In the United States, it is a crime to launder money for illegal drug cartels.
But in Florida, when the Bal Harbour Police Department and Glades County Sheriff’s Office launder $71.5 million for drug cartels, collect millions in commission, and don’t arrest anyone, it’s called a “sting operation.”
According to Forbes:
“Posing as money launderers, police in Bal Harbour and Glades County, Fla. laundered a staggering $71.5 million for drug cartels in an undercover sting operation, according to an in-depth investigation by The Miami Herald.”
But were the officers posing as money launderers or were they just money launderers?
After picking up dirty cash, agents delivered the money to Miami-Dade storefronts, wired cash to banks in China and Panama and collected a three percent commission fee adding up to a reported $2.4 million.
Between 2010 and 2012, the inappropriately named “Tri-County Task Force” supposedly passed on information to federal agencies leading to the seizure of almost $30 million – less than half of what they helped to launder – and claim their information led to 200 arrests.
But they have no records of those arrests.
Officers enjoyed $1,000 dinners at restaurants in the Miami area, and spent $116,000 on airfare and first-class flights and nearly $60,000 for hotel accommodations, including stays at the Bellagio and the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas and El San Juan Resort & Casino in Puerto Rico.
Police also spent over $100,000 on iPads, computers, laptops and other electronics, bought a new Jeep Grand Cherokee for $42,012 and even purchased $25,000 worth of weaponry, including FN P90 submachine guns.
(Bal Harbour, a seaside village of 2,500 residents known for having the nation’s top sales-generating mall, reported just one violent crime in 2012.) – Forbes.
From the Herald:
Three years after the task force ended, confidential records show officers withdrew hundreds of thousands in cash with no records to show where the money went.
“They were like bank robbers with badges,” said Dennis Fitzgerald, an attorney and former Drug Enforcement Administration agent who taught undercover tactics for the U.S. State Department. “It had no law enforcement objective. The objective was to make money.”
Along the way, the task force spent tens of thousands on trips to Las Vegas and San Juan, and purchased expensive items like Mac computers and FN P90 submachine guns.
The 12-member task force drew the attention of the Department of Justice three years ago in an investigation that found Bal Harbour misspent money from seizing cars and cash to pay for police salaries, leading to the resignation of Police Chief Tom Hunker in 2013.
The South Florida cops were given start-up capital for their money laundering operation by a federal program that is funded by – you guessed it – seizing assets that may be related to drug activity.
In fact, the whole “War on Drugs” is little more than a con game allowing the government to seize the profits of the middlemen distributing the product.
“It’s just unbelievable. It couldn’t have gone on without the complicity of the DEA,” said Dennis Fitzgerald, an attorney and former Drug Enforcement Administration agent, reporting that the DEA never counted the amount of money Bal Harbour had actually laundered for criminals.
“They couldn’t have been flying around the country picking up cash without the DEA.”