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            The El Jabao syndicate: A timeline of crimes

            Court documents lay out a violent history of kidnappings, robberies and human smuggling carried out by the ruthless Cuban crime syndicate that authorities call the El Jabao Organization.

            Here’s a timeline of the organization’s activity, based on federal court records, interviews with victims, private detectives, and current and former federal agents.

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            2006: George Ferrer Sanchez, alias “El Jabao,” is charged with attempted murder in Miami-Dade County after allegedly participating in a Christmas Morning drive-by shooting, according to court records. Instead of facing justice, this senior member of the gang moves to Mexico and becomes, in his words “a smuggler and a sinner.” The attempted murder charges are later dropped.

            2009: An unknown number of the gang’s members pull off the alleged 2009 kidnapping, extortion and eventual murder of Joan Garcia, alias “Nacho,” a suspected tax collector for the Zeta cartel in Cancun, Mexico, and rival human smuggler. One member of the gang has admitted to participating in the kidnapping and murder while on the stand at the trial of another gang member. Court records show that Ferrer Sanchez is currently fighting a court order to pay Nacho’s family some $500,000 that was extorted during the kidnapping.

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            2010: The organization pulls off its second kidnapping in July 2010, in Cancun. Court documents say the gang tortured their victim so badly that he “incurred roughly $70,000 worth of medical bills due to physical abuse suffered during the extortion.” The victims family was extorted out of $700,00, according to the restitution order given to Ferrer Sanchez.

            2011: David Bolton, a private detective who has spent eight years tracking the gang, says the El Jabao gang was also involved in the attempted 2010 kidnapping of Heriberto Lezcano Lezcano, a head honcho for the Zetas. Ferrer Sanchez also mentions this same kidnapping in his jailhouse letters to the federal judge who sentenced him. According to Bolton and reports in The Miami New Times, the gang kidnapped a man they thought was Lezcano with the intention of turning him over to the Drug Enforcement Administration for a multimillion-dollar reward. But the feds balked at paying when it was discovered that the gang had kidnapped the wrong high-ranking Zeta cartel member.

            In an extraordinary move, two of the gang’s members, identified by Bolton, gave an on-air interview to Univision on Aug. 3, 2011, complaining about getting stiffed by the feds on the reward.

            2012: Members of El Jabao pull off the largest gold heist in Florida history. Court records show that at least six members of the gang were involved. The heist took months of planning and over 30 stakeouts and netted the gang $2.8 million worth of gold. One of the gang’s members, Raonel Valhuerdis, Valhuerdis was on parole and wearing an ankle monitor when he stuck up the gold currier with a pistol in a Coral Gables elevator, according to court records.

            2013: Tomas Velez Valdivia, also known as “Tomasito,” uses a go-fast boat to smuggle one baseball player off the island of Cuba in October 2013 and another at an undetermined time. Other, undetermined members of the gang help him. Neither player is identified in court documents, but the first appears to be Cincinnati Reds pitcher Raisel Iglesias. Court documents claim the agreed-upon price for the player’s smuggling was 20% of his $27 million contract. Iglesias was the Reds' only Cuban defector in 2013, according to the website baseball-reference.com. He signed a $27 million contract in 2014.

            George Ferrer Sanchez, alias “El Jabao,” would be convicted in 2019 of laundering millions of dollars worth of Yasiel Puig’s and Raisel Iglesias' first-time free agent contracts with Major League Baseball. The government alleges that Sanchez was also involved in the first two Cancun kidnappings, which Sanchez denies.

            Aiding and abetting Sanchez in the laundering, according to court documents, was a local shadow-banking magnate, Evelio Suarez Brito, the owner of a chain of South Florida check cashing stores. Court records show Brito is serving a 13-year federal prison sentence for laundering hundreds of millions of dollars of fraudulent checks from unrelated identity and health care fraud schemes. He is also serving a concurrent four-year, four-month sentence for laundering the proceeds of the ballplayer smuggling.

            Ana Davide, attorney for Evelio Suarez Brito, said her client had nothing to do with laundering the money from the gold heist. “He was their money man, but he was not their only money launderer.”

            2014: The gang commits its third kidnapping, but it is not nearly as successful as the first two. At least eight members of the gang were involved. Court records show that seven of them flew from South Florida to Mexico to participate in the kidnaping, which ultimately netted the gang only $70,000. Two of the eight suspected of participating are still at large.

            “These people, who kidnapped me, live in America, and till this day, I can’t believe that people like them are able to take advantage of the greatness of the United States of America and think they can live in peace, while they commit crimes that affect entire families," the victim of the kidnapping wrote to the judge during the sentencing of several gang members.

            2019: Reynaldo Marquez Crespo, 41, and Jancer Sergio Ramos Valdes, 33, who federal authorities say are associated with the El Jabao Organization, allegedly use go-fast boats to smuggle Cubans migrants across the Yucatan straits. Those migrants were secreted into hideouts on the Yucatan Peninsula and then beaten and tortured, prosecutors say. Victims heard traffickers boasting of raping female migrants and selling them into sexual slavery. The families of the migrants — many who live in South Florida — were forced to pay up to $10,000 dollars a head lest their kin be starved, electrocuted or beaten, according to a federal criminal affidavit.

            Court records also show that throughout this period of activity, gang members stole over 400 powerboat engines and smuggled them to Mexico for resale. They also engaged in the alleged robbery of an unknown number of marijuana grow houses — clandestine greenhouses for growing weed — and the purchase and distribution of at least 7 kilograms of cocaine.

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