Federal probe

Hialeah cop and wife charged with illegal gun sales

 

A federal grand jury has indicted a Hialeah police officer and his wife, a former officer for West Miami and Golden Beach, on charges of unlicensed firearms dealing.

cveiga@MiamiHerald.com

A Hialeah police officer and his wife — herself a former cop — were indicted this week on charges of illegally selling at least 600 guns over the course of seven years.

Rafael Valdes, a current Hialeah officer, and Tammy Valdes — who was a cop for West Miami and Golden Beach — were caught dealing firearms without a license, according to the indictment, handed down by a federal grand jury in West Palm Beach.

Rafael Valdes is also accused of lying when he tried to buy a gun, saying it was for him when the firearm was really meant for someone else, according to the indictment.

The couple are accused of buying and selling guns without a license since at least 2005. They sold more than 100 weapons online and sold 500 more at gun shows throughout South Florida, according to the indictment.

“The defendants sold nine firearms to undercover agents, solicited the purchase of firearms from undercover agents, and offered to acquire firearms for undercover agents,” according to the indictment.

Investigators seized five rifles, four shotguns and 38 handguns from the couple. Eleven law enforcement agencies helped with the gun trafficking investigation, including the U.S. Justice Department; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Broward Sheriff’s Office; and the Hialeah Police Department.

Hialeah police released a statement saying that Rafael Valdes’ arrest is “not related to any of Officer Valdes’ official Hialeah Police duties or capacity. The investigation involves off-duty activities.”

“Subsequent to today’s arrest, Officer Valdes has been suspended pending further action,” wrote department spokesman Carl Zogby.

Attorney Michael Feiler is representing the husband and wife.

“It’s really too early for me to comment,” Feiler said Friday. “I’m confident that, at the end of the day when the truth comes out, my clients will be vindicated.”

Feiler has represented Tammy Valdes before, when she recently sued Golden Beach. Valdes claimed she was fired after complaining about harassment from a supervisor, as well as officers “double dipping” by working off-duty security jobs while on duty.

In September of this year, an eight-person jury awarded her $158,000 in back pay, plus $75,000 for pain and suffering. She was also offered her job back, but she went into retirement, Feiler said.

The two surrendered voluntarily to law enforcement on Friday and were released on bond, Feiler said.

Each faces five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Rafael Valdes faces an additional 10 years and another $250,000 for lying about the sale of a weapon, according to the charges.

Follow @Cveiga on Twitter.

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