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
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
But on the morning of February 14, the Miami-Dade County Police detectives found themselves on the flipside of criminal court. They were now defendants confronted with an undercover investigator's incredible testimony.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office accuses 58-year-old Fernandez and 33-year-old Losada of planting evidence, falsifying an arrest affidavit, stealing money, and physically threatening a drug dealer, who, unbeknownst to the pair, was cooperating with internal affairs this past January 12.
At the time, Fernandez and Losada were assigned to the Northside crime suppression team (CST), an eight-member squad sweeping the streets of Liberty City and other crime-infested neighborhoods for dope holes, drug dealers, and street hustlers. In the hood, the team was known as "jump-out boys" because they employed the elements of surveillance and surprise to capture their criminal prey.
State prosecutors have charged both Fernandez and Losada on felony counts of armed kidnapping, armed burglary, aggravated assault with a firearm, grand theft, and official misconduct. They were also hit with individual criminal mischief misdemeanors. Fernandez and Losada have denied any wrongdoing. "These guys are decorated police officers, not Latin Kings," hisses Fernandez's defense lawyer, Douglas Hartman.
The pair's arrest has battered the criminal justice system, including the prosecution of the man who nearly took Fernandez's life. On February 22, a jury acquitted 48-year-old Rory Durden of shooting Fernandez in the back November 27, 2002. Durden was allegedly protecting a dope hole when he capped Fernandez.
The veteran officer survived, the bullet just missing his spine. The injury won Fernandez Officer of the Year honors and a Purple Heart. But prosecutors were forced to keep the detective off the witness stand as a result of his own indictment. And Durden is not the only character getting a free ride thanks to Fernandez and Losada.
The State Attorney's Office has dropped more than two dozen cases in which Fernandez or Losada was the arresting officer. The U.S. Attorney's Office dismissed an indictment against two alleged drug dealers who were each facing more than 40 years in prison. The Miami-Dade County Public Defender's Office is reviewing closed cases that relied on the testimony of the two decorated cops.
The Miami-Dade Police Department is conducting its own internal review of Fernandez's and Losada's busts during the two years they were on the CST.
The two detectives have been relieved of duty without pay, while the other squad members have been reassigned to desk jobs and uniform patrol pending the outcome of the state attorney's ongoing investigation. State prosecutors and internal affairs detectives are trying to verify unsubstantiated allegations that Fernandez and Losada stole money and planted evidence on other occasions prior to their arrests.
This past Valentine's Day, the duo's bond hearing was a standing-room-only event. Judge Ronald Dresnick's courtroom was packed with family members, friends, and fellow cops there to support the disgraced officers. Television crews from CBS 4 and NBC 6 recorded the proceeding for the evening newscast.
Dominican-born Fernandez was dressed in a gray tweed jacket, navy blue polo, and khaki slacks. Losada, a Hialeah native, sported a navy blue two-piece suit. Fernandez entered the chamber with his wife and three children. Losada was accompanied by his mother and girlfriend. They took their place behind the defendants' table, flanked by their lawyers.
Assistant State Attorney William Altfield called on internal affairs lead Det. Roberto Trujillo, who testified that the police department's professional compliance bureau opened an investigation into the CST after receiving a complaint from 34-year-old Pedro Soler and 41-year-old Rafael Rodriguez that the team had falsely arrested them and stolen their money this past September. Soler, an admitted drug dealer; and Rodriguez, a landlord who owns a known crack house, had agreed to help Trujillo nab the CST.
Internal affairs set up a fake dope hole at one of the rental properties owned by Rodriguez and placed Soler at the scene. Trujillo planted $970 in marked bills inside the house. Hidden cameras set up by internal affairs capture Fernandez confiscating the marked money after the team arrested Soler on the afternoon of January 12. When they arrived back at their station, the two officers turned in only $570. Losada was apprehended with $160 of the marked money in his pocket. Another $200 was found in the visor of the county-issued unmarked truck driven by Losada's sometime partner Ivan Villalobos.
Fernandez and Losada also planted five rocks on Soler and made false statements on his arrest affidavit, Trujillo said.
Altfield implored Dresnick to revoke the detectives' bond. The prosecutor cautioned the judge that Fernandez and Losada were flight risks and that they could try to intimidate state witnesses if allowed to remain free. "Our people fear retaliation," Altfield said, adding that Fernandez and Losada exhibited a "gang mentality."
Douglas Hartman and Susy Ribero-Ayala, the attorneys representing Fernandez and Losada, respectively, took turns poking holes in Trujillo's investigation. They pointed out that internal affairs used hidden cameras but did not plant devices to audio-record the officers' conversation with Soler while he was in custody. Hartman and Ribero-Ayala were laying the groundwork of exposing a key weakness in the state's prosecution: the credibility of Soler and other witnesses with criminal records.
"That's just one of several problems with this case," Hartman opines during a recent interview at his Doral office. "You also have to wonder why Fernandez and Losada were the only team members arrested. I mean, didn't [investigators] find some of the money in Villalobos's truck?"
After nearly two hours of testimony and cross-examination, Dresnick denied Altfield's request to revoke the bond. But the judge didn't do the shamed cops any favors either. He set Fernandez's and Losada's bail at one million dollars apiece, made them surrender their passports, and ordered them to wear electronic ankle monitors.
"I would like a lot of eyes watching these people to prevent them from thinking they can go anywhere," Dresnick advised. "There are a lot of people in this courtroom. I'm sure they can get together and put up the money."
Fernandez and Losada were temporarily taken into custody until they posted bail approximately 24 hours later. However, the two cops had to endure the embarrassment of being led away in handcuffs in front of their family, friends, and peers, some of whom wept. "Keep your head up," shouted one undercover detective.
Since joining the Miami-Dade County Police Department on February 26, 1990, Daniel Fernandez had been assigned to Northside, where he worked his way up from patrol to become one of the district's top detectives. He began his tour with the crime suppression team November 2, 2003.
Fernandez and Det. Julio Benavides were the team's "eyeballs," the officers who would conduct surveillance on suspected drug dealers. The rest of the squad comprised Dets. Jorge de Armas, Juan Leon, Joe Losada, and Ivan Villalobos, who were responsible for jumping suspects once they received the take-down signal from either Benavides or Fernandez. (Det. Ana Bernal joined the squad late last year.)
Benavides, de Armas, Fernandez, Leon, and Villalobos had developed close friendships during their time together on the team. The detectives and their wives would go out on dinner dates and throw holiday parties at each others' houses. "You know, either Christmases and Thanksgivings we do as a squad," Leon shared with prosecutor Altfield during a deposition this past February 7.
A cop with an encyclopedic knowledge of the career criminals who call Northside home, Fernandez was always in the thick of the hunt. Around the hood, word traveled fast about sightings of the salt-and-pepper-haired-and-mustached Fernandez scaling rooftops and climbing trees on private property, where he could clandestinely observe drug dealers work their game. It wasn't unusual for Fernandez, clad in his favorite green camouflage jumpsuit, to lurk behind a bush or hang from a branch, tracking a perp using his Steiner binoculars.
According to a December 12, 2005 deposition of Donaldson Junior St. Plite, he, his brother Donald, and their friend Bobson Brutus were simply talking about music and joking around when Fernandez creeped up on them, gun drawn, on March 22, 2005. The siblings live in apartments next door to each other at 780 NE 78th St. "I hear a hiss at the door, but I look closer at the door," St. Plite told prosecutors, "and there's a gun pointing at me. I looked, you know. I realized that was Fernandez. He normally comes with the camouflage. I put it together in my mind that it's him.
"Fernandez is always arresting people by barging into their homes or apartments without permission," St. Plite said.
"The area that we live, it's a bad area, and we have corrupted cops in the neighborhood," Donaldson explained. "And he was a corrupted cop because he came to our house before. He snuck through a window. Yeah, Fernandez."
At the time of his testimony, St. Plite was trying to help out his 29-year-old brother Donald, whom Fernandez had arrested along with 47-year-old Ricky Barber, a convict with multiple felonies on his record, on cocaine trafficking charges.
On the arrest affidavit, Fernandez stated he watched Barber knock on Donald St. Plite's door and allegedly say, "Give me five." Fernandez saw Donald retrieve five rocks and hand them to Barber. He also observed Donald make eight drug deals and enter an abandoned Chevy Lumina, reach into the passenger-side-airbag compartment, and retrieve a piece of paper containing crack, Fernandez reported.
State prosecutors dropped their case against Donald St. Plite and Barber on January 25, thirteen days after Fernandez and Losada were busted. "My client was willing, ready, and able to testify against the individuals he arrested," Hartman says of Fernandez. "Why doesn't the state submit my client and these defendants to a polygraph to see who is telling the truth?"
Fernandez made many enemies because he was falsely arresting people and stealing their money, claim Joaquin Rodriguez and Jesus Maria Mesa, two older non-English-speaking Cubans who have been busted on more than one occasion by the camouflaged detective.
The 60-year-old Rodriguez lives in one of the efficiencies in the rear of a single-story apartment complex at NW 31st Avenue and 93rd Street. According to members of the CST, the building is a known crackhead hideout.
On a recent afternoon, while sipping Cuban coffee with 74-year-old neighbor Mesa, Rodriguez recalls his experiences with Fernandez. He accuses Fernandez of falsely arresting him three times after they had an argument. "I saw him one day in the breezeway and asked him what he was doing here," Joaquin says. "I didn't know he was a cop. We start jawing back and forth and he shows me the badge. Regardless, I told him he couldn't be in here without permission from the owner. He got so mad he told me I'd better move or he would make my life impossible."
On August 18, 2004, Fernandez arrested Rodriguez for cocaine possession with intent to sell. Rodriguez, a pot-bellied fellow with a handlebar mustache, claims Fernandez kicked down the front door of his apartment to arrest him. "He took $700," Rodriguez says, pointing to the heel marks he claims Fernandez made on the door. "On the affidavit, he claimed he caught me outside the fence and that he found me with three rocks."
Rodriguez says his first defense lawyer recommended he accept a withhold adjudication and avoid trial for the first offense. "It was my word against Fernandez," Rodriguez concedes.
In January of last year, Fernandez arrested Rodriguez a second time on coke possession with intent to sell. "He busts down the door again, gun drawn, asking me where the drugs were," Rodriguez says. "I didn't have anything. He turned over everything in my apartment and didn't find anything. But he still took me in. He said I had two bags of coke and four rocks."
Five months later, Fernandez popped Rodriguez a third time. He served ten months in the county stockade and received two years of probation for the latest offense. He was released in early March. "He knew by arresting me a third time I would serve time," Rodriguez accuses. "If I had gotten out before he was arrested, I'm sure Fernandez would have arrested me again."
Mesa a bald, shirtless gent with large eyeglasses was also raving mad about Fernandez. "One time he took my $280 for the rent," Mesa accuses. "Another time he took $340 from a check I had just cashed and the meds for my heart."
He says Fernandez used a propane gas tank to bust down his door and then threw all the food in his refrigerator to the floor. "He could have blown us all up!" Mesa screams. "El es un maricón!"
Hartman dismissed Rodriguez and Mesa as just another pair of convicted felons with an ax to grind against his client. "These people are just a bunch of opportunists who are jumping at the chance to win a free ride," Hartman says.
As the second-to-last addition and only unmarried member of the crime suppression team, Joe Losada was having a difficult time jelling socially with his coupled partners before he and Fernandez were arrested. According to sworn statements by squad members Benavides, de Armas, Leon, and Villalobos, Losada kept to himself and rarely attended team gatherings outside the station.
"He would tell us that, you know, he didn't really like kids, so he never really hung out with us," Benavides informed during his February 22 deposition. Villalobos, who at times partnered with Losada, told prosecutors he considered the young detective nothing more than a "co-worker."
De Armas, however, revealed he did not like working with Losada, a Saint Brendan Catholic School alumnus who wasn't afraid to use his menacing muscular figure to subdue subjects. De Armas didn't even like to lend his county-issued unmarked vehicle to him. "I hate the way he talks to people," de Armas said. "Some people, like, give you weird vibes. I just don't like riding with him."
Prior to his arrest, Losada was also accused of beating Derrel Burnett, a 32-year-old man the detective arrested April 24, 2004. Sometime after 9:00 that night, two undercover detectives observed Burnett receiving money from several people in exchange for narcotics, according to Losada.
After being confronted by authorities, Burnett allegedly ran down the street to 8464 NW Fifth Ct. Losada and Sgt. Alexander Ramirez caught up to Burnett in front of his mother's house at NW 85th Street and Sixth Avenue. Ramirez allegedly grabbed Burnett from behind and attempted to arrest him. However, Burnett pulled Ramirez's arm and flipped him over his shoulder, Losada wrote. Ramirez landed face first on the pavement. Burnett then began to choke Ramirez.
Losada stated he struck Burnett in the face with his police radio so he would let go of Ramirez. Two other officers had to help Losada pull Burnett off Ramirez. Burnett then allegedly began punching Losada in the face and chest. Eventually the cops were able to subdue him.
Burnett's relatives and friends disputed Losada's version. Aireus Johnson said her pal Burnett didn't do anything to provoke Losada, but that the officer grabbed her friend and slammed his head onto the hood of a car. Using his walkie-talkie as a weapon, Losada repeatedly hit Burnett in the face, Johnson charged.
"They did Chi Chi real bad," Johnson says of Burnett during a recent visit to her house. "His eye was swollen shut. There was blood all over. They even wanted to Taser him even though he kept telling them he had a bad heart."
Bernice Johnson, Aerius's mother, claims Losada and other officers on the scene kept ordering them to go inside their house. At one point, Losada drew his pistol and aimed it at her, her daughter, and several other people who questioned why they were manhandling Burnett, Bernice says. "They were chasing the people who were taking pictures with their camera phones," Bernice recalls. "They shined their flashlight into the lens of one boy who was trying to film everything. We couldn't even stand in our yard, couldn't stand on the porch."
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."
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."
In Soler's arrest affidavit, Losada wrote that Fernandez had observed Soler conduct several drug deals from the east side of the Eighteenth Avenue residence. "These detectives attempted to stop several buyers, with negative results," Losada jotted.
Soler tried to flee and dropped a bag containing five rocks inside individual baggies, Losada alleged. The detective also accused Soler of screaming obscenities and threatening the squad. "The suspect began to yell, öYou some pussy-ass niggas! You motherfuckers!'" Losada described, adding that Soler said, "Better let me go or I will fucking kill you, your wife, and your family!"
Losada charged Soler on six felony counts, including cocaine possession with intent to sell, resisting arrest with violence, tampering with evidence, corruption by threatening a police officer, and burglary of an unoccupied dwelling.
At 6:59 p.m. IA detectives were filming the house's interior when they received a call from one of their lookouts that Fernandez was headed back to the residence. IA exited the house and observed Fernandez's truck pull up to the house. They watched Fernandez enter the property by breaking the window to the bedroom fitted with cameras. On Trujillo's police radio, IA overheard Fernandez telling Losada: "The place is cleaned out. There is nothing left for us."
Hartman contends that Soler informed Losada he had hidden drugs under the sink in a bathroom of the residence. "Losada asks my client to go back and check," Hartman says. "Fernandez returns and doesn't find anything and relays it to Losada."
After his shift was over, Losada was pulled over by IA detectives. They searched Losada and found $183 on him. Of that amount, $160 was marked bills. IA detectives also found $330 in the passenger's side visor of Villalobos's Dodge truck. Two hundred dollars of that money was marked with Trujillo's badge number. During his deposition this past February 1, Villalobos vehemently denied knowing how the money got there.
Losada was placed under arrest. Fernandez was already in custody.
The arrests of Fernandez and Losada sent the crime suppression team reeling. The squad was disbanded, and the members who were not arrested were reassigned to uniform patrol or desk duty. Some members have avoided speaking to Fernandez and Losada, much less discuss with anyone the events that transpired January 12.
During his February 7 sworn statement, Leon said he has not had any contact with Losada but had a brief exchange with Fernandez. "When he was walking out today, I shook his hand," Leon said. "That was it."
Villalobos, a six-year-veteran, told prosecutors he doesn't want to believe Losada placed the $200 in marked money inside his truck, but conceded no one else could have done it. Villalobos added that he was embarrassed by the Fernandez and Losada indictments.
Detective Benavides was off the day his partners were busted. He recalled being in a state of shock after learning about their downfall from his supervisor, Sgt. Joe Williams, according to his February 22 deposition. "This kind of blew me away," Benavides said. "I thought he was joking with me."
Benavides also admitted to speaking with both his mates since their arrests. "See how [Fernandez is] doing," Benavides said. "See how his wife is doing. And the same thing with Losada I've spoken to him several times also since this."
According to his February 23 statement, De Armas learned of the arrests by watching the television news. "When I got home, I still didn't know what was going on," de Armas recollected, adding he felt "disgusted" when he found out. He said he has since spoken with Fernandez twice. The first time, Fernandez told him he was going to be subpoenaed, de Armas said. During their second conversation, he and Fernandez talked only about their pensions, de Armas insisted.
Recalling the events of January 12, de Armas told prosecutors he believed internal affairs planted the paper bag containing the crack that he found on the scene. De Armas said he found it odd that the bag was in almost perfect shape and that it resembled the bags police officers use to impound evidence. "They must have put the bag there because, usually, like I said, it's all crumbled up or whatever," de Armas surmised. "That was one [clue], and then the guy was acting up, like, big time, like the sellers usually don't act up like that."
Standing outside a local convenience store near his pad, Soler scoffs at de Armas's theory. "Man, the only people planting shit were those jump-out boys," Soler says. "Internal affairs checked every inch of the house and my body before the sting. They didn't want to embarrass one of their own, especially if I had been holding dope."
Soler combs the streets, looking for other individuals who have been allegedly harassed by Fernandez and Losada. He approaches a lithe, spaced-out young lady wearing an off-the-shoulder blouse and blue jeans. "Now is the time to say your piece about what that man Fernandez did to you," Soler implores her. The girl nervously darts her eyes around the parking lot. She quietly declines. "See, bro?" Soler says dejectedly. "No wants to talk but me. People are scared."
Still, Soler is well aware his criminal record presents significant credibility issues. "I really don't want to do anything to mess up this case," he says. "It's not fair to have cops like Fernandez and Losada on the street. If they get off, you better believe they will continue to do what they were doing. Of course, they will probably have to be more careful in how they do it."
The arrest of Daniel Fernandez and Joe Losada has prompted the U.S. Attorney’s Office to dismiss charges in one major drug case and caused the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office to drop charges against more than two dozen defendants.
Here are some of the cases that have been compromised:
• February 16, 2005: Losada and Villalobos arrested 41-year-old Hector Calvin Evans for cocaine and marijuana possession and openly carrying a firearm. On January 24, state prosecutors dropped the two felonies and three misdemeanors against Evans.
• February 17, 2005: On NW 57th Street and 22nd Avenue, 30-year-old Marcus Birts and 25-year-old Dwight Hudson were arrested on charges of cocaine possession with intent to sell. This past April, Birts was convicted on one felony count of cocaine possession with intent to sell. But state prosecutors dropped their case against Hudson February 22.
• March 15, 2005: Fernandez and Losada arrested Carlyle St. Pruex and three-time convicted felon Armando Delgado. St. Pruex was charged with nine felony counts and faced up to 161 years in prison. Delgado was slapped with seven counts and was looking at 146 years in a federal pokey. On February 17, the U.S. Attorney’s Office dropped its case against St. Pruex and Delgado.
• May 12, 2005: The jump-out boys arrested 28-year-old John Richardson on three felony counts of cocaine possession with intent to sell. Richardson’s case was dismissed January 25.
• November 11, 2005: The squad arrested 40-year-old Howard Jenkins when Fernandez allegedly spotted him making seven drug transactions at 283 NW 53rd Street. The state dropped four cocaine trafficking felonies against Jenkins on January 24.
• December 13, 2005: Kerrie Taylor, a 44-year-old heroin dealer, was arrested when the squad turned up 35 grams of crack and powder cocaine. The three felonies against Taylor were dropped January 26.