A Florida jeweler and three alleged coconspirators are all facing life in prison after they unwittingly involved an undercover DEA officer in an emerald and cocaine smuggling scheme, according to a federal arrest affidavit.
Marin Spariosu, the owner of Emeralds & Gems LLC in Miami, faces a charge of conspiring to possess with intent to sell 5 kilograms or more of cocaine. Also facing the same charge are his alleged coconspirators: Juan Soberon, Stephanie Alonso, and Ben Handa.
The scheme was a complicated one that will need some edits before you see it on TV as a case of the week, but follow along: Spariosu and Soberon worked together and planned to use some $300,000 in emeralds (owned by Handa) as collateral in exchange for 10 kilograms of cocaine (though Spariosu claims it was only 8), which they planned to sell in order to buy more cocaine, according to the affidavit.
The DEA had a tip that Soberon was looking to buy large quantities of cocaine, and an undercover agent met with him and offered his supply. Soberon didn’t have the cash on hand but offered emeralds as collateral. The agent met Spariosu at Joseph W. Tenhagen Appraisals Inc., a gem- appraisal business in Miami, where he was presented with $215,000 worth of emeralds with appraisal documents and told that two more shipments of emeralds, worth $600,000 and $900,000, were due to arrive the next day.
After the agent took the emeralds, Spariosu was arrested. Soberon was arrested after completion of the cocaine drop-off, along with Alonso, who he used as a carrier.
Handa, the original owner of the emeralds, was arrested after Spariosu worked with the DEA to trade 15 kilograms of (fake) cocaine for Handa’s emeralds.
All four involved face life in prison if convicted.