Miami police officer pleads guilty to writing bogus crime reports in credit scam

Cop said he broke law to help a 'good friend'

MIAMI – A Miami police officer admitted he intentionally fabricated four police reports to help a so-called credit doctor named Vanessa Perez pull off a scam, according to federal court records.

In a deal kept secret from the public, 15-year Miami Police Department veteran Lazaro Fernandez pleaded guilty in federal court in September to fraud for his role in the scam. Federal official said the scam involved numerous police officers from multiple departments in Miami-Dade accepting cash bribes and other favors from Perez.

A second officer, Miami-Dade police officer Rafael Duran, has pleaded not guilty to a fraud charge related to the case that involves a total of 130 bogus police reports generated by dirty cops, according to federal court papers.

Fernandez, 41, admitted to writing four false reports for Perez, but claimed he took no money in the scheme and did it to help Perez, whom he said was a long-time friend.

"Mr. Fernandez did not receive any compensation for his actions, even though Ms. Perez paid other police officers $500 for fraudulent reports," his attorney Sam Rabin wrote to U.S. District Judge Marcia Cook.  "Mr. Fernandez committed the instant offense out of misguided loyalty to her, and not for pecuniary gain."

Fernandez himself also wrote a letter to the judge.

"Because of my job, I was approached by a friend who knew I was a cop," he wrote. "She asked me to write four police reports that I knew were false. I wrote them to help her out in her credit repair business. I rationalized it at the time by thinking that I was not taking any money for the reports -- I was just being a good friend. I was wrong. I was stupid. I committed a crime."

In the reports, Fernandez claimed that customers for Perez's credit repair business had been victims of identity theft. Perez, who pleaded guilty and is serving a 64-month prison sentence, then submitted the reports to credit ratings companies like Equifax, which wiped their credit clean based on the bogus information.

Fernandez faced up to 20 years in prison, but after his guilty plea, was sentenced to just two years probation and 100 hours community service. He resigned from the department in late 2013 amidst the investigation, and court records indicate he was allowed to keep his pension.

Attempts to contact Fernandez, who now runs a transportation company, at his Miami home were unsuccessful.

There are more officers suspected, according to federal court documents, but the number isn't known.

In addition to Perez, her husband Mario and an alleged middleman, who arranged payments to some of the officers involved, named Mitchell Page have also been sentenced to prison in the case. Additional arrests are expected.

Fernandez, a father of three, joined the police department in 1998 and, according to his sentencing memorandum, served eight years working drug interdiction and was involved in major child prostitution and counterfeiting  investigations.

"He loved being a police officer and helping his community," his attorney Rabin wrote. "He cherished waking up every morning knowing that he was going to make a positive impact in someone's life. He is angry and disappointed in himself because he feels like he has let his community down."

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