When Internal Affairs Gets Too Cozy

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement recently ended an investigation into the onetime commander of the Miami-Dade Police Department's internal affairs unit, concluding Donald Rifkin was hoping to get laid by talking to county cop Carmen Pichardo about sensitive information in the internal affairs case against her. Department rules forbid IA detectives from discussing cases with anyone, especially  officers under investigation. As a result, Rifkin was demoted from major to captain. Pichardo was also busted down, from major to lieutenant. We're still awaiting word from a police department spokesman to find out if Rifkin is still with the Professional Compliance Bureau or if he has been reassigned. Rifkin and Pichardo could not be reached for comment.

The sordid saga involving Pichardo and Rifkin
began in February 2008 when she and her estranged ex-husband, Richard Pichardo, a former chief of the county police's Cutler Ridge district who retired in April last year, were having problems. According to court documents, the ex-beaus filed for restraining orders against one another last February 19 and 20. In addition, the Pichardos were being investigated by the Professional Compliance Bureau on several matters, including domestic violence and fraud.

Shortly after the IA investigation into her began, Pichardo received a phone call from Rifkin inviting her to lunch, according to the FDLE's report,

which was released to Miami New Times today. Pichardo and Rifkin had

two meetings, one at Café Italia and another at Las Delicias Peruanas, both located on Hollywood Boulevard. The encounters took place this past March 23 and July 13.

During their first encounter, Rifkin -- without being asked -- brought up the two cases against Pichardo's ex-hubby. One involved allegations of domestic violence against Richard by his current wife. The other inquiry was into allegations he was using steroids. Pichardo alleges Rifkin informed her that internal affairs was consulting with doctors to determine what the steroids "were intended to be used for." According to Pichardo's interview with FDLE, "Rifkin walked her to her car and hugged her really tight, squeezing her breasts."

When they met at the Peruvian seafood joint over the summer, Rifkin gave Pichardo a copy of an email Richard sent to Miami Beach Police Chief Carlos Noriega, Miami-Dade Police Director Robert Parker, and County Manager George Burgess. Rifkin also divulged that Richard was under investigation for allegedly forging a signature on a quit-claim deed. Pichardo claims she never asked Rifkin to give her the intel on her ex-hubby.

After the last meeting, Pichardo said, "It became clear what his intentions were as he became more aggressive with his text messages," including one this past July 30 asking her to take a day off "so he could come over and rub her neck and feet."

Five days later, Rifkin mailed Pichardo a greeting card he had made on a computer. The card read, "I may not completely understand all you're going through, Carmen... but I want you to know I do understand a little, and I care a lot. Love, Donald." Rifkin's efforts to woo Pichardo bordered on obession. Her cell phone records show 25 calls between the pair during a 30-day period between June and July last year.

Rifkin refused to be interviewed by FDLE agents until the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office decided whether or not to formally charge him with official misconduct. This past October 30, Joe Centorino, head of the state attorney's public corruption unit, declined to prosecute Rifkin. The following day, Rifkin provided his sworn statement to the FDLE. He denied ever meeting Pichardo for lunch or that he wanted to massage her.

He acknowledged speaking with her, texting her messages, and sending her the greeting card, but he denied wanting to sleep with Pichardo. Rifkin told the investigators: "I see she has made many statements regarding a romantic interest that she is alleging that I have with her and I don't."

He admitted to violating the department's policy regarding disclosing sensitive information on ongoing cases. "I used poor judgement on a number of occasions when I discussed her open cases with her," Rifkin said.

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.