The Bal Harbour, Fl., Police Department and the Glades County, Fl., sheriff’s office became unlikely allies in a task force that took in more than $55.6 million from drug cartels and other criminal groups, while traveling across the U.S. on dozens of first-class and business flights and frequently staying at luxury hotels. By the time it ended in 2012, the Miami Herald reports, the Tri-County Task Force made no arrests or major drug seizures, leaving those duties to federal agents.
For their role, the police laundered the money through hundreds of bank accounts, taking at least $1.7 million for themselves for brokering the deals, then returned the rest to the same criminal groups selling drugs in U.S. cities. 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, a 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.” The 12-member task force drew the attention of the Department of Justice in an investigation that found Bal Harbour misspent money from seizing cars and cash to pay for police salaries, prompting the resignation of Police Chief Tom Hunker in 2013.