| Crime |

Santiesteban Growhouse Empire Crumbles as Three Members Plead Guilty to Murder, Drug Charges

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What happens in the family, used to stay in the family. No longer.

The Santiesteban drug clan -- which made millions by running grow houses all over South Florida and smuggling pot up the coast to New York City -- now appears to be falling apart. Earlier today, one of the gang's leaders, Derrick Santiesteban, pleaded guilty to drug, money laundering, and murder charges. His wife, Yadira, also copped to money laundering. A third gang member, Raul Ramirez, admitted to tending to the grow houses.

The pleas come just a week after another member of the gang admitted to witnessing Derrick Santiesteban and others kidnap and kill a man they suspected of stealing their stash.

See also:
- Feds Bust Massive Marijuana Grow House Network, Arrest 13 on Drug and Murder Charges

- The Santiesteban Clan of Pot Growers Implicated In Another Homicide

On February 4, Juan Felipe Castañeda pleaded guilty to drug and kidnapping charges. More importantly, the growhouse attendant told prosecutors how other gang members beat and killed Fidel Ruz Moreno, who the Santiestebans suspected of stealing from them.

While Derrick Santiesteban's plea is a coup for prosecutors, much of the gang remains to be tried. That includes Derrick's father, marielito Gilberto Santiesteban Sr., and brother Gilberto Santiesteban Jr.

>Gilberto Jr. was arrested in 2008 while returning to Miami after selling roughly 30 pounds of marijuana in New Jersey. An Osceola County Sheriff patrolman found electronic money counters and over $155,000 in cash in the trunk but, amazingly, no charges were filed.

After the incident, the Santiestebans took to hiding cash inside of spare tires in the trunk, according to an indictment. Bags of marijuana were color-coded to indicate which of the four Santiesteban brothers they belonged to.

In addition to the Ruz Moreno murder, the Santiesteban gang is also suspected in the killing of a 17-year-old boy who just happened to park his car in front of a growhouse in 2006.

Gilberto Jr. and Sr., along with ten other alleged gang members, go on trial April 1.

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