Since publishing an exposé about illegal slaughterhouses in northwest Miami-Dade's C-9 basin last year, Riptide has chronicled other strange offenses: killed horses, 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 else: rampant electricity theft.
Guajiros had been splicing dozens of cords from single electric meters 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."
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Florida Power & Light is investigating. 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."
Business continues. There's been a local run on gasoline-powered generators.
The area is supposed to be protected wetlands, but Danger has 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.