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Miami inmate documents his trouble with bizarre tattoo

Gilberto Santiesteban Jr. decided to put his troubles behind him — literally

By David Ovalle
The Miami Herald

MIAMI — Convicted of running a violent Miami marijuana smuggling ring, Gilberto Santiesteban Jr. decided to put his troubles behind him — literally.

He had the details of his criminal case tattooed across his back.

It's a virtual sentencing order in body ink, listing his prison term, the names of federal prosecutors, his defense attorney, even the investigators who arrested him: FBI agent Michael Gualtieri and Miami-Dade homicide Detective Rich Raphael.

"It was really creepy, to be honest," said Miami defense lawyer Luis I. Guerra, whose name appears on Santiesteban's back.

A photo of the tattoo, obtained by The Miami Herald, shows a stylized map of Florida— encased behind prison bars and a lock-and-key — backed by a Cuban flag.

The tattoo even boasts the name of the judge, K. Michael Moore, plus Santiesteban's maximum punishment — the death penalty — and his actual sentence: 30 years in the federal pen.

Guerra, his former defense lawyer, recalled the famous line from the 1991 remake of Cape Fear uttered by a prison official when Robert DeNiro's heavily tattooed convict character bares his back.

"I don't know whether to look at him or read him," Guerra quipped.

Gilberto Santiesteban Jr., 35, was part of a family-run operation of marijuana traffickers headed by patriarch and Mariel boatlift refugee Gilberto Sr. The elder Santiesteban and three sons were charged with 13 others in 2012 for operating 20 hydroponic marijuana grow houses.

The operation yielded at least 1,146 potent pot plants that produced millions of dollars in profits, authorities say. Their criminal enterprise was undone after the killing of a rival gang member who stole a load of pot from the Southwest Miami-Dade organization in late 2009.

The federal prosecutors: Pat Sullivan and William Athas, whose names now are etched into Santiesteban's back.

Last summer, Gilberto Santiesteban Jr. pleaded guilty and agreed to spend 30 years in prison. Most of the others arrested also are now doing prison sentences.

Santiesteban has been in federal custody since July 2012 -- which means he somehow got inked while behind bars.

"It's a prohibited act," said U.S. Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke, who acknowledged the rule does not always stop inmates from skin art. "They've been doing it for years. Where there's a will, there's a way."

Copyright 2014 The Miami Herald


McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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