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10 KILOS, A DUFFEL BAG AND A POLICE ESCORT

[ 0 ] April 26, 2012 | Charles Branham-Bailey

The Full Scoop on the Drug Run & FBI Bust

The bad guys thought it was just a drug run – albeit, a meticulously-planned one – from a South Beach nightclub to an Aventura parking lot.

What they didn’t know was, the FBI was watching the entire time.

Who was carrying and protecting the coke?

A City of Miami Beach fire inspector and a Miami-Dade cop.

(And perhaps others yet-named, yet-charged.)

Because he wasn’t one of theirs – thank goodness – at least this time the scandal-tainted Miami Beach PD has nothing to worry about. Right?

Wrong.

 

When the extortion and bribery case against five Miami Beach Code Compliance officers and 2 inspectors from the city’s fire department was unveiled by the U.S. Attorney for Miami earlier this month, thus began churning an agitated whirlpool of reaction, up and down the Billion Dollar Sandbar, one that has only strengthened – much like a hurricane – and picked up momentum in the two weeks since the scandal broke:

Shock and dismay from city officials, with some exchanging accusatory emails and others aligning into opposing factions on what to do next. Outrage and disgust from a wary public. And plenty of attention in the media, in public meetings, and in editorial boardrooms.

The arrests have culminated in Beach commissioners demanding immediate reforms, even the dismissal of their increasingly-embattled city manager, now at his most vulnerable nadir in 12 years; in the imposition of departmental reviews, ethics re-training of city employees, and, soon, a promised anonymous tip hotline for whistle-blowers; and in a citizens’ protest rally outside City Hall today.

Almost lost in the turbulence surrounding the extortion case is the parallel case announced by federal prosecutors. In that one, one of the city fire inspectors is also accused of participating in a conspiracy to transport what he believed to be cocaine. Implicated with him is a Miami-Dade police officer, hired to escort the illicit load using his patrol car. Both have been suspended from duty by their respective agencies.

So, then, how – and why – does the Miami Beach Police Department troublingly figure into all this? Read on.

Here, extracted from the federal complaint, the SunPost presents a timeline of the conspiracy and the FBI’s undercover surveillance of two public servants – maybe more – gone waywardly wrong.

Thurs., Oct. 27, 2011

9:37 p.m.

In an FBI-tapped phone call, Miami Beach fire inspector Chai Footman tells the “manager” of the South Beach nightclub Dolce Ultra Lounge – who, unbeknown to Footman, is really an FBI undercover agent – that he wants to put the “manager” in contact with a fellow city fire inspector, Henry Lee Bryant, who, in exchange for cash pay-offs, can help the “manager” in obtaining a sign permit from the city –

FOOTMAN: Henry will be able to play ball. He is a senior inspector. He may know other people in the city. I am pretty sure he does. He knows the ins and outs and stuff like that. When Henry’s working, he will have your back. Let him know what you are trying to do – everything. He is down. He’s real down.

 

Sat., Oct. 29, 2011

10:25 a.m.

The “manager” contacts Bryant; they arrange to meet for lunch that day. Hours later, at a Beach restaurant, the two discuss ways that Bryant could help the club.

BRYANT: There ain’t too many people in the city that I don’t know. What exactly do you need done?

I need to increase the club’s occupancy limit, replies the “manager,” among other issues. I want to do business, he tells Bryant. How much will it cost?

I need to know more about what is needed, Bryant responds.

BRYANT: I know, on the Code side, that is taken care of. On the PD side, you don’t need to worry about that, because I got that taken care of. The only thing that I am really concerned about is that – you know, because, I mean, you guys [are] big enough to run a legit business where you gonna make the people. So with the overcrowding issue, I am not really concerned with that either, because whenever there is a ticket, I’ll just call the people and say, “Hey, I need that ticket taken care of, rip it up.”

Bryant adds that he will have someone come over to the club to begin working on the occupancy issue.

I will also need help with getting the city to approve my sign permit, the “manager” says.

I will be able to get the permit for you, Bryant assures him. I will be your “problem solver.”

 

Fri., Dec. 2, 2011

11:15 a.m.

Bryant, at the club, asks the “manager” if he needs help with anything else.

I need somebody to provide protection for a drug run from the club on behalf of my drug operation and me, the “manager” offers.

Bryant agrees to participate.

 

Sun., Dec. 4, 2011

1:39 p.m.

I have “four county guys” – meaning Miami-Dade police – “plus two Beach guys” – meaning Miami Beach police, Bryant tells the “manager” in a meeting at Dolce.

Will they be in uniform and have patrol cars? the “manager” asks.

They’ve got county cars and “they are ready to move, they just need to know when and how,” Bryant replies.

The two arrange to meet on the following Friday, with Bryant bringing along “two guys from Dade County and one guy from the Beach.”

BRYANT: Once you tell me what needs to be done, we do a couple of (drug escort) runs. Let you know it is what it is. Then we go from there. We’re just sitting around waiting on you.

 

Tues., Dec. 6, 2011

10:04 p.m.

The “manager” and Bryant again arrange, this time by phone, to meet on Friday to discuss transportation logistics and protection of the cocaine run.

I’ll be at the club with two others, says Bryant.

 

Fri., Dec. 9, 2011

9:24 p.m.

I’ve got “a bunch of people waiting,” and as soon as you’ve got everything together, let me know the “when, where, and how,” Bryant tells the “manager” in a meeting at the club.

A Miami Beach cop will escort me out of the area, Bryant informs the “manager”; everyone will be in uniform and a police car.

BRYANT: My brother will be carrying the bag and my guys will be downstairs… need to know the proximity of where the car is going to be.

The police protection, according to Bryant, will be one Miami-Dade cop and one Beach cop. He asks about the pay-out.

What’s the going rate for 10 kilos of coke? the “manager” asks him.

It isn’t cheap, Bryant responds; it’s $4,000 or $5,000 apiece because of the risk.

BRYANT: My guys (the two police escorts) will know what’s going on, because I will tell them straight up.

Will the cops take $3,500 apiece? the “manager” inquires.

I’ll talk to my guys in a few minutes, says Bryant. My brother and I will be with the drugs and I’ll meet up with the police to settle with them.

 

10:04 p.m.

“1830 hours (6:30 p.m.) – that the go time,” Bryant tells the “manager” in a phone call. Bryant says that he will “go ahead and be the runner,” but wants to make sure “it is what it is.”

I’ve got no problem putting the coke in my vehicle because my guys know my vehicle, he adds. He assures the “manager” that his guys will be in uniform.

 

Sat., Dec. 10, 2011

1:25 p.m.

In a call to Bryant –

“MANAGER”: It’s a lot of money, it’s a lot of sh–, it’s a lot of dope.

Bryant abruptly terminates the call.

Two minutes later, the “manager” calls Bryant again. Bryant replies that he will get back to him later.

 

Mon., Dec. 12, 2011

1:01 p.m.

Bryant texts the “manager”:

the open phone or text r recorded whether you know it or not. They can pull phone records for 30 days.”

 

2:29 p.m.

Bryant texts again:

you put yourself and me at risk for a lot of bad business.”

 

2:35 p.m.

Bryant texts:

I can’t let you destroy yourself but you need lesson 101, [s]imply mind what you say.”

 

Thurs., Dec. 15, 2011

12:07 p.m.

Bryant texts the “manager”:

bring some funds with you.”

Later, another text:

Dos Grands.”

He adds that the money is for “charity.”

The two arrange to meet later that night.

 

8:21 p.m.

Bryant and the “manager” meet at Dolce.

I hung up on you earlier, Bryant explains, because –

BRYANT: Most of the time when we have conversations, you know… when you in this kind of field… you don’t have straight out conversations. The reason why that is, because everybody knows you can be bugged almost anywhere. Every little word that you say can be construed as conspiracy.…Is one of the players major [or] minor? That why you got a dial tone. Because I’ve been in this business a long time. It ain’t something that’s brand new to me.

Bryant expresses concern. You used the “Coca-Cola” word – referring to cocaine – straight out, he reproaches the undercover agent.

I usually refer to it by the term “T-shirts,” the “manager” replies.

We can refer to “it” as “product” or something else, he tells the “manager,” but not associated with the word “money” in the same sentence.

I intend to move the coke myself and use two separate cops and their cars to help in the transport, Bryant adds. An unmarked Miami Beach police car will escort me while I’m within Miami Beach city limits. Once I leave city limits, a Miami-Dade police car will escort me the rest of the way.

 

Fri., Dec. 16, 2011

10:15 p.m.

The “manager” and Bryant meet at Miami Beach Fire Station No. 2 (2300 Pinetree Dr.). The drop-off for the coke, Bryant is told, will be to a car parked at Aventura Mall.

BRYANT: I guarantee it’ll be smooth as silk.

The “manager” gives Bryant a cell phone to use during the run.

BRYANT: Certain things you still don’t want to communicate.

 

Tues., Dec. 20, 2011

Bryant texts the “manager”:

r we on people ready.”

gameon,” the “manager” texts back.

Bryant texts in return:

ready to go.”

 

The First Drug Run

Wed., Dec. 21, 2011

9:18 a.m.

The two arrange to meet at a Miami Beach restaurant.

 

11:30 a.m.

The “manager” and a second FBI undercover agent – posing as a “drug associate” of the “manager” – meet a uniformed Bryant at the restaurant to confer about the drug pickup at the club, set for later in the day.

I will be at the club at 4:15 p.m., wearing a red shirt, Bryant tells them.

 

4:12 p.m.

I’m en route, Bryant alerts the “manager” by phone. One of my guys “is already there waiting” for me and the “other guy is already in place,” he adds.

 

4:24 p.m.

Daniel L. Mack, a Miami-Dade cop, calls Bryant. I’ve arrived at Dolce, Bryant informs him.

 

4:32 p.m.

Bryant and his brother meet the “manager” and “associate” at the club.

We’re going to take Collins Ave. to the Lehmann Causeway in Aventura, Bryant tells the group. And don’t use any SunPass lanes, he advises, because photos can be taken.

It’s nine kilos, the “manager” tells Bryant and his brother. Actually, according to the affidavit, the FBI used “sham” cocaine in its operation, a “white powdery substance packaged similarly to a kilogram-size package of cocaine.”

“This is money,” the “associate” tells the Bryant brothers.

You don’t have to worry about it, Henry Bryant replies.

Each kilo is then loaded individually into a duffel bag in front of the brothers.

The meeting, audio- and video-recorded, ends at 4:45 p.m.

Bryant takes possession of the duffel bag. The Bryant brothers leave the club and climb into Henry’s black 2001 Lincoln Navigator. FBI agents in a surveillance car tail both the Navigator and a gold sedan following behind it. The sedan followed the Bryants to Miami Beach city limits.

 

4:49 p.m.

Mack texts Bryant:

Please tell me I did not miss you”

 

4:50 p.m.

Bryant texts his reply:

on wa way now”

 

4:55 p.m.

As the Bryants leave Miami Beach city limits, a marked Miami-Dade police car falls in behind the Navigator and follows it all the way to the drop-off point, an unoccupied vehicle parked at Aventura Mall.

 

5:04 p.m.

The “manager” calls Bryant and provides him a description and location of the drop-off car parked at Aventura Mall. They discuss Bryant returning to the club later to be paid.

 

5:23 p.m.

Mack ceases following the Bryants’ Navigator as it pulls into the Aventura Mall parking lot.

 

5:26 p.m.

Bryant calls the “manager.”

I’m at the Aventura Publix but I don’t see the drop car (a gray Dodge Challenger), he says.

It’s across the street at the corner of Oliver and Abigail, the “manager” replies.

I’ll call you back, says Bryant.

 

5:34 p.m.

Bryant calls the “manager” again. It’s “confirmed,” he reports, indicating he has found the drop car.

Surveillance agents observe Bryant’s brother take the duffel bag and place it in the drop car. The Bryants then leave. Agents retrieve the bag and its contents.

 

6:04 p.m.

We’ll arrive at the club in 15 minutes, Bryant tells the “manager” in a call.

Back at Dolce, the Bryants meet with the “manager” and his “associate” and receive $10,500 in cash.

The two escorting cops will get $3,500 each, Bryant says. His brother and he will split the other $3,500.

I have a couple more runs to do, the “associate” tells Bryant.

BRYANT: Just tell me where and when.

I never use the same pattern twice, Bryant adds. The meeting ends at 6:51 p.m.

 

7:29 p.m.

Mack texts Bryant:

I’m at 3760 NW 171 terr can you come here?”

 

7:30 p.m.

Bryant responds:

On way.”

The FBI affidavit states that agents discovered a home address for Mack near the address included in his text message. Their (and this reporter’s) research of Google Earth revealed a street-view, close-up image of a one-story house at that address. Parked in the driveway, and clearly visible in the image, is a Miami-Dade patrol car with the same vehicle ID number as the patrol car that the FBI reports was used in the drug run and observed by their surveillance team.

 

The Second Drug Run

Fri., Dec. 23, 2011

1:11 p.m.

In a call to Bryant, the “manager” says his people are happy; how are your people?

Mine are “okay,” Bryant replies, but the money was short.

“MANAGER”: 35 ($3,500) for everybody, right?

BRYANT: It should have been 35 [each] for me and my brother and 5 ($5,000) [each for the two cops].

I’ll pick up two new phones, Bryant advises, because I don’t believe in using the same ones. I’ll drop the one I have.

The two discuss the escort police units that took part in the run.

The marked Miami-Dade unit was following me too closely, Bryant complains.

 

Wed., Jan. 4, 2012

7:14 p.m.

In a phone conversation with the “manager,” Bryant says that “we need to talk numbers.”

I’ll work with the cops with their number, but my number is “on the low side” and it “has to go up,” Bryant says. My brother and I are “splitting and we’re taking less.”

It would be 35 ($3,500) for each of his guys and 8 ($8,000) for his brother and him to split. After some negotiation with the “manager,” Bryant agrees that he and his brother will take $3,000 each.

BRYANT: I’m not going to get less and I’m doing all the work.

The two discuss different scenarios, including the suggestion that the “manager’s” “associate” (the second FBI undercover) transport the coke instead of Bryant and let the “associate” communicate directly with Bryant’s guys, the ones who would be tailing and protecting him during the run.

“The reason why it worked the way it worked” is because of who I am, Bryant replies.

BRYANT: Leave the guys the way they are and me and my brother will take three ($3,000) apiece.

So, let me see if I have this right, the “manager” follows up. Three for you, 3 for your brother, and 35 ($3,500) for your two guys?

“Yeah,” replies Bryant.

The two then discuss the police escort and the proposed route.

We’ll go a different route, Bryant declares, because I don’t do the same route twice.

The two then arrange to meet either Thursday evening or Saturday before lunch.

 

7:32 p.m.

I’ve spoken to my people, Bryant tells the “manager” in a phone call, and they aren’t comfortable with me on the “sideline.”

“Work that other number out,” he instructs.

 

Thurs., Jan. 5, 2012

10:57 a.m.

In a phone call, the “manager” informs Bryant that the operation is set up for Saturday at 10 a.m.

What about the payment? asks Bryant. It’s “35 ($3,500) for everybody,” he clarifies. Is the drop car being moved to a different spot?

It will be moved, confirms the “manager,” but it will be in the same general area.

 

Fri., Jan. 6, 2012

5:26 p.m.

By phone, Bryant agrees to conduct a second drug run for the following Saturday, Jan. 14. He and the “manager” discuss the increased payments for the run.

 

Sat., Jan. 7, 2012

5:26 p.m.

The two discuss by phone the drug run set up for Saturday. An undercover police car will be used in Miami Beach, Bryant explains, because marked units are equipped with GPS and each car is assigned to a zone.

 

Wed., Jan. 11, 2012

3:21 p.m.

In a phone call, the “manager” tells Bryant –

“MANAGER”: The load that is coming in pretty big.

BRYANT: I knew what the first one was. I knew it was a trial [run].

I need to meet your two people, the “manager” tells Bryant.

BRYANT: My people are skittish about meeting face-to-face.

The two discuss meeting Friday night.

BRYANT: After this move, these phones go. We need two fresh ones.

 

6:11 p.m.

Bryant and the “manager” exchange text messages, confirming a 6:30 meet-up time for Friday night.

 

7:14 p.m.

The “manager” talks to Bryant by phone. My “associate” will be there also, says the “manager.

Only one of my guys will be there, Bryant says, the “main one,” according to the affidavit. The other guy will be on duty.

BRYANT: Nobody wants to meet nobody so that everybody has the possibility of denial.

 

Fri., Jan. 13, 2012

7:41 p.m.

In an exchange of text messages, Bryant confirms that the Friday night meeting is still on.

 

9:23 p.m.

Is everything set for tomorrow? the “manager” asks Bryant in a phone conversation. I’ll be a little late arriving. Expect me at around 7 p.m.

My guy has to work, Bryant replies, and I told him that the meeting would begin at 6 and he would be done at 7:15, but we’ll work around it.

The two arrange for the “manager” to meet Bryant’s guys, the police escorts.

 

Sat., Jan. 14, 2012

8:55 a.m.

The two, in a phone call, arrange to meet at an unidentified restaurant located at NW 46th St. and NW 7th Ave. in Miami, just off I-95. (Research for this story shows at least one eatery – Esther’s Restaurant – at this intersection.)

 

9:02 a.m.

The “manager” and his “associate” meet with Bryant at the restaurant. Bryant arrives in a 2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser.

My guy is on his way, Bryant tells them, and –

BRYANT: He knows exactly what we’re doing. His thing of it is, the less he knows, the better it is.

9:06 a.m.

“There he go,” Bryant observes, as a Miami-Dade patrol car pulls into the parking lot.

If your drug escorts don’t know about the drug run, the “associate” tells Bryant, then I don’t want them there.

They know, Bryant replies.

A uniformed Miami-Dade cop exits the patrol car and Bryant introduces him to the “manager” and “associate.” They meet, for the first time, Officer Mack.

 

9:18 a.m.

The four – the “manager,” the “associate,” Bryant, and Mack – meet up at another unidentified Miami restaurant down the road, located at NW 119th St. and NW 7th Ave., just off I-95 and the Gratigny Parkway. (Research for this story shows that there are at least three eateries – Jimmy’s Place diner, a KFC, and a McDonald’s – either at or near that intersection.)

FBI surveillance agents observe the parking lot where the officer’s patrol car is parked.

You can walk away before things get started; I don’t want anyone to have second thoughts, the “associate” tells Mack. We appreciate everything that you’re doing and we want to keep everybody happy and make sure nobody gets shortchanged, the “manager” and his “associate” tell the cop.

At meeting’s close, the “manager” tells Mack –

“MANAGER”: If you don’t like the way something is going, let us know.

This is new territory, he tells the officer, and

“MANAGER”: We have T-shirts (code word for coke) coming through and want to make sure everything is going to be okay.

Mack, according to the affidavit, “said he understood and respected that.”

“MANAGER”: Ain’t nobody trying to get locked up.

MACK: You know how they do us.

“MANAGER”: They’re going to do us bad. You got how many on you?

MACK: You’re right.

 

11:02 a.m.

I’m at the club, Bryant tells the “manager” in a phone call. Where are you?

I have to pick up the keys to the club, the “manager” replies, and will be there shortly.

 

11:11 a.m.

The “manager” and his “associate” meet the Bryants in the club’s office.

We should “snap” the phones and “toss them,” Bryant’s brother suggests.

Where’s your other guy? the “manager” asks Bryant.

He’s outside, Bryant replies. After stepping outside, he returns with a police officer, whom the affidavit does not identify.

The Bryants discuss the route they intend to take for the drug run.

Will you be driving a marked unit, the “manager” asks the cop.

“Unmarked,” the cop replies. But it has flashing lights.

He’ll take me only across the bridge, Bryant says of the cop, and the marked unit will pick me up on the other side of the bridge.

The “associate” tells the cop –

ASSOCIATE: If you ain’t down, just walk away and none of this happened.

I’m good, the cop replies.

What time is the run? Bryant asks. I need to call my people and tell them I’m going to be late.

It will be no later than noon, the “associate” tells him.

 

11:49 a.m.

The Bryants, the “manager,” and his “associate” meet at the club. The “manager” packs 10 kilos of sham cocaine, individually-wrapped, into the duffel bag as the Bryants count them. Bryant’s brother takes the bag.

What’s the drop car this time? Bryant asks.

A Chevy Camaro, the “manager” tells him. It’s parked in the parking lot of the Publix at Loehmann’s Fashion Island (189th St. and Biscayne Blvd.).

The meeting ends at 12:03 p.m.

The Bryant brothers then exit the club with the duffel bag and climb into their PT Cruiser and leave.

During their surveillance of the Bryant vehicle, the FBI observes a black Chevy Impala – registered to and driven by the unidentified police officer who Bryant introduced at the club earlier – tail the Bryants from the club in South Beach to approximately NE 62 St. in Miami on I-95 northbound.

At that point, a marked Miami-Dade police cruiser – Mack’s – falls in behind the Bryants and follows them to the Publix drop-off location. Once there, Bryant’s brother removes the duffel bag and places it into the unoccupied Camaro. The Bryants leave. Agents then recover the bag and its contents.

 

1:14 p.m.

The Bryant brothers meet back at Dolce with the “manager” and are paid $14,500 in cash, for themselves and the cops. Bryant starts to count the money, then hands it to his brother, who recounts it.

 

Thurs., Jan. 19, 2012

11:12 a.m.

The “manager” tells Bryant in a phone call that the next drug run will involve multiple stops. Can you get four to 5 guys together?

Each police escort doesn’t know what the other escort is doing, Bryant replies, and says that he will get back to the “manager” in three days to a week.

 

Mon., Jan. 23, 2012

2:31 p.m.

Bryant, in a phone call, tells the “manager” it is all “good.”

I have four police escorts from Miami Beach and 4 Miami-Dade cops to conduct the drug run.

Are they all Miami-Dade? the “manager” asks.

They’re “all mixed,” Bryant replies.

 

Wed., Jan. 25, 2012

7:00 p.m.

I broke a rule, Bryant tells the “manager” during a phone conversation. “My people wanted to remain anonymous.”

If your people want to meet them, he tells the “manager,” “then tell them I can’t do that, I’ve done that already.”

One of his guys who was supposed to be on board, Bryant relates, just took a –

BRYANT: bump from way up, to street level, and I don’t want to be his scapegoat. I don’t need him getting wind of, well, I had this meeting with this person, and this person with this person… I have things under control the way I have them arranged. Until we come to some mutual agreement, they got to do what they got to do. That not going to take care of me the way that I’m finishing up is going to take care of me. That’s just a little hit here and there. I’m not going to put myself on the line for stupidity. I keep everybody separated for a reason. Because I don’t want anyone to know me or what I’m doing.

The first two police officers used for the drug run, Bryant explains,

BRYANT: were very uncomfortable with it even though they agree because of who I am. And I know the next four [would be] more skittish.

I’ll meet with your “associate” to explain why my guys don’t want to have anymore face-to-face meetings, Bryant tells the “manager.”

 

Wed., Apr. 11, 2012

The U.S. Attorney in Miami announces Henry Bryant’s and Officer Daniel Mack’s arrests for drug trafficking; Bryant’s brother, whose identity is not released, is also referred to in the federal complaint as facing charges. The fate of other police officers caught up in the investigation – and whether others remain to be implicated – has not been disclosed by the feds.

“This affidavit does not contain all the information known…in this investigation,” the government’s paperwork tersely, yet cryptically, declares.

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