Article: How a Miami cocaine case went off the rails. It all started with an unpaid $250,000 loan

It started out as a routine sentencing of a Colombian cocaine smuggler and wound up as a messy and very Miami legal drama.

You’ve got a local jeweler who deals in high-end watches claiming he’s been stiffed on a quarter-million loan to the smuggler’s friend, who bankrolled his legal defense.

You’ve got an attorney hired by the jeweler to collect the debt making his claim in a criminal case, something that just never happens in by-the-book federal court.

And you’re got a doozy of a motion by the jeweler’s attorney, arguing the drug trafficker should get punished hard because his pal who took out the loan hasn’t paid up, that the FBI fell down on the job of investigating the unpaid debt, and that the defense attorney for the smuggler ought to be sanctioned for any number of reasons.

That defense attorney, David M. Fernandez, was not a happy camper, calling it a tactic to coerce him and his client into dealing with an unpaid loan that neither had agreed to or were responsible for.

“This is an attempt at extortion,” Fernandez, a licensed lawyer since 2005 with no Florida Bar complaints, told the Miami Herald Tuesday. “It was all a shock to me. This is the most bizarre case in my entire history of practicing law.”

The plot of this story is winding.

The jeweler’s lawyer, Simon T. Steckel, filed a motion on the eve of the smuggler’s sentencing hearing in mid-April, urging the judge to give convicted coke smuggler Juan Jose Valencia Zuluaga more time behind bars because of an unpaid $250,000 loan that paid his legal fees.

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