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
Since publishing an exposé about illegal slaughterhouses in a northwest corner of Miami-Dade last year, Riptide has kept you posted on a litany of other strange offenses in the area known as the C-9 Basin: horse killing, brazen cockfighting, endangered wood storks used for target practice, illegal dumping, and protected swamplands used as oil-drenching semi-truck parking lots.
The county has finally taken notice, and in recent raids, officials have discovered something that might actually piss them off: rampant electricity theft.
Guajiros had been splicing dozens of cords from single electric meters in order to power illegal farms, restaurants, and bars, says Charles Danger, Miami-Dade's Building and Neighborhood Compliance Department director, who participated in the raids. "You try to trace the cords, and they go through other people's properties, up and down trees, around three corners, and through a shack until it ends up powering a property five acres away."
Florida Power & Light is investigating the situation, including whether the overloaded meters are themselves authentic or stolen as well. In the meantime, Danger's agency has gone on a power-cutting spree. A law-abiding source who lives in the area — Riptide suspects he might be the only taxpayer there — says there have been blackouts. "The entire region lost power for a day," he says, "and a good amount of people still haven't gotten it back."
In the meantime, relentless farmers and butchers haven't halted business. But there's been a local run on gasoline-powered generators.
The raids have exposed the wide scope of lawlessness in an area that's supposed to be protected wetlands, home only to crop-growing fields. Danger even discovered and shut down several large restaurants with full liquor bars and "state-of-the-art kitchens" that were operating without any licenses. "I've been around a lot of years and seen a lot of things," Danger says, "but it's unbelievable to me that these illegal businesses have been allowed to flourish for so long."
Among the raided renegade establishments: Rancho Gaspar, which New Times named "Best Latin Club" in 2000. Oops. Our bad.