthetic Drug Importation Trial Finally Ends with a Conviction

A one-time law student was convicted of conspiracy to import and possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance in association with the role he played in a drug ring that used the Internet to order synthetic chemicals from China and have them transported to a location in Miami under the control of he and his co-conspirators.

This was the first conviction attained by the government after starting the year 2016 with a 0-3 result for similar illegal importation cases that went to a federal jury.

In this particular case, Mario Melton used his family’s freight forwarding company Transfreight International to ship large amounts of MDMA (Molly) into the country. It was the government’s second attempt at trying Melton; the first resulting in a mistrial when a federal jury couldn’t come to a decision after four days of deliberations.

Melton was convicted of assisting two ex-soldiers; Jorge Hernandez and Matthew Anich along with nine others run one of the largest synthetic drug rings in Miami history. All of the other named conspirators have already accepted plea deals for the charges filed against them.

Not all attorneys in Fort Lauderdale have experience in federal cases. When choosing an attorney for the defense of any federal charge it’s crucial that the chosen advocate is well-versed in all aspects of federal criminal law.

Michael Cohen’s experience in the federal system goes back to when he worked for the US Attorney’s Office as an Assistant United States Attorney. Now working in the private sector for close to twenty years, Mr. Cohen is the proper choice to counter all charges filed by the government.

When the federal government hands down an Indictment most cases are resolved by an agreement between the prosecution and the defense. The accused usually waives their right to a trial by jury and a federal judge ordinarily agrees to the terms of the deal.

In most cases the defense is apt to accept a plea deal as their client is given a lesser sentence than they would have faced if they were to go to trial and found guilty, and the prosecution is satisfied to have the case resolved at the lowest cost to taxpayers.

Very few charges make it to trial. In fact, ninety-seven percent of all federal cases end in plea bargains. The government is used to winning.

However, since the beginning of the year (2016) the government has been shut out in cases of this nature that have gone to trial by jury, regarding legal victories.

The growing problem of synthetic drugs being imported to South Florida from China has previously been highlighted on this blog; with all cases written about them being decided in a plea deals.

Earlier this year, the first of these cases was brought to trial when U.S District Judge Federico Moreno decided not to accept the deal brought to him by the prosecution regarding a West Miami-Dade drug addict.

Miguel Granda, a known addict who was accused of receiving two kilos of blue flakka from China was found not guilty on conspiracy, importation and distribution charges by a Miami Federal Jury.

Granda had agreed to receive the shipments at his residence on behalf of Eudora Romero, a known drug dealer who he went to high school with in exchange for $250 per transaction.

Granda’s defense told the jury that his client was innocent because he had no idea what the packages contained. Although Romero testified against the defendant the jury ultimately agreed.

In another case Jerry Lee Harris who was accused of importing nine kilos of Flakka from China was likewise found not guilty by a Miami federal jury when assistant federal public defenders were able to place doubt in the minds of the jurors and also used the defense that Harris didn’t know what was in the packages.

A third case involving Brian Scot Bailey accused of knowingly accepting delivered packages that contained Flakka resulted in the same outcome by using the same defense.

Bailey testified that he had no idea what was inside the packages he accepted at his home for a childhood friend. In an interview, Bailey stated that “He reassured me and my wife and my mom that it was completely legal.” Again, the jury agreed.

In the Bailey case, a statement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s narcotics section indicated that “investigators must be sure to obtain surveillance evidence, cell phone records and text messages to show these low-level conspirators know there are drugs inside the parcels, ” which apparently wasn’t the case in the three cases, according to the office’s former chief David Weinstein.

This lack of presented hard and electronic evidence as well as only relying on human testimony by the government also applied to the other trials that led to the acquittal of the other defendants.

In the Melton trial prosecutors presented text messages, jail phones calls from Melton and calls between his co-conspirators, of which one was in jail on an unrelated case. The jury was also shown records that the government said showed multiple boxes of the synthetic chemicals which were ordered to the company; Transfreight International.

This was enough to influence the jury in the government’s direction and ultimately led them to return a verdict of guilty against Melton.

Michael Cohen is a federal criminal defense attorney whose Fort Lauderdale practice is dedicated to the aggressive defense of all clients charged with a crime by the federal government.