A South Florida police lieutenant charged in a New Jersey cocaine conspiracy has been granted release on bail before his trial.
A judge set bond for Miami-Dade Police Lt. Ralph Mata at $500,000 at a hearing Monday. Mata will have to wear an ankle monitor and surrender his passport under the conditions of the bond.
"A lot of it had to do with his record as an honored and decorated police officer for 22 years and his ties to the community and good family," Mata's attorney Bruce Fleisher said.
Mata, known as "The Milk Man," has also agreed to waive extradition and attend a hearing in New Jersey, either next week or the week after.
The FBI says Mata provided protection, sensitive law enforcement information and security for a drug trafficking organization that smuggled cocaine into the U.S. They allegedly used shipments of bananas and other produce from the Dominican Republic and Ecuador.
Authorities also say Mata planned a hit on a rival gang, although that never took place.
Fleisher says he will vigorously defend Mata against the charges, which carry a possible life prison sentence.
Mata has been with the Miami-Dade Police Department since 1992. Most recently he was assigned to the internal affairs unit that investigates police wrongdoing.
Miami-Dade Police Director J.D. Patterson released a statement Monday calling the allegations against Mata "beyond shocking and disturbing."
"The community’s trust is vital to us and this Department is committed to seek out, identify, and rid itself of individuals who violate that trust. We appreciate our federal partners’ work to help us achieve this goal," Patterson's statement read, in part. "The extent to which my office can comment on this case is restricted to the federal investigation. Nevertheless, this matter is a source of monumental disappointment and distress to myself, our community, and the Miami-Dade Police Department family.
"I assure the people of Miami-Dade County that unlawful behavior is unacceptable by the Miami-Dade Police Department and we will fully cooperate with our federal law enforcement partners in this and other investigations. As we continue to move forward, I ask that we remember and respect those officers who are committed to protect and serve this community with honor every day."