Miami Beach Corruption Troubles Deepen With Apparent FBI Leak

Yesterday, Riptide reported on Rick Falls, a Miami Beach code enforcement officer who claims he was retaliated against for wearing a wire for the F.B.I. One thing that remains unclear, however, is how Falls's supervisors became aware of his involvement in the first place.

The FBI was brought in to help clean-up corruption on Miami Beach. But Falls allegations suggest the feds might have leaked information about their probe to local cops. Which ultimately raises the question: if the F.B.I. isn't helping the troubled island, who will?

See also:
- Miami Beach City Employee Claims He Was Punished for Wearing a Wire for the FBI

There are several ways that Falls's surreptitious work for the FBI could have leaked to his superiors.

First, Falls says that city officials told employees with useful information not to contact the FBI directly. Instead, Falls was told to call the city manager or human resources department. Only then was he put in touch with the feds.

"But by then the city already knew, because you have to call through the city," Falls says.

Another, more troubling possibility, is that word of Falls' cooperation was somehow leaked from the FBI to the Miami Beach Police Department.

As part of the effort to clean-up corruption on the island, an FBI liaison is now working full-time with MBPD. In fact, because Miami-Dade Inspector General Chris Mazzella has refused to send his men to Miami Beach, the feds are pretty much the tropical paradise's last hope.

But the connection between the FBI and MBPD could be to blame for the alleged retaliation against Falls. When Falls's code compliance boss came under federal investigation (he was later cleared), MBPD commander Hernan Cardeno was brought in to take over the department.

Falls, however, claims that Cardeno already knew about his cooperation with the feds, calling him a "trouble-maker" and telling him he would never get a promotion.

The FBI declined to comment for this article. A City of Miami Beach spokeswoman said that there was no evidence of retaliation against Falls. But the former code compliance employee says his experience sets a dangerous precedent.

"If you report to city, they'll just throw you under the bus," he says.

In an interview with Riptide last month, Mazzella suggested another alternative for cleaning up Miami Beach: the city could establish its own Inspector General's office.

But Mayor Matti Bower rejected that idea, worrying that any new city agency would get wrapped up in political wrangling.

"We all have our troubles," she said of city politicians. "Nobody is spic-and-span clean. So who should throw the first stone?"

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.