Seized home of alleged frontman for drug launderer sells for $12M

Feds allege Samark Jose Lopez Bello engaged in narco trafficking activities

Samark Jose Lopez Bello, 325 Leucadendra Drive (Credit: Google Maps)
Samark Jose Lopez Bello, 325 Leucadendra Drive (Credit: Google Maps)

When an alleged frontman for a narco trafficker needed a place to park his money in 2016, Samark Jose Lopez Bello chose a fitting home: a white palatial estate in Coral Gables with a striking resemblance to Tony Montana’s mansion in “Scarface.”

Now, more than four years later, after the federal government seized his assets, the government sold Lopez Bello’s 15,000-square-foot waterfront estate at 325 Leucadendra Drive for $12.25 million. 777 Florida Properties LLC, led by Steven Lempera, president of Future Environmental, purchased the home, records show.

Lopez Bello is a high-profile fugitive and is the alleged frontman for Tareck Zaidan El Aissami, a former vice president of Venezuela and alleged drug trafficker, according to the federal government. Lopez Bello allegedly provided assistance and financial support for the narco-trafficking activities committed by El Aissami.

Lopez Bello purchased the mansion in Coral Gables’ Gables Estates shortly after it was built in 2015 for $16.5 million, records show. It has nine bedrooms and nine-and-a-half baths on 1.3 acres. The home also features a pool overlooking the water, according to the listing. The mansion was previously built and owned by Miami homebuilder Sergio Pino.

The sale comes after the U.S. government seized the assets of Lopez Bello as part of a $318 million judgment against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC. Four U.S. contractors were kidnapped by FARC in Colombia in February 2003 and sued the paramilitary group.

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The federal government alleges Lopez Bello’s associate, El Aissami, who was formerly Venezuela’s Minister of Interior and Justice, oversaw the shipment of narcotics from Venezuela on planes that left from a Venezuelan air base. He also allegedly oversaw or partially owned multiple shipments of over 1,000 kilograms of narcotics from Venezuela, according to the Treasury Department.

El Aissami also allegedly coordinated drug shipments to Los Zetas, a Mexican drug cartel, as well as provided protection to Colombian drug lord Daniel Barrera Barrera, according to the federal government.

Coral Gables’ Gables Estates and Cocoplum have become popular destinations for purported money laundering activity. In 2018, two luxury homes were seized in the area after government officials alleged that Venezuelan TV magnate Raúl Gorrín bribed Venezuelan officials to gain access to the country’s special fixed-currency exchange rate.

South Florida has been a haven for money laundering activity from South and Central America. The real estate industry has minimal required obligations to perform due diligence on buyers and sellers or when it comes to reporting suspicious activity.