A Southwest Ranches man who played a key role in what prosecutors say was the biggest pharmaceutical drug theft in U.S. history faces as much as 10 years in federal prison when he is sentenced today.
Yosmany Nunez, 42, who is also known as El Gato (The Cat), admitted last year that he helped steal about $80 million worth of prescription drugs from a Connecticut warehouse. Some of the drugs were later sold on South Florida streets.
Nunez admitted he was one of a group of South Florida men who planned and executed the audacious theft of cancer and mental health drugs from the Eli Lilly Company warehouse in Enfield, Conn., in March 2010.
The men cut a hole in the roof of the warehouse, disabled the alarm system, waited to make sure that police did not show up, then used the company's forklifts to load more than 40 pallets of drugs on to a tractor trailer they had brought with them.
The drugs were then driven to a Doral storage facility, where some of them were found during a 2011 search. Authorities said some of the drugs – which included Zyprexa, Cymbalta, Prozac and Gemzar – were also sold illegally on the streets of South Florida.
"The offense was reportedly the largest pharmaceutical theft in U.S. history. It was choreographed and executed with precision. It involved multiple individuals, each of whom appeared at the right place and time and performed their particular role successfully," federal prosecutors in Connecticut wrote.
Nunez, who drove a Mercedes and lived in what prosecutors called "an opulent home" on two acres on the 17000 block of Southwest 70th Street. The residence was owned by a limited liability corporation, records show.
Nunez was arrested in April in Broward County, four years after the crime, and pleaded guilty to one count of transportation of stolen property in November.
The maximum penalty for the crime is 10 years in federal prison and authorities are recommending that the judge impose a prison term between seven and nine years when Nunez is sentenced in federal court in New Haven.
Nunez was "an integral planner and participant in this carefully choreographed caper and it was not his first foray into the cargo theft arena," federal prosecutors wrote. They urged the judge to impose a substantial term of imprisonment.
Nunez was born and raised in Cuba and dropped out of high school to help support his family, his lawyers H. Frank Rubio Jr. and Rodney Bryson wrote in court records.
In 1999 at age 27, Nunez came to the U.S. on a home-made raft. He began working in construction here, sent money home to his family and described life in the U.S. as "glorious," the defense said. He also drank a bottle of whiskey a day and failed to pay his taxes in recent years, according to himself and prosecutors.
"[Nunez] has indeed been humiliated and is extremely remorseful," his lawyers wrote. "Mr. Nunez HAS recognized his wrong and has taken the first steps necessary to put his life into order."
They said he played an important role in persuading some of his co-defendants to plead guilty, including during an unusual face-to-face encounter with one of his cohorts after they were arrested.
Nunez had his legal permanent U.S. resident status revoked and was ordered deported in March because of prior criminal convictions for interstate shipment theft and other offenses, according to prosecutors.
He was released from the Krome Detention Center pending deportation but remained in the U.S. because of his status as a Cuban citizen. He has been locked up since his arrest about a month later.
"Because the United States has taken diplomatic steps to normalize relations with Cuba, it is more likely that he will be deported from the United States," after serving his prison term, his defense lawyers wrote.
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