By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
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By Kyle Swenson
In subsequent days, the Miami Police Department dispatched a team of divers to search the canal near 129th Street and Miller Drive. They came up with nothing. Then Steckel hired his own diver to scour the watery grave in search of his lost files. Still nothing.
With fading hopes of recovering the documents, and having exhausted Glass's usefulness, Steckel and the State Attorney's Office then set their sights on Joaquin "Wacko" Agrenot in the belief he could lead them to A.V. Squeezing 23-year-old Wacko was no problem given that he was on probation for a drug-related conviction. When he showed up at the probation office the second week of January for his required monthly visit, investigators were waiting for him. They told him that unless he rolled over on his friend A.V. and set him up to be arrested, they were going to claim he had violated his probation by helping A.V. and would immediately be sent to jail.
The pressure tactic was successful. Detectives learned from Wacko that A.V., despite the intense interest in his whereabouts, had not left Miami. They began to narrow the list of his possible hiding places. But detectives weren't the only ones on the prowl. According to A.V., he began hearing from friends that at least one ominous-looking figure was offering $10,000 to anyone who could provide information about his location. "Sure, I asked a bunch of people to ask around," Steckel acknowledges, but he denies offering a reward. Steckel's own attorney, George Yoss, says he hired private investigators as part of the case, but he won't divulge their mission.
Though A.V. was doing his best to stay hidden, he couldn't resist the temptation to make a few public excursions. After all, he had suddenly found himself in possession of a large sum of money A which for A.V. meant it was time to buy a new car. He had his eye on a used Corvette for $23,000, but when he announced his intention to pay in full, in cash, the dealer began asking more questions than A.V. wanted to answer. So he ended up at a more obliging and less inquisitive Nissan dealer, who sold him a new charcoal-gray 300-ZX with a twin turbo engine and leather interior. The price: $29,000. "It was a sweet car," A.V. says today. In an effort to throw off snoopy investigators, A.V. asked that the car be registered in the name of a friend, 26-year-old Ronald Speers, who accompanied A.V. to the dealership.
With Wacko's reluctant assistance, police now had several fresh leads to pursue in locating A.V. The only problem was manpower. Boris Montecon, the Miami police detective handling the case, had gone on vacation. Steckel, however, wasn't about to wait for his return. He wanted action now. But that meant he needed a new squad of investigators. "I believe I suggested names of people that I knew," Steckel says. "I think I suggested a whole bunch of people."
Steckel was in a position to know police officers and to call in favors. During his years in private practice, he had defended officers in trouble with the law. His best-known client of late was Miami police officer Carl Seals, whose aggressive use of a chokehold left Antonio Edwards in a long-term coma and cost the City of Miami seven million dollars in settlement.
Although Steckel, a private citizen, now seemed to be directly involved in internal police affairs, he maintains he wasn't doing anything improper. "I wasn't running the show," he says. "I do not carry that kind of weight." Yet his "suggestions" were usually followed. The officers he recommended, for instance, were assigned to the manhunt for A.V., even though they weren't members of the robbery unit, which officially should have been investigating the case.
If, as Steckel asserts, he was not running the show, he certainly was afforded a front-row seat. For example, on January 13, the night A.V. was finally captured, Steckel was personally driven to the scene of the arrest by Assistant State Attorney Andy Hague, whose assignment to the case was itself unusual. (Hague normally prosecutes murderers.) In fact, Hague and Steckel had been cruising around that night, searching for A.V. on their own. "I was babysitting Simon," Hague explains, dismissing any suggestion that Steckel was being given preferential treatment. "He was very emotional about this case. We didn't want him going off on his own, so he was riding with me. That way we could control his movements." Later that night, when detectives decided to visit several of A.V.'s family members to see if they had information about the briefcases, Steckel and Hague again tagged along.
Today Hague says A.V. is lucky he wasn't killed when he was arrested, and so were the police officers who risked their lives to apprehend him. The cops had under surveillance several of A.V.'s suspected hideouts. At about 10:00 p.m. they spotted him driving the 300-ZX and followed him to a gas station. When A.V. pulled in, they followed, drew their guns, and cornered him. Though for a moment he contemplated using his powerful car to make a run for it, A.V. surrendered without resistance. He was unarmed.