Miami-Dade County's once-burgeoning horse meat black market has become a foolhardy trade due to prowling undercover cops and a new Florida law sending equine-flesh-peddlers to prison for a year.
But that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of criminals still determined--or dumb--enough to sell horse meat. "A lot of people are getting out of the business," says Miami-Dade Police Agriculture Crimes Det. Mario Fernandez. "But then you see opportunists coming in trying to fill the void."
Apparently, Orestes Gonzalez is one such luminary. On July 20, the stocky 44-year-old Cuba native, at his home on SW 168th Street, allegedly agreed to sell 150 pounds of horse meat to undercover detectives masquerading as ex-cons sharing a hankering for Seabiscuit.
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The going rate these days: $9 a pound. Gonzalez led the two cops to a nearby ranch, where he loaded a freezer full of 200 pounds of suspected horse meat--what's an extra 50 pounds for preferred customers?--into their truck, in return for $1,350 in cash.
Gonzalez was charged with creating a health nuisance and the unlawful sale of horse meat. Cops appear to have been on his illegal slaughter business for a while: Since 2002, he's been hit with four violations related with operating a business without a license--the customary fall-back charge for cops before anti-horse-meat laws were strengthened.
And in 2008, Gonzalez was charged with grand theft after a neighbor claimed that he cut the lock on his fence and absconded with a $160,000 boat. Cops found the boat sitting in Gonzalez's backyard, and our hero "could not explain how the vessel was inside his property".
The boat was returned to Gonzalez's neighbor, and no charges were pursued. As in the case of the alleged 200-pound horse meat sale, it was not a master caper.