Dozens of vehicles that were destined to be illegally shipped to Venezuela as part of an international car smuggling operation were seized in South Florida, authorities said.
The 81 vehicles, worth an estimated $3.2 million, were seized last month during an operation by Homeland Security Investigations' Miami’s Illicit Proceeds & Foreign Corruption Group, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Outbound/Exodus Team in Fort Lauderdale.
The vehicles, which include Toyotas, Lexuses, and Mercedes, were displayed at Port Everglades Wednesday morning.
The vehicles seized were purchased by straw buyers of bad actors, some who are under indictment in the United States, officials said.
“There’s several individuals who have violations or sanctions against them from OFAC, so a lot of these vehicles are linked and are associated with people who cannot get these vehicles and are not permitted to do business within the United States," said Anthony Salisbury, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations Miami. "Many who have already been indicted like Raul Duran, who is one of the largest money launderers in the world. We’ve already hundreds of millions of dollars against him. So these vehicles were bound for Venezuela illegally in violation of those sanctions to continue their lavish lifestyle while the people of Venezuela continue to suffer.”
Some of the vehicles were equipped with police equipment such as lights and sirens and were going to Venezuelan National Police, authorities said.