Last week, Miami Beach Police busted a brazen cocaine and gambling operation run out of South Beach's VFW hall. An illegal betting machine ran out in the open in the smoky South Beach bar, police say, while a bartender and a regular openly sold drugs.
But the police failed to mention a few key facts that suggest those alleged criminals were even bolder than advertised. New Times has learned that not only do the Miami Beach police and fire unions hold regular meetings inside the VFW, but also the city's police chief, Dan Oates, lives in the condo building in which the now-shuttered bar is located.
That's not to say he frequented the place too often. "Chief Oates has only been to the VFW during an FOP meeting when he was initially selected as the police chief," says MBPD spokesperson Ernesto Rodriguez.
The case against VFW Hall 3559 began last year, when undercover officers began a six-month investigation into the ratty dive located inside the swank 32-floor Floridian Condominium on West Avenue. The bar, which has been on the site since 1936, negotiated a space on the bayside condo's second floor when developers bought the land.
Miami Beach Police say their investigation was sparked by complaints — and not by their chief noticing anything fishy inside his own home building.
"The investigation was triggered by complaints," Rodriguez says. "Chief Oates was aware of the investigation from the beginning and closely monitored its progress."
Plenty of cops other than Oates spent time inside the VFW hall.
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Every month, the Fraternal Order of Police — the union for Miami Beach cops — meets in a room at the VFW that's one floor above the bar. On days when the FOP meets inside the Floridian, dozens of police cars are parked nearby. Miami Beach's firefighters union also convenes monthly in the VFW meeting room.
Oates, meanwhile, lives in the Floridian. Though Rodriguez, citing privacy concerns, declined to comment about the chief's living arrangements, a resident confirmed to New Times that Oates lives there.
During MBPD's investigation, undercover cops say they routinely bought cocaine from Miguel Sacerio, a 61-year-old regular at the VFW hall. They also played an illegal gambling machine and then confiscated cocaine and Xanax from 50-year-old bartender Resty Cordova.
Both men were arrested earlier this month. When the case came to a close, Oates was at the Floridian, watching the arrest in person, Rodriguez says.