One man was acquitted of cocaine trafficking charges in Florida after he was arrested in an expensive Airbnb vacation rental in Fort Lauderdale. The 36-year-old man was one of the less than 1% of people facing federal criminal charges who win acquittal at trial. He faced four drug charges that could have led to a life sentence if he had been convicted. The man, from the Dominican Republic, was arrested in a federal raid on July 3, 2019, where agents from the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement found 900 pounds of cocaine. He was found trying to jump off a large 54-foot boat docked at the property.
Federal authorities accused the man of attempting to use the boat to import a controlled substance to the United States, but his defense attorneys argued that they had no evidence as to why the man was there. They said that the federal government based its case on the simple fact of the man’s presence, rather than any other indication that he was there for drug trafficking. Some of the other people arrested at the property have been cooperating with federal agents, while others have been convicted.
This is not the first case involving expensive vacation rental properties, especially on the Miami waterfront. Since 2018, there have been three drug raids involving Airbnb rentals in South Florida, where people rent the space temporarily, allegedly in order to dock boats bringing drugs from outside the country. Federal and state officials said that they were very concerned about alleged drug trafficking on the water and planned to pursue future investigations.
When people face drug charges, the prosecution has a responsibility to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. A criminal defense attorney may challenge prosecutors’ arguments, expose dubious or unlawful evidence and work to prevent a conviction.