The Town of Golden Beach Police Department is in turmoil. In April, two officers were criminally charged with defrauding the small enclave by double dipping. Yovany Diaz, 33, and Omar Paez, 41, are accused of working off-duty overtime details while on their regular duty assignments; altering reimbursement invoices; and failing to pay the town for administrative costs connected to their overtime.
Now Interim Police Chief Rudy Herbello wants to put the kibosh on the ongoing criminal investigation, according to current and former Golden Beach police officers. We are not revealing their identities to protect the one who is still employed by the town.
Last week, during an orientation at roll call, Herbello allegedly informed his subordinates in attendance that he "was going to have a meeting with the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office to drop the criminal charges against the accused officers and let him to do an in-house administrative investigation," says the cop who was present. Herbello also "threatened to fire anyone who talked to people outside the department about what he said," the cop added.
The former Golden Beach police officer heard the same story from other rank-and-file members of the police force. "It doesn't look good for the interim chief," the source says. "They replaced Frik with Frak." Herbello took over from Jim Skinner, who resigned shortly after the arrests of Diaz and Paez. The pair remain on duty in administrative positions and are being allowed to drive unmarked cars. Heck, Herbello even promoted Paez to acting lieutenant.
A call to Herbello -- who unsuccessfully ran against county Commissioner Joe Martinez in 2008 -- was routed to a Golden Beach spokesman, who provided us with a prepared statement from town Mayor Glenn Singer that somewhat denies the allegations against the chief:
Two days after Herbello was named, he held an orientation meeting (one for day shift and one for night shift) with his staff to talk about his goals and expectations for the department...During the orientation meetings, the Chief mentioned that since he was new to the job, he was going to try to reach the State Attorney's office to introduce himself, get up to speed on their investigation and see if there was anything more the Town could do to provide additional assistance. Also at the meeting, Chief Herbello reminded the group, that as sworn officers, they had an obligation to uphold the Town Charter and take no actions that would be considered adverse to the department's will, and if they did, would face possible disciplinary action.
Singer adds that Golden Beach's police union contract requires the town to provide cars to Diaz and Baez, even though both officers are on desk duty. "Since the two are not engaged in active law enforcement work, they have been assigned unmarked cars in lieu of marked police cars," Singer says.
Prosecutors have not met or spoken with Herbello, says Miami-Dade State Attorney spokeswoman Terry Chavez. "We are proceeding with our prosecution of the officers who have been charged and the investigation continues," Chavez affirms. "We have facts and evidence against these officers."
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Since 2009, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Miami-Dade Police Public Corruption unit, and the state attorney have been investigating criminal allegations into the Golden Beach Police Department. Diaz is accused of stealing $2,032 and Paez of taking $1,450.
Six months before Diaz and Paez were busted, Sgt. Lynn Dean Peters, 45, was charged with one count of organized scheme to defraud, one count of grand theft, one count of insurance fraud, and 11 counts of official misconduct. Unlike Diaz and Paez, Peters is suspended with pay pending his trial.
In an unrelated case last year, Lt. Roberto Barrio was found guilty by a Gainesville jury of kidnapping and battery of his wife. Barrio was allowed to continue working for Golden Beach right up until his verdict. Before Barrio was convicted, town Mayor Glenn Singer told New Times that Golden Beach "affords all its employees the right to due process."