About $24 million seized during a drug bust at a property in Miami Lakes on Tuesday has set a record for the Miami-Dade Police Department.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, who is overseeing the case, confirmed that the $24 million loot is one of the largest sums ever seized in the jurisdiction, according to Miami Herald.
The money was found during a raid on the home of 44-year-old Luis Hernandez-Gonzalez. The suspect runs a local supply store named Blossom Experience, which deals in indoor gardening tools.
Hernandez-Gonzalez has reportedly been on the police radar since 2010 after he bragged about his illegal marijuana business to an undercover agent.
The $24 million seized during the drug bust at Hernandez-Gonzalez’s property was hidden in a secret room in the attic of the upscale home, Miami Herald reported. The room was reportedly being guarded by a figurine of a Catholic saint. The $24 million, in $100 bills, was found stashed in heat-sealed bags in several five-gallon buckets. Each bucket is estimated to have contained about $1 million. A loaded Tech-9 with an extended clip and different types of steroids were also found in the property.
Hernandez-Gonzalez’s arrest comes following a raid about two weeks ago on a marijuana growing ring in Tennessee linked to him. Up to 11 people were arrested and 320 marijuana plants confiscated during the operation, the Tennessean reported.
Before the $24 million was seized during the drug bust at Hernandez-Gonzalez’s home, police raided his shop and discovered marijuana seeds, 16 grams of marijuana, and up to $180,000 in a safe. Besides Hernandez-Gonzalez, his sister, Salma Hernandez, has also been arrested on drug-related charges. Her bail has been set at $12,500, the New York Daily News reported. Meanwhile, the bail for Hernandez-Gonzalez, who is facing several charges including trafficking marijuana, money laundering, and weapon possession, has been set at $4 million.
The discovery of the $24 million seized during the drug bust at Hernandez-Gonzalez’s property came as a surprise for investigators, the Miami Herald reported. The money has since been moved to the police department, where it is being counted. Meanwhile, authorities have cordoned off the property with yellow tape as they search for more evidence, Local 10 News reported.
Hernandez-Gonzalez has reportedly stayed at the property for about 10 years. Now, federal agents are likely to move to confiscate it, the Miami Herald reported. The $24 million seized during the drug bust in the suspect’s home is also likely to be claimed by the police.
Before the raid on his home, Hernandez-Gonzalez had been under police surveillance for several months. Police recorded him during a phone call giving advice to one of the suspects arrested in Tennessee on how to take care of marijuana plants, the Miami Herald reported.
According to the Tennessean, after police nabbed the marijuana growing ring in Tennessee earlier this month, several officers from Nashville traveled to Miami to assist the local police department in their investigation into Hernandez-Gonzalez’s activities.
Neither Hernandez-Gonzalez nor his legal representative, Frank Gaviria, has made any comment about the $24 million seized during the drug bust at his home. However, the suspect has admitted to the police that he taught his customers how to grow marijuana.
“There’s a presumption of innocence and at this point, they’re connecting dots that we don’t think connect,” Gaviria told WSVN.
Gaviria has also questioned the grounds for Hernandez-Gonzalez’s arrest given that he was running a legal business. It is unclear if the suspect had any other accomplices. The police are still investigating the case, and it has not been announced when it would go to trial.
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