Fabiola Santiago

Fabiola Santiago: Accused Spanish cocaine boss Alvaro López Tardón makes our crooked pols look bad

Meet the poster boy for the dark side of Miami’s glitz and glam: Accused Spanish cocaine boss Alvaro López Tardón.

Prosecutors say he lorded over the drug-trafficking ring “Los Miami” (dreadful misuse of the beautiful Spanish language, that nickname). He looks a bit ragged in his booking mug – and he’s now in federal court facing money-laundering charges – but once, he was one of the highly regarded propellers of our booming condo economy.

Why, according to court documents, this early bloomer was a shopping machine in the early 2000s. He bought a $1 million-plus penthouse at the Continuum in South Beach – one of 13 bay and oceanfront condos paid in cash. He bought 17 luxury cars, and not your run-of-the-mill Caddy, but exotics like a $1.2 million black Bugatti Veyron (a tune-up for it cost $10,700, a fact I can’t get over). His cheaper ride was a $1 million Ferrari Enzo.

And what can one say about a young man who spends $1 million on Audemars Piguet watches? Alvaro, 39 now, has good taste – and vast knowledge of the high-end perks of life. I, on the other hand, had to look all that up.

All in all, the buff and trendy Alvaro allegedly spent $20 million washing through our cash registers “dirty euros” that no doubt looked pristine to the real estate agents and car salesmen who took them. Forget fancier taxi rides in clean cars, Miami. This is premium service: doing the world’s laundry.

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His defense attorney, of course, disagrees with the dismal view prosecutors have of Alvaro. The Spaniard is simply misunderstood by those prosecutors who see casherola and see drugs. He says that Alvaro’s Miami spree was financed by profits from the family’s fancy car dealership and epicurean businesses in Madrid.

It’s only a coincidence that his brother and the rest of the gang are locked up and facing drug trafficking charges in Spain. And the shell companies and straw buyers he used for condo purchases – 11 units at One Miami and The Mark in downtown Miami? Legitimate business partners.

As Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony González said in his opening statement, Alvaro picked the perfect place in Miami.

He moved to a “sunny place with shady people,” where he could fit in.

Up to here, however, the case might seem like business as usual in federal court. But Alvaro’s trial – covered by the Miami Herald’s Jay Weaver, who I envy because he gets to watch live soap opera for a living – only gets better.

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How did authorities hone in their shopaholic?

Alvaro’s Santería priest got caught smuggling some of Alvaro’s cash through Miami International Airport! Guess the orishas were not on their side – nor on ours. After Alvaro’s run through our real estate came the condo bust. He’s been in the slammer awaiting trial, and thankfully, we’re back in their good graces and recuperating nicely (not that anybody learned a thing; we’re building more).

Alvaro makes our crooked politicians, in jail for taking the kind of money that only buys a down payment on a Chevy, look bad. They should face an additional charge for lacking ambition.

If you’re going to jail – and Alvaro has been in the pen three years awaiting trial – you might as well give a boost to the local economy while you’re at it. Buys you a little respect, at least for a while.

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