Feds arrest Homestead man after undercover cocaine buy in FL Keys

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The owner of a Homestead import/export business was arrested Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, on a charge of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine.

ARCHIVO DEL MIAMI HERALD

Federal agents arrested the owner of a small Homestead import/export business last week after they say he attempted to buy five kilograms of cocaine in what turned out to be an undercover sting operation in Key Largo, according to court documents.

The case started after Homeland Security Investigations agents received word that a Miami man was looking to buy 10 kilos of cocaine — at $24,000 per kilo, per a complaint filed in U.S. Southern District Court Sunday.

That man turned out to be Wally Lora of Homestead. The 40-year-old owns a company called Turin International Import and Export, LLC. The company is registered with the state at the same address as Lora’s apartment in the Malibu Bay gated community in Homestead.

Lora called an undercover Homeland Security Investigations agent on Monday, Dec. 13 and set up a meeting at Gilbert’s Resort and Marina in Key Largo for the next day to discuss the buy.

During that meeting, Lora told the agent that he was short on cash for the entire agreed-upon price per kilo, but he could pay $23,000 upfront and provide the deed to his $175,000 apartment and a GMC Yukon Denali pickup truck as collateral for the drugs, the complaint states.

He also asked for an additional four kilograms and said he could sell them because he had buyers lined up. He said he would repay the agent within two weeks, the complaint notes.

The agent agreed to meet Lora in Key Largo last Friday morning to make the transaction.

The meeting was initially supposed to be at a Shell gas station, but Lora left after he saw a police car in the parking lot. Meanwhile, agents watching Lora noticed that driving in tandem with his Yukon was a Ford F-150 pickup with two men inside.

The agent told Lora to meet him in the parking lot of a Holiday Inn hotel located around mile marker 100 on the Overseas Highway. The agent told Lora to come alone.

When they met, the agent asked Lora if he had the money. He said he did, and took cash out of a satchel and tried to hand it to the agent, the complaint states. The agent, however, told Lora to hold on to it — and another agent carried a bag with five bricks of what was fake cocaine to Lora’s truck.

One of the agents held it open for Lora to see before giving other agents a “take down” signal to arrest him, according to the complaint.

Agents also arrested the two men in the Ford F-150, who turned out to be Carlos Mandell Badger, 45, and Ajace Dequindre Gill, 21. In the truck, agents found a Glock 23 .40-caliber handgun loaded with 22 bullets in an extended magazine, with another round chambered, the complaint states.

After being read their Miranda rights, Gill told agents that he and Badger are friends from Allendale, South Carolina, and that they arrived in South Florida last Tuesday driving the F-150, which was a rental.

Gill told agents that on the same day, he saw Badger and Lora counting a “large sum of money” in a hotel room in Hallandale Beach, according to the complaint.

He also informed agents that Lora put both he and Badger up in a hotel room in Homestead and took them out to dinner last Thursday.

Agents said in the complaint that they believe Gill and Badger are the two buyers about whom Lora told the undercover agent. All three men face a charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.

Gill’s attorney could not be immediately reached for comment. Badger’s attorney, Jason Kreiss, said Wednesday that he couldn’t comment on the case “as I have not seen the government’s evidence.”

Available court filings did not have information regarding Lora’s attorney.

Badger and Lora are being held in the Federal Detention Center in downtown Miami. Gill is not listed on the federal inmate locator website as being in custody.

This story was originally published December 22, 2021 6:44 PM.

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David Goodhue covers the Florida Keys and South Florida for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald. Before joining the Herald, he covered Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.