Efrain Veiga, Founder of Yuca Restaurant, Sentenced to Two Years in Jail for Trafficking Meth
Veiga and Bean in happier times.
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Efrain Veiga was perhaps one of the hottest restaurateurs in Miami in the '90s. His Yuca restaurants (one of which, under different ownership, still operates on Lincoln Road) helped put Cuban-fusion cuisine on the map, and he also had a celebrity boyfriend in Billy Bean, the former Major League Baseball player who came out in 1999.
But times have been tough for Veiga, now 64, since his '90s heyday. According to the feds, he turned to selling a different type of recipe: meth. In fact, Veiga was recently sentenced to two years in prison for "conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine."
In November 2014, the DEA was tipped off that Veiga was running a meth ring out of his Miami Beach apartment. On November 21, the agency sent an undercover informant to Veiga's apartment, where the former restaurateur sold the agent 70 grams of methamphetamine for $3,600.
The DEA learned that Veiga had a reputation for dealing in really high-quality stuff, at least as far as a drug made out of things like cough syrup and brake cleaner is concerned, and their sources weren't lying. A lab analysis found that the meth was indeed 94.7 percent pure.
On December 4, the DEA executed a search warrant on Veiga's apartment. Inside, they found digital scales, some of the money from the transaction, and a baggie filled with a bit of meth. Inside a bathroom, they also found a baggie with meth residue floating in the toilet. Two people who also lived at the apartment had flushed approximately two ounces of meth during the search.
Late last week, Veiga pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 24 months behind bars.
It's a stunning downfall for a man one New Times commenter once called a "daring man who took such tremendous personal risks, who put Cuban cuisine on the map of fine dining, who had a vision that contributed to Miami's modern renaissance, and nurtured and launched unknown chefs who today are nationally praised."
At his height, he controlled a culinary mini-empire with two locations of Yuca (short for Young Urban Cuban-American) in Coral Gables and Miami Beach, but then divested himself from those restaurants to open Mayya, an upscale Mexican restaurant, that included Bean and talk-show host Cristina Saralegui as co-owners. In fact, the opening of Mayya also happened to coincide with Bean's then-groundbreaking coming-out announcement. Mayya, however, wouldn't last long, closing within a year.
Veiga made headlines again when his breakup with Bean became public in controversial fashion. In 2008, Veiga brought home 26-year-old Federico Schostak for a hookup. According to the Advocate, Schostak fell asleep and never woke up. Veiga called police in a panic, and the young man was found "on the bed, completely undressed." The death was a result of an overdose of GHB, which Veiga admitted he had kept diluted in a bottle of sports water. Viega was not charged in the incident.