MIAMI – State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said the accused in “Operation Growing Pains” were like the gangster characters in the heist film Ocean’s Eleven. The fictional outlaws followed three rules: No blood, rob only who deserves it and do it as if you have nothing to lose.
According to Officer Carlos Garcia, the lead detective in the case, the crew started growing and trafficking “large quantities” of marijuana and later “expanded their criminal enterprise into burglaries, vehicle thefts and vehicle title fraud by cloning vehicle identification numbers” or VINs.
“From a movie-going perspective, we can’t resist stars like George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt. But joining together to take on the world, and thumbing their noses at authority, is not acceptable,” Fernandez Rundle said, adding that the defendants “were also very arrogant and bold and brash about what they were doing.”
Frank Gaviria, a downtown Miami-based defense attorney, was among those who found humor in the prosecutors’ portrayal of the alleged Miami criminal crew that was linked to the “Eric Da Jeweler” $1.7 million heist in South Beach during Super Bowl LIV weekend.
“I guess it’s Ocean’s Ten in this case,” Gaviria said since the real-life case includes 10 defendants and an accomplice who detectives said secretly betrayed the crew and turned into an informant in a case that took several years to build.
Gaviria is part of the group of defense attorneys who were representing the “Operation Growing Pains” defendants on Wednesday at the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building in Allapattah.
“In the modern age, people, unfortunately, are carrying their phones," Gaviria said. "And if they are intending to try to commit a crime, they are really giving the government tremendous amount of evidence against them, because their phones start picking up cell towers and then obviously the government can identify where they are at a particular time.”
Records show detectives described three men as “principal organizers:” Xandi Garcia, Maisy Valle and David Alcade, who officers said financed and supervised marijuana grow houses in Colorado. Detectives identified four other men as their accomplices: Oriely Sosa Cabrera, Jossie Pintado-Martell, Daniel Pacheco and Fabian Garcia.
Three women -- Xandi Garcia’s mother, Mirta Lora, his girlfriend, Maybel Sanchez, and Fabian Garcia’s wife, Yennis Perez --also faced charges in the case. Sanchez, a self-proclaimed Instagram model, claims she didn’t know her boyfriend’s gifts were stolen goods.
Gaviria said he is representing Perez, who claims she also didn’t commit a crime when she took a picture of New York Yankees pitcher Aroldis Chapman’s home in Davie. She is also accused of helping her husband to operate a marijuana grow house.
“The allegation is driving by a probably very beautiful home and just merely taking photographs of it, but again, it is the beginning phase of a case,” Gaviria said about the possibility that prosecutors can still introduce more evidence in the case.
Pintado-Martell’s bond was set at $15,000.
Perez’s and Lora’s bonds were set at $30,000 each.
Sanchez’s bond was set at $75,000.
Sosa Cabrera’s bond was set at $100,000.
Alcade’s bond was set at $150,000.
Valle’s bond was set at $305,000.
Xandi Garcia’s bond was set at $525,000.