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
Lawrence "Larry" Perez spots a white BMW 750Li blowing through a stop sign at the intersection of West Flagler Street and SW 62nd Avenue. It's about 20 minutes past 10 p.m. The husky, bald Hialeah Gardens police detective flips on the blue-and-red lights inside his unmarked silver Ford Fusion and pulls the Beemer over.
Inside is a duffel bag packed with ten pounds of marijuana belonging to Zequiera. Perez arrests Gonzalez on the spot but lets Zequiera go. A few minutes later, a white tow truck with the words "Good Fellows" stamped on the door whisks the BMW away.
It might sound like an ordinary pot bust, but the car was never sent to an impound lot. Gonzalez was never booked into jail, and the ten pounds of pot — worth $33,000 on the street — never ended up in an evidence room.
Zequiera didn't know it, but he'd been victimized in a plot hatched by Carlos Teran, a rival drug dealer nicknamed "El Negro"; Gonzalez, a pot middleman; and Perez, a dirty cop way out of his jurisdiction.
Perez's story — outlined in interviews and hundreds of pages of court documents — opens a window onto what has become an increasingly common tale in Miami-Dade: cops turned by greed or desperation into working for the drug dealers they're supposed to be busting. In the past two years, federal prosecutors have charged four Dade-area cops, including Perez, for helping dealers. The others are:
• Miami Police Officer Roberto Asanza, arrested last June after the FBI found ten bags of cocaine and two bags of marijuana from a drug bust in his truck. A yearlong investigation revealed Asanza had swiped the drugs and given them to an informant. Asanza pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in exchange for helping in another case.
• Opa-locka Police Capt. Arthur Balom, charged last November with eight counts of trafficking Ecstasy, cocaine, and oxycodone. Federal prosecutors say Balom also protected a violent drug gang by tipping members off to police raids. Balom's trial is pending.
• Miami-Dade Police Officer Daniel Mack, indicted April 11 for helping a Miami Beach code inspector transport what they thought were more than a dozen kilos of cocaine in exchange for $25,000. He was charged with four counts of cocaine possession with intent to distribute. His trial is pending.
It's not clear whether increased numbers of cops have been helping drug dealers or if the feds are just upping their efforts on the problem. Some experts, though, say there might be a link between plunging budgets and greater temptation.
"Cops have to pay bills too, and we know the economy has been bad," says Bob Jarvis, a Nova Southeastern University law professor who co-authored Out of the Muck, a book about corruption in the Broward Sheriff's Office. "When that happens, you have more of a chance to flip a police officer into committing a crime. Certainly a cop in Nebraska doesn't have the same opportunity to protect drug dealers like a cop in Miami does."
Jarvis's theory seems to fit the bill for Perez, a cop whose life at first seemed like an American success story.
Born in Newark, New Jersey, on May 22, 1967, Perez had a rough childhood. His biological father abandoned him and his Ecuadorian mom, Linez Alvarez, when he was 1 year old. He and his mom soon moved to Miami, and she remarried. In court, Perez said he had wanted to be a cop since he was a kid: "It was my dream to help people and do what I saw police officers do."
But after finishing 11th grade, Perez dropped out of Miami Senior High because his stepdad had died of respiratory failure. "I had to help my mom by working," he said. He found jobs as a busboy and a waiter and later as a school bus driver and, by the late '80s, a county bus driver. In 1989, he married his girlfriend, Adela Rodriguez. Seven years later, the couple purchased a three-bedroom house in Allapattah for $107,500.
One of his neighbors, a Cuban-American electrician named Luis Agular, recalls fixing the wiring in their house for free as a way to welcome the young couple to the neighborhood. "We became fast friends," Agular says. "Every weekend, I'd have him and his wife over for breakfast. He's my daughter's godfather."
Agular, who cannot read English, says Perez would help him write bid proposals for electrical work on county projects. "He was always willing to help," Agular remembers. "He's a tremendous person."
In late 1996, Agular taught Perez how to ride a motorcycle. Perez soon bought a used Harley-Davidson and joined his neighbor's motorcycle club. That's where he met Teran, a 53-year-old originally from Matanzas, Cuba.
The two bonded instantly. During later testimony, Teran said he'd regularly go on double dates with his new pal and their spouses: "We'd go to restaurants and motorcycle shows. We would ride down to the Keys together."
Perez never gave up on his dream of becoming a cop. In 2004, at age 36 — two years after Adela gave birth to their daughter, Lauren — he passed his GED test and enrolled in the police academy at the Miami Dade College North Campus. For nine months, he drove a Metrobus from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then attended class from 4 to 11 p.m.
"who cannot read English" It amazes me how more than half the Cubans who come to an English speaking country don't learn English. Every other immigrant who came to America in history learned English and became Americanized, not most Cubans. My best friend is Cuban and his family moved North because they are ashamed how people act in Miami.
However she may justify it, JliciousB is still a whore for cheating on her boyfriend. What the hell does she have on her lip ???
You know I was speaking to someone the other day about the Russian Mob. They're all over Fisher Island. I feel like there are no good cops left in South Florida... I think even the FBI is aware and prolly some of them (FBI) are as crooked as these bum cops.
majority of local police in miami dade county are criminals,majority of fbi agents in south florida have no idea what is happening here,and yes when was the last time when they got anyone from russian mafia.