Two men casually wandered through Dolphin Mall earlier this month, past the teenage shoppers and kiosks hawking watches, and headed for a quiet bathroom. One man gripped an envelope stuffed with $10,000 in cash. The other waited for a handoff in a stall. And lurking in disguise nearby, federal agents watched it all go down.
Author Jerry Iannelli
High above a leafy Westchester neighborhood, a helicopter full of federal agents zeroes in on a gated house with a red-tiled roof. On the ground, a Homeland Security SWAT team surrounds the ranch-style home on a dead-end street off the Palmetto Expressway. Scores of agents in body armor crouch nearby, rifles ready. It’s around 5:30 p.m. on a sun-drenched Friday in October, and the 40 agents lie in wait as a confidential informant places a call to lure out their suspect.
This past March 23, singer Alicia Keys headlined the grand-opening party for the Porsche Design Tower, an ultraluxury condominium complex in Sunny Isles Beach built by father-and-son Miami developers (and former Trump business partners) Michael and Gil Dezer. The event was a spectacular display of wealth at the Porsche Tower, a massive steel-gray building filled with spartan German decor, billionaire investors, and elevators that lift whole cars right into residents’ condo units.
Just a few months later, the developers have been tied to an international money-laundering probe in Brazil looking into whether a Brazilian contractor funneled millions into the United States to avoid taxes.
For the past year, Brandon Russell has saluted the flag and worn the uniform of the Florida National Guard while serving his country as a private first class. But in his suburban Tampa apartment, Russell and his three roommates pledged allegiance to a whole different ideal. Russell’s bedroom was decorated with neo-Nazi and white supremacist propaganda and a framed photo of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. His garage was full of guns, ammo, and high-powered materials for bomb-making.
Mention Bal Harbour to a random Miamian, and two things come to mind: an über-luxury shopping mall and one of the most notorious speed traps on A1A. Violent drug-related shootings would certainly not appear on that list.
Yet that’s exactly what Bal Harbour’s small police force — fresh off a house cleaning over a major international money-laundering scandal — has been grappling with for the past two weeks after a 49-year-old man was shot twice in the parking lot of a beachfront condo building.
Miami-Dade’s top prosecutor, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, has recently faced a tidal wave of criticism from police-reform activists for her reluctance to prosecute cops who kill on the job. Today, Rundle did something she’s never done in her 24 years in office: charged an officer for an on-duty shooting.
Going into debt with a drug dealer is never a fantastic game plan. But police say one Miami man who stiffed his connection out of $500 worth of narcotics ended up suffering far worse payback than he ever could have imagined.
Twenty-six years ago, the feds busted Miami’s biggest smuggling operation of the Cocaine Cowboys era: a $2 billion pipeline run by high-school pals Willy Falcon and Sal Magluta. It would take another decade of contentious court battles before the pair was finally convicted, wrapping up one of the nation’s most massive drug cases.
Corey Jones almost certainly died without knowing that the man who fired the six shots at him October 18, 2015, was an on-duty cop. In the hours to come, Palm Beach Gardens Police Officer Nouman Raja would insist that he had identified himself as law enforcement, that Jones had been pointing a gun at him when he fired the fatal shots, that he had no choice but to shoot to kill.
Investigators and prosecutors likely would have believed him — except the AT&T Roadside Assistance call captured what really happened. With that rare, independent record of a fatal police shooting, Palm Beach County prosecutors did the extraordinary: They criminally charged an officer for killing someone in the line of duty.
The untold story of Key Largo’s most brutal homicide in 25 years shines a light on a drugged-out Upper Keys underbelly worthy of a Bloodlines subplot and reveals a surprising truth: Every year, dozens of Florida fishermen find square groupers — packages of marijuana or cocaine, sometimes worth millions of dollars — drifting in the ocean. Then they have to choose: Call the Coast Guard? Or chase the promise of riches far beyond what a fishing boat can provide, risking prison time — or, in some cases, unimaginable bloodshed.