MIAMI, FL — A 41-year-old Miami police officer has been arrested by FBI agents in connection with a Ponzi scheme in which the officer allegedly promised investors guaranteed returns on high-interest loans to Costa Rican property owners. Officer Dermis Hernandez, who works for the city but lives in Homestead, was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. His arrest marked the second of a Miami officer within the same month.
“Obviously, it’s not a good day when the mayor or the chief have to bring to light and to the press the arrest of one of its officers,” Miami Mayor Francis Suarez acknowledged at an afternoon press conference with newly sworn-in Police Chief Jorge Colina.
“It has been our history that this represents a very, very small percentage of our officers. In fact, even the two arrests this month represent less than one tenth of one percent of our officers, which means that 99 percent of our officers are conducting themselves lawfully and with integrity,” the mayor said.
Adrian Santos, a two-and-a-half-year veteran of the Miami Police Department, was charged earlier this month with possession of cocaine after he was allegedly seen inhaling a white substance at the E11even nightclub in Miami. Santos was off duty and out of uniform when the incident took place between Nov. 17-18.
The arrest of Hernandez was announced late Tuesday afternoon by U.S. Attorney Benjamin G. Greenberg, FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert F. Lasky of Miami and Colina.
“It is alleged that Hernandez told investors that their investment funds provided loans for the property owners in Costa Rica whose real property would be used as collateral for the loan and forfeited if the loan was not paid,” according to federal prosecutors. “In truth, Hernandez and his co-conspirators used the majority of investor funds for personal enrichment and to pay the returns of other investors.”
Colina, who was sworn in on Friday, referred to Hernandez as a “bad cop” and said that the department is taking swift action to fire him.
“His actions are not acceptable and the entire police department is appalled by what he’s done,” Colina said. “This is a hit on us and we all have to do our part to preserve the integrity of the badge.”
Colina said that he is not aware of any other officers who might have been victims of the alleged Ponzi scheme. “He has been disciplined in the past for speeding and I believe for a traffic accident, but aside from that, nothing else,” according to the chief.
Hernandez was taken into custody on Monday at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport before boarding a flight to Costa Rica.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Langley.
“Unfortunately this is not a happy day in the city of Miami,” Suarez added. “But the good news is that we have a law enforcement department that not only polices our streets, but also polices itself.”