Los Angeles TImes / Miami Herald
November 03, 2008
Franklin Durán on Monday afternoon was found guilty of conspiracy and acting as an unregistered government agent for Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
The verdict came in Miami federal court on the seventh day of deliberations by a 12-member jury in the trial dubbed ''Suitcase-gate.'' The case has drawn keen interest in Latin America.
Jurors agreed with federal prosecutors that Durán came to South Florida last year on behalf of the Venezuelan government to silence a business associate about a cash-filled suitcase intended for an Argentine politician.
The investigation that led to Durán's arrest came after the business associate, Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson, returned to Miami in the days after the cash was discovered. He went to the FBI and agreed to wear a wire.
Durán, Carlos Kauffmann and two other men -- Moises Maionica and Rodolfo Wanseele Paciello -- were later arrested, and all but Durán pleaded guilty and cooperated with the prosecution.
A fifth man, José Canchica Gómez, was charged in the case and is still at large.
Durán, 41, faces up to 15 years in prison if he is convicted. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 12.