Sunday, September 26, 2021

Drug sting sends two Miami-Dade cop pals to prison. They were big fans of ‘Bad Boys’ movies | National


MIAMI — In their everyday lives, they served as young Miami-Dade cops who patrolled the county’s streets in their police cruisers.

It would only take a single sting operation produced by undercover drug agents to bring down the buddy cops, who had a thing for the hit police-action movie franchise “Bad Boys.”

Next week, Roderick Flowers and Keith Edwards will be headed to federal prison for one year and three months. When they get out, both have to serve two years of house arrest and then face probation for another five years. As part of their probation, both were also ordered by U.S. District Judge Paul Huck to serve up to 1,000 hours of community service a year.

It may not seem like a lot of time behind bars for pleading guilty to protecting a cocaine load from one end of the county to the other. But their law enforcement careers are finished, along with their social media impersonations of “Bad Boys” actors Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, who played fictional Miami detectives in the movie series.

If there’s a silver lining, this is it: “He’s very satisfied with his sentence because it gives him the opportunity to continue with his life,” said Flowers’ defense attorney, David Weinstein.

The same could be said for Edwards.

Both Flowers, 31, and Edwards, 29, avoided potential sentences of three to five years because while they abused the public trust, they accepted responsibility after they got caught. Also, the load of cocaine — which was fake but made to look real in the sting operation — was a relatively small amount, weighing between half a kilo and 2 kilos. Each police officer was only paid $5,000 for providing protection for the shipment. The single illicit transaction was entirely orchestrated by undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agents and their confidential sources.

Last November, both Miami-Dade cops were arrested on charges of agreeing to play escorts in a cocaine-trafficking operation set up by undercover DEA agents. Also charged: a Miami money laundering suspect named Manuel Carlos Hernandez — who boasted Flowers was on his payroll, according to court documents.

According to a criminal complaint affidavit, the case was made with help from a confidential source posing as a Mexican cartel member who arranged international money laundering deals with Hernandez and brought in the two cops to help transport a shipment of “white girls” — code word for packages of cocaine — from Homestead to Aventura.

“Welcome to the Sinaloa cartel,” the source told the officers, who laughed and drove away after the transport operation on Sept. 16, 2020, according to the affidavit.

Defense attorney Frank Prieto, who represents Edwards, said that while “this crime was created by the feds” in an undercover operation, “there was some damning audiotape that made it clear they were doing something with drugs.”

In April, Flowers and Edwards pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to distribute cocaine in a plea agreement with prosecutor Frederic Shadley. They were sentenced in late August.

Hernandez pleaded guilty to the same drug charge along with a money laundering conspiracy count, sending him to prison for nearly four years. His associates, Trevanti McLeod and Durojaiye Obafemi Monsuru Lawal, pleaded guilty to the money laundering conspiracy charge, resulting in one-year prison terms.

Flowers and Edwards had both been members of Miami-Dade’s “Priority Response Team,” a unit created after the 2018 Parkland school massacre to respond to major incidents.

Flowers hails from a law enforcement family. His sister is a police officer in Georgia. His father is Raleigh Flowers, the police chief in Bal Harbour and a former high-ranking Hialeah officer.

Edwards is a former Army National Guard member and father of three.

On social media, both former Miami-Dade officers preened with their badges, donned thick gold jewelry and smoked cigars.

They also took a liking to “Bad Boys.” On Instagram, Flowers even used the name “Mike Lowrey,” the character played by actor Will Smith. At Halloween, Edwards posted a photo of the two dressed like the fictional detectives with the caption: “We ride together. We die together. Bad Boys 4 Life.”

According to court records, DEA agents and their main confidential source zeroed in on Hernandez, who ran Hernandez Investments, in Davie. During their first meeting last year, the source presented himself as a cocaine broker and money launderer affiliated with the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico.

Hernandez boasted of the numerous clients he had laundered money for, his big bank account, and plans to open a barbershop and a car wash to wash dirty money, the complaint affidavit said. He also told the confidential source that he had connections to law enforcement officers who could help them.

Over the summer of 2020, in meetings that were secretly audio and video recorded, the DEA confidential source arranged a series of laundering deals involving drug money with Hernandez, Lawal and McLeod.

That August, the DEA’s confidential source asked Hernandez if one of his law enforcement sources could run a license plate for someone that supposedly owed him money. DEA agents later learned that the cop who ran the tag through a law enforcement database was Flowers.

Hernandez later told the confidential source that Flowers and an unnamed cop cousin “were on his payroll” and had acted as “security for money laundering activities,” the affadavit said.

The DEA’s source met Flowers at Hernandez’s office on Sept. 9. The source asked if he was indeed a cop. “Yeah, I don’t look like one right?” Flowers allegedly replied.

The source eventually offered to hire Flowers to protect a shipment of cocaine that was to be transported from a Homestead motel to a location in Aventura. Flowers eagerly explained his security prowess, even explaining that he and Edwards both had SWAT training.

The source paid Flowers $5,000 up front, according to the DEA. Edwards later met with the source in person, also boasting of his security training sharpened in the military. He also referred to himself as a “cop’s cop,” the affidavit said.

“Edwards told the (confidential source) that he knew that what the CS did was illegal, but that it was none of his business,” the affidavit said. The source then paid Edwards $5,000.

The operation deal took place without a hitch on Sept. 16, 2020, with Flowers and Edwards accompanying the transport in separate cars from a hotel in Homestead to one in Aventura, according to the DEA. The confidential source, along with an undercover agent, transported the sham load of cocaine in one car while Flowers drove in front of them and Edwards behind them.

According to their defense attorneys, they were not wearing their Miami-Dade police uniforms and were not driving their patrol cars.

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(Miami Herald staff writer David Ovalle contributed to this story.)

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©2021 Miami Herald. Visit miamiherald.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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