By Michael E. Miller
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Sabrina Rodriguez
By Michael E. Miller
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Luther Campbell
By Kyle Munzenrieder
According to Rodriguez, lead investigator Roberto Trujillo informed him that there was no way they could prove Fernandez, Losada, or any members of the squad had stolen his money and his tools. "The only way was to catch them in the act," Rodriguez explains. "So they asked me if I would be willing to let them use one of my rental properties to set up the operation."
During the bond hearing, Trujillo said he set up hidden cameras January 12 inside and outside Rodriguez's house at NW 18th Avenue and 92nd Street. Internal affairs also outfitted cameras inside a burgundy Ford Crown Victoria that Soler was driving.
Trujillo placed $970 inked with his badge number inside a shoebox wrapped with a towel in the bedroom with the video recorders. Before the operation began, Trujillo checked the interior and exterior of Rodriguez's house and Soler's car for any narcotics or other contraband. He also frisked Soler, Rodriguez, and Raudales to make sure none was holding anything illegal.
Internal affairs set the bait by calling in a tip about possible narcotics sales at the residence; it also provided a description of Soler's car. Hidden cameras documented the scene as it unfolded:
Around 3:28 p.m. Fernandez parks his black Ford F-150 pickup near Rodriguez's house and begins surveillance.
About an hour later, Rodriguez pulls up to his residence in a Toyota van. Sitting on the front stoop, Soler gets up and opens the van's passenger-side door. Rodriguez gives Soler a plastic shopping bag, which he carries into the house. Rodriguez drives off.
"It was a lunch of rice, beans, and pork ribs," Rodriguez recalls recently. "Of course, I gave it to him inside a bag to create a little intrigue."
(Leon later told the IA detectives he had approached a black male whom Fernandez had seen speaking to Soler earlier in the day. Leon claims the unknown individual told him he and Soler were going to set up a crack whorehouse. "He told me that [Soler] had showed him his stash," Leon said, "and that he had a stash of powder and weed." But when the cops busted Soler, he didn't have any cocaine or marijuana. "I didn't find it," Leon said.)
About 5:15 p.m. Fernandez calls in the takedown. Fernandez reportedly observes Soler conduct at least two hand-to-hand drug transactions. "During his surveillance, Fernandez saw Soler go to the window and talk to someone inside," explains Hartman, Fernandez's lawyer. "So my client was under the impression someone else was in the house and that they had drugs."
Two Volvo sedans and a Dodge Ram pickup pull up to the residence. Detectives Villalobos and Losada exit the truck; de Armas and Leon step out of the Volvos. Soler walks from his yard to the street with his hands in the air and then places his palms on the roof of his Crown Victoria. The officers cuff him.
The cops take turns patting down Soler. Losada, dressed in a white tee, khaki shorts, and a dark baseball cap, suddenly grabs Soler by the back of the neck and then the throat. Losada takes out a pocket knife and slashes Soler's pants, which drop to his ankles. Leon and Losada force him to the ground, flat on his stomach. Losada draws his pistol and appears to point it at Soler's head. "He threatened to kill me," Soler recalls later. "They punched and kicked me."
Camera footage inside the house shows Fernandez entering the southeast bedroom. He finds the towel-wrapped shoebox, opens it, and takes the $970. Fernandez is seen fingering the money as he exits the camera frame.
Hartman argues his client had the money in his possession for less than 30 seconds before handing it to Losada. "He never counted it," Hartman says. "He sees the money being counted later at the station. When he was arrested, Fernandez didn't have any of the money either."
At 5:32 p.m. Losada and de Armas are in the house. They enter the closet in the room where Fernandez found the money. Losada slams his hammer into the wall for no apparent reason.
More video footage picks up Fernandez outside the house, slapping Soler on the head. The cops take turns checking the passenger-side wheel well of his car for drugs. De Armas emerges from the front yard, holding a brown paper bag containing five baggies of crack. De Armas later told IA he found the crack in some shrubs near the front porch.
The camera inside the Crown Victoria shows Fernandez ripping apart the front dashboard panel of Soler's car. He finds nothing.
At 6:17 p.m. Soler is taken into custody in a marked county squad car.
Once the CST boys left the scene, IA entered the residence to determine if anything else was taken.
Meanwhile one of the IA detectives went to the Northside station to verify what had been impounded, where he learned Losada had turned in five rocks and $570. During the bond hearing, Trujillo said he was surprised to learn about the crack because Soler had no drugs prior to the sting.
When they arrived at the station, Soler claims Losada told him: "I'm going to show you that the pen is mightier than the sword."