By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
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
Losada charged Burnett with two felony counts of battery on a law enforcement officer, two felony counts of resisting an officer with violence, and one felony count of cocaine possession with intent to sell.
One month before Fernandez and Losada were indicted, the State Attorney's Office dropped the charges against Burnett.
Cocaine dealer Pedro Soler reclines on the sofa of his one-bedroom crib at NW 29th Avenue and 93rd Street. The 34-year-old Cuban insists he is no chivatón, Spanish slang for snitch. "I went to internal affairs because these cops were harassing me," Soler explains. "You may think I'm a scumbag, but these guys are worse."
Soler, a heavy-set hustler whose personality is as large as his girth, was the main character in the internal affairs sting operation that nailed Fernandez and Losada. Soler's testimony is a key factor as to whether a jury will convict the disgraced detectives.
"Papo, everybody here in the hood and at the station knows what I do," Soler reveals.
Sometime in the early evening of September 7, 2005, from a secluded location, perhaps under the cover of an oak tree's canopy, Fernandez was eyeballing 41-year-old Rafael Rodriguez, a friend of Soler's, who was standing outside the doorway to his residence. Other CST members, who included Dets. Debra Bradford, Leon, Losada, and Villalobos, positioned themselves in nearby locations, awaiting Fernandez's takedown signal.
Around 8:00 p.m. Fernandez watched Soler pull up in a gray Mercury Cougar. After a brief conversation with his friend, Rodriguez went inside and re-emerged with a plastic bag containing smaller plastic baggies filled with white powder. Rodriguez handed the bag to Soler, who gave his buddy five U.S. bills, returned to his car, and drove off. Fernandez ordered Bradford, Leon, and Losada to pursue Soler.
The detectives pulled Soler over about half a block from his apartment. After placing Soler in custody, the cops found 6.5 grams of yeyo inside the center console of the Cougar. Losada arrested Soler on two felony cocaine trafficking charges.
The four detectives rejoined Fernandez and Villalobos in taking down Rodriguez, who was arrested inside his house, where the cops confiscated two handguns and $2060, but found no drugs. Fernandez charged Rodriguez with three felony drug counts for possessing and then selling 7.5 grams of cocaine to Soler.
Two days after bonding out of jail, Rodriguez and Soler went to the Miami-Dade Police Department's Internal Affairs with incredible allegations against Fernandez and his squad. The two amigos alleged the officers planted the drugs, falsified their arrest affidavits, and stole their money, power tools, and other personal belongings.
During a recent interview inside his living room, Rodriguez and his wife Lesbia Raudales recount the story they told internal affairs. A short, stout man, Rodriguez is wearing a white tee, blue jeans, and construction boots, all completely caked in dry paint and cement stains. In addition to being a landlord, Rodriguez says he remodels houses, pours concrete, drives trucks, and does other manual labor. He had just finished pouring concrete for a neighbor's driveway when he sat down to explain what happened when he first met the jump-out boys this past September.
Rodriguez claims Fernandez and Losada failed to report at least $5240 taken from his home. The money was the monthly rent payments Rodriguez and Raudales say they had collected from their tenants. The couple owns three rental properties in the neighborhood. About another $200 was removed from a piggy bank inside their baby son's room, Raudales adds. "They even took the offerings to the San Lazaro statue in our house!" she says. "I think that the cup had at least $100 in it."
The officers also absconded with some of his power tools, including a motorized jigsaw used to cut concrete, Rodriguez says. "It was like I was back in Cuba," he recalls. "They were taking all of my stuff, but they never told me what I was being charged with."
During the two-hour search of their home, Raudales claims Detective Leon pressured her into signing a form consenting to the search by threatening to remove her then-eight-month-old son and take him to the Department of Children and Families. "You have to live it to believe it," Raudales says. "These officers are professional delinquents."
In a sworn statement, Soler denied he purchased drugs from Rodriguez. Soler alleged Losada took $1300 that was in Soler's pants pocket, a red duffle bag, two polo shirts, a digital camera, boxes of bullet rounds, and a brand-new pair of bolt cutters. "He took all my shit and put it in the back of his car," Soler claims. "I never saw it again. He never impounded it."
Adding insult to injury, Soler grouses, his house was burglarized while he was in jail. Somebody jacked his DVD player, stereo, $545, and some power tools including a compressor, a chipping hammer, and five nail guns he had bought on the street from dope fiends. "They even took my personal home videos," Soler adds. "Losada left the door open so the same associates and crackheads I deal with in the neighborhood could come in and take everything I owned."
When he and his wife met with internal affairs, Rodriguez didn't think the detectives there would believe their allegations. "My defense lawyer thought it was the worst thing I could have done," Rodriguez recollects. "But internal affairs did an excellent job."