A sweeping corruption investigation by several police agencies and the FBI leads to the arrests of five Miami Beach code enforcement officers, two Miami Beach firefighters and a Miami-Dade police officer.
Authorities said Jose L. Alberto, the lead code compliance officer for the city of Miami Beach, city code compliance officers Willie E. Grant, Orlando E. Gonzalez, Ramon D. Vasallo and Vicente L. Santiesteban, and firefighters Henry L. Bryant and Chai D. Footman, are accused of participating in a scheme to extort cash payments from a South Beach nightclub.
Prosecutors said the suspects demanded thousands of dollars in bribes from an unidentified Miami Beach nightclub owner in return for looking the other way on safety and fire code violations.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said the incident began in June 2011, when Alberto solicited a cash payoff from the nightclub owner, who then contact the FBI. Ferrer said investigators installed an undercover agent as the club's manager, and over the next seven months, he paid cash bribes totaling more than $25,000 to the seven Miami Beach workers.
"It's horrifying to find out that people who you think are doing their job have done something like this," said Miami Beach Mayor Mattie Bower.
"This is not acceptable, and if there's anybody that's engaged in this kind of activity, we're going to pursue it and root it out and certainly enforce the law as vigorously as we can," said Jorge Gonzalez, of the Miami Beach Police Department.
"We hope it's not widespread. As the U.S. attorney mentioned, we're looking for the public's cooperation. If there are any other incidents or any other businesses or clubs that feel they've been shaken down or threatened in any way, then we want to know that information, as well as the FBI," said Miami Beach Police Chief Ray Martinez.
Prosecutors said Bryant and Miami-Dade police Officer Daniel L. Mack also were charged in a cocaine trafficking conspiracy.
According to investigators, they used the officer's police uniform and cruiser to provide protection for the delivery of a number of kilos of cocaine from Miami Beach to Miami.
All eight suspects were taken to the Miami-Dade Federal Detention Center.