Recently in Public Corruption Category

September 3, 2013

Sweetwater Police Officer Faces Fraud and Identity Theft Charges

The federal government has charged a veteran Sweetwater detective with committing fraud and identity theft. The detective was allegedly set up by one of his own informants that had recently been arrested for credit card fraud. According to the Miami criminal defense attorney representing the detective, the confidential informant (CI) set up his client in order to obtain a reduction in his sentence. Detective William Garcia was arrested by FBI agents for using fake credit cards at numerous establishments located in Miami Beach, Key Largo and other South Florida locations. As a result of the arrest, the detective was relieved of his duties without pay.

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August 13, 2013

Two Local Mayors Arrested by Feds

A confidential tip provided over two ago to the FBI led to the arrest of two mayors and two lobbyists. The FBI tried to set up other local politicians in the same sting operation, but were unsuccessful. Miami lawyers from the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of Florida are accusing the four defendants of bribery for accepting money in exchange for using their political positions to obtain federal grant money purportedly to be used for their respective municipalities. The feds believe the money was never intended to be used for its intended purpose, but rather to line their pockets. The indictment alleges that Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Marono accepted a bribe in the amount of $10,000 while Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi accepted $3,000.

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July 17, 2013

South Florida Couple Arrested for Bilking Hotel

Two hotel employees who happen to be husband and wife were arrested for stealing from a local hotel. The wife, Ivy Evans-Maquilon, was employed by the Miami International Airport Hotel and worked as part of the hotel's management team in charge of purchasing supplies to keep the hotel in good condition. Miami-Dade police are accusing the wife of allowing her husband to supply items such carpeting, wallpaper and tiles to the hotel for day-to-day maintenance. The husband, Jorge Maquilon would provide more supplies than were needed and then would over-bill the hotel. The couple appeared at the bond hearing represented by criminal attorneys from the Miami-Dade County Public Defender's Office.

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June 4, 2013

Former County Employees Arrested for Fraud

Two former county employees were arrested on fraud related charges. Police say the allegations stem from an over-billing scheme that has cost the tax payers of Miami-Dade County millions of dollars. An extensive investigation revolved around a company called Data Industries, Inc. that has received approximately $16 million in tax payer funds for contract work. Two former employees of the Miami-Dade County Internal Services Department, also known as the General Services Administration (GSA), were arrested Tuesday for their alleged involvement.

Jesus Pons, Diana Pons, and Bruno Diaz were arrested for racketeering, organized scheme to defraud and a variety of other white collar offenses. Law enforcement officials claim that Pons and Diaz received kickbacks for arranging the contracts which led to over-billing the county. The GSA is a Miami-Dade County Department responsible for building and property management along with real estate transactions. The original contract between GSA and Data Industries was for $760,000. At the end of the contract, Data Industries received $10.7 million from the county.

Because Pons and Diaz were employed by Miami-Dade County and the offense arose while performing their official duties, criminal lawyers from the public corruption unit at the state attorney's office will prosecute the case. The public corruption unit prosecutes public officials charged with criminal misconduct committed within their scope of employment. Both defendants were relived of their jobs soon after detectives executed search warrants at their places of employment.

The probe into the allegations began as a result of a subcontractor reporting suspicious activity. The subcontractor told investigators that pursuant to the contract Data Industries was supposed to charge the county $125 per hour. Instead the company was billing the county between $230 to $275 per hour. Other allegations of financial malfeasance was reported where individuals were being paid far more than they were entitled to under the contract. The Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office takes public corruption cases seriously. Only the most experienced prosecutors are offered the opportunity to work in that highly specialized department.

Former Miami-Dade County Employee Arrested in Massive Overbilling Scheme, Miami Herald.com, June 5, 2013.

March 11, 2013

Feds Arrest Cops for Identity Theft and Tax Refund Fraud

Federal agents arrested two local police officers for identity theft and tax refund fraud. Both officers are accused of using the State of Florida driver's license data base to obtain names and personal information to commit the fraud. City of Miami Police Officers Malinsky Bazile and Vital Frederick, acting independently, got caught using the database to accumulate hundreds of names and associated personal information to file fraudulent tax returns. Bazile alone is accused of stealing $140,000 from the federal government that was meant to be returned to legitimate tax payers. Both defendants will appear this week with their respective Miami criminal lawyers for their bond hearings and arraignments. Both officers joined the City of Miami Police Department back in 2008. The arrests were made by the FBI and Miami police internal affairs detectives.

The arrests of these officers for identity theft and tax-refund fraud stem from the large scale investigation into an illegal gambling ring in Liberty City. In that investigation, officers were accused of providing protection for the gambling ring in exchange for money. Identity theft and tax-return fraud have become a big concern for law enforcement. It is a greater concern when police officers use their authority and access to public records to commit criminal offenses. Both officers are presumed innocent until they are found guilty by a jury or enter a plea. It is not clear how many state cases will have to be dismissed as a result of the alleged malfeasance.

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida displayed disappointment and was quoted as saying, "To date, we have prosecuted Social Security office employees, hospital employees, clinic workers, former NFL players, gang members and violent criminals to name a few. Today, we sadly add law enforcement to the list of thieves." Bazile and Frederick are among the growing number of City of Miami police officers that have lost their jobs and are pending criminal charges. The entire investigation targeted officers working the Liberty City area. Both defendants are facing significant incarceration for the charged offenses. Their potential sentences will be determined by the federal sentencing guidelines which will take into account the number of victims and the amount of loss the federal government suffered. To make matters worse, both officers face a two year prison sentence for aggravated identity theft that will be stack on top of the sentence imposed by the federal judge presiding over the cases.

Over the past year, the federal government has indicted approximately 130 defendants accused of stealing more than $140,000,000 from the federal government. As the n umber of arrests grows, so does the sentences imposed in federal court for identity theft and tax-refund fraud. A defendant recently convicted of stealing more than $117,000 in tax refunds received a 16 year prison sentence. Assuming the officers do not cooperate with the federal government, they may even receive more time behind bars if convicted. Prosecutions for these types of offenses will continue until the Treasury Department can find a pro-active way of preventing the crime. South Florida is again on the radar screen as it is considered one of the capitals of this type of fraud.

Two Miami Police Officers Arrested on ID-Theft, Tax Refund Charges Linked to FBI Corruption Probe, Miami Herald.com, March 7, 2013.

February 1, 2013

Police Officer Arrested on Extortion Charges

The FBI arrested a local police officer for two counts of extortion. The charges allege that Officer Harlod James was involved in providing protection to a sports betting ring that operated out of Liberty City. James is scheduled to appear in federal court with his Miami criminal lawyer on Friday. It is widely expected that the defendant will enter a guilty plea when he makes his court appearance. James got caught up in a FBI corruption investigation that targeted a barbershop that was running an illegal gambling operation. Prior to his arrest, James resigned from the City of Miami Police Department. He was an 8 year veteran of the department. The arrest further tarnishes the reputation of the city's police department.

James is accused of providing protection for a courier that was transporting purported tax refund checks. The federal government is accusing James of accepting cash payments in exchange for providing protection. James only received $800 from his alleged protection scheme. James appeared in court yesterday at his initial appearance and entered a not guilty plea to the indictment charging two counts of extortion. The criminal attorney representing James was able to secure a $75,000 bond for his client which was then posted. James is scheduled to appear in court today and enter a guilty plea. James is the second police officer arrested to date for his involvement. Officer Nathaniel Dauphin was arrested last January and charged with one count of extortion for allegedly accepting a $5,000 cash payment in exchange for protection.

The FBI working in conjunction with the City of Miami police are expected to arrest more officers who were also allegedly involved in providing protection to the illegal gambling ring. Most of the officer currently being investigated, but not charged, have resigned or been relieved of duty. In total, at least 10 city cops are expected to be arrested and face federal prosecutions for similar conduct committed by James and Dauphin. No mention has been made by the media whether any of those arrested are going to cooperate with the federal government in the prosecution of their fellow officers. However, if James takes a plea two days after being arrested, it is apparent that he probably worked out some sort of deal with the federal government in exchange for his cooperation.

A second City of Miami police officer, Luis Hernandez, was arrested on charges including armed kidnapping and sexual battery. Hernandez appeared at his bond hearing yesterday and was denied bail. Armed kidnapping is a felony that carries a potential prison sentence of life. Any one arrested for a capital offense or first degree felony punishable by life in prison will be held without bail. There are two way to obtain bail in these types of cases. The first is to convince the prosecutor to stipulate to a bond. If a defense lawyer cannot convince the prosecution to agree to a bond, the second option is to request an Arthur hearing. An Arthur hearing is a mini-trial where a judge must determine whether there is enough evidence to keep a defendant incarcerated. The state must meet their burden of "proof evident, presumption great". If the state cannot meet that burden the judge will set a bond. If the state meets their burden, the judge can still set a bond if a defendant is not a risk of flight, nor a danger to the community.

Another Miami Police Officer Criminally Charged with Extortion in FBI Probe, Miami Herald.com, January 31, 2013.

January 8, 2013

City Cop Set for Federal Drug Trial

A federal jury is scheduled to start this week where the U.S. government will prosecute a city cop charged with a variety of offenses including planting cocaine on a suspect and stealing drugs and money from local drug dealers. Raul Iglesias will appear with his Miami criminal lawyer in court on Thursday for opening statements. While federal criminal cases usually lack transparency prior to the trail, this case is a little more secretive than most. The majority of witnesses include several former Miami undercover detectives that used to work in the same unit as the defendant. The government prosecutor filed a special motion with the court seeking the that the judge restrict the disclosure of the names of witnesses, testimony provided at the grand jury, FBI reports, statements and undercover recordings. The defense attorney representing Iglesias agreed to the terms set forth in the motion.

The defendant was indicted earlier on multiple counts including conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, obstruction of justice, making false official statements and for the violating another's civil rights. Iglesias was relieved of duty without pay in 2010 and is facing 20 years in a federal prison if a jury convicts him after hearing the evidence. The motion to keep the discovery secretive was granted in large part to prevent witness tampering and intimidation. The defense attorney in the case was provided all of the discovery, but was not permitted to discuss its contents with anyone. As the jury trial progresses all the evidence kept secret up to this point will become public.

There are many difference between state and federal criminal cases. The discovery process is far more complete in the state system. Anyone charged with a felony offense in the State of Florida is permitted to have his attorney take the depositions of the majority of witnesses expected to testify at trial. Depositions are not permitted under federal criminal system. Under the state criminal justice system, prosecutors are required to turn over all documents, statements or papers that are relevant to the case. The feds are required to turn over some, but not all of an documents or other evidence that will be introduced at trial. For example, any statements made by the defendant or co-defendants must be turned over prior to trial. Additionally, exculpatory evidence, as well as any agreements entered into by cooperating witnesses or defendants must also be turned over to the defense.

Iglesias, a City of Miami detective, was with the department for 18 years and was the head of the crime suppression unit when he was relieved of duty. The crime suppression unit's duties including the arrest and prosecution of street level drug dealers and drug traffickers. One of the former detectives in his unit was arrested and agreed to cooperate against Iglesias. The former detective scheduled to testify was caught with ten bags of cocaine and two bags of marijuana that were taken from an Allapattah business. In exchange for his cooperation, he was permitted to plead guilty to possession of a controlled substance and was sentenced to a year of probation. The indictment against Iglesias charges him with stealing or planting drugs on at least four occasions.

Miami Police Sergeant Faces Drug Trafficking Trial in Secretive Federal Case, Miami Herald.com, January 3, 2013.

December 13, 2012

FBI Investigating Police Officers Involved in Bookmaking

The FBI has targeted several police officers for their alleged involvement in illegal bookmaking activities. More specifically, several police officers from the City of Miami are accused of providing protection for an illegal bookmaking ring operating out of Liberty City. The illegal gambling operation was under investigation for the past year and has been shut down according to local and federal authorities. One police officer has been suspended from duty, but the feds anticipate approximately six arrests in the upcoming days or weeks. Once the officers are arrested, it would be in their best interests to retain Miami criminal attorneys that have experience in defending public corruption cases both in state and federal court.

The investigation allegedly revealed that the officers involved were working off-duty details at a commercial establishment at the heart of the bookmaking operation. The FBI is simultaneously investigating other Miami-Dade law enforcement officers who are alleged to be involved in complex schemes to defraud including identity theft and thefts tax refunds. The latest investigation of City of Miami police officers is the most recent in a long list. Over the years, many City of Miami police officers have been relieved of duty and also on some occasions charged both in criminal federal and state courts. While very few officers across the county are corrupt or involved in criminal enterprises, allegations of this nature certainly violate the public trust. As a Miami criminal lawyer, reports of this nature certainly support allegations made by clients who routinely complain of police misconduct.

While all police departments across the country have their issues, the City of Miami Police Department is always making headlines. Whether the allegations are fair or unfair, the public confidence is certainly impacted anytime misconduct is reported in the media. In the past, officers from the Miami Police Department have been accused of being involved in drug trafficking, drug-ripoffs, robberies and illegal shootings. While all of the allegations have not been substantiated, police officers have been convicted of these types crimes and have been sentenced to jail and prison sentences both in state and federal court. The United States Justice Department is also investigating the City of Miami Police Department for police shootings that took the lives of seven men in 2010 and 2011. It is apparent that the Miami Police is not the only department under scrutiny. Unrelated FBI investigations are targeting officers in other departments for identity theft and tax refund fraud. There are allegations that police officers are stealing social security numbers and dates of birth and filing fraudulent tax returns.

It is certainly a shame when allegations of this nature come to light. While most police officers follow the law and the policies set forth by their departments, others are just as guilty of committing crimes as some of the defendants they arrest. At a minimum, bad officers can taint the reputation of an entire police department. Sometimes these illegal actions work to the benefit of clients. Officers being investigated, relieved of duty or even arrested will irreparably damage a prosecutor's case to the point that cases are often dismissed both in county and circuit court for officer misconduct..

Investigating Cops in Bookmaking Case, Miami Herald.com, December 11, 2012.

October 23, 2012

Three Local Cops Fired, But Not Charged With Criminal Offenses

Three police officers from the City of Medley Police Department have been fired from their jobs for their involvement in an alleged cover-up of a traffic accident. Last year, a Miami man was driving to work when a traffic accident occurred involving his vehicle and a Medley police car. Soon after the accident, the man was arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) and cited for failing to yield the right of way. Hialeah police officers arrived to assist the Medley offers and quickly determined that the man arrested was not drunk. The man wrongfully accused of DUI was released and not charged with a criminal offense. Criminal attorneys in Miami that represent the three officers convinced the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office that there was insufficient evidence to file criminal charges against the three officers.

Miami-Dade prosecutors investigated accusations of public corruption, but in the end did not find enough evidence to charge the cops with criminal charges. The president of the Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association said that the firings were baseless, harsh and unfair. An attorney representing one of the officers claimed, "This is a biased witch-hunt and willful violation of every concept of fairness." It is not clear whether the officer will sue the department to get their jobs back or for economic losses as a result of the firing. The police officers involved in the arrest claimed that the man was never placed under arrest. The Medley police chief backed up the firings by claiming that the treatment of man clearly indicated that the man was placed under arrest when he was handcuffed, read Miranda rights and taken to the Hialeah police station.

The officer involved in the accident and the arrest had been involved in three other traffic crashes within the last 18 months. The officer contacted his supervisor and told him the driver's breath smelled of beer. The driver admitted to having two beers earlier in the day, but denied that he was driving under the influence. The officer performed roadside exercises and claimed that the man did not perform to standard and placed him under arrest. The driver was taken to the Hialeah police department and blew .000 twice. The legal limited in DUI cases in the State of Florida is .08. Once the breath results were obtained and the driver was released with only an infraction.

The officers credibility came into question as a result of the independent investigation conducted by a claims adjuster with United Automobile Insurance. The adjuster reported that the facts provided by the officer did not match the information provided in the police reports and the crime scene photographs. Surveillance videos allegedly contradicted one of the officers claims that the driver was traveling at 60 mph when the accident occurred. The officer's supervisor claimed that a civilian witness observed the crash, a fact that was proven not to be true. A police lieutenant, acting a police chief at the time of the arrest, was accused of approving a report that was replete with lies. All of the officers involved were investigated for committing the crimes of unlawful compensation, official misconduct, and insurance fraud. The criminal investigation was closed because the prosecutor reviewing the case found there was insufficient evidence to criminally charge the officers.

Three Florida Cops Ordered Fired for Traffic Accident Cover-Up, Bradenton Herald.com, October 22, 2012.

July 19, 2012

Bailiff in Hot Water Amid Allegations of Misconduct

Last week, a veteran bailiff of the Miami-Dade County Circuit Court was arrested for her alleged involvement in accepting cash payments from defendants and passing the proceeds on to a local criminal lawyer who represented the same defendants. The bailiff is one of the best known and well-liked of the court staff that supports the Metro-Justice Building. According to investigators, they were able to obtain audio and video surveillance of the bailiff accepting cash payments from a defendant charged with several traffic infractions. According to court documents including the arrest affidavit and warrant, the cash was then passed onto a local criminal attorney.

The bailiff, a county employee, has been charged with three felonies including uttering a forged instrument, official misconduct, and receiving illegal compensation. She is also charged with a misdemeanor, more specifically, for violating the county's ethics code. The code does not permit county employees from recommending the services of any particular lawyer. The criminal attorney involved in the allegations has not been charged in the matter. Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle was quoted as saying, "For the courts, and all of us that work in the judicial system, it's very sad. The system depends on the confidence in the employees, and when you see a video like that, it certainly undermines that confidence."

The bailiff, although charged, remains innocent until proven guilty at trial or voluntarily enters a plea. Another option for her may be the pre-trial intervention program. The program is run by the state attorney's office. If a defendant stays out of trouble for six months, including no new arrests or other violations, and completes the conditions set forth by the prosecutor, the case will be dismissed. While the bailiff is certainly eligible for such a program, the current political situation and upcoming election may make that option unlikely, as the current state attorneys has been accused by her counter-part of not being tough enough on public corruption.

The veteran bailiff is represented by a private lawyer will defend the case on behalf of his client. She posted a $7,000 bond, but had no other conditions set by the bond hearing judge. The case was referred to the state attorney's office by another criminal lawyer who met one of the defendants after deciding not to continue doing business with the bailiff. Once the state attorney's office received this information, an undercover officer was sent in to deal with the bailiff as a defendant. During the dealings, the undercover official took video and audio surveillance of the transactions. While the penalties after trial or a plea are unknown at this point, it is almost certain that the bailiff will lose her government job and any retirement benefits that may have accompanied it.

Miami-Dade Bailiff Arrested on Allegation of Misconduct, Miami Herald.com, July 19, 2012.

June 7, 2011

Local Cop Facing Federal Drug Charges

A local city police officer was arrested last week and charged in federal court with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Court records indicate that the former Miami police officer is accused of taking drugs from dope dealers and selling them on his own. Roberto Asanza was six year veteran of the City of Miami Police Departments crime suppression unit. The unit has operated in the streets for years playing a major role in taking drugs off of the streets. Many believe that all police officers are to be trusted. While the arrest of an officer may seem unfortunate to some, Miami criminal defense attorneys know that criminal cases fall apart when officers listed as witnesses in their client's case are arrested or indicted. Prosecutors can not proceed with criminal charges against a defendant if police officer involved in the case are charged with criminal conduct.

In Miami, we are constantly reminded that law enforcement officials are just a capable of committing crimes as anyone else in the community. U.S Attorney Wilfredo Ferrer, along with the FBI agents and City of Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito, publically announced the arrest of the Miami police officer. The FBI claims that the defendant along with other crime suppression officers arrested a man for drug possession and seized multiple bags of cocaine and marijuana. A few weeks after the seizure, FBI agents stopped Asanza and allegedly found ten bags of cocaine and two bags of marijuana in his vehicle that were purportedly seized in the earlier bust. The defendant allegedly consented to the search allowed the agents to find ten bags of cocaine and two bags of marijuana. The FBI subsequently determined that these drugs formed part of the cache taken in the Allapattah dope arrest.

The FBI investigation with the assistance of the City of Miami Police Department, now also involves Asanza's supervisor. According, to the FBI affidavit, in January 2010, Asanza and a fellow Miami police officer, identified as "R.I.," recruited a confidential informant (CI) to work with the undercover squad. "R.I.", according to the press, is Raul Iglesias, 38, a Miami police sergeant, and a 16-year veteran of the force. Iglesias apparently was formerly in charge of the Central District's suppression unit. He was suspended, with pay, from that position after the FBI's stop of Asanza's vehicle. Iglesias, who has not been charged, remains under investigation by both the FBI and the City of Miami police. Federal prosecutors will undoubtedly seek assistance from Asanza to prosecute Iglesias. The defense attorney representing Asanza will have to determine the strength of the government's case before advising his client to provide information against a fellow officer.

In October of last year, Asanza reportedly admitted to the FBI that he and Iglesias took drugs and money from the Allapattah drug dealer, following a tip they received from their CI. Asanza, according to the FBI, also acknowledged that he and Iglesias paid the CI with drugs and money, this apparently in an effort, per Asanza's reported statement to the FBI, to build a relationship with the CI that could prove useful in the future. The CI allegedly received about $120, including $80 taken from the drug dealer, and two bags of cocaine from Asanza and Iglesias. If convicted, Asanza could be receive a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

FBI Bust Miami Cop on Drug Charge, The Miami Herald.com, June 2, 2011.

April 15, 2011

Golden Beach Police Officers Arrested for Theft and Fraud

The Golden Beach Police department can now boast of three recent arrests of police officers accused of allegedly skimming money from the town and the taxpayers who reside there. The officers are currently charged with grand theft and organized scheme to defraud. Reports indicate that the officers failed to pay the town a portion of income earned by working off-duty jobs. The town requires that officers report all off-duty hours worked and further requires that they pay a $5 fee for every hour worked. The fee is supposed to compensate the town for police car maintenance, uniforms, gasoline and insurance costs. The defendants will all retain private Miami criminal defense attorneys to defend the charges.

The amount of the fraud is minimal, with one defendants allegedly bilking the town out of $1,500 and the other about $2,100. While most first time offenders would normally be offered the pre-trial intervention (PTI) program, officers are generally held to a higher standard and will not be offered an opportunity to resolve their cases in that manner. The pre-trial intervention program is usually offered to all first time defendants that are charged with non-serious, non-violent felony offenses. The defendants are required to complete certain conditions in exchange for a nolle pros or dismissal from the state attorney's office. The conditions that are usually required to be completed include community service hours, certain programs such as drug classes, domestic violence classes and theft classes, and fines and charitable contributions.

Defendants who are also police officers are not offered the program, but will be offered pleas that require them to give up their FDLE certifications or their licenses to be police officers. Because any plea with this condition will effectively end a police officers career, the majority of cases involving police officers go to trial. A lot also depends on the amount of evidence that exists against these defendants. Cases involving police officers are handled by the public corruption unit in the Miami-Dade County State Attorneys Office. While a specialized unit handles the prosecution, the cases, like all others are blind-filed or randomly assigned to one of the 20 criminal circuit judges sitting on the bench.

The officers like all defendants will have an arraignment date scheduled 21 days from the date of the arrest. During that 21 day period, an assistant state attorney will review the reports and talk to witnesses to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed with the case. If the prosecutor does not have enough evidence to file the case, he or she will no action the case and it ends there. If there is enough evidence to proceed, the prosecutor will file the charges and the case will be set for trial. Just because a case is filed does not mean all hope is lost. The defense lawyer handling the case will be permitted to engage in discovery and depose the majority of the state witnesses. Many cases become more defensible as the discovery process proceeds. The discovery process can provide defense counsel with the ammunition needed to file pre-trial motions such as motions to suppress and dismiss. Another plus is that the cases may get so weak that the state can seek to resolve in ways that avoid a plea and a trial. That is why any one arrested must find experienced counsel to represent them in criminal proceedings.

Two More Golden Beach Cops Arrested, Miami Herald.com, April 12, 2011.

August 26, 2010

Trial Begins for South Florida Police Officers

Two former police officers began their trial this week in state criminal court accused of stealing money from drug dealers. Daniel Fernandez and Joe Losada, both former Miami-Dade police officers, are charged with grand theft and official misconduct. The prosecution characterized the defendants as officers that were stealing money from victims that were drug dealers or that had criminal records because law enforcement authorities would not believe victims with checkered pasts. The Miami criminal lawyers representing the defendants told jurors that their clients were actually the victims of a witch hunt and that the state's witnesses had credibility issues.

Both police officers wee members of the Miami-Dade County Police Department's Crime Suppression Team, and in fact, Fernandez was even named officer of the year in 2004. The defendants were arrested in 2006 when they were allegedly caught up in an undercover sting where they took $970 in marked bills from a fictitious crime scene. The internal affairs department orchestrated the bust by enlisting two men who had previously made complaints against the officers. One of the informants has a criminal past for drug possession and drug sales while the other informant also has a criminal record.

While the marked bills may be an issue at trial, it will be interesting to see if the state's key witnesses can survive what is certain to be a withering cross-examination by the criminal defense attorneys. In their opening statements, counsel for the accused regarded one of the informants as being involved in money laundering and drug trafficking. This particular defendant owns approximately $1,000,000 in real estate allegedly amassed by purchasing properties and fixing them up himself. The other informant has issues with a recent arrest for cocaine possession. Despite the arrest, the informant served a minuscule sentence in exchange for continuing to assist in the prosecution of the former Miami-Dade police officers.

The attorneys for the defendants have offered up explanations for the marked bills. One of the lawyers proposed that his client only held the marked bills for a few minutes before turning them over to another officer to be impounded as property. The lawyer for the second defendant explained that one of the officers had some of the money in his pocket, but that he received from another officer a the scene who owed him money. The case against the two officers has lingered for 4 ½ years, but the trial is expected to be concluded sometime next week.

While the arrests of the officers are unfortunate, other Miami criminal defense lawyers have used the case to their benefit. In many cases, other defendants have had their charges dropped or have received good plea offers because these officers were the only witnesses to the crime. In every case where police officers testimony is critical to proving the charges, defense counsel should request the internal affairs records of any officer whose credibility is at issue. Internal affairs documents are a public record and can be requested by anyone.

Theft Trial of Ex-Miami-Dade Officers Begins, The Miami Herald.com, August 26, 2010.

June 3, 2010

Former GOP Head Indicted on Felony Charges

The individual previously picked to run the Republican Party in the State of Florida was formally charged yesterday with fraud. The former chairman of the party was arrested in his Central Florida home on several felony counts. The statewide prosecutor's office is prosecuting Jim Greer on four counts of grand theft, one count of operating an organized to defraud, and one count of money laundering. The allegations stem from a shell company Greer created to funnel political contributions for his own use. When the allegations came to light, Greer agreed to resign as the Republican's top man back in January. He is now facing up to 80 years in prison.

Greer's previous lawyer came forward defending his client's arrest. He was quoted as saying that the arrest was absolutely outrageous as 12 armed law enforcement agents stormed his residence, kept his family at bay, seized his computer and dragged him out of the house. It is not clear which criminal lawyer will defend the case in state criminal court. The indictment alleges that Greer set up a shell company called Victory Strategies. The Republican Party then hired Victory Strategies and agreed that Victory would keep 10% of the political donations that went to the Republican Party. The indictment further alleges that Greer's company siphoned off approximately $199,254.50 in 2009. Greer kept 60% of the proceeds while a silent minority owner kept the rest of the proceeds. The silent partner has not been indicted and may be cooperating with the authorities.

Greer is accused of spending the money to sustain his personal lifestyle. Two Republicans running for U.S. Congress are trying to cut ties with Greer. Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio have been damaged to the point that their campaigns are in jeopardy as a result of their connection with Greer. In fact, Democrat Kendrick Meek issued a press statement regarding "Republican excess" right after the prosecution announced the criminal indictment of Greer. Greer denies all wrongdoing, and in fact, sued the Republican Party claiming they owed him for severance in the amount of $124,000.

The investigation into Greer's practices were initiated by Attorney General Bill McCollum, who is currently seeking the Republican nomination for governor. At some point, McCollum reviewed the party audit and requested that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to conduct a fraud investigation. Whether the charges alleged against Greer are substantiated or not, the case has a lot of political underpinnings. Public corruption prosecutions have been popular over the past year in Miami and throughout the State fo Florida. While most of the prosecutions seem to be legitimate, other are contrived for other reasons. Be that as it may, anyone being investigated or having been arrested for public corruption needs to contact a criminal defense law firm experienced in defending these types of matters.

Forrner Florida Republic Chief Charged with Fraud, Reuters.com, June 3, 2010.

May 28, 2010

Local Cops Again Under the Microscope

Once again local law enforcement officers are being investigated for committing illegalities and for their involvement in corrupt practices. The FBI is investigating an undercover police squad assigned to the City of Miami Police Department. Since the investigation is still underway, it is unclear how many officers are alleged to be involved. The undercover squad is being investigated for allegedly stealing money and drugs from street level dealers. If the investigation reveals that one or more of these police officers were involved in any impropriety, defendants previously arrested by these officers for crimes such as cocaine sale, cocaine trafficking, marijuana possession or sale of marijuana may have the evidence necessary to have the case dismissed by the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office.

City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado confirmed that an investigation was underway, but has not been briefed as to the details of the allegations. As of today, only one officer is under investigation and has been suspended from duty with pay. The officer has probably already received advice from a Miami criminal law firm regarding his rights. Depending on the strength of the evidence against the officer, he may be forced to assist federal law enforcement by providing information regarding other crimes committed by other officers on the squad. Other members of the drug enforcement squad have been served with subpoenas and are scheduled to appear before a grand jury in federal court. Whether the officers speak will depend on the advise they should have received from their criminal defense lawyers. All the officers are required to appear in court, however, they can always invoke their 6th Amendment right to counsel if questions posed to them may illicit an incriminating response.

The FBI investigation is targeting the City of Miami Police Department's Central District crime suppression unit. The detectives and officers assigned to this unit operate in plain clothes and are supposed to reduce street level crime. Based on limited available information, the feds are looking into whether any members of the crime suppression unit stole money or drugs from street level drug dealers or whether they took money and gave it to informants without properly accounting for it. Only time will tell if the allegations have any merit. We will post again regarding the outcome of the investigation to inform you which officers, if any, will be charged in the case.

The City of Miami Police Department has a long history of problems. The same street crime unit had significant problems in the 1990's which resulted in 13 indictments. The officers were accused of planting guns in four police involved shootings and then lying to law enforcement investigators about the shootings. Some of the officers were also charged with planting guns on shooting victims so they could avail themselves to claims of self-defense. As a result of that investigation and prosecution, four officers were convicted and sent to federal prison. Two of the officers received probation for cooperating in the prosecution of their fellow officer. Four of the officers were acquitted after a jury trial.

FBI Investigating Miami Police Street Crime Unit, The Miami Herald, May 28, 2010.