South Florida is one of the top places in the country when it comes to the number of veterans living here. NBC 6 has discovered police went undercover at the Veterans of Foreign Wars in South Beach and what they found is shocking.
The VFW is closed after police executed a search warrant, which landed a worker behind bars. Undercover officers said they discovered the VFW was a place to buy cocaine and gamble illegally.
Images show what the VFW says it stands for: Support for the military, those who fought overseas, and community. Miami Beach political leaders, police and fire, are all there frequently, but undercover detectives detected something wasn't right.
Police indicate on two occasions, they made undercover buys from Miguel Socerio at the VFW and later he allegedly led them to larger deals. He's charged with cocaine trafficking.
Veterans are angered by what was allegedly going on.
"I'm kind of embarrassed about the whole thing," said Tom Norman, VFW member. "The things that went down. Un-American you know, I'm an American. I believe we ought to do things by the law."
A few days ago, the arrest of Resty Cardova, a bartender at the VFW, shut the doors.
Undercover officers said the gaming machines meant for amusement were actually part of an illegal gambling operation. The detectives tracked money changing hands. The arresting officers said Cardova also had "Xanax pills, clear plastic bags with powdered cocaine," and the narcotics and slot machines were impounded.
"You would like a place like our VFW here on the beach to be almost held to a higher standard. So it was disappointing to read about the illegal gambling going on and the potential drug deals that were going on inside," said Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco.
The commissioner and veteran advocates now worry the VFW locations could be used by those out to make a quick buck on vets who are coping after a return from combat.
"It concerns me if someone was taking advantage of them," Norman said.
The VFW said it's conducting a full investigation into these allegations and the finances.
Police still have more work to do on their end. They want to know more about what everyone thought was a safe, family, All-American location.