One fishing rod and $312,000 of cocaine added up to 25 years in prison

The Fresno Bee

Possessing a criminal past, a half-baked cover story and 12 kilograms of cocaine has led to a Miami-Dade man’s 25-year sentence in federal prison.

Eugene Russell, a 51-year-old who has lived in Hialeah and Homestead, now resides in downtown Miami at the Federal Detention Center after his conviction for importing and possessing with intent to distribute more than five kilos of cocaine. Russell’s federal prison residency will be extended by a three-year sentence for violating the supervised release after his 2008 conviction on conspiracy to import marijuana, importing marijuana, conspiracy to possess marijuana and possession of marijuana.

The criminal complaint says last June 2, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Branch saw two boats near Concrete Barge in Bimini, Bahamas. One boat appeared to be fueling the other boat. The boat that got gassed up headed west, toward U.S. shores.

A Customs and Border vessel from Miami stopped the boat five miles east of Cape Florida. Russell was alone on the single-engine boat. He said he boated 10 to 13 miles out from Miami to go fishing and he’d be returning to Black Point Marina.

But Russell looked ready to fish off a bridge, not a boat: one fishing rod, no hook or bait attached.

Something smelled to agents and it wasn’t fish. There was a cooler, however, with “a large amount of fish, bottles of water and ice.” Agents removed that after bringing Russell back to the U.S. Coast Guard base in Miami Beach.

This left an empty cooler that still possessed more heft than an empty cooler should. Once the walls of the cooler came down, they found 12 brick-like packages — 12 kilos of cocaine. That’s worth $312,000 to $336,000 on the street in Miami sold whole, according to prices quoted by the DEA to the Sun Sentinel.

Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.