| Crime |

South Beach VFW Hall Shuttered After Police Bust Cocaine Dealing, Gambling Inside

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Miami and help keep the future of New Times free.

VFW Hall 3559 is a bizarre relic of a time before South Beach glitz. Hidden inside the Floridian condo tower, the venue requires patrons to ring a bell at an unmarked side door and get buzzed in via hidden camera. Inside, sweeping views of Biscayne Bay contrast with a grimy, smoke-filled dive where bottles of Bud rest on ratty pool tables.

The cheap beer wasn't the only throwback to an earlier era in South Beach, though. Police now say the bar was a secret hot spot for cocaine dealing and illegal gambling. After a six-month sting, the VFW hall has now been shut down, and a bartender and a regular customer face felony charges.

It's an ignominious moment in the bar's long history. A VFW hall has stood at the location since 1936, the hall's commander told New Times in 2009. When developers wanted to buy the land to build the Floridian, the VFW demanded its hall be rebuilt on the second floor.   

Even as South Beach turned into an international playground for the young and beautiful, the VFW hall was mostly filled with gray-haired World War II and Vietnam vets and a few younger locals who stopped by $3 beer specials and the dive ambiance. 

But Miami Beach Police believed darker deals were afoot inside, and midway through last year, they set up a sting at the bar. 

One detective honed in on a regular named Miguel Sacerio, a 61-year-old with one prior felony arrest, for cocaine in 2010, though prosecutors had dropped those charges. Beginning last November, an undercover detective began buying $20 worth of coke from him inside the VFW hall. 

After three buys at the bar, the detective told Sacerio he wanted more — two full ounces, which would cost $2,400, Sacerio said. On January 21, they set up a buy at 16th Street and Jefferson Avenue. When Sacerio got into the detective's car, he balked.

"I have it in my pocket," he said, according to a police report. "What is wrong with you, you want me to show it to you here in the street?"

That's when police swooped in and arrested Sacerio.

Meanwhile, back at the VFW hall, police closed in on another target. They focused on a gaming machine at the back of the bar. On April 21, a detective bought $20 worth of credits on the machine, which was essentially an electronic slot machine. He lost most of his credits and then won a big prize that gave him $20 — when he took his ticket to the bar, a bartender gave him his full cash back.

Last Thursday, police raided the bar. They arrested the bartender who'd given out the illegal winnings, 50-year-old Resty Cordova. As they moved to handcuff him, police say, Cordova dropped a baggie full of five grams of cocaine and four Xanax pills.

Cordova faces felony charges of cocaine possession, gambling, and possession of a controlled substance. Sacerio is charged with cocaine possession and intent to sell, as well as drug trafficking.   

The VFW hall remains closed. It's not clear when, or if, it will reopen.

Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.