Running a business isn’t easy. Most fail while others take years to see a profit. Some business owners don’t have the patience to wait for their business to show some success, so they take shortcuts and take part in illegal activities.
In Miami, a man named Luis Hernandez-Gonzalez started a gardening equipment business called Blossom Experience.
Luis’s home was incredible. It had five bedrooms and was built just ten years ago in a gated community. Needless to say, it looked like Luis’s business had really taken off.
What business did the FBI have searching through Luis’s home and business? Well, it turns out that the gardening business doesn’t rake in as much cash as Luis had claimed.
It was when Luis claimed a large amount of money that the FBI took notice of him in 2016. They grew suspicious of his earnings and started an investigation.
It turns out the business wasn’t making a large profit off of their bouquets. Instead, the money came from marijuana farmers paying for gardening equipment. That’s just the tip of the iceberg though.
Luis had a deal with his farmer customers. He would then sell the marijuana to his own customers and make a profit off of it. It turns out the FBI discovered a safe with two strains of marijuana and $180,000 in cash.
During the FBI’s search, they discovered a hidden room in the attic behind a fiberglass trap door.
In this hidden room the FBI discovered a loaded gun, steroids, and heat-sealed buckets. Unsure if the buckets were dangerous, the agents had to be extremely careful.
The agents opened the buckets once it was determined they were safe and discovered thousands of dollars in cash.
The agents took all of the money back to their headquarters and counted it. The grand total was $24 million!
Luis was arrested on three charges: money laundering, possession of drugs, and drug trafficking. Needless to say, he was not in the gardening business for the flowers.
Luis was taken to jail and had a $4 million bail. Unable to make bail, he spent two years in jail waiting eagerly for his trial.
Eventually Luis got an answer from the justice system. It wasn’t his marijuana business that had landed him in the clink.
It was the money laundering that really hurt Luis when it came to his trial and sentencing. He was sentenced to five years in prison.
“He knew who his customers were. He wasn’t selling to abuelitas in Hialeah who were growing lettuce and tomatoes,” the judge said during the trial.
How did Luis get caught? The large and unusual deposits in his bank account are what gave him away to the feds. So much for being clever.
During the trial, the judge wanted to make it very clear that Luis was being sentenced for his money laundering and not his drug-related crimes.
Luis’s defense lawyers tried their best to paint him in a good light. They claimed that he was a great businessman because he found a way to make money even when the bank wouldn’t accept his money.
One of their defense tricks compared him to someone “who sold mining equipment to the Gold Rush miners.” He was simply running his business.
The defense’s closing statement was, “He was a victim of his own success. He made so much money. So much of it was cash that he couldn’t end up putting it into the banks.” The downfall to Luis’s empire was the money he hid in those buckets behind the wall.