Somebody gets carted off to jail every eight minutes or so in Miami-Dade County. Most of these arrests are for bench warrants, which means a poor soul was wanted when cops showed up. Second on the list: people who hit, slapped, or beat up somebody. Three and four? The people who were either smoking a little weed or had some coke at the time of their unfortunate apprehension. Trespassing and driving drunk round out the top six, with more than 5,000 arrests for each in the past three years.
Of course all of this malfeasance happens in Dade. Anybody who's seen Scarface or Ballers knows that.
Less obvious are the scores of cases that don't fit the conventional mold. They involve people who exist on the fringes of Miami-Dade's criminal underworld. They're charged for crimes such as disfiguring a tomb, harassing a police dog, importing moonshine, or wearing a mask in public.
What follows are some of the weirdest crimes to fill an arrest blotter.
Weird Crime #1: Sending Ecstasy to Grandma's house
On June 26, 2017, Homeland Security investigators seized a package of 510 Ecstasy pills and ten grams of MDMA powder addressed to a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house near SW 121st Street and SW 102nd Avenue in Kendall. Three days later, undercover officers decided to deliver the package. When they knocked on the door, 65-year-old Daysi Cruz answered. They told her they had a package for her grandson, 20-year-old Rafael Rodriguez. When Rodriguez came to the door, they identified themselves as police officers and told him they were conducting a narcotics investigation. Cops searched the house, which is listed as belonging to Cruz. Soon they found 17 grams of pot, a safe with half a sheet of acid (seven grams), a baggie with half a pill of Ecstasy, a piece of foil with more LSD, and some hash oil. Rodriguez confessed to ordering the 500-plus Ecstasy pills off the dark web and was promptly taken to jail. He was later found guilty, but only of importing cannabis to
Weird Crime #2: Messing around with a laser pointer
A Miami-Dade Police officer was driving on Bird Road near SW 99th Court in late October 2015 when a green laser light crossed his cruiser. He switched on his siren and pulled over a two-door gray Scion. "I'm sorry, you are the second car he pointed the laser at," the unnamed driver said while gesturing toward his passenger. "I told him to stop." Nineteen-year-old Arbelio Guillen was arrested and charged with a felony count of misusing a laser light device. It's a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. But half a year later, in May, the charge was dropped after the teenager completed a pretrial diversion program. Guillen isn't the only alleged laser misuser. Last year, police picked up 27-year-old Ryan Fluke in Pasco County after he repeatedly shone a laser in the eyes of two cops who were piloting a helicopter. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Fluke said he did it "for fun" and didn't know the laser light could travel such a long distance. The same year Guillen was arrested, a West Boca Raton man spent 90 days in jail for shining a light in a helicopter pilot's eyes, the Sun Sentinel reported.
Weird Crime #3: Scootering while drunk and then escaping
Around 8 p.m. April 22, 2018, cops were driving westbound on NW 79th Street when they noticed 44-year-old Jorge Lopez swerving on a motor scooter from the right lane into oncoming traffic. Several cars veered to avoid him. Then, at a traffic light, cops saw him nearly fall over, almost dropping the scooter onto the street. "I immediately activated my emergency lights and attempted to stop the defendant," the officer wrote. "But when the light turned green, the man continued to drive west. I turned on my siren." Lopez didn't stop until the cop pulled up next to him and noticed he was wearing earphones. Finally, Lopez pulled over. The officer asked him to take a roadside sobriety test, "which he failed miserably," the police report states. While Lopez was being processed at the police station, cops handcuffed him to the seat — but he still somehow escaped and walked right out of the station before being caught a few blocks away. He was charged with DUI and for his escape from police custody. Prosecutors decided to take no action in the case one month later.
Weird Crime #4: Airbag bluffing
This past March, 38-year-old Nelson Amparo of Miami was arrested and charged with removing an airbag from a 2015 black Honda Civic and replacing it with... nothing. Amparo had sold the car from his shop, GHP Auto Export, a business he owns and operates at 17121 NW Second Ct. in Miami Gardens. He had planned to export it to the Dominican Republic and submitted the paperwork, which police later determined he had forged, to an auto tag agency. Cops found the car a month before the arrest when conducting a routine vehicle inspection on Hondas being shipped out of the country after what they described as "a recent spike in airbag thefts throughout Miami-Dade County." When they checked out the Civic, Det. Josue Vales found there was nothing inside the airbag compartment. So they followed the paper trail to Amparo, who was charged with installing a fake airbag, a felony. His case is set to go to trial in October. Counterfeit airbags are more common than you might think: Federal authorities have been cracking down for years, and people such as auto shop owner Igor Borodin — who was arrested in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2012 after selling about 7,000 fake airbags on eBay he had bought from China — can make millions. Borodin pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Weird Crime #5: Huffing compressed gas meant to clean your computer
Luis Rosales, age 20, was huffing a can of compressed gas duster while sitting at a bus stop at SW Fourth Street and SW Second Avenue in Homestead at 8 a.m. on a Sunday in early June 2016. He didn't notice the police officer standing right behind him. When the cop approached, Rosales blurted out he was addicted to huffing gas. "The can of duster is intended to be used to clean electronics and other household items," the cop advised in the arrest report. "The warning label specifically states that it can be fatal if inhaled or ingested." Prosecutors dropped the charges. But huffing has been a problem pervasive enough in Florida that 52-year-old Jeffrey McElyea of Orlando was arrested three times in one week in 2015 for inhaling air duster while driving. Elsewhere in the state, 29-year-old Bryan Bennett from Ocala literally passed out while standing in line at a Walmart after huffing duster. He was arrested in early December 2012 and charged with inhaling a chemical substance — the same charge he caught from Ocala cops just two weeks earlier.
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Weird Crime #6: Disfiguring tombs and stealing from corpses
Police were called to investigate a burglary at Charlotte Jane Memorial Park Cemetery near Douglas Road and Franklin Avenue in June 2015. "Upon arrival," the incident report reads, "it was discovered that a casket was forced open and the remains were tampered with and body parts belonging to the victim had been removed." Cops later tracked down the thief from fingerprints he left on the casket. Two months later, Pedro Gonzalez was arrested and charged with disfiguring a tomb — the only time Miami-Dade cops have had to use that charge in recent years. It's TBD what he did with those stolen body parts.
Tomorrow: Part 2 dives into Miami's weirdest criminals.