“Socalj” for Borderland Beat

Based on an NBC Miami Article by Tony Pipitone

A methamphetamine distributor connected by police to the Sinaloa cartel was sentenced Thursday to nine years in federal prison, but her alleged role in luring a drug courier to his murder by a cartel-connected hitman went unmentioned in open court.

The government has not explained why it did not arrest the distributor, Tsvia Kol, in July 2021, 16 months before the murder – when she admitted distributing 15 pounds of meth to coconspirators in violation of her 2020 cooperation agreement with the feds.

A federal agent would later testify he and other agents “completely shut off communications” with Kol when she did the July 2021 “deal on her own. She lied to us and we were out of it.”

She was never charged for the 15-pound shipment and was not arrested for possessing nearly two kilos of meth in 2020 until December 2022, the day after the body of 46-year-old Julio Gonzalez was found in a Miami Springs hotel room.

Surveillance video shows Gonzalez and Kol entering the hotel and room, followed 35 minutes later by suspected Sinaloa cartel hitman Jimmy Sanchez who was in communication with Kol. Sanchez traveled from San Diego to Miami, and then executed Gonzalez, according to an arrest warrant for the suspected shooter.

Gonzalez received shipments of meth at his apartment complex and was fearful of Kol and the cartel after one 11-pound package was intercepted by authorities two weeks before his murder, according to the warrant.

But none of that was mentioned in court Thursday when Kol was sentenced to 9 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute the nearly two kilos of meth she was caught with in 2020.

Lawyers and Judge Raag Singhal did have a 5-minute bench conference at the outset of Thursday’s hearing, the contents of which were sealed.

Instead of being arrested when first caught in 2020, Kol, now 36, agreed to cooperate with authorities, on the condition she stopped engaging in illegal activity outside of her cooperation with law enforcement. Kol told investigators she had helped bring 30 kilos of meth into South Florida, according to testimony at her detention hearing in 2022.

But a federal agent testified she provided “bad intel” that “didn’t pan out” and she did not get credit in her sentencing for providing substantial assistance to the prosecution or DEA.

Nor did the government seek to include her alleged role in the Gonzalez murder to boost her potential sentence via federal sentencing guidelines, which in some cases allow for longer sentences based on “uncharged conduct.”

Kol has not been charged in connection with the Gonzalez murder.

But had she been arrested in 2021 when she did her unauthorized 15-pound deal, she likely would not have been free at the time of the 2022 murder.

Asked by NBC6 Thursday whether – through its inaction in letting Kol roam free — the government felt any responsibility for the murder, assistant U.S. Attorney Alexandra Comolli remained silent.

Then asked why Kol wasn’t arrested after she admitted distributing the unauthorized 15-pounds of meth 16 months before the murder, Comolli deferred to the U.S. Attorney’s press office – which has not answered the NBC6 Investigators’ questions.

Kol’s defense is not saying much, either.

Asked why Kol wound up with only a 9-year sentence when the charges carried possible terms of 10 years to life, attorney Jason Kreiss said, “At this point in time, we respect the judgment of the court and I think the record speaks for itself.”

He later added, “There were significant legal issues which were acknowledged by the government and ratified in the court’s sentence in this case.”

For example, both the defense and government agreed not to add to Kol’s sentencing score the presence of an unloaded gun found in the apartment she shared with her boyfriend when she was first caught in 2020. Also, the absence of any prior serious criminal history allowed for further sentence reduction.

The suspected shooter in the Gonzalez case, Jimmy Sanchez, has pleaded not guilty in state court to first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office has not responded to questions about Kol’s status in the investigation into Gonzalez’s murder.

Kol has been locked up since December 2022, ordered held without bond by a magistrate judge who found she was a possible flight risk because, as a legal permanent resident, she could flee to her homeland, Israel, which does not always extradite drug suspects back to the United States.

Federal BOP Inmate custody records show her being released from federal BOP custody on January 19, 2023, a month following her arrest the day after the Gonzalez murder. On that same date, a mugshot and arrest in Broward County (Miami) was produced by the US Marshals. This is possibly to have been her transfer of custody to US Marshals for protection as a cooperating witness in the murder case.

However, usually, if a federal inmate is in the custody of another jurisdiction (ie, state or US Marshals) it would usually not have their released date but show as NOT IN BOP CUSTODY, as evidenced by Borderland Beat’s reporting of “La Barbie’s” status before and during the Garcia Luna trial as he could have been a potential witness.