A Miami-Dade Police officer charged with aiding a narcotics-trafficking organization made his first federal court appearance Wednesday.
Ralph Mata, 45, was arrested Tuesday in Miami Gardens, according to New Jersey's U.S. attorney. Mata, who is also known as "the Milk Man," is charged in a scheme to distribute cocaine in New Jersey and elsewhere, authorities said.
Mata's wife appeared with him in court Wednesday, along with a few other supporters, but she did not wish to comment on her husband's arrest.
"She was surprised that the FBI came to her home and started a search and this is a complete shock to her," said Mata's attorney Bruce Fleisher.
The allegations against Mata include aiding an international drug operation that brought large sums of cocaine from the Dominican Republic into Northern New Jersey.
Mata is also accused of orchestrating a murder-for-hire plot, providing firearms and sensitive law enforcement information and helping transport drug proceeds, according to U.S. attorney Paul Fishman.
"They are serious allegations, but all serious allegations need due diligence in investigating," Fleisher said.
Fleisher says he will vigorously defend Mata against the charges, which carry a possible life prison sentence.
Mata had been with the Miami-Dade Police Department since 1992, during which time he served as a K-9 officer at Miami International Airport and as an officer with the internal affairs division.
"Ralph Mata is a good cop and well decorated cop," Fleisher said.
Mata is scheduled to appear back in federal court Monday in Miami. He will eventually be extradited to New Jersey.