Miami Man In Middle of Billion-Dollar Gold-Smuggling Case Fights For Release Before Trial

In mid-March Juan Granda was summoned from Colombia to Miami to attend a meeting with his employer, a precious metals refinery.

NTR Metals fired him from his job as a South American gold dealer. Later that day, Granda’s mother called to say that federal agents were at her Cutler Bay home looking for him. Rather than head back to South America, he immediately went over to her house and was arrested.

“At no point did Mr. Granda ever take a single step suggesting any intent to flee,” his defense attorney, Daniel Rashbaum, said in court papers.

Granda, 35, a U.S. citizen born in Ecuador, is now fighting his detention as a flight risk before trial in one of the biggest money laundering cases in South Florida history.

It’s an alleged scheme centered on South American drug traffickers suspected of funneling billions of dollars of illegally mined Amazon gold through Granda and two other NTR Metals employees to the Miami refinery.

Granda’s attorney says that while his client’s relatives own a farm in Ecuador, the Florida State University graduate’s life revolves around Miami and his mother — contrary to the position of prosecutors and a federal magistrate judge. An appeal to U.S. District Judge Robert Scola is scheduled for next Thursday.

Granda, formerly NTR Metals’ director of operations based in Peru and later in Colombia, is accused of conspiring with the two other company employees to commit money laundering, according to an indictment. If convicted, each faces up to 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors assert the three defendants bought billions of dollars worth of gold from illegal mines in the Amazon rain forest, arranged to refine the precious metal at NTR in Miami, sold the gold and then wired the proceeds back to drug traffickers in South America, according to a criminal complaint summarizing the federal conspiracy case.

Narco-traffickers financed the clandestine operation to convert their cocaine profits into cash, according to prosecutors, who did not charge the three defendants with any drug offenses.

Days after Granda’s arrest in mid-March, prosecutors named his co-defendants in a subsequent complaint and the indictment: former NTR salesmen Renato Rodriguez, 42, and Samer Barrage, 39.

Rodriguez, born in New York City, was released on a $100,000 bond. “My client is fighting the charges and wants to go to trial,” said defense attorney, Sabrina Puglisi, explaining that his low bail is not a sign he’s cooperating with authorities. “He obviously was not seen as a flight risk.”

To read the full report, click here for the Miami Herald

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