A federal jury on Wednesday found a Miami Beach firefighter, a Miami-Dade police officer and an accomplice guilty of transporting shipments of fake cocaine on behalf of a client they believed was a South Beach club manager — but in fact was an undercover FBI agent.
Firefighter Henry L. Bryant, Officer Daniel Mack, and co-defendant Octavius McLendon, a friend of Bryant’s, were each found guilty of conspiring to possess and distribute multiple kilos of cocaine and using a firearm to protect the shipments. Together, the convictions carry a minimum sentence of 15 years and could lead to life in prison.
Bryant and McLendon were also convicted of two additional counts of attempting to possess and distribute drug loads last December and in January. Mack was acquitted of the former count, but convicted of the latter.
The challenge for prosecutors during the trial: proving that the three defendants believed they were distributing real cocaine. The charges involved two loads of fake coke, totaling 19 kilograms. The defendants were paid $25,000 by the undercover FBI agent at Club Dolce to transport the “sham’’ drugs from Miami Beach to Aventura.
Bryant, 46, Mack, 48, and McLendon, 31, were indicted earlier this year following a months-long South Beach extortion probe that rocked Miami Beach City Hall.
The investigation began in June of last year after the owner of South Beach’s Club Dolce on Ocean Drive complained that Miami Beach code enforcement officers were shaking him down for thousands of dollars. The FBI made him a paid informant, gave him money to pay bribes and sent the undercover agent in to pose as the club manager.
According to court records, agents recorded five code officers — including Miami Beach’s lead code administrator — as well as Bryant and a second fire inspector accepting bribes in exchange for favorable inspections and lenient treatment.
Then, last December, the agent posing as Dolce’s manager said Bryant asked if he “needed help with anything else.”
The agent said he needed “protection for the transportation of drugs from the nightclub,” according to a recording of their conversation.
That led to two “sham” cocaine runs from South Beach to Aventura, according to the charges.
On Dec. 21, 2011, Bryant went to the club and picked up nine individually wrapped kilograms of “sham” cocaine in a duffel bag, drove north in his own car and was followed by a gold sedan until he left Miami Beach. Bryant’s passenger during the trip: McLendon. Mack was acquitted of that offense.
On Jan. 14, Bryant, with McLendon, transported one more 10-kilogram bundle of “sham” cocaine with an escort from Mack in his police cruiser. Earlier, Mack was in uniform when he met the agents and agreed to the deal at a North Dade restaurant.
Mack, a 16-year veteran, was suspended from the Miami-Dade Police Department without pay after being indicted. Miami Beach officials said they were waiting on the verdict to finalize paperwork to fire Bryant.
The case was prosecuted by assistant U.S. attorneys Jared Dwyer and Robin Waugh. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 19 before U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno at the federal courthouse in downtown Miami.