A Cutler Bay man funneled money to the Irish terrorists who murdered two British soldiers in Belfast on Saturday, federal prosecutors say in a complaint unsealed in Miami-Dade court today and obtained by Riptide.
For at least three years, Roman Vidal, 57, allegedly smuggled millions of dollars in black market cigarettes through the Port of Miami on behalf of European gangs --- including the Real IRA, which has claimed responsibility for an attack on a four soldiers waiting for a pizza delivery.
The brutal killings -- which included execution shots to wounded victims lying on the ground -- threaten to derail the peace process in Northern Ireland, with one Protestant leader warning that it might signal a return to the "bad old days where people are being killed in open air gun attacks."
Vidal fronted a freight company that imported millions of cigarettes from Panama, hid them under wood flooring and insulation in freighters at the Port of Miami and then sent them to gangs in Dublin, according to the complaint. He's been charged with four counts of federal wire and mail fraud.
An informant tipped Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in Miami to Vidal's scheme in Feb. 2006, and agents began watching Vidal's business and checking his recent shipments.
They found that the previous December, Vidal shipped 7.3 million cigarettes from Panama to Miami, purchased wood flooring at a local hardware store, and then covered the shipment with floorboards. When the cargo arrived in Dublin, Vidal's Irish contacts paid only $2,900 in tariffs and pocketed the $2.1 million they avoided in taxes.
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Vidal pulled an identical scheme last February, ICE agents say, shipping about 6 million Panamanian cigarettes hidden under building insulation to the UK.
As agents dug into Vidal's criminal enterprise, they learned that he worked for "a criminal organization that has associates operating in Spain, Ireland, and other European countries as well as in the Southern District of Florida."
"During the course of the investigation, evidence has indicated that some of these associates were connected to the group Real IRA," says Robert Manzanares, a senior special agent with ICE, in the criminal complaint.
No one answered a phone number listed at Vidal's current address, near SW 184th Street and 83rd Avenue. Vidal, who has pled not guilty and been released on house arrest, has asked for a public defender.