Five years ago, on January 12, Miami-Dade police plain clothes detectives Daniel Fernandez and Joe Losada were arrested by internal affairs officers for allegedly planting evidence, falsifying an arrest affidavit, stealing money, and physically threatening a drug dealer. The pair didn't know that Pedro Soler and his friend Rafael Rodriguez were cooperating with the IA cops to bring them down.
Their arrests sent Miami-Dade's criminal justice system into turmoil as state and federal prosecutors dropped more than two dozen cases against suspects who had been busted by Fernandez and Losada. New Times chronicled the accusations against the two cops in a cover story following their arraignment. Yesterday, their odyssey from law enforcers to criminals came full-circle.
A Miami jury found 37-year-old Losada guilty of official misconduct, criminal mischief, aggravated assault with a firearm, and battery. Fernandez, a 53-year-old law enforcement veteran who was Miami-Dade's 2004 officer of the year, was found guilty of burglary of an unoccupied dwelling, but acquitted of criminal mischief. Fernandez and Losada were found not guilty of false imprisonment and grand theft.
The case was largely built around the testimony and cooperation of Soler and Rodriguez, who agreed to participate in a sting operation that was video-taped by IA detectives. The two Cuban-born men had complained to internal affairs that Fernandez and Losada, then-members of the MDPD's elite crime suppression team, had arrested them on false charges and stolen money from them on a previous occasion.
In an 2006 interview with New Times, Rodriguez's wife also accused Fernandez and Losada of ripping off $100 that was an offering to the couple's life-size San Lazaro statue.
Rodriguez agreed to let the investigators use one of his properties as a fake dope hole. They placed Soler, an admitted drug dealer, at the scene. The lead IA detective planted $970 in marked bills inside the house. The hidden cameras caught Fernandez confiscating the loot after Losada and other CST members pounced on Soler.
When they returned to their station, Fernandez only turned in $570. He was arrested shortly thereafter. Losada was found with $160 of the marked bills when he was cuffed. Both were fired.
Before and during the trial, defense attorneys seized on the sketchy pasts of the two informants. Soler has been convicted of cocaine possession several times, most recently in 2008. Although he told Banana Republican yesterday that on that occasion the drugs were planted by the cops. "I'm being targeted," Soler said.
Rodriguez is a handyman who has largely steered away from trouble. He purchased dilapidated houses in northwest Miami-Dade, then renovated the properties to sell them. But he was arrested in 2007 during a DEA raid in Martin County. He spent 21 days in jail before the charges were dismissed. During the Fernandez and Losada trial, Rodriguez testified he didn't know anything illegal was going on the day of the raid.
"The police have tried to entrap me twice," he told Banana Republican. "Martin County was the first time. Then they tried to get a friend of mine to plant contraband in my car, but he never went through with it."
Rodriguez says fear of cop retribution is the main reason he and his wife relocated to Tampa. "They really wanted to screw me," he said. "That's why I left Miami. But the video from five years ago doesn't lie. Fernandez and Losada are delinquents."