Florida Police Face Immigrant Abuse Charges for Fraud and Racketeering

The Sweetwater Police Department in Florida has come under severe scrutiny after several of its officers were arrested on charges of routinely committing outrageous crimes against local residents.

Sweetwater, located in Miami-Dade County, has a relatively small population of less than 14,000. The city holds the nickname “Little Managua,” as it is home to the country’s largest Nicaraguan immigrant population.

Unfortunately, many of these immigrants end up becoming frequent victims of police abuse. And some were specifically targeted by Sweetwater police because of their poor English skills and lack of knowledge regarding their own civil rights.

This week Sgt. Reny Garcia, as well as ex-detective William Garcia — no relation — had charges leveled against them, ranging from racketeering to defrauding citizens. More recently, another warrant has been issued for Officer Octavio Oliver on similar charges. And it currently appears as though other officers may face arrest as the investigation continues.

These men victimized an unknown number of Sweetwater residents over a handful of years. Their crimes included entering homes without legal cause and stealing jewelry and computers. In at least two instances, they even swiped citizens’ vehicles — one of which has simply disappeared.

So far there have been eight alleged incidents, which took place in 2012 and 2013.

It gets worse, though.

On more than a few occasions, the officers engaged in what could arguably be deemed torture. A suspect believed to be involved in a theft was taken to the police station and beaten savagely over the course of several hours, while music played loudly to mask the man’s screams.

In perhaps the worst episode, the officers continually struck a man, breaking a rib and multiple bones in his face. Before he was hospitalized, however, the suspect was subjected to waterboarding and nearly drowned. All of these abuses were performed to coerce what amounted to a false confession to burglary.

Despite its small population, Sweetwater has earned a well-deserved reputation for corruption and abuse of authority over the past decade. In fact, former Mayor Manuel Marono is currently in federal prison for organizing a plan between the town’s cops and a tow company to illegally squeeze money out of drivers.

While it is encouraging that some of the individuals involved in these gross civil rights violations may finally face justice, it begs the question: How was this behavior permitted — and why did it persist for so long?

Roberto Fulgueira retired as the chief of the Sweetwater Police Department in 2013, after the reported abuses occurred. Though state and FBI investigators say that their probe has not uncovered wrongdoing by the department’s administration, that’s extremely difficult to believe -– especially considering that, in at least two instances, people were tortured within the police station itself.

Either Fulgueira knew what was transpiring under his tenure or he was unaware — and thus criminally negligent. As such, he should be held accountable.

Take Action

If you agree, make your voice heard by adding your name to this Care2 petition calling for the Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution in Miami to charge Fulgueira. And consider sharing the petition on social media to raise awareness!

Concerned about an issue? Want to raise awareness about an injustice? Join your fellow Care2 users by learning how to create your own petition and make your voice heard today!

Photo Credit: Steven Straiton/Flickr

42 comments

Janet B
Janet B3 days ago

Thanks

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Doris F
Doris F4 days ago

noted

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Margie FOURIE
Margie F5 days ago

What a pity that us humans seem to be so corrupt.

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Carl R
Carl R6 days ago

Thanks!!!

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Debbi -
Debbi -6 days ago

Signed petition. Unfortunately, immigrants seem like fodder for abusive bigoted police. Abusive people have much in common no matter their position in society -- entitlement, arrogance, narrow-minded thinking and thinking they are above the law. There are many examples but A.G. Jefferson Sessions, the little dweeb, is a perfect example.

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Shirley S
Shirley S7 days ago

Petition signed

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Cruel J
Cruel Justice7 days ago

Being arrested doesn't mean getting punished. Just ask Philando Castile's family.

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Peggy B
Peggy B7 days ago

Noted

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Herbert C
Herbert C7 days ago

There are more departments out there just as bad. Some thirty years ago a small town police department in the county where I lived was completely disbanded after a large part of the force was arrested. They would shake people down on the highway, extort drug dealers, and off-duty officers moonlighted by burglarizing affluent lakefront homes in the community. It went on as long as it did because they targeted low-income people, minorities, and rich folks weekend homes. After the department was abolished crime in the county dropped substantially. They turned policing over to the county sheriff.

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Anne M
Anne Moran7 days ago

Those poor Nicaraguans coming to the mighty U.S. to better their lives,, and what do they get ? - a pummeling from those dirty pigs.. - That badge is 'going to their heads',, they think they're big kahunas,, mean, macho men,, and everyone better watch out... - Power can be so ugly...

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