Miami Police Raid Gaming Machines, Escalating Exposito-Regalado Feud

Miami Police arrested eight business owners and confiscated 32 gaming machines this afternoon in an operation that seems certain to escalate the ugly feud between Chief Miguel Exposito and Mayor Tomás Regalado.

In January, the embattled chief accused the mayor of interfering with a similar sting days after Regalado had helped pass an ordinance trying to legalize the games.

The latest operation went down earlier this afternoon and targeted shops in Little Havana and Hialeah. Eight business owners were booked for operating illegal gambling machines, according to arrest reports released by the police department.

The officer's narrative in the arrest of Jose Marrero, the 73-year-old owner of a shop at SW 27th Avenue and West Flagler, is typical:

"A total of two chance gaming machines [were operating] in plain view," an officer writes. "No skills were used... to control the outcome of the game, making the operation a game of chance."

The sting comes months into a feud between Regalado and Exposito, who's been pressured by black community leaders to resign over his officers' fatal shootings of seven men since last summer.

In January, Exposito complained to the FBI that the mayor had tried to stop a similar raid in October. Former City Manager Carlos Migoya said Regalado mentioned that such raids would look bad shortly before an election and asked that they be postponed.

Gaming machines have long been seized under a Florida law against "games of chance," but just 11 days before Exposito's last raid, Regalado helped pass new regulations that seemed to allow the games if shop owners paid fees for them.

It's hard to see today's operation as anything less than the police chief flipping off the mayor on an issue both have already fought over.

In addition to Marrero, police also arrested 37-year-old Intesar Ismail, 55-year-old Abas Hamad, 34-year-old Yure Medina-Santana, 28-year-old Luis Arazazu, and 58-year-old Abdel Majid. (Police announced eight arrests overall -- the other two defendants' names have not been released yet.)

Riptide called Exposito and Regalado for comments, but both had already left the office for the day. Expect more fireworks tomorrow.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink