A water chase, a manhunt, and another suspect in cocaine smuggling case


A federal grand jury late last week indicted a second man in connection with a cocaine smuggling operation that ended with an on-the-water boat chase and a house-to-house manhunt in Key Largo last summer.

Carlos Leopoldo Alvarez is charged with importing and selling cocaine and conspiracy to import and sell cocaine. All four counts carry a maximum life prison sentence. Alvarez, 29, owns a Grady White boat that U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents say carried 32 kilograms of cocaine from the Bahamas to Key Largo on July 14.

The contraband was transferred to a flats skiff. U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents chased that boat, and during the pursuit, the flats boat crew ditched the drugs into the magroves.

The crew on the Grady White, meanwhile, docked the vessel behind a house in Key Largo. After a brief footchase, agents caught Mario Brand, who said he was hired for $14,000 to be the boat’s onboard mechanic to the Bahamas and on the return trip. Sources said agents caught two other people, but up until Oct. 14, Brand, 32, was the only suspect related to the case on file in the federal court system.

Brand, from Miami, was released from federal custody last month after posting 10 percent of his $100,000 bond. U.S. District Court Judge Lurana Snow on July 22 ordered him held without bond until his trial, but she vacated the order on Sept. 2. Brand, nor his attorney, Patrick Trese, could be reached for comment.

The grand jury indicted Alvarez on Oct. 14. It’s not clear if he is in custody. A spokeswoman from the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not return an emailed question asking about his whereabouts.

Records with the Florida Department of State show Alvarez was president of a company called Deluxe Home Investment Corp. since February 2011. The company filed a Florida profit corporation reinstatement under a new president on July 16.

Brand’s trial is scheduled for Oct. 31 in front of U.S. District Court Judge K. Michael Moore at the Key West federal courthouse on Simonton Street.

David Goodhue: 305-440-3204 @DavidGoodhue