Miami Crew Busted in Elaborate Plot to Trade Emeralds for Cocaine

The two middle-aged men were ambitious. They wanted to repair their sailboat and navigate across the ocean, from Colombia to Italy. All so they could smuggle two tons of cocaine.

According to a federal arrest affidavit filed last week, reports, two South Florida men -- Juan Soberon and Marin Spariosu -- the latter a registered agent of a downtown Miami jewelry store, conspired to front thousands of dollars' worth of emeralds in exchange for cocaine. Flush with money from the initial sale, the two sailors would then embark on the much grander plan of smuggling up to two tons of coke across the ocean.

Except, of course, they got caught. The coke suppliers they were meeting with were actually informants for the Drug Enforcement Agency.

On October 30, Soberon met with the man he thought was a supplier at the Buffalo Wild Wings at Dolphin Mall. (Yes, Buffalo Wild Wings. And yes, Dolphin Mall.) The man said he could provide the coke for $28,000 a kilogram, and Soberon agreed to cover the cost in emeralds. A few days later, the supplier said he had 15 kilos ready and then met with Spariosu at the Seyhold Building, where Spariosu is listed as the registered agent of Emeralds and Gems LLC.

According to the arrest affidavit, a jewelry representative presented a black box with emeralds and appraisal documents inside showing a $215,000 value, and Spariosu said two more shipments, worth a combined $1.5 million, were slated to arrive the next day. The agent took the box with the emeralds, and Spariosu was arrested. Soberon, as well as Spariosu's daughter, Stephanie Alonso, then got busted by a different undercover agent when they tried to pick up the drugs.

Another man, Ben Handa -- the actual owner of the emeralds -- was also arrested, the website reports: After getting busted, Spariosu agreed to cooperate with the agency and tipped them off that Handa would also be interested in trading the emeralds for drugs. With Spariosu wearing a wire, the two men met in a Carrabba's parking lot (yes, Carrabba's) the night of November 3. Spariosu had 15 kilograms of fake cocaine in a suitcase in the trunk of his car, and Handa was arrested after following through on the deal.

It's so tough to make a good old-fashioned jewelry-for-drugs deal these days. No one answered the phone this morning at Spariosu's business, Emeralds and Gems LLC, this morning.

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Trevor Bach