In the years before Alex Vega, a Miami-based car designer to the stars, was shot and almost killed as he was pulling into his Kendale Lakes garage in what investigators say was a murder-for-hire plot, he was friends with a man named Marcos “Mikey” Jimenez.
The two knew each other through their mutual close friendship with Grammy-winning singer and actor Marc Anthony. Jimenez was Anthony’s sound engineer and property manager, dating back nearly 30 years, according to federal court documents. Vega met Anthony when the star hired his business, The Auto Firm in Kendall, to customize some of his cars. They became fast friends, according to court documents.
Investigators have never accused Anthony of having anything to do with the shooting and his publicist, Blanca Lassalle, declined to comment on the case when asked about it by the Herald.
But Vega’s friendship with Jimenez unraveled in the months leading up to the arrest of his son, Julian Jimenez, in the shooting. Marcos’ 27-year-old son was sentenced to 35 years in prison earlier this month for his role in the plot to kill Vega. The sentencing of the second convicted person, Jaime Serrano, is Tuesday in Miami federal court.
Even with the convictions of Jimenez and Serrano, a mystery still envelops this case: Who hired the two New Yorkers to try to kill Vega, who has done work for celebrities, rappers and sports stars? Prosecutors did not charge anyone connected to paying the pair.
Here’s what’s known about the case, according to court documents and testimony during the Serrano trial and the younger Jimenez’s sentencing:
In August, Julian Jimenez pleaded guilty to shooting Vega three times, including twice in the back, according to the Miami-Dade police department. Police said he fired a total of eight .40 caliber bullets into the black Range Rover as Vega was pulling into his single-car garage after returning home from work.
Jimenez also pleaded guilty to interstate stalking and conspiring to use a firearm during a crime of violence. During his Nov. 1 sentencing, U.S. District Court Judge Roy Altman said had Jimenez been convicted by a jury, he would have gotten a life sentence.
Also in August, a 12-person jury convicted Jimenez’s accomplice, 46-year-old Serrano, who’s in the music business, on interstate stalking, interstate stalking that resulted in serious bodily injury and conspiracy to use a firearm during a violent crime. The jury determined Serrano was not the shooter, but the judge said he may get more time than Jimenez got in his plea deal. The maximum sentence is life in prison.
The FBI said the two flew from New York to Miami on an American Airlines flight on Aug. 21, 2019, rented a blue Nissan Rogue and stalked Vega. Six days later, in the early evening of Aug. 27, Serrano drove Jimenez in the Nissan to Vega’s Kendale Lakes home. Jimenez, wearing a black face mask and surgical gloves and carrying a gun Serrano gave to him after they had arrived in Miami, got out of the front passenger seat, approached Vega in his car and started shooting, according to a statement filed with Jimenez’s plea deal.
A witness told FBI agents that the men were offered $60,000 to carry out the hit, but that has never been confirmed, Julian Jimenez’s attorney, federal public defender Abigail Becker, said at his sentencing.
Neither Jimenez nor Serrano have said who commissioned them to fly to Miami and try to kill Alex Vega. Vega has declined to comment on the case.
Conversation at Marc Anthony’s home
Following his son’s sentencing in Miami federal court, Marcos Jimenez declined to answer questions from a Miami Herald reporter. In testimony he gave on Aug. 17 during Serrano’s trial, Jimenez detailed his friendship with Vega, saying both were part of Anthony’s “camp.”
“We had a great relationship,” he told federal prosecutors.
He also said he and Serrano grew up in New York together, and that he wasn’t very involved with raising his son because he was on the road for much of Julian’s childhood, often with Marc Anthony.
About a month before the FBI arrested the younger Jimenez in August 2022 — connecting him to the shooting through a DNA match of a surgical mask and rubber gloves dropped near the scene — a conversation between Vega and Marcos Jimenez at Anthony’s house made it clear their relationship had soured, according to court testimony.
Vega and his wife were told by a witness that the FBI and Miami-Dade County police suspected Julian in the shooting. Shortly thereafter, Vega shunned Marcos Jimenez during a party on a boat.
At Anthony’s home, Vega said to Marcos Jimenez, “Loyalty.” Marcos Jimenez said he asked Vega if he was implying he was involved in the shooting.
“Do you think I had something to do with your case?” Marcos Jimenez told prosecutors he asked Vega. “Because somebody told me that’s why you were giving me shade that night on the boat.”
By this time, a video had been circulating on YouTube taken by a security camera at Vega’s home showing the attack. Some people who knew Julian said it looked like him firing the pistol and running away. Alex Vega and his wife had also seen photos of Marcos Jimenez and Serrano together, which raised their suspicions about who might have been behind the shooting, according to court documents.
‘Rat on everybody’
Marcos Jimenez told prosecutors that his son told him he was traveling to Miami in August 2019 to do a construction job with Serrano. Although he was pleased Julian would be working, he thought it was odd because neither his son nor Serrano had any construction experience.
“I never seen Jaime into construction before, so I found that weird,” he said.
In the month before Julian Jimenez was arrested, he was interviewed by FBI agents about the case. He called his father, who was on tour in Spain, and asked what he should do.
“Rat,” Marcos Jimenez told prosecutors he said to his son. “Rat on everybody.”
When pressed by prosecutors in court, however, about who else other than Serrano was involved, he responded, “I have no idea.”
Looking over their shoulders
Since opening The Auto Firm in 2010, Vega has been in demand customizing hundreds of cars for sports and music stars. Among his clientele are boxing champ Floyd Mayweather, Miami rapper Rick Ross and three-time Jamaican Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt, whose car was upholstered in the colors of the Jamaican flag: green, black and yellow.
Since the shooting, Vega said he and his family have been constantly looking over their shoulders, fearing the person or people who wanted him dead will try to finish the job that Julian Jimenez and Jaime Serrano failed to accomplish.
His wife and two sons have been in therapy, and he goes nowhere without a bodyguard, he told Altman during the sentencing hearing for Jimenez.
“Every day, I don’t know where it came from. I don’t know the motive,” he told Judge Altman. “I don’t know the reason.”