Until yesterday, Lt. Ralph Mata was the picture of an upstanding Miami-Dade cop. He was a top leader in Internal Affairs, spending his days going after corruption and abuse in the ranks. He'd earned exactly one mention in the Miami Herald in his career, for helping to lead a feel-good drug bust in Carol City.
But Mata had a secret double life, prosecutors say. To a violent Dominican gang, he was better known as "the Milk Man" and spent years feeding police intel to the drug-runners, buying them guns, protecting shipments, and even concocting a murder plot.
The indictment -- brought by federal prosecutors in New Jersey -- includes a stunning set of charges against the officer. According to the feds, Mata was the inside man for an unnamed drug organization based out of the Dominican Republic. Whatever the gang needed done in Miami, authorities say, he'd do it.
He bought a cache of weapons and flew them to the DR on two trips, they say, and tipped the gang off with inside information about a New Jersey raid that nabbed almost a half-million dollars of their drug proceeds. He was a bag man who regularly carried cash for the criminals.
And most eye-opening of all, he helped concoct a murder plot against a rival gang that would involve "his contacts -- assassins -- wear[ing] uniforms and badges to make it appear as though the two targets of the plot were being pulled over by law enforcement before shooting them," prosecutors say. The hit never happened.
In exchange for all of his help, Mata allegedly received thousands in cash and a Rolex watch.
Federal agents arrested the 45-year-old officer yesterday in Miami Gardens and charged him with three felonies for allegedly aiding the drug gang, leaving fellow officers speechless.
Before his arrest, Mata's only mention in the Herald came in 2005, when -- ironically -- he helped a drug raid at a Carol City complex. Here's his tough-on-drugs stance at the time:
For Lt. Ralph Mata, the operation was definitely a success. No officers were hurt and they were able to take eight allegedly violent criminals off the street.
"In a small proximity apartment complex, these are good numbers," Mata said. "I think you're going to see a big turnaround. We had anonymous people who live there come up to us and tell us, 'thank you.'"
To make sure criminals stay away from the complex, Mata said the police will follow up regularly with patrols by uniformed officers.
"When they walk through, they're going to talk to the citizens to get the true feedback of what is occurring," Mata said.
This morning on LEO Affairs, a department-specific message board for police officers, commenters bemoaned the arrest for leveling a massive black eye on MDPD, with one visitor exclaiming "this department has become the biggest joke in the nation!"
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Mata is scheduled to make his first appearance in federal court this morning.
(H/T to Random Pixels)