The state of Florida is constantly in the news for all of the wrong reasons – and this latest story shows that there is something deeply wrong with the way that the “Sunshine State” is run. The entire police department that was supposed to be keeping watch over the village of Bal Harbour has been caught stealing millions in taxpayer dollars in a huge money-laundering scheme that included cooperation with drug cartels.
The money laundering “sting” operation was set up with the official intention of catching drug dealers – but ended up becoming a glaring symbol of what our nation’s failed “War on Drugs” has really become. An investigation by the Miami Herald – not the Department of Justice – found that the task force of twelve officers helped drug cartels launder some $55 million, taking $2.4 million of it for themselves and arresting zero perpetrators. The scheme including conspiring with officials from Venezuela to “disrupt criminal groups” – including William Amaro Sanchez, now a special assistant to newly elected President Nicolás Maduro – but ended up just sending them money and helping them squirrel millions away from the eyes of real cops.
The federal government failed to notice that there are no records for deposits of some $28 million dollars at the Sun Trust bank, and officials are absolutely astonished at how the sheer audacity of Florida’s crooked cops:
“They had no authority to do what they were doing,” said Felix Jimenez, former chief inspector of the Drug Enforcement Administration. “They were just lucky that when they were picking up all this money, nobody got killed.”
“It’s absurd. You’re a Bal Harbour police officer, your jurisdiction is local,” said Jimenez, the former chief DEA agent in New York. “They were just laundering money for the sake of laundering money.”
“I can’t think of a more podunk town than Bal Harbour — not in a bad way. But in the sense that these cops would have otherwise been stopping traffic or shooting radar,” said Ruben Oliva, who has represented alleged narco-traffickers since the 1980s. “In reality they were being launderers. The minute they started doing busts, it would have been over. This is like a movie. You’ve got these guys and they’re flying all over. They’re saying, ‘Hey, I’m in the big leagues.’ I’ve seen every kind of law enforcement money-laundering investigations. I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s really one for the ages.”
Not only did the cops steal millions for themselves, they interfered with other investigations actually trying to stop drug dealers and contributed to the rampant corruption in one of the world’s cocaine hubs. How are officials in Venezuela or Colombia supposed to trust American law enforcement agencies trying to halt the flow of this dangerous drug and the violence it brings with it if cops are behaving this way? How many more millions must we squander on war that does nothing but destroy communities and fan the flames of criminality across the world? How are we supposed to trust our cops to do anything when they recklessly murder minorities on a near-daily basis and get caught colluding with criminals for their own personal profit?
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.