Florida Keys News
Saturday, February 8, 2014
A first for Keys in Soca case

The cocaine trafficking case against three members of a Stock Island family may go federal as the evidence collected thus far will be presented to a grand jury in Miami.

And if that federal grand jury chooses to indict, that means the possibility of much more prison time for those arrested now looms over the case. Just how much more, however, remains to be seen as it depends on whether they are indicted and on what charges.

The case represents a first for Monroe County: Assistant State Attorney Mark Wilson became a special assistant United States attorney in September. That means he can now prosecute both federal and state cases, and in this case he will be operating as a federal prosecutor.

The use of a special assistant United States attorney (or SAUSA) has never been done in Monroe County before.

Typically, SAUSA prosecutors are assigned to other federal agencies outside the Department of Justice, such as the Internal Revenue Service or Coast Guard, but the Florida Keys is a unique area in that no full-time assistant U.S. attorney is assigned here.

That means a federal prosecutor has to fly (or drive) to Key West from Miami for federal matters, as do U.S. District Court judges. Whether or not Wilson's appointment was made out of jurisdictional convenience or another reason could not be answered on Friday.

Wilson declined to comment on what federal charges the grand jury may indict the three Soca members on, and he declined to provide an estimated timeframe on any possible indictment.

Federal prosecutors work under much stricter rules when it comes to public commenting on pending cases as opposed to state prosecutors. Typically, federal prosecutors rarely comment on such cases, and send the public to the Department of Justice's public affairs office, which is usually just as vague.

What all this means for the Socas remains to be seen.

Federal, state and local law enforcement officers raided a two-trailer property at 6451 6th St. on Jan. 29 and uncovered 10 kilograms of cocaine, 7.5 grams of crack cocaine, two pounds of marijuana, about 2,100 Xanax bars, about 1,300 oxycodone pills, and about 700 short lobster tails as well as more than $250,000 in cash.

Such weight in drugs and that much cash spurred murmurs in the legal community as to whether the federal government would take notice. That question appeared to be answered Friday.

Arrested were three commercial fishermen -- Juan Soca Sr., 63, his namesake son, Juan Soca Jr., 42, and junior's cousin -- 38-year-old Jose Soca. All remain at Monroe County Detention Center on Stock Island.

Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay described the Soca family as the "family kingpins" of a "criminal organization" that is one of the biggest suppliers of drugs to mid-level dealers in the Lower Keys.

Juan Soca Jr. was jailed on suspicion of trafficking in cocaine and trafficking in oxycodone. His bail was $6 million as of Friday night. Detectives allege he possessed 300 oxycodone pills when he was arrested at a South Roosevelt Boulevard apartment, remains jailed on $6,055,000 bail on suspicion of trafficking in cocaine and trafficking in oxycodone, possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, and possessing the short lobster tails.

Jose Soca remains jailed in lieu of $1 million bail on suspicion of trafficking in cocaine.

Soca records

Here is what The Citizen was able to learn after sifting through myriad public records regarding all three men's felony criminal histories. The following does not include misdemeanor arrests:

• Soca Jr. has a much more colorful criminal history, but Soca Sr.'s could spell more trouble for him as he is the only one among the three to previously serve time in federal prison.

• Soca Sr. was convicted in federal court in 1998 for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and sentenced to 21 months.

• Soca Jr.'s serious legal woes began in 1994 when he was convicted of trafficking in cocaine and sentenced to 15 years in state prison, but that conviction was ultimately overturned on a technicality by the Florida Supreme Court as that arrest occurred during a drug bust while he was on probation for an unrelated offense.

Basically, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the evidence obtained, the cocaine, could have been used in a probation violation proceeding, but not in a new case.

But two years later, in 1996, he was convicted of assault or battery and aggravated battery in state court. He was sentenced to nearly seven years in state prison.

In 2003, Soca Jr. was convicted of possession of cocaine with intent to sell and trafficking in cocaine in state court and sentenced to two years in state prison.

Jose has no felony criminal history outside of the most recent arrest that The Citizen could find.

All three were charged with suspicion of trafficking in cocaine in excess of 400 grams at the state level, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in state prison.

Those charges could be dropped if the federal grand jury returns an indictment, however, and the men would likely only face federal charges should that occur.

Soca Jr.'s Ford F-250 pickup was also seized in the raid.

The case was a joint investigation by the sheriff's office, Key West police, Homeland Security Investigations and the Monroe High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Group -- a sheriff's office led narcotics-specific unit that receives state and federal funding.

Detectives ask that anyone who has any information about drug activity by this family contact Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. If the information leads to additional charges or an additional arrest, the tipster would be eligible for a cash reward.

The Crime Stoppers number is 1-800-346-8477. Tips may also be submitted at tipsubmit.com.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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