Tales of Caribbean hit men, drug dealing in Heathrow and family betrayal turned a bail hearing into a five-hour marathon as the U.S. Attorney's Office opened its books against a suspect in an unsolved double killing.
Eli Chery sported three sets of identification but claimed he was a hardworking grocer who deserved to be released without paying a cent of bail.
The pitch sank like an anchor.
Immigration, drug and homicide agents took the stand Wednesday in federal court in Orlando trying to tie Chery, 38, to a Haitian drug ring that ships tons of cocaine into Florida.
The testimony was highly unusual because Chery has not been charged with drug dealing or with murder. He faces multiple counts of lying to state and federal officials to obtain U.S. citizenship and Florida drivers licenses.
The case began Jan. 13 with the killings in Pine Hills of Marielienne Marc, 37, and her 26-year-old nephew, Daniel Marc.
Marielienne Marc disappeared two days earlier after leaving her home in Heathrow, one of Central Florida's wealthier neighborhoods, to buy a $50,000 sport utility vehicle. Her body and her nephew's were burned beyond recognition when killers set fire to her year-old van.
Within days, investigators discovered Marc was the widow of a cocaine smuggler, Guito Ervilus.
The owner of four ocean-going freighters, he was slain Aug. 19, 2000, in Miami in an apparent dispute with his partners, Orange County Sheriff's homicide Detective Richard Lallement testified. At least one of those partners was tracked down in Haiti and killed in retaliation, he said.
The dead husband turned out to be one of Eli Chery's brothers.
The family includes one brother caught with $119,000 in suspected drug money at Orlando International Airport and another who told deputies that $41,000 found in his attic likely was hidden there by a burglar, agents said.
According to Marc's family, the Chery brothers had been demanding that she give them the title to one of the smuggling ships, the Sea Bridge. On the morning she disappeared, her father later told investigators, she took a telephone call from Eli Chery to meet to talk about the ship and afterward said, "Hopefully, I will not be killed this time."
Informants say hit men from the Dominican Republic were hired to kill her, said Lallement, who described the victim as living the lifestyle of a drug trafficker. She and Eli Chery shared a half-dozen bank accounts, each with up to $40,000.
Marc's eldest son and heir subsequently told Lallement that his uncle had threatened him to turn over the Sea Bridge or be killed.
"Judge, we've heard nothing but the wildest conjecture," said defense attorney Mark NeJame, who wanted Chery released on a $100,000 signature bond that didn't require him to post any money.
U.S. Magistrate James C. Glazebrook answered by holding up enlarged copies of Chery's Florida drivers licenses issued in three different names. He denied bail, saying Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Perry showed that Chery is a flight risk and represents a threat to the community.
Source: Orlando Sentinel