The Department of Justice says that Bal Harbour Police misused millions of dollars seized in drug and money laundering investigations, but Police Chief Thomas Hunker insisted Thursday that his department has done nothing wrong.
Speaking before a tense crowd at a special meeting, Hunker touted his force's successes in recent years in partnering with law enforcement agencies nationwide in the Department of Justice’s Equitable Sharing Program.
Hunker outlined how in teaming with authorities within Florida and as far away as California, Bal Harbour has seized tens of millions in drugs and cash. The money and forfeited property can be used to beef up law enforcement agencies, under special provisions.
But the Department of Justice, in a letter to Hunker and Mayor Jean Rosenfield, demanded that Bal Harbour Police promptly repay about $4.2 million in forfeited assets. The funds were spent on salaries, benefits, hotel, food, and airline bills, none of which are allowed under the federal program, authorities said.
An independent auditor hired by the village also found that the police department was misusing the funds.
“I take full responsibility for everything, and I can tell you right now, we have not done anything wrong,” Hunker said.
Some citizens at the meeting argued the report speaks for itself.
As Bal Harbour awaits the Department of Justice’s full report, Rosenfield said she is supporting Bal Harbour Police.
“We know that there are answers for all of the charges,” she told NBC 6 South Florida.
Rosenfield added, “We stand behind our police department.”
Bal Harbour plans to hire an outside attorney to review the Department of Justice’s report. When the dust settles, Hunker says he'll address the claims made against his department.
“I guarantee you when this is all over, okay, I will stand before you all and answer any of your questions,” he said.