|Banah International Group|
|The DEA claimed Alexander I. Perez supplied six kilos to a pair of dealers.|
THE COCAINE TRAFFICKER
Despite repeated attempts to interview Perez, Banah Marketing Director Miguel Ferro never made him available. When I took a tour of Banah's 300,000 square-foot warehouse on Oct. 10, Ferro claimed Perez had not been in the office for the entire week due to an illness. Perez also did not respond to an email with a list of questions about his criminal record and five lawsuits against Banah that allege Perez stiffed his ex-landlord, his vendors, and his former employees out of more than half-a-million dollars combined.
A native of Camaguey Cuba born on July 31, 1964, Perez caught the attention of the Drug Enforcement Administration on October 12, 1999. At approximately four that afternoon, agents pulled over two men, Ramon Andres Sanchez and Jose Luis Hernandez, in a Toyota Camry at 515 SW 65th Ave. A search of the vehicle turned up six kilos that Sanchez and Hernandez asserted they got from Perez. The pair provided sworn statements against him. Two years later, the feds indicted Perez
on two felony counts of cocaine conspiracy and cocaine possession with intent to sell.
THE RISE OF BANAH
On June 6, 2008, one year after his release from prison, Perez incorporated Banah International Financial Group and opened an office at 2100 Coral Way. A year later, he formed two more corporations, AP Energy Inc. and Banah International Group. In 2011, he incorporated Banah Sugar.
According to Banah's corporate web-site, Perez has spent the last four years building his sugar empire; initially buying and selling wholesale sugar in the commodities market. From there, Perez bought his own sugar mills in Brazil, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Paraguay, says Marketing Director Ferro, exporting 1.2 million metric tons of granular sugar a year and 1.2 million liters of liquid sugar annually.
"Now we are focusing on the domestic retail market, which is why we have this facility in Hialeah," Ferro says. "Banah sugar is on the shelves at several local chains including Sedanos, Navarro, and Presidente."
But court documents show Perez ran into financial trouble two years after starting up his new enterprise. In a lawsuit filed on April 5, a man named Sergio Gonzalez claims that Perez offered him a $200,000 annual salary on Jan. 30, 2010 to run his company from San Jose, Costa Rica. Gonzalez accepted the job, working seven months for Perez. But he never got paid.
Gonzalez alleges Perez gave him only one paycheck for $16,667 that bounced. He quit in September 2010 after Banah's landlord changed the locks to the company's office doors. Gonzalez claims Perez didn't pay the rent either. In his response to the lawsuit, Perez denies his former chief executive's accusations.
The same month Gonzalez quit, Humana sued Banah International Group for failing to pay $5,347 to cover employee healthcare benefits. The Internal Revenue Service also slapped Perez with a lien for $8,851 in unpaid employee taxes from 2009. Perez settled with Humana for $4,000 in 2011, but court records show the IRS lien is still in place.