Hypothetical situation: You live in Opa-locka. On a cool Sunday evening, your neighbor drops by to return the hacksaw he borrowed a week ago. During his visit, as he stands on the front porch drinking some of your lemonade, he casually reveals his plans to kill you.
What do you do, besides take back your lemonade?
You call the police.
But which police department do you call? Opa-locka's? That would stand to reason; Opa-locka's finest patrol Opa-locka. But what if you happen to be a great friend of the city manager of Miami? Then you could summon the City of Miami's police department. Not only are the Miami cops likely to take the case immediately, but they'll probably also provide police protection for you, your family, and even your crazy neighbor.
When self-proclaimed spy and Hialeah resident Roberto Martin Cabrera surfaced three weeks ago at the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), claiming he was an assassin ordered to kill the CANF brain trust, CANF officials immediately called the Miami PD. Whereupon the Miami police, as the Herald put it, "took over the case at once."
No matter that CANF headquarters are located at 7300 NW 35th Terr., west of the airport in unincorporated Dade County A four miles outside the Miami city limits.
No matter that, according to Miami Police spokesman Delrish Moss, people who receive death threats in unincorporated Dade County should contact Metro-Dade, the police department that serves the area where the death threats occurred. (Metro-Dade would hold jurisdiction even if the targets happen to reside in Miami.)
"That should have been our case," affirms Metro-Dade Police spokesman Ed Munn. "The Miami Police Department is only allowed to take cases that are within the jurisdiction of the City of Miami."
Agrees Miami City Commissioner Joe Carollo: "I don't feel the Miami Police Department should begin establishing a new policy that we are inventing, of providing any type of investigative or protective services to people in instances that are outside the Miami city limits. We have enough problems inside the city to be worried about outside the city limits. That goes for this case or any case."
Miami Police Maj. Miguel "Mike" Exposito is in charge of the Martin investigation. "The CANF contacted us and told us they had this individual there who was saying he was a spy involved in some kind of conspiracy to kill some members of CANF and other exile leaders in Miami," he explains. "We wanted to talk to him personally, and we did. After we talked to him, we were able to verify that his story involved people who either live in the city or do a lot of their business in the city.
"Why they called the City of Miami and not Metro-Dade I cannot answer," Exposito adds. "That's something that should be asked of them. When it was brought to us, we checked into it. Some aspects of it were ours, and we checked into it."
CANF spokesmen refuse to explain why foundation officials called the Miami Police Department rather than Metro-Dade's.
Martin appeared out of nowhere earlier this month with a fabulous story of international espionage. At a CANF-sponsored press conference held two weeks ago at the Hyatt Regency in Coral Gables, he claimed that Cuban state security had captured him and trained him to kill CANF chairman Jorge Mas Canosa and other exile leaders. According to his tale, he traveled to New York City on May 27, 1995, to accept a set of encrypted orders from a shadowy Cuban contact. Martin said he ignored the orders upon returning to his Hialeah home and instead sought the counsel of radio commentator Tomas Garcia Fuste at WCMQ-AM (1210) in Coral Gables. Soon thereafter, he said, he contacted the FBI and became a double agent. In September he ostensibly returned to New York for more instructions from his Cuban handlers. In February he was told by Cuban agents to use a van filled with explosives to destroy the CANF building.
Martin sat on his orders until April 29, when he revealed the plans to CANF executives. Among his intended victims were Mas, CANF president Francisco "Pepe" Hernandez, and Ninoska Perez, director of the CANF radio station La Voz de la Fundaci centsn. CANF wouldn't reveal whether either Hernandez or Perez lives within the Miami city limits.
Mas, the most prominent of Martin's intended victims, doesn't live in Miami. He parks his bulletproof Mercedes in a driveway southwest of Parrot Jungle, in unincorporated Dade. Mas does have friends in Miami, though, most visibly the city manager, Cesar Odio. So close are the two men that Odio gave Mas one of his own coveted passes for free parking at the Miami
Arena -- a $400 value. "He's my personal friend," Odio said of Mas when the Herald reported the gift.
Odio, who oversees the Miami Police Department, did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.
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According to published reports, the police department provided protection for Martin and for the "intended victims." Major Exposito refuses to say who those intended victims are or where they live, but he allows that more people were targeted than the three whose names were released to the media. "We were basically with some of the individuals, watching them and making sure that nothing happened to them," says Exposito, adding that at no time did Mas or Hernandez receive special police protection. (Both men employ private bodyguards.) "Those that did [receive protection] are not the high-profile people. It was a decision made collaboratively with [CANF], because if you are targeted for murder, your input is important to us."
Exposito says he halted the police protection on the day of the press conference. He does not know nor, he says, will he ever know how much the protection cost Miami taxpayers. "Most of this cost is in on-duty time, meaning that the officers are people paid to do these kind of jobs," he explains. "We don't really sit down and figure out dollar figures. At the end of the month, we'll figure out our total overtime cost, but we don't look at specific cases. We look at total overtime."
Cesar Odio is famous for his fiscal conservatism, especially with the police department budget. Recently he demanded that concert promoter Rolando Mendoza pay $7500 for extra police protection at the April 10 performance by Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba at downtown's Gusman Center. "We put out a lot of money to pay for those officers," Odio told the Herald. "It's not fair to make the taxpayers pay.