Just Say Uncle

The DEA's "Twin Oceans" hooked a big fish, but can they reel it in?

Serna, like Arango, did not respond to a letter from New Times requesting an interview.

Hector Eduardo Aguilar lived in Kendall, between South Dixie Highway and the Don Shula Expressway, in a three-bedroom townhouse that he owned jointly with Rayo. The feds charged Aguilar with laundering drug money and with modifying yachts owned by Rayo's network to conceal drugs or money. At his sentencing hearing, Aguilar, 67, listened as Hoffman described the way he cared for three yachts that were moored in Coconut Grove, the 65-foot Hatteras and two 35-footers, the Albin and the Mirage, and controlled several bank accounts, all to serve Rayo's drug-trafficking business. "Wire intercepts established that Mr. Aguilar managed money for Mr. Rayo," Hoffman explained, "and that Mr. Rayo and Mr. Aguilar had several communications about Rayo depositing money into Aguilar's various shell accounts in order to pay for expenses associated with the management of these yachts, as well as communications about the general movement of Rayo's narcotics proceeds."

Monica Ruiz Matorel, a 34-year-old Colombian, pleaded guilty to laundering up to $7 million through Rayo's business. Trained as a dentist in Colombia, Ruiz, who was known within the organization as La Doctora, became involved with Rayo through a romance with a man named Mars Micolta Hurtado. Micolta was a key manager of Rayo's day-to-day drug-trafficking, the government contends.

"I made an innocent sin because I did what Mr. Micolta told me to do," Ruiz told the court at her February 2007 in Miami, "since I had a relationship with him and he is 23 years my senior. And I never thought that he would harm me."

Ruiz, who has a 12-year-old daughter, was arrested in Indiana, where her husband of four years lives. She asked if she could serve her seven-year prison sentence in the Midwest to be close to them. She remains in the Miami Federal Detention Center.

Micolta, 54, was arrested in Cartagena, the Colombian port that Rayo is alleged to have used as a base for his drug shipments. His brother, 42-year-old Domingo Micolta Hurtado, was arrested in Panama City, close by the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Sandra Orozco Gil's brother, 47-year-old Jackson Orozco Gil, an uncle of Rayo's children, was arrested in Cali, the Colombian city from which he could oversee oceanbound shipments departing from the Buenaventura river delta. All three were charged with abetting Rayo's drug network. Attorneys for Mars Micolta and Jackson Orozco deny that their clients were leaders in Rayo's organization. Domingo Micolta pleaded guilty to the charges this month and was sentenced to 11 years in prison, the longest sentence so far for any of the people charged in the case.

Mars and Domingo Micolta and Jackson Orozco had a slew of businesses in their names, many of which purported to be for fishing or legitimate importing and exporting. The employees of those companies have probably had their phones tapped or their photos surreptitiously snapped by investigators. "Any type of case like this, you throw a net out there and see what you catch," says an attorney familiar with the evidence marshaled against Rayo and his businesses.

With a big fish such as Rayo, that means you also end up with a lot of little fish, like the two Panamanians who worked for Nautipesca. They were indicted in the case against Rayo and now have been extradited to the United States to stand trial in Miami. Or Colombian Jair Chantre Moreno, who ran shopping errands for a Rayo associate, spending the Rayo organization's money, a money-laundering offense. Or Fidel Sandoval Rosero, a mechanic who was paid to service boats in the Rayo organization allegedly used to transport drugs, leading Sandoval to plead guilty. Or Ruben Menaca, a 47-year-old Colombian, also a mechanic, who pleaded guilty to having a role in importing about nine tons of cocaine in two shipments and was sent to prison for just under six years.

None of these names likely rang a bell for anyone who may have seen them in Latin American news accounts of Rayo organization busts, not even Rayo's — with one exception: Everyone knew Rayo's childhood buddy, Freddy Rincon, the star soccer player.

Retired from the game, Rincon invested $200,000 in Nautipesca, the Panamanian fishing and boating store — "the worst investment I have ever made," he said after he was arrested in Brazil. He knew nothing of Rayo's links to drugs, he said. Out on bond, he is now awaiting trial in Panama.

If there were more than 330 pounds of coke on the same boat as fisherman Yohibel Jose Dunn Aguilera, he should have known. Dunn pleaded guilty to his role in the Rayo organization and was sent to a federal prison in Pine Prairie, Louisiana. His case perhaps best illustrates the harrowing experiences of the Rayo defendants.

A native of Venezuela, Dunn had been working for Costa Rica-based company Agencia Maritima, owned by Mars Micolta. His crew, full of fellow Venezuelans, cruised the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean trawling for tuna, grouper, and shark.

Like Rayo, Dunn was arrested in the hours before dawn on May 16, 2006. After a year in a Central American jail, in what he called "subhuman conditions," he was extradited to the United States and arraigned in Miami. Posting bond here was out of the question; Dunn has nowhere to stay in the U.S. even if he were released, which makes him a flight risk. Even if he were allowed to post bond, he probably couldn't raise enough money, not from what's left of the $700 he made from fishing in a good month.

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