News Release
Date: April 17, 2012
Contact: Mia Ro, PIO
Number: 954-660-4602

South Florida Marijuana Grow House Operation Leads to
Money Laundering, Drug Conspiracy Sentencing

APR 17 - (Miami, FL) Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division, Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), announce today's sentencing of defendant Roberto Caro, 41, of Miami-Dade, on one count of money laundering in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme and one count of conspiracy to manufacture and possess with intent to distribute marijuana. Caro also was sentenced on a related charge of bond jumping, arising from his failure to appear in court in January 2011 on the original charges.

U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez sentenced Caro to a total of 48 months in prison (36 months on the drug and money laundering charges, plus 12 months on the bond jumping charge), to be followed by three years of supervised release.

Defendant Caro was first charged on July 15, 2010. According to court documents and statements made in court, this investigation began in May 2006 when law enforcement discovered marijuana grow house operations in numerous homes in Port St. Lucie. During the investigation, many of those homes were linked to co-defendant Manuel Caro, father of Roberto Caro. Manuel Caro was charged in 2006 for his participation in the marijuana grow house operation, but fled after being released on bond and remains a fugitive.

Continued investigation led to the discovery of additional marijuana grow houses in St. Lucie, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade Counties. According to a second superseding indictment, most of these homes were bought with funds obtained through mortgage fraud committed by co-defendant Hugo Oliva, a mortgage broker, through his company, MBA Mortgage Services, Inc., and his co-defendants, including Roberto Caro. To execute the scheme, the defendants submitted loan applications to mortgage lenders that contained false information, including false bank statements, W2 forms, pay stubs, verifications of deposit and verifications of employment.

The defendants in the mortgage fraud scheme were charged with various counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, drug charges, and laundering drug-related money through the purchase of the homes.

On December 13, 2010, defendant Sergio Caro, was sentenced to 37 months in prison and was ordered to pay $671,166.36 in restitution to victim mortgage lenders. On March 29, 2011, mortgage broker and co-defendant Hugo Oliva was sentenced to 87 months in prison and ordered to pay $886,418.97 in restitution. Two additional co-defendants, Ilan Reyes, and Orlando Dominguez, both of Miami, pled guilty and were each sentenced to probation for a term of five years.

Defendant Roberto Caro had been arraigned and released on bond for the original mortgage fraud and money laundering charges in September 2010. In January 2011, Caro failed to appear for a scheduled court hearing and thereby violated conditions of his bond. He remained a fugitive until he was found and detained in Miami in October 2011. In the interim, the federal grand jury had separately indicted Caro for the additional crime of violating his bond conditions.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the DEA, and the IRS Criminal Investigation Division. Mr. Ferrer also thanked the Port St. Lucie Police Department, the St. Lucie County Sheriff s Office, and the U.S. Marshals Service for their work on this investigation. The case arose from the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) long-term investigation.