MIAMI – Two veteran police officers were charged Friday with providing protection for purported shipments of cocaine and stolen goods in what was actually an undercover FBI operation.
Officer Geovani Nunez and Detective Jorge Hernandez are accused in court documents of helping protect shipments of what they thought were stolen televisions and computers and at least 12 kilograms of cocaine — sometimes by using their police cars to escort trucks.
Prosecutors said the 13-year veterans of the Miami Police Department were paid a combined $39,500 by a secret FBI informant they thought was involved in illegal businesses, prosecutors said.
Nunez and Hernandez were released on bail after appearing briefly in court. Nunez's attorney, Michael Catalano, said the allegedly illegal conduct was staged and not real because it was an FBI sting. Catalano also said the officers would fight the charges, which carry potential life sentences.
"They are charged with committing crimes that did not exist," he said.
It was not immediately clear if Hernandez had an attorney.
Police Chief John Timoney said the two officers would be fired.
"These two, as far as I'm concerned, are aberrations," he said.
U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta said the case was particularly disheartening in a year when several South Florida police officers have died in the line of duty.
"It is sad that a handful of individuals choose to repay their colleagues' sacrifice through criminal conduct," Acosta said.
The case is similar to a recent FBI sting that led to guilty pleas from five officers in Hollywood, Fla. Four received lengthy prison sentences.