A Miami-Dade Police officer, two Miami Beach firefighters and five code enforcement officers were arrested in separate corruption cases involving the extortion and drug trafficking conspiracy, the U.S. attorney announced Wednesday.
Prosecutors say Jose L. Alberto, the lead code compliance inspector for the city of Miami Beach, along with four Miami Beach code compliance officers and two Miami Beach firefighters, participated in a scheme to extort cash payments from a South Beach nightclub.
Alberto, 41, code compliance officers Willie E. Grant, 56, Orlando E. Gonzalez, 32, Ramon D. Vasallo, 31, and Vicente L. Santiesteban, 29, and firefighters Henry L. Bryant, 45, and Chai D. Footman, 36, have all been charged in the alleged extortion ring, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors say Alberto solicited a cash pay-off in June 2011 from a club owner in exchange for not enforcing a large fine for a code violation. The owner reported the incident to the FBI, who began an undercover investigation.
During the course of the investigation, Alberto, Grant, Gonzalez, Vasallo, Santiesteban, Bryant, and Footman all accepted cash pay-offs, prosecutors said.
The group accepted more than $25,000 in pay-offs over the course of the investigation, prosecutors said.
In the second case, prosecutors say Bryant and Miami-Dade Police officer Daniel L. Mack, 47, agreed to transport and protect multiple kilos of cocaine.
Prosecutors say an undercover agent arranged to have Bryant transport fake cocaine on two separate occasions in December 2011 and January 2012.
In both instances, a car driven by Bryant was escorted by a Miami-Dade Police cruiser driven by Mack, who wore his uniform and was armed, prosecutors said.
The two were given over $25,000 in cash pay-offs to deliver the fake drugs, prosecutors said.
"When government officials misuse their offices and abuse their power to line their own pockets and satisfy their greed, they erode the public’s trust in good and efficient government," U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer said in a statement. "It is incumbent upon all of us to adopt a zero-tolerance policy for corruption, at any level of government. I encourage victims to come forward, report shakedowns of this kind, and help us shine a light on backroom corruption."
The suspects charged in the extortion case face a maximum of 20 years behind bars. The suspects in the drug case are facing life in prison.
Prosecutors said the suspects are expected to make their first appearance in federal court Wednesday afternoon. It was unknown whether they have attorneys.