THREE MIAMI-DADE RESIDENTS CHARGED IN MURDER- FOR-HIRE SCHEME
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Hugo J. Barrera, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, James K. Loftus, Director, Miami-Dade Police Department, and Addy Villanueva, Special Agent in Charge, Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Miami Operations Center, announced the arrest of defendants Christian Pereira, 22, Daniel Perez, 20, and Sophie Perlmutter, 21, all of Miami-Dade. The defendants are charged in a criminal complaint with conspiring to rob and murder a Miami-based drug dealer. Specifically, the defendants are charged with one count of conspiring to affect interstate commerce by robbery (18 U.S.C. § 1951(a)), one count of use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire (18 U.S.C. § 1958), and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of crimes of violence (18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)).
The defendants made their initial appearance in federal court today. A pretrial detention hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, July 27, 2011 at 10:00 A.M. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum statutory sentence of up to 20 years in prison on the interstate robbery count, up to 10 years in prison on the murder for hire count, and up to life in prison for the firearm count, which carries a five year mandatory minimum.
Today’s charges are the result of the ATF’s Street Terror Offender Program (STOP). STOP is a multi-agency task force specializing in the investigation of violent crime associated with the narcotics trade in South Florida. Using federal narcotics, robbery and firearms laws, STOP members target violent career offenders, with the goal of reducing violent crime in Miami-Dade.
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, a confidential source (CS) alerted ATF/MDPD that he had been asked to assist in the robbery and murder of a marijuana dealer to whom defendant Pereira owed money. During a recorded meeting with the CS, Pereira and Perez discussed the robbery and murder plan in detail. The plan called for Pereira and Perez to meet the targeted victim at the victim’s residence under the pretext of paying their debt, confront the victim with a firearm, and then have the CS strangle the victim with a rope. Pereira and Perez promised the CS money in return for his strangling the intended victim.
According to the affidavit, on the morning of July 21, 2011, the day of the planned robbery and murder, police surveillance units watched as Pereira and his girlfriend Perlmutter picked up the CS and traveled to meet Perez, who was waiting at a Publix near the intended victim’s residence. Before Perez and Perlmutter reached their destination, they were pulled over by police. Police officers discovered a semi-automatic firearm, gloves, plastic tarp and cleaning agents inside the car. Agents then found Perez at the Publix where he was waiting, but Perez attempted to flee on foot. During the chase, Perez tried to discard his cellular telephone. Perez was arrested and his phone was recovered. When Perez’s car was searched, investigators discovered a backpack containing a piece of rope in the front passenger seat.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer noted, “Drug trafficking does not exist in a vacuum. Rather, drug trafficking breeds other crimes, including, as in this case, robbery, illegal gun use, and even conspiracy to murder. These defendants planned to rob and murder a drug dealer for their own profit. Instead, they now face long prison sentences. It is a good day for law enforcement when violent offenders and their guns are removed from our community before they have a chance to do harm.”
“The removal of violent criminals and their guns from the streets of South Florida is a top priority for ATF. Today’s charges are the result of our commitment to work jointly with state and local law enforcement to do everything possible to ensure that our citizens and visitors are kept safe from harm,” said Hugo J. Barrera, Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s Miami Office. “The message is clear: if you seek to do harm through violence in South Florida, you will be found and you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Director James K. Loftus of the Miami-Dade Police Department added, “The apprehension of these violent offenders is attributed to the strong working relationship amongst law enforcement agencies and their unified commitment to public safety.”
FDLE Special Agent in Charge Addy Villanueva stated, “The STOP Unit seeks out the “worst of the worst” offenders. This multi-agency Task Force saved a life and the perpetrators was brought to justice.”
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of ATF, Miami-Dade Police Department and FDLE. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony LaCosta.
An Complaint is only an accusation, and defendant are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.