Drug trade profits could be pushing up real estate

Criminal forfeiture cases describe choice properties feds say were bought with drug money
September 03, 2013 10:37AM

Billy Corben

The proceeds from illicit drug sales could be funneling through South Florida’s bustling real estate market.

In recent criminal forfeiture cases, the feds have gone after properties they claim were bought with cocaine profits. In a series in the South Florida Business Journal, the culprit is suggested to be wire transfers that are not well scrutinized, particularly in foreign banks. As many as 9 out of ten of Miami-Dade County’s sales are to foreign buyers including limited-liability companies formed with drug money able to make transfers from foreign banks to U.S. banks without detection.

The feds say Alvaro Lopez Tardon, a Spanish citizen and alleged member of the Los Miami gang, pumped cash from Colombian cocaine sales to Europe into 14 condos during the last real estate boom, including the penthouse at the Continuum in South Beach, the South Florida Business Journal reported.

Billy Corben, a filmmaker and the director of the 2006 documentary “Cocaine Cowboys,” drew comparisons between the 1970s and 1980s drug trafficking industry in Miami and today.

“We’ve always subsisted in this town with the next hustle,” Corben told WLRN. “We don’t want to know where the money’s coming from.” [WLRN]Emily Schmall