FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Federal agents announced Wednesday at the Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale they have seized 81 vehicles with an estimated value of more than $3.2 million from Venezuelan smugglers.
Dylan DeFrancisi, port director for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said the value of each vehicle ranges between $20,000 and $140,000. The luxury brands include Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar Land Rover and Lexus.
The investigation began in April after a tip from Homeland Security Investigation special agents in Bogotá, Colombia. Agents in Broward County stopped the cargo on June 16.
“These vehicles were bound for Venezuela illegally in violation of U.S. sanctions to continue their lavish lifestyle while the people of Venezuela continue to suffer,” said Anthony Salisbury, HSI Miami special agent in charge.
Salisbury said Raul Gorrin, the president of 24-hour television network Globovisión and La Vitalicia insurance company in Venezuela, was involved. He described the billionaire fugitive as “one of the largest money launderers in the world.”
For a while, Gorrin was a Miami regular who used to have a luxury home in Coral Gables’ Cocoplum community. President Donald Trump’s administration changed that.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control, the financial intelligence agency of the U.S. Treasury Department, identified Gorrin as a defendant in a $2.4 billion case linked to Venezuela’s state-owned oil company fraud. Gorrin was also a defendant in a U.S. Department of Justice case involving over $1 billion in bribes, shell companies, and a bank in the Dominican Republic.
Prosecutors haven’t filed any charges against Gorrin or any of the parties who were allegedly involved. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents believe Venezuelan smugglers gave cash to straw buyers in the U.S.
John Tobon, HSI Miami deputy special agent in charge, is also involved in the investigation. The troop of cars also included pickup trucks and sports utility vehicles that were equipped for law enforcement. Agents suspect those could have been destined for the National Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela. There were also nine Mitsubishi L200 with scratched-off Vehicle Identification Numbers.
Salisbury said the investigation into the alleged smuggling operation continues.
“How all these vehicles were going to Venezuela, paid for in cash and none of the businesses involved knew about it? It raises a lot of questions for us,” Salisbury said.
Gorrin has been at the center of investigations by FBI Miami, HSI Miami, HSI Houston, HSI Boston and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
Attorney Howard Srebnick, who represents Gorrin, did not release a statement in response to the new accusations. Srebnick’s prestigious firm, Black Srebnick Kornspan & Stumpf, has represented the likes of Justin Bieber and George Martorano.
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