Police: Suspected Miami Beach dealer forced niece to handle drugs

MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - An undercover sting operation in Miami Beach ended with the arrest of two men accused of dealing illegal drugs, and investigators said one of them forced his 11-year-old niece to handle the illicit merchandise.

According to Miami Beach Police, Antwan Lee and Artie Lawyer were looking to sell cocaine and marijuana along Ocean Drive, Thursday afternoon.

What surprised undercover detectives, police said, was seeing Lee use his niece to carry the contraband. “What stood out in this case is, the individual holding the narcotics for the seller was actually an 11-year-old girl,” said Miami Beach Police Officer Ernesto Rodriguez.

Authorities were astonished by the brazen nature of the transactions. “This was in broad daylight, 5 o’clock in the afternoon, Ninth Street and Ocean Drive,” said Rodriguez.

The arrest report reads, “As defendant Lee walked west on the 100 block of Ninth Street, on the southern sidewalk, he (Lee) approached the 11-year-old female minor victim that was sitting on the stairwell. Defendant Lee summoned the minor to come with him and told her, ‘Bring the grinder.’ Defendant Lee was referring to the marijuana grinder.”

Police said Lee and Lawyer then sold the drugs to undercover detectives.

“When they were going to do a second portion of that transaction, he left the child with who turned out to be our undercover officer and went to retrieve more narcotics,” said Rodriguez.

The detectives then arrested Lee and Lawyer. They found drugs and paraphernalia on Lee’s niece after they were taken into custody.

Lee is facing a long list of charges, including child abuse and possession of cocaine and marijuana with intent to sell. He stood before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Catherine Pooler, Friday afternoon.

“You know better now. You don’t give kids this kind of stuff,” Pooler said to the suspect. “You’ve got other charges, and you’ve got priors. I’m not releasing you.”

Investigators said they took Lee’s niece to the Miami Beach Police Department. She later told detectives she had been on at least one other drug deal in the past.

The child said she was so hungry that officers went out and bought her food. “She indicated she hadn’t eaten since the day before,” said Rodriguez.

For those visiting South Beach, the reaction to the arrest was shock but relief. “That’s horrible. I don’t know what else to say beyond that. That’s horrible,” said Diane, a tourist.

The girl was later released to her mother. The Florida Department of Children and Families was called in to assist with the investigation.

“We’re heavily relying on that thorough investigation,” said Rodriguez.

Pooler also told Lee he is not allowed to see his niece while his case is pending.

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