DAVIE (CBSMiami) -- A Davie couple accused of being part of an international fentanyl distribution ring are being held in pre-trial detention and will be sent to North Dakota, where the case against them and a slew of others is based.
That was the ruling of Judge Patrick Hunt in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday morning.
Anthony Gomes and Elizabeth Ton each face a possible penalty of life in prison if convicted of participating in the scheme. The U.S. Department of Justice says it's the first indictment against designated Chinese manufacturers and distributors of fentanyl — which is 50 times more potent than heroin. In court Thursday, the role of Gomes and Ton became clearer, although significant questions about their roles remain.
Federal prosecutor Jodi Anton said in court that Gomes laundered money for the suspected head of the drug ring, an inmate in a Canadian prison. Anton said Gomes also referenced three people overdosing on a bad batch of drugs and ordered drugs from the suspected head of the drug ring.
Anton said in court that Ton offered to assist the scheme, referenced getting Gomes out of the country and coordinated wire transfers for the suspected head of the drug ring.
Both are accused of bringing in $442,000 over the three years that the scheme was in operation.
According to prosecutors, Gomes, who is from Rhode Island, admitted to agents that he used pills and heroin and that he sold pills with the head of the organization.
The couple lived in a $900-thousand dollar Davie home. CBS4 News learned in court Thursday that when the feds raided the home earlier this month, they found $150-thousand dollars in cash, 2 guns and some marijuana along with a letter from the head of the purported drug ring. The feds also seized a Maserati and an ATV from the home.
The federal court indictment lists numerous people connected with the crime from the U.S., Canada and China. The ring is suspected of being linked to four drug related deaths and five cases of serious bodily injury. Although in court Thursday the feds could not say that Gomes or Ton were connected to any of the deaths.
Attorney Barry Wax is representing Gomes.
"There was no evidence that any deaths occurred in Rhode Island, where they're trying to connect him or here in South Florida where he lives. So it's going to be very interesting to see if the government can meet that burden of proof," Wax said. "We've got quite a battle on our hands."
The feds also say that Gomes owned a plane but federal investigators do not know where that plane is right now.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, this case points out a new and disturbing facet of the opioid crisis. People in the US are able to purchase highly pure shipments of fentanyl directly from China over the internet and that people who receive it often do not realize the deadly impact of the drug.
The CDC says more than 20-thousand Americans died from fentanyl and fentanyl-related drugs in 2016 alone.
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