As the cops break back the plaster to gain entrance into the secret attic room of a Miami Lake house, they have little idea what they’re going to find inside. Yes, they couldn’t possibly have imagined that they were about to stumble upon the discovery of a lifetime. Then they stepped over the threshold.
But let’s rewind a bit. It all started in 2010 when the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) launched an investigation into North Miami businessman Luis Hernandez-Gonzalez. His store, Blossom Experience, looked innocent enough, what with its regular stock of indoor gardening equipment.
But, as a result of the investigation, the DEA – in conjunction with specialist detectives – eventually secured a search warrant for Blossom Experience. The investigators had a hunch about what they’d find inside, but they weren’t exactly sure how far Hernandez-Gonzalez’s reach extended.
So when the DEA finally arrived on the premises in June 2016, officers discovered $180,000 in cash and two strains of marijuana marked “Chernobyl” and “Super Skunk” hiding in a safe. It was a sizeable enough amount, for sure, but this was only the tip of the iceberg.
Indeed, after arresting Hernandez-Gonzalez, who admitted to teaching his customers how to grow the drug, the investigators went to his home in Miami Lakes. This five-bedroom house, located within a gated complex, was luxurious, to say the least.
Hernandez-Gonzalez had lived there for the past ten years or so, having originally bought only the land. In fact, he’d had the two-story property built from scratch. And that allowed him to make a couple of his own additions.
So when the DEA arrived at the house, it discovered a secret room accessed through the attic. This hidden space, then, was likely incorporated during the property’s initial build. But whatever its origin, the room was hidden behind a trapdoor and concealed by a sheet of fiberglass insulation.
Once the investigators had successfully gained access to the tiny room, all was revealed – and what they found was beyond anything they could have imagined. In fact, they discovered bottles of steroids, a loaded gun and, most significantly, 24 heat-sealed containers, each containing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In total, the narcotics agents had stumbled upon $24 million in cash – an amount that astonished officers used to uncovering vast stashes of bills. Accordingly, the money, which was mostly comprised of $100 notes, was transported to the Miami-Dade Police Department for counting.
Meanwhile, Hernandez-Gonzalez was apprehended, as was his sister Salma Hernandez, who also worked at Blossom Experience. Between them, the pair are facing counts of money laundering, drugs trafficking and possession of cannabis.
Interestingly, as the DEA had a file on Hernandez-Gonzalez, a second case opened in Tennessee, where a group of people were believed to be trafficking marijuana. And while the two events were at first seemingly unconnected, cops would later find out that they were, in fact, related.
Still, the first tip-off that Hernandez-Gonzalez was worth watching came from a DEA informant. The CI had, it seemed, managed to elicit a conversation from the soon-to-be-suspect about the intricacies of the marijuana industry.
Another informant, meanwhile, twice sold Hernandez-Gonzalez marijuana. So what was Hernandez-Gonzalez’s deal? Reportedly, the store owner sold gardening equipment to certain customers at low prices. Then he would buy large amounts of marijuana from those customers and sell it on, presumably in smaller quantities, to make some hefty profits.
However, despite everything the informants had told the DEA, agents could never build a concrete case with enough evidence to arrest Hernandez-Gonzalez. As a result, the investigation was, eventually, all but dropped.
In fact, years passed with no more mention of Hernandez-Gonzalez or Blossom Experience. But then, earlier in 2016, his name suddenly popped up again. And it was all thanks to the aforementioned Tennessee case.
The subsequent investigation into the case led to multiple arrests in June 2016, when officers also seized cash worth at least $140,000, multiple firearms and 300 marijuana plants. Interestingly enough, the convicts all shared one thing in common: ties to Miami.
What’s more, during this investigation the DEA had wiretapped the Tennessee group’s phones. And one of the calls recorded was between local ringleader Luis Rego and – who else? – Hernandez-Gonzalez, with the latter advising the former on marijuana plant care.
Suddenly, Hernandez-Gonzalez’s case was blown wide open, and the DEA had all the evidence it needed to secure the search warrant for his business and home. The rest, as they say, is history.
The chief suspect and his sister are currently being held on bail. Moreover, the bond posted by the judge overseeing their case was listed at $4 million. That’s a hefty sum, but it’s one befitting a man who, according to prosecutor Adam Korn, had “$20 million in his walls.”
In July 2016 Hernandez-Gonzalez pleaded not guilty to the charges levied against him. However, the case – possibly the largest of its kind in American history – is still ongoing. And yet whatever the outcome, the staggering amount of money alone means that it won’t be an incident soon forgotten.