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Miami Criminal Defense Attorney Disciplined After Federal Conspiracy Charges

Federal investigators say a Miami attorney attempted to rat out a cocaine dealer on false premises to extract more money from a client.
Federal investigators say a Miami attorney attempted to rat out a cocaine dealer on false premises to extract more money from a client. Photo by DEA
click to enlarge Federal investigators say a Miami attorney attempted to rat out a cocaine dealer on false premises to extract more money from a client. - PHOTO BY DEA
Federal investigators say a Miami attorney attempted to rat out a cocaine dealer on false premises to extract more money from a client.
Do you believe in life after law? Miami attorney Nelson Israel Alfaro will soon find out after having his license to practice revoked by the Florida Supreme Court earlier this month.

In a November 7 decision, Alfaro — who is currently facing multiple federal charges of obstruction of justice — was given 30 days to close down his practice in Coral Gables and remove the title of licensed attorney from his social media, checks, business cards, stationery, and even his telephone listing. The court issued a disciplinary revocation, which is tantamount to being disbarred, and blocked Alfaro from readmission to the Florida Bar for a minimum of five years.

Alfaro, age 48, stands accused of hatching an elaborate plot to make tens of thousands of dollars by defrauding the U.S. government. According to a federal indictment unsealed in September, it all started in 2017, when Alfaro began corresponding with an inmate detained over drug charges (referred to in court documents as "Federal Defendant") about the possibility of reducing his anticipated sentence.

The feds say Alfaro's offer was simple: He would purchase information regarding a Miami drug dealer that could be used by Federal Defendant to cooperate with law enforcement in an effort to reduce his expected sentence. For his services, Alfaro charged Federal Defendant $80,000 — $50,000 for Alfaro and $30,000 for the informant.

According to federal prosecutors, the "informant" turned out to be Gilberto "Kiko" De Los Rios, a client Alfaro had previously defended in a 2010 criminal case in Miami-Dade. Together, they cooked up a scheme to trick federal agents. In October 2017, Alfaro got in touch with federal officials and told them his client, Federal Defendant, could provide information on cocaine dealers in Miami, thanks to a source.

It's well known that prosecutors can offer reduced sentences in exchange for information — what you don't see as often in the movies is prosecutors allowing someone close to the defendant to offer information in their stead. These "third-party cooperators" might be a spouse, or girlfriend or boyfriend, a close family member, or a friend. There are just two catches: The cooperator must have a legitimate relationship with the defendant, confirmed by federal officials, and they can't receive any benefit or payment for their assistance.

Alfaro and De Los Rios are accused of breaking both those rules. Under Alfaro's watch, De Los Rios posed as a former lover of Federal Defendant's girlfriend, according to the indictment. Prosecutors say Alfaro coached both De Los Rios and the girlfriend on how to play their roles, going as far as to make sure the girlfriend was aware of a pistol tattoo on De Los Rios's stomach in case agents asked. From the indictment, it appears investigators had Alfaro's phone tapped and had access to conversations in which he went over the scheme with De Los Rios and the girlfriend.

In addition to charging the pair with conspiracy to defraud the U.S., federal prosecutors allege Alfaro and De Los Rios obstructed the administration of justice and made false statements to federal law enforcement officers. If convicted on all counts, Alfaro faces a maximum sentence of 35 years in federal prison, while De Los Rios could be put away for 20 years.

The fallout from the case, which is still ongoing, has guillotined Alfaro's legal career. He was among 22 attorneys disciplined this month by the Florida Supreme Court.

With the federal charges pending, Alfaro submitted a petition in October to the Florida Supreme Court for a disciplinary revocation. In the order revoking Alfaro's license to practice law, a Supreme Court clerk said the Florida Bar was monitoring the criminal charges against Alfaro, who now must wait at least five years before applying for readmission. According to the Florida Bar, Alfaro would only be admitted again "upon full compliance with the rules and regulations governing admission to the bar."

Reached by New Times, Alfaro declined to comment. De Los Rios did not reply to a request seeking his response.
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Manuel Madrid is a former staff writer for Miami New Times. The child of Venezuelan immigrants, he grew up in Pompano Beach. He studied finance at Virginia Commonwealth University and worked as a writing fellow for the magazine The American Prospect in Washington, D.C.