Corruption Interruption: Feds Dropping Fraud Charges

Miami Police's highly touted arrests poo-pooed by prosecutors

Miami police made waves last month when they announced the arrest of city employees and public officials on corruption and fraud charges, but those waves are about to be crashed by prosecutors.

On Friday, Miami-Dade prosecutors will officially drop charges against four nonprofit agency employees arrested in the sweep, as the state attorney's office hits back against the charges they called "politically motivated" and claimed lacked evidence.

Charged were Laura and Fernando Gonzalez of "Vecinos en Accion," a nonprofit group, and Johnnie Brown and Vincent Cobham, employees of the Alternative Program, a nonprofit group that dealt with community service for criminals.

The four were charged with trying to shake down officers working undercover as people trying to avoid community service and drug testing.

"There was no 'fraud.' There was no deception," Miami-Dade public corruption prosecutor Johnette L. Hardiman wrote in memos released Thursday and acquired by the Miami Herald.

"This is the beginning of the end of the culture of corruption in the city of Miami," Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado announced at the time of the arrests in April. "This is something we promised the people of Miami."

Regalado and Police Chief Miguel Exposito went ahead with the arrests, which included three cops and another city official, despite Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle's skepticism over the strength of the arrests.

In the case of Laura Gonzalez, she was arrested even though she wasn't even there when husband Fernando had his allegedly illegal encounter with undercover officers.

Not to mention that private nonprofit employees can't be charged with bribery or official misconduct.

The cases against the officers, which include official misconduct, theft, perjury and depriving an individual of civil rights, have not been dropped, nor has the case against the city official charged with official misconduct and grand theft.

Exposito, who ensured there'd be arrests made after he announced the formation of his anti corruption unit shortly after taking over his post in February, is sticking by the arrests.

"Chief Miguel A. Exposito stands firm in that all of the arrests made on April 8, 2010 were legally sound and that the Miami Police Department will continue to root out corruption in the City of Miami through its appropriate investigative arm," read a police department statement released Friday.

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