Busted during a recent FBI sting, three Miami Police Department (MPD) officers were arrested Tuesday and hit with multiple federal charges, including conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute and using/carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime. In addition to transporting drugs and protecting dealers, one of the officers allegedly sold an official MPD uniform and badge to an undercover detective who told the officer that the disguise would be used by a cartel hitman.
According to Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina, the MPD began investigating Officer Schonton Harris after a civilian reported suspicious activity committed by the 20-year veteran. After looking into Officer Harris’ conduct, the MPD notified the FBI in April in order to launch a federal investigation into Harris.
The criminal complaint alleges that Harris provided protection to a drug courier collecting payments from pharmacies and clinics engaged in the illegal sale of opioids. She also allegedly acted as a police protection escort for a purported shipment of 2,000 prescription opioid pills and multiple kilograms of cocaine.
“Some stuff was going on before on a significantly smaller level. No one thought it would get to what it got to,” Chief Colina told The Miami Herald.
According to the criminal complaint, the FBI used a suspected drug trafficker to record conversations with Harris while also deploying undercover agents and surveillance teams. During that time, Harris reportedly recruited 26-year veteran officer Kelvin Harris and rookie officer James Archibald to participate in her criminal enterprise.
On June 26, Harris was recorded while telling the informant that she pulled out her gun during an illegal escort and threatened to shoot a suspicious person along the protection route. In July, she admitted to using and distributing narcotics in addition to cheating a department-issued drug test during another recorded conversation.
In September, the three officers allegedly provided police protection for a 40-kilogram delivery of sham cocaine. During a separate incident, they took possession of a 30-kilogram delivery of fake cocaine and personally transported it several Miami-area hotels instead of merely providing protection.
The complaint also alleges that Harris sold a City of Miami Police Department uniform and badge to an undercover officer, for $1,500. The undercover officer told Harris that the uniform and badge would be used by a cartel hitman.
“No one wants corrupt officers in our police departments or on our streets,” stated U.S. Attorney Fajardo Orshan. “We will not allow those who abuse their positions of power, to tarnish the reputation of the City of Miami Police Department and the dedicated officers who proudly serve and protect our South Florida communities. The U.S. Attorney’s Office commends City of Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina for leading by example and encourages anyone with information regarding corruption to contact the FBI.”
“We are committed to protecting our communities and eliminating corruption,” said MPD Chief Jorge Colina. “Once the City of Miami Police Department was made aware of the suspected criminal conduct, we immediately reached out to our federal partners to ensure that any officer who breaks the law faces appropriate consequences. We commend the concerned citizen who made the initial report to law enforcement and initiated this important investigation.”
On Tuesday, the three officers were charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute, attempting to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute, and using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime. An unidentified fourth officer has been cooperating with law enforcement and is expected to be charged at a later date.
If convicted of the conspiracy and attempted narcotics possession with intent to distribute charges, the officers each face life in prison and a mandatory-minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. If convicted of the armed drug trafficking offense, each defendant faces a mandatory consecutive sentence of 5 years in prison.