Bolton Investigations Inc.


Renowned private investigator David Bolton of South Florida-based Bolton Investigations Inc., was featured on the CNBC television show “American Greed” in the September 9 episode titled “Black Market Dirty Gold” (Season 13, Episode 5). Bolton, whose professional achievements include handling the largest gold heist in Florida history, was quoted extensively throughout the program about the illegal gold mining trade, its ties to drug cartels and organized crime, and its alarming impact in the United States and South America.

"Miami's biggest import and export for years was gold," said Bolton. "I am one of the few private investigators who has handled significant crimes involving the theft of gold and other precious metals. Throughout my career, I have worked closely with many of the major players in the industry as a consultant."


Recession fears are driving up gold prices, but watch for these scams


Scott Cohn | @ScottCohnTV

Published 9-6-19


Fears of a recession have driven the price of gold to levels not seen in more than five years. but that's bringing out

he scam artists. They prey on people looking to sell their gold to cash in on the high prices and on people looking to buy gold for its traditional role as a storehouse of value in uncertain times. "Gold is a hedge against calamity, and this is a very dangerous world," gold expert Scott Travers told CNBC's "American Greed." Travers, a New York-based gold coin dealer, is the author of multiple books about investing in the precious metal. He said common scams include telemarketers who will offer to sell you gold that might not actually exist, and unscrupulous gold dealers who will not give you a fair price for your gold. Also an issue, particularly in times like these — gold that is illegally mined or is the product of criminal activity. "They're produced with chemicals that are not environmentally friendly, and they're produced with laundered money and from illegal gold sources," Travers said. The last time prices were this high, around 2013, three Miami gold salesmen — Samer Barrage, Juan Granda and Renato Rodriguez — launched a massive smuggling operation through their employer, NTR Metals, moving some $3.6 billion worth of gold into the U.S. in just three years. The gold was mined under deplorable conditions in Peru and other Latin American countries and financed with drug money. "The elements who are controlling that gold mining are criminal elements with connections to narcotics trafficking," former Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Maderal told "American Greed." "So it's actually used as a mechanism to launder that money." Private investigator David Bolton said the social costs of the operation were enormous. "They've used child labor in Peru and in Colombia. They've been poisoning the environment, they've been deforesting the Amazon," he told "American Greed." Barrage, Granda and Rodriguez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and were sentenced to prison. NTR Metals parent company Elemetal, which said it was cooperating with the investigation, pleaded guilty last year to a single count of failure to maintain an adequate anti-money-laundering program. The company agreed to forfeit $15 million and accepted a five-year ban from the international gold market. But the billions of dollars in illicit gold processed through the scheme are impossible to trace, meaning most of it is still out there, owned by unwitting buyers in the form of jewelry, coins or gold bars. And authorities know there are plenty more operations still active — especially when gold prices are high, as they are now. How can you harness the value of gold in these uncertain times without getting scammed? Travers urges buyers to stay away from the telemarketers and other dealers who push you to buy it sight unseen and offer to store it for you "The most important part of gold buying is to make certain that you hold the gold, that you have the gold in your physical possession," he said. Perhaps the safest way to own physical gold, Travers said, is in the form of American Eagle Coins produced by the United States Mint. That way you can be sure the gold is pure and legitimately sourced. "The U.S. government very carefully regulates the type of gold that that coin is made from, and the U.S. government and the U.S. Department of the Treasury aggressively prosecutes counterfeiters of the American Eagle," Travers said. Look for the investment-grade version of the coins—which are literally worth their weight in gold — called bullion coins. The mint does not sell bullion coins directly to the public, but it offers a directory of bullion dealers online. Owning the coins is not without risks, including the very real possibility that the price will go down. There are also costs to keep the gold secure. Travers recommends a safe deposit box at a bank, or a good safe kept on an upper floor of your home. Many choose instead to invest in gold by purchasing shares in an exchange-traded fund that owns and holds the physical gold. Among the most popular is SPDR Gold Shares ETF, which trades on the New York Stock Exchange. Each share is based on the price of one-tenth of an ounce of gold, minus the fund's expenses for things like storing the precious metal. Backers say investing in gold through the ETF can be more cost-effective than holding the gold yourself. Travers suggests only using this vehicle if your time horizon is short — six months to a year. And regardless, he says, be wary of anyone who suggests buying gold or gold shares as a way to make money. "From my point of view, gold is an insurance policy, not an investment," he said. "It should constitute a very small portion of everyone's holdings." Ready to unload some of your gold to take advantage of the high prices? Whether you are selling gold bullion, coins, jewelry, or even dental fillings, you will find no shortage of willing buyers these days. But you will also encounter plenty of risk. The first step is to learn the value of what you are selling. In the case of gold jewelry or collectible coins, look for a stamp on the item that shows the karat weight of the gold. "The closer to 24 karat that you have, the more pure the gold is, so 24 karat gold is nearly pure gold. Twelve karat gold is 50 percent of 24 so it's about 50 percent gold," Travers said. Next, look for similar items online at auction sites like eBay. "You need to be certain you know what you have by checking the comparables," Travers said. Then do your homework about the dealer you are thinking about working with. While there is no central agency that regulates gold dealers, many are affiliated with professional organizations that offer membership directories online. Members of the Jewelers of America adhere to a strict professional code of ethics, including robust anti-money-laundering measures. For coins, the American Numismatic Association enforces a code of ethics as well, and it offers mediation services in the event of a dispute. Certified Acceptance Corp. can help you locate a coin dealer and verify the coins you are looking to sell. Gold has an almost mystical ability to dazzle us — especially during uncertain times like these. But remember, that is exactly what gold scammers are counting on.

Is your favorite piece of jewelry the product of a crime? See how smugglers and money launderers turn dirty money into pure gold. Watch an ALL NEW episode of "American Greed," Monday September 9 at 10 pm ET/PT only on CNBC.


Scott Cohn

Special Correspondent, CNBC




Safes Containing $1.2M in Jewelry Stolen From Coconut Grove Home


Once inside, the thieves used specialized equipment to remove the two safes, which were bolted to the floor

Published Aug 5, 2019 at 12:45 PM | Updated at 5:42 PM EDT on Aug 5, 2019

Coconut Grove homeowners are offering a large reward after two safes containing more than $1.2 million in valuables were stolen from their home. The break-in and theft happened the night of July 27, and surveillance cameras captured the three suspected thieves behind the crime, private investigator David Bolton said. Bolton said the thieves cut through a chain-link fence and then scaled a seven-foot concrete wall to enter the property. Once inside, the thieves used specialized equipment to remove the two safes, which were bolted to the floor. Inside the safes were dozens of pieces of expensive jewelry, worth more than $1.2 million, Bolton said. "They look very organized and tight-knit the way they worked together," Bolton said Monday. "They came with specialized tools and used them individually. These aren't common thieves, this is something of a different caliber." "Even now I just feel a shakiness inside me and every once in a while you just realize what happened and it's just devastating," said one of the homeowners, who didn't want to be identified. The homeowners are offering a $25,000 reward in the case. Anyone with information is asked to call David Bolton Investigations at 305-447-0888.






Gold Bars Missing as Miami Jewelry Store Owner Accused of False Report

Published Apr 15, 2019


A man is being accused of staging a robbery at his own Miami jewelry store, where he claimed $80,000 worth of gold bars were stolen and he was attacked.

Levon Papikyan, 46, faces a misdemeanor charge of filing a false report after he allegedly faked an armed robbery at Deroso Jewelry on February 21, Miami police said.

Two clients gave Papikyan four gold bars to sell for them earlier that day, but Papikyan told police someone attacked him in his store with pepper spray and stole the gold bars.

Throughout the investigation, detectives say Papikyan's story kept changing, and he was eventually arrested.

"I think grand theft would be a natural if it turns out he was the one who took the four bars of gold, it's a lot of money and it seems he's making a mockery of our justice system," said Miami private investigator David Bolton, who is working with the victims to look for the missing gold bars.

Papikyan has since bonded out of jail and was back at the store Monday. When asked by NBC 6 if he faked the robbery and lied to police, Papikyan said "No" and walked away.






The mysterious trip of the $ 30,000 watch stolen in Buenos Aires.


Bolton Investigations Inc. recovers watch 18 days after it was stolen and had traveled 4500 miles

A multimillionaire businessman from Nevada, United States, linked to the whiskey industry, among other businesses, was on January 6 in Argentina for tourism with his wife. Like many foreigners, he had chosen the luxurious neighborhood of Recoleta to stay and tour the city. But just two days later, a couple of blocks from the Duhau-Park Hyatt Palace, where he was staying, something unexpected happened despite the security recommendations that the hotel offers to guests once they enter. The businessman did not have time to process what was happening because it was something as fast as a professional: two motorcycle criminals stole his watch Purdey Panerai , valued at $ 28,500 and is part of an exclusive collection of only 80 pieces in the world . Scared, the American approached two policemen who were in the area and had not seen the robbery. "They told him he could make the complaint, but that they would not take care of the case because they had not hurt him," the personal security chief of the victim told PERFIL . He added: "He did not feel safe in Buenos Aires." The tourist terminated his stay on January 10, the day he had his ticket back to the United States, without making the complaint. The personal security of the businessman explained that when the victim approached the concierge to leave, they told him that it would be difficult to find the criminals. The stolen clock to the American businessman. This fact is one of the many that occur frequently in this exclusive tourist area. According to the crime map of the City Police, in 2018 there were 11,166 cases of robberies with motorcycle use in the City of Buenos Aires, 3.03% more than in 2017. "There are motorcycles that act in isolation, but the who steal watches are organized, "a police source informed PROFILE. In the neighborhood of Recoleta 795 cases occurred in 2018 , and is located behind Palermo (1,053), Caballito (922) and Almagro (800). This area, like San Telmo, Caminito and Palermo, is one of the criminals' favorite. "Police Station 2, of Recoleta, implemented a service of bittered motorcycles that run through the streets of the neighborhood to prevent thefts and motorcycles," explained Pablo Policicchio, a spokesman for the City Police. "Today we are working in 22 specific areas of the city, where 800 police officers were assigned to reinforce the deployment of the police stations." When the entrepreneur came to his country he wanted the watch in his possession and retrieve it however. He then hired Miami private investigator David Bolton of Bolton Investigations Inc , who specializes in high-end crime, and who also solved a famous $ 2.8 million gold theft in Coral Gables, the largest in Florida. The event occurred in Argentina was reported to the international firm and to American International Group, the company for which his watch was insured. But the surprise was greater when, after an investigation, the piece was located for sale in Miami on January 19, at the original Miami Beach Antique Show, at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Who had it in his power was an Argentine, Abraham Natalio Saks , a member of the International Watches trading company, and offered to sell it for 15,000 dollars, almost half of its real value. "That watch traveled 4,500 miles," Bolton explained to PROFILE. "Many questions arise about how this distance has traveled. From my experience, I think it's not a coincidence that they stole it and that 18 days later it appeared in Miami. " Bolton checked that the clock that was in the antiques fair had the same serial number as the stolen one, and thus began the strategy to recover it and return it to its owner. The Miami private investigator  told this site that on January 26 he presented himself with another name at the fair and, after offering $ 11,500, the Argentine seller accepted the purchase but with one condition: the payment had to be in cash. The excuse was that the posnet did not work. The situation had become suspicious and Saks was nervous. According to his account, Bolton left him $ 100 deposit and contacted the Miami police. When the investigator returned to complete the operation, he told the seller "I know how you got the watch, I know what you do and what you did in Argentina, and I want it again". At that moment the police appeared. "He almost had a heart attack when he saw the officers. He told me he was returning my watch, that he did not want problems, "Bolton said. "Saks did not provide any document on the clock, said he did not want problems, and returned it," said Officer Mercado, of the Miami Beach police, in the complaint. The private investigator believes that the robbery in Argentina was planned and that "they realized that he was leaving an expensive hotel." The tourist's wife "felt they were being watched." Bolton says he would not be surprised if there is an organized gang of criminals operating in Recoleta and, according to him, it would be strange if they had stolen the watch without knowing what it was worth. Consulted by PROFILE, Saks denied all responsibility and affirmed that a person of Peruvian nationality had left it in consignment. "There was no police report in Miami and I do not want problems," said the seller, who said he did not know the origin of the watch. "It's the first time that happens to me in life," he added.  PROFILE could confirm that there is indeed a police case in Miami for the theft and recovery of the clock. According to the Argentine version, the police did not show up at the scene but an insurance person approached to check the serial number of the watch, and he returned it immediately. "I am an intermediary, one makes operations in good faith," he said. He also says that, after the fact, he tried to contact the person who had taken him but did not get an answer. After a long journey, one of the many watches that are stolen in the City of Buenos Aires was finally able to return to its owner who, after a brief stay, was the victim of insecurity like any Argentine.





‘Blood gold’ in your jewelry is poisoning workers and the rainforest. Here’s how to stop it.

By Nicholas Nehamas, Jay Weaver And Kyra Gurney

Dirty gold, clean cash: A Miami Herald investigation

January 16, 2018 08:00 AM

Updated 5 hours 45 minutes ago

Illegal gold molded into our wedding rings, dangling around our necks and hidden in our smartphones is polluting the rainforest with toxic chemicals and exploiting workers in Latin America.

Gold miners have stripped roughly 415,000 acres of South American tropical forest, an area twice as big as New York City, according to researchers at the University of Puerto Rico — and the rate of deforestation is only getting worse.

In Colombia, teenagers swim in mercury-filled pools of water as they use powerful hoses to suck up gold, an investigation by Massachusetts-based nonprofit Verité found.

This week Pope Francis will bring his moral authority to the crisis when he visits Peru’s epicenter of illegal gold mining, Madre de Dios.

Solutions won’t be easy — but they exist.

“There are ways of mining gold without mercury, without massive deforestation, without child slavery,” said Douglas Farah, a national security consultant who has studied illegal gold mining.

To stop the unrelenting environmental and human devastation, an array of competing interests will have to collaborate to extract gold in a more humane way, according to workers’ rights advocates, environmentalists and industry experts. In the mix of this crisis are large multinational companies that use gold in their products, American consumers, U.S. and foreign law enforcement agencies, non-governmental organizations, precious-metals refineries and the miners themselves.

Complicating matters further: Violent Latin American drug traffickers who have infiltrated the industry seeking to launder money.


The kind of sweeping change needed to clean up the gold industry has happened before, experts say — take “blood diamonds.”

Today, no company wants to buy or sell diamonds that contribute to violent conflict. That’s because consumers, advocacy groups and world governments woke up to the havoc caused by their extraction — and pressured big companies not to trade them anymore.

It worked. Since 2003, more than 75 countries, including the United States, have signed onto a United Nations-backed accord called the Kimberley Process that certifies diamonds as “conflict-free,” meaning rebel groups do not profit from their sale.

The campaign “brought the issue to people’s attention in ways that people like myself never thought possible,” Farah said. “I think the same thing is entirely possible with gold” — if consumers demand greater transparency.

In from the cold

Without more stringent precautions, American consumers should be aware “there is a strong likelihood that a percentage of gold in their jewelry or electronics comes from illegal gold mines,” said Quinn Kepes, program director for Verité, which investigates abuses in the international gold industry.

The implications are huge: Nearly three-quarters of gold imports into the United States come from Latin America.

In southeastern Peru’s vulnerable Madre de Dios region, illegal miners have invaded pristine Amazonian rainforests and turned them into “toxic deserts” where wildlife cannot thrive, said Luis Fernandez, a tropical ecologist at Wake Forest University’s Center for Amazonian Scientific Innovation.

Machines chew up the forest, digging 30 feet down into the soil and then sifting for gold. The mining work leaves behind massive piles of dirt and rocks that clog up riverbeds. The waterways are poisoned by mercury used to separate gold from rock.

“It completely destroys the area,” said Fernandez. “You don’t expect these areas to reforest in hundreds of years. There’s no more soil. You’re basically doing strip mining on a massive scale.”


In Madre de Dios, where Fernandez’s center runs a research laboratory, aerial imagery shows hundreds of thousands of acres have been deforested.

Much of the damage is happening in national parks and ecological preserves.

“It would be the equivalent of having thousands of acres of illegal strip mines in Yellowstone National Park — and the government not being able to stop it,” Fernandez said.

He and a team of researchers are leading efforts to study how to reforest such a devastated ecosystem, including using charcoal-enriched soil to grow vegetation again and testing a mix of 40 native plant species for their viability.

“How do you reforest something like that?” Fernandez said. “We have to figure how to do this efficiently and cost effectively.”

One of the most horrific byproducts of illegal mining: widespread mercury poisoning.

Gold miners in the Amazon region pollute rivers and lakes with more than 30 tons of mercury every year, according to the Global Initiative, a New York nonprofit that researches organized crime.

Artisanal miners have used mercury for centuries. They mix rocks containing gold with the toxic chemical to form an amalgam. Then they heat the mixture, burning the mercury away — sending it into their own lungs and the environment — and leaving behind gold.

Pits left by miners fill with mercury-contaminated water — and local people sometimes use those pits to farm fish, Fernandez said. His research shows that across Madre de Dios — where there are tens of thousands of small-scale miners — three in four people suffer from dangerous levels of mercury. Indigenous tribes are particularly vulnerable, he said. They are three times as likely to suffer from elevated levels of mercury as other residents.

Prolonged exposure to the chemical can harm nervous, immune and digestive systems, and lead to respiratory and kidney failure and even death.

In Colombia, criminal gangs threaten small gold miners 1:49

Many miners are only vaguely aware of the health risks posed by mercury, just like tobacco smokers of previous generations, said Kevin Telmer, executive director of the Artisanal Gold Council, a Vancouver-based organization that advocates for improving the conditions and practices of artisanal miners.

Telmer said convincing miners to stop using mercury is not as daunting as it might seem.

While mercury is fast, cheap and yields gold immediately, some of the precious metal is lost in the process.

“You’ve got to give them a solution,” he said.

A big incentive: mining without mercury makes miners more money because more gold is recovered, according to Telmer.

“We typically get a 30 percent lift in their recovery,” he said. “If it’s going to induce a pay cut, they’re not going to be interested.”

The Artisanal Gold Council has launched three pilot mining projects, including one in Peru, to showcase mercury-free methods of extracting gold.

These include basic gravity techniques such as panning, shaking tables and centrifuges. Large-scale industrial mines have long stopped using mercury because it is inefficient.

Both Peru and Colombia have signed the U.N. Minamata Convention, which is intended to phase out the use of mercury in traditional gold mining by the end of the year.

Telmer said the government could also help by abandoning ineffective drug-war tactics that include airborne rainforest raids.

“They blow up some [illegal] dredges this week and then next week the dredges are back in there,” Telmer said.


An alternative is to provide resources to artisans.

One organization doing that is the Global Environmental Facility, which is funded by the United Nations, development banks and international non-governmental organizations. The group is providing $45 million in financing to help artisanal gold miners eliminate the use of mercury in Peru, Colombia and six other countries.

“The only way to fix this problem is to bring [small miners] into the formal sector,” Telmer said, “and that includes formal financing.”

Drug trade

Even as they fend off harsh tactics from South American law enforcement, artisanal miners are vulnerable to extortion and outright takeover by drug cartels, who see the gold trade as a way to launder drug profits. In effect, the miners are squeezed between the government and the cartels.

This is where U.S. law enforcement can play a critical role — by aggressively attacking the cartels’ use of gold to launder drug profits, according to Lou Bock, , a retired agent with the Department of Homeland Security.

For decades, however, the United States has taken a haphazard approach to regulating the gold market.

Criminals manipulating gold knew no one was “looking at them,” Bock said.

Consider the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a U.S. Treasury Department agency responsible for enforcing anti-money-laundering laws. FinCEN has imposed only one civil sanction against a U.S. precious-metals company — a $200,000 fine in 2015 against a Los Angeles dealer that failed to set up an anti-money-laundering program.

John Cassara, a retired U.S. Treasury agent who worked at FinCEN, said his bosses forbade him from going after the industry following the 9/11 attacks. Instead, top officials wanted to focus on traditional targets like money laundering through banks.

“I was literally given a gag order,” Cassara said.

A FinCEN spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

Colombian police battle illegal gold miners 1:54

But there are signs the U.S. government is getting more aggressive.

Last year, federal prosecutors in Miami uncovered a staggering $3.6 billion money-laundering scheme by employees of a major South Florida precious-metals company, Doral-based NTR Metals. The three NTR traders pleaded guilty to buying dirty gold from narco-traffickers and other criminals in Latin America.

“We’re now putting pressure on the money-laundering end of it,” said John Tobon, deputy special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in South Florida, which worked with the FBI on the NTR case. “The criminal organizations have been able to infiltrate the [precious-metals] industry to a level we were not familiar with.”


A reflection of this shift in emphasis: Almost a year ago, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami renamed its narcotics division, indicating a sharper focus on money laundering. It’s now the International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section.

Peter Quinter, a former U.S. Customs attorney now in private practice representing Miami gold dealers, said his clients are eager to assist federal authorities.

“There has definitely been increased scrutiny” since the NTR case, including more gold seizures and stricter examination of Customs forms, Quinter said.

But the fallout extends far beyond Customs searches, all the way to the banks that prop up the international precious-metals market.

“A major aspect of this racket is the banks,” said Charles Intriago, a money-laundering expert and former federal prosecutor in Miami. “Where are they when these multibillion-dollar gold transactions are conducted? The Justice Department, FBI and IRS should not leave the banks on the sidelines.”

In the meantime, Scotiabank, the Canadian lending institution that services NTR’s parent company, Elemetal, is looking to sell off its gold-lending arm, the world’s oldest, according to the Financial Times.

That is no small matter.

If the banks pull out, the U.S. gold industry would be undermined: Banks provide financing to dealers and refineries for a steady stream of shipments to the United States.


Just as the U.S. government has awoken to the threat of money laundering in the gold industry, America’s largest companies are taking a keener interest in the source of their gold.

Elemetal supplied dozens of blue-chip companies, according to corporate disclosure forms, including Tiffany & Co. and Apple. Those companies said they constantly check to make sure they aren’t using “blood gold” in their products.

Tiffany said it bought only domestic “scrap” from Elemetal, rather than mined materials from Latin America. Scrap gold is collected from pawnshops and jewelry stores in the United States.

Apple declined to comment. But a spokesman said last year the company had found “no evidence of illegal gold entering our supply chain.”

Fernandez, the tropical ecologist, said that U.S. companies should buy only gold that is certified as “fair-trade,” meaning the mining process does not damage workers or the environment.

“That could be a game-changer,” he said.

One Colombian nonprofit, the Alliance for Responsible Mining, has already created a fair-trade brand of gold it calls “Fairmined.” The group works with artisanal miners in Latin America, Asia and Africa to make sure they follow environmental and labor laws and don’t use mercury or interact with criminals.

That comes at a price, just as organic foods cost more than processed ones.

Fairmined gold is sold for a premium between $2,200 to $4,000 per kilogram above the market price. Some of that money is shared with the miners. (In January, a kilogram of standard gold cost more than $42,000.)

Despite the premium, the program is finding success: Swiss watchmaker and jeweler Chopard uses Fairmined gold. And when Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016, the medal was minted from Fairmined Colombian gold.

Last year, Fairmined produced roughly 250 kilograms of gold. In 2018, the Alliance for Responsible Mining hopes to double that.

“What we need is to certify more mines to be able to supply the market,” said Yves Bertran, the group’s executive director. “It’s a slow process but we are really making progress.”

Dirty metal

Cleaning up the gold trade can’t happen without a commitment from U.S. and international refineries that buy precious metal from Latin America and sell it to jewelers, banks and electronics companies.

They need to know their suppliers aren’t criminals.

“Anybody dealing in gold legally has to trace it back to the source and confirm that it’s legitimate,” said David Bolton, a Miami private investigator who has worked for U.S. refineries and Latin American gold exporters.

There are two major sources of gold in Latin America: large mines controlled by multinational conglomerates, and gold brokers known as “aggregators” who buy from artisans.


Aggregators offer a riskier business model, experts say, because it’s so difficult to trace the origins of their gold. Some buy gold from mines controlled by criminals — and cover it up by falsifying paperwork and bribing officials, as NTR employees did.

When dealing with aggregators, “it’s impossible to know the original source of the gold,” said Mike Riess, a precious-metals consultant who sits on a U.S. Treasury Department anti-money-laundering advisory board. “It’s more likely at this point that you’re dealing with a criminal organization.”

Despite the risks, many global gold firms seeking to meet endless demand still buy from aggregators instead of large mines. That includes two of the world’s biggest refineries, Switzerland-based Metalor and Japan-based Asahi, which both have operations in the United States.

José Ramon Camino, Metalor’s general counsel, acknowledged in an email that buying from large, regulated mines “reduces the risk.”

“However, in Colombia, the majority of the mining operations are small,” Camino said. “Business can still be done, provided that compliance is not compromised in any way.”

Camino said Metalor compliance officers visit Latin American suppliers to ensure that they have permits, pay taxes and meet regulations.

“If there are doubts that we cannot clarify, we stop the business,” he said.

Asahi declined to answer questions. But spokesman David Dorris said Asahi’s suppliers source “material in a legal and responsible manner.”

Gold companies realize vetting aggregators is no easy task, nor foolproof.

“Even though we carry out exhaustive due diligence and know-your-customer processes, there’s never any guarantee of certainty,” said Pacco Liano, compliance officer for Miami-based Kaloti Metals & Logistics, which buys gold from Latin America and sells it to a refinery in Dubai.

How gold is melted 1:00

Republic Metals, an Opa-locka-based refinery that is one of North America’s largest, once bought from aggregators, too. But no more.

The firm stopped dealing with aggregators in 2014. It now buys only from big, regulated mines in both Colombia and Peru.

CEO Jason Rubin says large mines owned by publicly traded companies are less vulnerable to criminal infiltration because of greater government scrutiny and internal resources for due diligence.

In fact, executives at Goldex, an aggregator that once supplied Republic, were charged in Colombia in a scheme to launder almost $1 billion through gold exports. The case is ongoing and Goldex denied wrongdoing.

“I don’t want to risk our reputation,” said Rubin, whose father started Republic in 1980 and grew the refinery into a massive operation, where cauldrons pour molten gold in a searing furnace straight out of Tolkien.

But dealing only with large mines cuts out subsistence miners from the global gold economy.

One startup Miami gold company that still uses aggregators believes that “fair-mined” branding can help distinguish legitimate artisanal miners from those with ties to criminals.

Alejandro Esponda, vice president of Doral-based Universal Precious Metals, said U.S. companies have a duty to support small miners who labor in remote jungle regions where mining has been practiced for centuries.

“It’s a social enterprise,” he said.


Gables gold heist lasts seconds. Feds finally catch up with the armed robbers

By Jay Weaver

UPDATED November 24, 2017 06:17 PM

As soon as the courier carrying $2.8 million worth of gold exited the elevator of his Coral Gables apartment building, a red-hooded robber pointed a gun at his face and pushed him against a wall.

Two other robbers dressed in sweatshirts grabbed the courier’s pair of rolling suitcases filled with 110 pounds of gold flakes that had been bound for a refinery in Opa-locka.

“We only came for the gold,” the robbers declared in Spanish.

The early-morning heist on Oct. 12, 2012, at 430 Valenica Ave. would be over in seconds — the biggest precious-metal robbery in South Florida history — and the gold soon fenced at a fraction of its value. Now, the Gables caper is at the center of a new federal indictment that also alleges cocaine trafficking, firearm offenses and an armed home invasion in Broward County.The five defendants, all with histories of being in and out of state and federal prisons, are members of a reputed Cuban-American crime network targeted for years by the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations.

“This is a great example of the capabilities of Cuban gangs currently operating in South Florida,” said Miami private investigator David Bolton, who did work for the Bolivia exporter that had shipped the gold flakes from South America. “Unfortunately, in this case, they were able to wreak havoc on the good people of South Florida and the Caribbean for a decade before they were stopped.”

One of the robbers in the gold case, Raonel Valdez Valhuerdis, 39, was convicted in state court in January and sentenced to 10 years in prison as a “habitual violent felony offender.” Initially charged in 2012, Valdez was granted bail but then fled to Belize, where he was arrested two years later.

While on the lam, he tore off his GPS ankle monitoring device that he was required to wear while awaiting trial on charges of attacking his ex-girlfriend. He also violated his probationary sentence in a prior marijuana grow-house case.

Valdez was not charged for that same gold heist offense in the federal case, but he faces other criminal charges. His arraignment is set for Monday. His defense attorney, Ana Jhones, could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Valdez’s brother, Jorge Contino Valhuerdis, is also a defendant in the federal case — but he is a fugitive.

Two other defendants who joined Raonel Valdez in the gold robbery were easier to find: Jean Marrero Lara, 37, and Alfredo Kindelan Hernandez, 42, pleaded guilty in 2015 to a federal kidnapping conspiracy charge and were sentenced to prison for 20 years and 15 years, respectively.

The previous year, Lara and Hernandez joined four others in the abduction of the son of a travel agency owner in Cancun, Mexico. The group demanded $2 million from the father, who paid a $70,000 ransom for the son’s release.

The last defendant, Leonardo Miguel Garcia Morales, was not implicated in the gold rip-off, but he was charged with cocaine trafficking, an attempted armed robbery and firearm offenses in the federal case in Miami.

Morales, 46, joined Lara, Hernandez and Raonel Valdez in the attempted robbery of a Miramar home on Sept. 30, 2012. According to authorities, the men cut off the power to the house. Sensing an invasion, the homeowner grabbed his gun and opened fire as the four masked men barged through his front door. He shot Morales, but the other intruders fled. Morales suffered paralysis from the shooting.

The homeowner was not charged. Under a state law known as the “Castle Doctrine,” a person has the right to use deadly force in defending his home against an intruder.



How a New Kind of Fraud Puts South Florida Real Estate Owners, Lenders at Risk

Samantha Joseph, Daily Business Review

April 4,

A con man is exploiting a loophole in public records access to target South Florida real estate lenders and landowners.

Based on little more than his charm, a fake driver's license and forged corporate documents altered on a government-run website for $50, he posed as a Boca Raton doctor and walked away with $550,000 from hard-money lenders in Fort Lauderdale.

People involved in the transaction say he spoke at length about his real estate holdings, didn't flinch when questioned, and was so convincing that when a private detective later inquired about the deal, lenders were suspicious of the investigator, not the fraudster.

"Next thing we know, we found out this person isn't who they said they were," said Alain Villar, the independent mortgage broker who originated the deal. "The person who went to the closing was not really the owner."

It was too late.

What remained was a smattering of clues—all eventual dead ends—and a real-life whodunit, complete with finger-pointing, misdirection, burner phones, cold trails, a mystery woman and plenty of unanswered questions about the high-stakes shakedown.

"Who was this guy?" asked Yves Naman, a landowner who filed suit March 16 against lenders seemingly duped into placing a six-figure lien on his vacant 9,750-square-foot residential lot along a Miami Beach golf course. "To be honest with you, I thought he had sold my property."

But the man hadn't sold the parcel at 2850 Prairie Ave. Instead, he'd used it as collateral in an informal market where private lenders use fewer controls than traditional banks and offer expensive capital to borrowers who can show proof of equity.

By the end of his first deal, the mystery man was hundreds of thousands of dollars richer and already eyeing his next mark: another $1 million fraud secured by property belonging to a second target.

He has since vanished. But those left in his wake are now gearing for a legal battle—with each other—to avoid responsibility for the six-figure debt.

Naman's company, Namron Miami LLC, filed a quiet-title suit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court seeking injunctive and declaratory relief against lenders Edward J. Bohne III and Roman J. Szymansky, and a third defendant—John Doe, the mystery man behind the heist.

"We want the mortgage off our property," plaintiffs lawyer David Haber said. "Bohne and Szymansky can go and fight with their title insurance carrier, and the title insurance company can go and chase down John Doe."

The Only New Face

Naman attempted his own chase when he first discovered the lien. He hired David Bolton, of Coral Gables-based Bolton Investigations Inc., who was the first to discover the string of fake identities.

Bolton seemed to narrow the list of suspects by tracing a lengthy working relationship among the brokers, title agent and lenders involved in the deal.

"They've all known each other a very long time and communicate regularly, so I don't believe they were involved," he said. "The only person who was a new face was Dr. Albert Vorstman."

The real Vorstman is a Coral Springs urologist, who said he knew nothing of the transaction until the Daily Business Review called to inquire.

"When you look at all the dots and connect them, you know that this is not just a fly-by-night scenario here," he said. "These aren't amateurs."

Vorstman was the man Villar thought had attended the closing. His name fraudulently appeared on the corporate documents for Namron Miami LLC, but he really was one of the principals of another company that owned a prime piece of real estate in the Florida Keys.

That parcel–the one the impostor had discussed using as collateral for the $1 million mortgage—is a 3.8-acre waterfront assemblage at 82900 Old State Highway, Islamorada. It had last listed for nearly $12 million.

The grifter had presented lenders a Florida driver's license bearing Vorstman's name.

The Daily Business Review independently confirmed the validity of the license number and date of birth. However, the address listed was not Vorstman's, but had once belonged to his business partner, Dr. Dawn Scarzella, who said she was surprised to see her personal information on a forged document.

"The person in this … license isn't Dr. Vorstman," Diana Arenas, an employee in the medical practice responded when she first saw a copy of the license showing a photograph of the alleged scam artist.

Sunbiz Back door?

So how did Vorstman become the scam's fall guy?

Namron's lawsuit suggests the property owners were victims of identity thieves exploiting a vulnerability in the Florida State Department Division of Corporation's website.

It claims fraudsters accessed the site to take control of Namron's corporate identity by altering public records, then used those counterfeit documents to secure the loan.

"Some guy figured out there was a piece of property with no mortgage, nothing built on it and he just stole the LLC," attorney Haber said. "The weird part is that the State of Florida Division of Corporations has not caught on to the fact that for $50 someone can steal a company by merely checking a box, changing the information and paying."

When plaintiffs lawyer, Katrina Sosa of Haber Slade in Miami, walked through the process of altering a company's principals online, it took less than two minutes.

Once the fraudsters had changed the company file to substitute Vorstman's name, they then sent an impostor using Vorstman's name to meet lenders.

"This scenario is an oldie but goodie," said long-time title insurance fraud attorney Robert Cohen, senior partner at Cohen|Ruiz in Miami. "If you go back into the 1990s, there were officers of corporations being changed at the Secretary of State Office. You're talking pre-Sunbiz, but the same concept: Send the papers, change the officers and try to make real estate transactions. It's only been made simpler because of electronic filing with Sunbiz. It's even easier to change officers today."

Companies that own vacant land are especially at risk, because appraisers and other professionals unwittingly working for impostors might never have to interact with the real owners.

"They've been very vulnerable for years," Cohen said.

Florida Department of State spokesman Mark Ard did not comment on Naman's allegations, but suggests the onus is on users to ensure accuracy.

"The Division of Corporations serves as a ministerial filing agency and accepts documents at face value," he said. "False information submitted on a document constitutes a third-degree felony. … The department encourages business owners and managers to monitor their business entity filings and paperwork on to ensure our records reflect their intended filings."

Naman said the ploy started to unravel in January when he attempted to pay his company's property taxes and discovered someone had already covered the nearly $22,300 debt.

"I called my accountant and we saw that something was crooked," he said.

Beyond crooked. His attorneys suspect scammers paid the taxes to smooth the way for a loan worth more than 20 times as much.

"But that's not my client's problem," Haber said. "My client has a fake mortgage on his property and he wants the mortgage rescinded."

'I Feel Violated'

Lender attorney and title agent William Anderson, of Florida Title & Escrow Services LLC and William J. Anderson P.A. in Fort Lauderdale, declined comment on behalf of his clients. He said Bohne and Szymansky "don't want to poison the well" and would not comment on active litigation. But the defendants are likely to seek to recoup their losses from their title insurance carrier by arguing they too were victims of an elaborate fraud—one so intricate it crossed county lines and ensnared multiple real estate industry veterans.

"This situation happened to be a nightmare," said Villar, a 10-year mortgage consultant who was not named in the litigation. "I feel violated."

In retrospect, Villar said the man pretending to be Vortsman had a ready explanation for each lender query. For instance, he regaled the group with a tale about his Russian great-grandfather's immigration to the Caribbean after a commenter noted his pronounced Latin accent did not match his last name.

"He didn't speak much English," Villar said. "He was clearly of Cuban descent."

And what about the change to the Sunbiz file days before the transaction?

Villar said the fraudster explained that away by claiming the previous owner was a brother-in-law who had left the partnership. Because the mailing address and all other information remained the same, Villar said lenders saw no cause for concern.

But that decision surprised Bolton during his investigation.

"This individual must have been savvy enough to know the Florida Division of Corporations will now notify both parties of a change of address to the corporation, but they do not notify when there's an ownership change … maintaining the same address," he said. "But it's unusual that the title insurance company and the attorney for the title insurance company that actually did the closing did not notice that the ownership had very recently changed on the corporation."

There was also the mystery woman who introduced the fake Vorstman to the mortgage broker.

Villar said he got a call from a woman who claimed she'd met him at an industry networking party in Kendall. He didn't remember meeting her, but that wasn't unusual for that sort of event, where he estimates he handed dozens of cards to prospective business associates over cocktails.

The woman wanted to send deals his way, he said, and after walking her though several parameters, like rates and terms, she sent him what seemed to be a promising lead: a man looking for a mortgage on Namron Miami LLC's parcel, which had last sold for nearly $1.6 million in 2015.

Villar said he never met the woman but exchanged several text messages with her. She would later call to bow out of the meeting between the lenders and prospective borrower, claiming she had to stay home to nurse ailing children.

"We generate business from referrals. This is something that happens every single day," he said. "My job is not to be worried about what this lady is doing. I usually focus on getting a deal done."

And the deal being shopped would have paid a 4 percent commission and 10 percent interest for the lenders, he said.

"Obviously these guys are very slick," Vorstman said. "They're not just targeting anybody. They're targeting credit-worthy folks."

The doctor appears to have fared better than Namron, but his luxury real estate broker suggests he might have come dangerously close to lenders placing a million-dollar lien on his property.

That broker, who asked not to be named because the incident might jolt wealthy clients who fear being targeted, recalls a strange encounter involving Vorstman's parcel.

A prospective buyer had exchanged multiple messages with the realtor, asking detailed questions about the property, but never showed up for scheduled viewings. The would-be buyer had sought details about the precise amount of water frontage, building permits, site plans and the parcel's identification number in property appraiser records. The deal fizzled, but a few weeks later, a mortgage broker contacted the realtor, claiming to be working with Vorstman to secure a loan against the property.

The realtor informed the owners about the call.

"I just blew it off," Vorstman said.

Villar's story suggests this might have been the second deal the fraudster had offered lenders after cinching the loan for Naman's land.

But by then, Naman had already contacted the FBI and filed a report with the Miami Beach Police Department, naming Vorstman as the suspect. Neither law enforcement agency had responded to Naman by press time. And Miami Beach Police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez told the DBR he had no information about the case.

"I think I've seen too much TV. I thought the cops would have jumped all over this," Naman said. "I got scammed in the easiest way. I was horrified that the Department of State has less security than my email, and that someone could go onto Sunbiz and make a change without a special login and password. I just don't understand."



The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, hired Coral Gables-based Bolton Investigations Inc. to investigate safety and security issues.

Posted on August 16, 2016August 16, 2016


Teamsters’ probe reveals possible issues with outsourcing Collier schools’ custodians

The bids haven’t come in yet and the contract hasn’t been awarded, but the group that represents 250 Collier County custodians wants the school district to rethink its decision to inquire about outsourcing jobs.

They say it isn’t safe.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which has a local chapter that represents Collier’s custodians, hired Coral Gables-based Bolton Investigations Inc. about two weeks ago to investigate safety and security issues as they relate to previous operations and employment practices of GCA Services Group.

GCA Services Group is the company that offered to provide an estimate of how outsourcing custodial services could save the Collier County school district money. The company came back with an estimate that showed the district could save more than $3 million by outsourcing its custodial services. Once Collier Superintendent Dennis Thompson saw that, he asked district officials to send out a request for proposals.

Earlier this month, the district had a pre-bid meeting for those companies interested in bidding on the district’s contract for custodial services. Thirty companies from Florida and elsewhere came to the meeting, including GCA Services.

David White, communications director for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said the investigation is ongoing, though he did not say if the union was looking at all of the companies.

Randy Pines, chief negotiator for Teamsters Local 79, said GCA was chosen by the Teamsters because they were “given a head start.”

“We want people to stand up and take notice,” he said. “We want to lift the veil of secrecy that is being made in regards to this particular decision.”

The report by Bolton Investigations, which was performed by retired Coral Gables police Lt. Pablo Garcia, only focuses on GCA. The report’s preliminary findings focus on three incidents between Oct. 31, 2006 and April 2008:

 A GCA Services employee working at Huntingdon High School in Huntingdon, Tenn., was accused of raping a 16-year-old student in a closet during school hours. The employee, after he was arrested, was found to have a criminal record with charges of aggravated battery, assault and theft of property.

 A GCA Services employee and registered sex offender, who was working as a custodian at Chisholm Trail Middle School in Rhome, Texas, was found dead in a school locker room. The employee, who had been convicted of indecent exposure in 2006, was found with his pants down and a bag over his head. Investigators determined the cause of death was accidental asphyxiation. The employee passed a background check because he used an alias.

 A custodian hired by the company working at La Coste Elementary School in La Coste, Texas, consented to a search of his home when questioned about a new laptop computer, a Palm Pilot and a stereo reported stolen from the elementary school where he worked. Police recovered those items, along with other campus property, including office supplies, stools, glitter, crayons, paper towels and boxes of tissue. A background check revealed the employee had a 1996 burglary arrest.

“The above stated cases relating to GCA Services’ employment practices indicate the need for concern and careful examination of any decision to contract out services that involve intimate contact with children in schools,” according to the report. “Further research is needed with regard to turnover rates, labor supply and competitive wages, training programs and personnel policies.”

Sarah Poteet, the mother of a Palmetto Ridge High School student, said money shouldn’t matter when it comes to protecting her child.

“Our custodians know our kids, the parents and the teachers. They are part of the educational system,” she said. “They say it takes a village. Our village is bring torn apart.”

Thompson said GCA shouldn’t be faulted for the employees, it should be the school districts, for hiring those employees.

“When a company provides outsourcing services, they send you a list of employees and the district conducts the drug tests and the fingerprinting,” he said. “It is the district who determines who is eligible to work in the schools, not the outsourcing company.”

Thompson said Collier County has cases of employee misconduct and cited his firing of former Barron Collier High School Principal Ron Miller as an example.

Florida law requires that contractual personnel who are permitted access on school grounds must meet stringent screening requirements. Those convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude “shall not be employed, engaged to provide services or serve in any position requiring direct contact with students.”

Employees hired by the district must submit to a background and security check required by Florida law and the district’s request for proposals. The district can deny someone employment if they have been convicted of an offense listed in section 435.04 of the Florida Statutes. Those offenses include murder, battery and sexual misconduct.

However, state law allows each district to make a case-by-case determination if the act or acts revealed in a background check disqualifies an individual from employment with the district.

Thompson has said that, should the district decide to outsource its custodial services, many of the district’s current employees could be rehired by the new company.

“I know it is an emotional issue and there is a potential for some employees to lose their jobs,” he said. “But this is a case where the union is publicly making their case to discredit the process.”

Thompson challenged the union’s assertion that the district refused to meet with union officials, saying no one from the Teamsters has contacted him to meet and discuss the outsourcing issue.

Bids are expected to be submitted this afternoon, Thompson said. They will be opened Tuesday and evaluated by a committee that consists of Chief Operations Officer Michele LaBute, principals from elementary, middle and high schools and the district’s director of purchasing. Thompson said if the committee believes there is a cost savings, it will make a recommendation to him.

“We have done everything in a fair, clear cut and transparent manner,” Thompson said. “I am obligated to ensure that we are spending taxpayer dollars efficiently and effectively.”

Thompson said the district has a duty to keep children safe and it will be up to the district to decide who it hires, should it decide to outsource.

Pines said he believes the district needs to take more time, enlist the help of a blue ribbon commission and assess the impact outsourcing would have in the community. He said the union would like to sit down with the district to discuss ways the district could save money while allowing the 250 custodians to keep their jobs and benefits. Pines would not elaborate on his plan.

“We don’t believe that $3 million figure,” he said. “We believe an independent, blue ribbon commission should look at the numbers and determine the real cost savings.”

Thompson said the $3 million figure was an estimate and it will be up to the district’s panel to look at the bids and determine if there is a significant cost savings to the district.

Officials from GCA Services Group were unavailable for comment Thursday.



Bolton Investigations working in Curacao to recover stolen gold


Posted on August 5, 2016August 5, 2016


WILLEMSTAD, CURACAO — De Amerikaanse privédetective David Bolton was onlangs op het eiland voor een onderzoek naar een goudroof, gepleegd op afgelopen 29 april uit een wagen van FedEx. Ook maakte hij gisteravond in het nieuws via Telecuraçao bekend dat hij in opdracht van de eigenaar van de vijf gestolen goudstaven een beloning van 25.000 dollar uitlooft voor de gouden tip die leidt naar de (gedeeltelijk) terugvondst van de goudstaven, of naar de bij de overval betrokken verdachten.

De politie heeft eerder geen informatie gegeven over deze roof en distantieert zich inmiddels ook van de beloning die Bolton uitgeloofd heeft. De detective is ook naar het politiekorps geweest om informatie te vergaren en heeft kennis gegeven van de beloning. Het KPC volgt echter een procedure bij het uitloven van beloningen en dit werd hem ook duidelijk gemaakt. De politie roept iedereen dus op om er rekening mee te houden dat het KPC geen beloning zal uitloven aan tipgevers over deze roof. Dit onderzoek staat los van dat van Bolton. Volgens Bolton zouden drie mannen betrokken zijn geweest bij de goudroof en hebben meerdere tassen meegenomen. Van zijn cliënt zijn er vijf goudstaven met een waarde van 175.000 gulden – met bestemming Miami – uit de wagen gestolen, die onderweg was naar Hato. Uit de informatie die hij in de Verenigde Staten (VS) heeft kunnen vergaren blijkt verder dat er meerdere goudstaven werden gestolen. De totale waarde hiervan was ruim 600.000 dollar, aldus Bolton. Hij voegt daaraan toe dat de gestolen goudstaven van zijn cliënt niet 100 procent maar 49 procent goud bevatten, waardoor de kleur van die staven makkelijk te onderscheiden zal zijn.

Iedereen die informatie heeft over deze roof kan Bolton mailen naar boltonpi@ of hem in de VS bellen via telefoonnummer 3054470888.



Posted on July 30, 2016August 5, 2016


Raonel Valdez is a fugitive wanted for a $2.8 million gold heist in Coral Gables, Fla.(Photo: Bolton Investigations Inc.)

Story Highlights

      • Raonel Valdez is charged with stealing $2.8 million in gold at gunpoint from a courier in Florida
      • He was arrested in Belize after a manhunt that spanned 4 countries, and is awaiting extradition to the U.S.
      • U.S. immigration officials have so far said they will not allow him to re-enter the county to face trial

A fugitive charged with pulling off a $2.8 million gold heist could soon be set free because U.S. immigration officials have blocked attempts to return him to the United States to be put on trial.

Raonel Valdez was arrested two months ago in Belize, capping an international manhunt that spanned four countries. He has been locked up there ever since, awaiting extradition to the United States.

But investigators have so far been unable to bring him back because the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has told police it will not allow Valdez, a Cuban national, to enter this country, which is a necessary — and usually perfunctory — step in returning a fugitive from overseas, according to law enforcement officials familiar with the case.

That could leave Belizean officials with little choice but to free him.

“It will happen any day,” said David Bolton, a private investigator who was among those tracking Valdez. “We searched for this guy in four countries. Letting him go is just going to facilitate more of this kind of crime.”

Homeland security officials indicated late Thursday that their position on Valdez was not final. A spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Barbara Gonzalez, said the agency was reviewing a request that he be allowed to return to the United States and had “not yet made a decision.”

The heist in 2012 was among Florida’s biggest and most brazen.

Police and prosecutors charged that Valdez and two other men spent months stalking a courier for a company that buys gold in Bolivia and resells it to South Florida refineries. In October 2012, the three finally cornered the courier inside the elevator of his Coral Gables, Fla., apartment building. The courier told police that one of the men aimed a handgun at him, then shoved him against the back wall of the elevator and told him in Spanish that “we only came for the gold.” The others seized two suitcases packed with 110 pounds of gold flakes and fled.

Police caught up with Valdez two weeks later. They tied him to the crime, in part, by tracking a GPS bracelet he was wearing because of an unrelated arrest; the monitor put Valdez at the scene of the robbery and let investigators reconstruct how he had surveilled the courier, 51-year-old George Villegas. Villegas identified Valdez in court as one of the robbers.

“We have a good case,” said Ed Griffith, a spokesman for the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office.

Valdez’s alleged accomplices have not been charged.

Not long after a Miami judge freed Valdez on $75,000 bond, he broke free of another GPS monitoring device and disappeared.

Investigators from the U.S. Marshals Service chased Valdez from Florida to the Bahamas and Mexico. He was arrested two months ago in Belize as he tried to cross the border to Guatemala using a Cuban passport; guards searched for his name on the Internet and quickly discovered that he was wanted in Florida, Bolton said.

Valdez cannot re-enter the country without authorization from the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees immigration. So far, Bolton and two law enforcement officials said, the agency has turned down repeated requests to allow Valdez back into the United States to stand trial. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

Extraditing Cuban citizens to the United States can be problematic because once they are in the country, it is difficult to ever return them to Cuba. But that hasn’t stopped officials from allowing other Cubans to enter the United States to face prosecution. In 2009, for example, federal prosecutors extradited another Cuban, Rodolfo Rodriguez Cabrera, from Latvia to face charges of producing counterfeit slot machines. He was sentenced to two years in federal prison.

A spokesman for the Marshals Service, Drew Wade, said the agency has asked immigration authorities to “approve parole of Valdez back into the United States to face justice in the alleged armed robbery case.” Wade said Marshals investigators “used many domestic and international investigative resources to locate” him. The Marshals Service helps extradite hundreds of fugitives from other countries each year.

Valdez’s status in Belize was unclear on Thursday. An official at the Belize Central Prison was unable to confirm that he was still in custody there. Officials at Belize’s embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comment.

Griffith said Miami prosecutors had no information about Valdez’s status in Belize nor the attempts to return him to the United States.

“We got calls before saying he’s coming back, and guess what, he’s not back,” Griffith said. “Until the plane touches down at MIA (Miami International Airport), it’s all talk.”

A lawyer for Valdez, Alex Michaels, dismissed the government’s case as weak and “circumstantial.” Among the problems: The courier, Villegas, died not long after the robbery, and it is unclear whether prosecutors would be able to use his testimony from a 2012 bond hearing against Valdez if he ever goes on trial. “If (Valdez) comes back, he will win,” Michaels said.

Michaels said he had not been in contact with Valdez since he was arrested in Belize.

Extraditing Cuban citizens to the United States can be problematic because once they are in the country, it is difficult to ever return them to Cuba. But that hasn’t stopped officials from allowing other Cubans to enter the United States to face prosecution. In 2009, for example, federal prosecutors extradited another Cuban, Rodolfo Rodriguez Cabrera, from Latvia to face charges of producing counterfeit slot machines. He was sentenced to two years in federal prison.


Bolton Investigations identifies thief / New Developments In $478K Safe Heist at the Miami Beach Home of Sony Music Artist Prince Malik

Posted on July 30, 2016August 5, 2016

Prince Malik Files Civil Lawsuit Against Man in the Surveillance Video Identified by Witnesses; Investigators Also Question How Defendant With Long Criminal History Was Given TWIC Security Clearance

MIAMI BEACH, Fla.Aug. 5, 2015 –  — Investigators said several witnesses have identified a man captured on surveillance video during a brazen safe burglary at the Miami Beach home of Sony Music recording artist Prince Malik. Since the break in at the condo on May 9, the entertainer has pleaded for the public’s help in the rigorous search for the safe and its contents, which are valued at more than $478,000. Shortly after the local media outlets aired video showing the thief entering and exiting the building, investigators said several people identified the man in the images as Kenneth Emanuel Welcome, AKA Kenny Brooks Jr., AKA Akkillez. Welcome has a lengthy arrest record that includes charges of burglary, violent crimes and prostitution. “An interesting item was uncovered during the course of our investigation,” said David Bolton of Bolton Investigations. “We have determined that Welcome somehow qualified for and was issued a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC). TWIC is a security measure that ensures individuals who pose a threat do not gain unescorted access to secure areas of the nation’s maritime and aviation transportation systems.” Prince Malik has filed a lawsuit against Welcome in Miami Dade County Circuit Court that seeks damages in excess of $478,000.00. “We are once again making an appeal to the public to share any details that they may have in this case,” said Prince Malik. Prince Malik is offering a $50,000.00 reward for the arrest of the individual(s) involved and the return of his property, or a $25,000.00 “no questions asked” reward for information that leads to the arrest of the individual(s) involved. He has created a confidential tip line that should be used when submitting information: 305-562-0012.


$400,000 in valuables stolen from Prince Malik’s Miami Beach home

Recording artist offers $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest, return of property

By Amanda Batchelor – Senior Digital Editor

Posted: 6:26 PM, May 12, 2015Updated: 6:26 PM, May 12, 2015

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Recording artist Prince Malik, whose real name is Shahzad Nawaz, is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for breaking into his Miami Beach home last weekend, and the return of his stolen possessions.

The hip-hop artist reported the break-in at his apartment on 23rd Street and Collins Avenue where he lives part time.

According to a police report, a safe containing more that $400,000 in valuables was ripped from a closet wall and stolen. The safe included $20,000 in U.S. currency, a $300,000 diamond ring, gold chains, a Rolex and diamond earrings.

“Everything is here. Nothing was touched,” Nawaz told Local 10 News. “My iPad was sitting right there. Nothing was touched – just the safe.”

Police said a friend of Nawaz, Neil Hernandez, told officers that the men had returned to Nawaz’s apartment Saturday with three Russian women they had met at Miami Beach’s Mokai Lounge. He said they were in the apartment for about 15 minutes and then left.

A private investigator hired by Nawaz said the burglary may be related to a theft ring, where a group of thieves targeted wealthy residents in Bay Harbor Islands, Hillsborough Beach and Fort Lauderdale.

“We’re going to get you. It may be a matter a time, but we’re going to get you. We have a lot of good information, and Miami Beach has a very high success rate in crimes like this,” private investigator, David Bolton, said.

A representative for Prince Malik said he is offering a $25,000 reward with “no questions asked” for information that leads to an arrest, and a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest with his property recovered.



The Unsolved Murder of Coral Gables Police Officer Walter Stathers.

Posted on July 30, 2016August 8, 2016


100,000.00 reward offered by the City of Coral Gables, Florida for information relating to the homicide of Officer Walter Stathers.

Community input could change the course of this investigation. I encourage anyone with information to contact police or Bolton Investigations, Inc. regardless of how insignificant the details may seem. Homicide detectives have been working this case for decades, and a number of lines of inquiry have been investigated, however the community’s assistance is invaluable in helping to solve this case. Anyone with information regarding this murder is urged to contact the Coral Gables Police department at 305-442-1600 or Bolton Investigations,Inc. at 305-447-0888.

On the morning of Dec. 19, 1967, he was on his regular patrol. At 2:59 a.m., his final work sheet showed, he responded to a disturbance at 5740 San Vicente St. “Talked to the Hughes boy and another couple and asked them to keep it a little lower,” he wrote. Then Stathers spotted something. Requesting a K9 unit at 4:18 a.m., Stathers dispatched this: “Get me a dog car.” Stathers never gave his location. But Jim Harley, a fellow patrolman who would later serve as a Coral Gables police chief, and others rushed over, figuring he’d be outside the home of Anthony Abraham on South Alhambra Circle. Abraham, who owned a car dealership, had decorated his home with a huge holiday lights display. Stathers had guarded it while on patrol. “You knew if you went looking for Walt after 4 a.m., if there no other calls, he would be there keeping an eye out on it,” Harley said. First on the scene, Harley saw a set of headlights — the newspaper deliveryman was coming. Then he saw Stathers’ patrol car, across the street from Abraham’s house. The car was in drive, engine running, driver’s side door open. It had wildly crossed the lawn, crashing into the patio in the back of the Kaaber house, 700 S. Alhambra Circle. Harley found the 45-year-old burly cop, face down, on the wet lawn. “It was pretty obvious he has been shot in the back of the head. It came out through his forehead. He was dead. No life in his body,” Harley recalled. The homeowner, Bent Kaaber, remembered: “I heard a big crash, and I looked out the window, and when I looked, I happened to see a blue flash and later on, I realized what that was — it was actually when Walter got shot.” Kaaber’s live-in maid, Bertha Droquett, rushed to her window. She told police a tall, thin black man wearing black pants, a white shirt pedaled away on a 28-inch English-model bicycle with a chrome fender. Investigators speculated Stathers had surprised a prowler. Perhaps he had jumped out, forgetting to shift the gear into park. Or maybe he had arrested the man, put him in the car but had stumbled out during a brawl. Stathers’ arm was bruised, twisted back. His .357 Colt Trooper, black stripes set against the white handle, was missing. As the sun rose, officers hunted for the man on a bicycle but found nothing. Dade sheriff’s investigators, along with Miami police, launched a manhunt. More than 100 tips came in during the first few days. Former Coral Gables Maj. Richard Bannon, now retired, believes rivalries between Metro Dade and Miami police may have hurt the case. He believes there have been “strong suspects over the years, and they always come back to three or four people” from Coconut Grove. “This should not be unsolved,” he said.