Former MMA fighter Ariel Gandulla, 51 – whose last bout was in the Battlefield Fight League in 2015 – was extradited from his home in British Columbia, Canada to Miami, Fl this week to face trial for murder (per Miami Herald).
Gandulla is suspected of being involved in a murder-for-hire plot involving a former Bellator finalist, a boxing promoter, and a supermarket mogul.
Gandulla’s was charged with with second degree murder in connection to this crime in 2018, when his former training partner Alexi Vila-Perdomo, 48, was arrested in South Florida and also charged. Vila-Perdomo made it to the Bellator Season 5 bantamweight tournament final in 2011 and also competed for WSOF and Titan FC between 2013 and 2016. Both Vila-Perdomo and Gandulla are Cuban defectors. Vila-Perdomo defected to the United States in 1997 shortly after competing for the Cuban wrestling team at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
Authorities in Dade-County, FL have accused Vila-Perdomo, Gandulla, and boxing trainer and promoter Roberto Isaac of participating in the kidnapping, torture and murder of Camilo Salazar—whose mutilated body was discovered on a dirt road in the Everglades in 2011. Investigators believe that Salazar’s murder was ordered by Manuel Marin, the founder of the Presidente supermarket chain.
Gandulla’s fingerprint was reportedly found on the victim’s car. Authorities have stated that cellphone records, and the triangulation of calls using cell towers, were also integral in charging Gandulla, Vila-Perdomo, Isaac, and Marin in this case.
Isaac was arrested in Florida and charged around the same time as Vila-Perdomo. Marin was captured in Spain last year, his son Yaddiel was also arrested; he is accused of providing financial support to his wanted father.
Gandulla was the last of the accused to be arrested thanks to an unusual situation which saw him living freely in Canada despite having been charged with such a horrific crime.
Gandulla moved to Vancouver in 2011, the same year that Camillo was killed. Since then Gandulla, who never acquired U.S. citizenship, had been trying to gain permanent-residence status in Canada. The Vancouver Sun reported that court documents from Gandulla’s residency case allege he had past involved in the Latin Kings street gang, and that he also had previous charges for battery on a law enforcement officer and cocaine possession. Gandulla arrived in Canada before those charges could be prosecuted.
Because he was neither a citizen of the U.S. or Canada, Gandulla, was left in a state of ‘diplomatic limbo’ (per Miami Herald). The U.S. department of Homeland Security were hesitant to bring Gandulla back to the States for fear that, if they failed to convict him, Cuba would not accept him back via deportation and he would again try to settle in the U.S. possibly under an asylum claim.
The deal that got Gandulla back to Florida to face trial involved Gandulla volunteering to re-enter the U.S. and American authorities allowing him into the country under a special parole program.
Gandulla’s lawyers told the Miami Herald that their client will plead guilty to involvement in Salazar’s murder and testify against Isaac and Vila-Perdomo.