As rain began to fall on a June evening, Miami Police Sgt. Raul Iglesias told an undercover detective in his drug-fighting squad to turn off his cell phone and take out the battery as both officers stood outside the boss’s home.
Iglesias, already relieved of duty on suspicions of being a dirty cop, feared Roberto Asanza’s phone could be recording him. And his instincts were right, because Asanza was wired — though not through his phone.
“No one has done anything illegal or broke the law,” Iglesias told Asanza in the recorded conversation, played for jurors Friday at the sergeant’s corruption trial in Miami federal court. “... If they got, they got [it], but I [have] never seen anyone in my unit do anything wrong.”
Later in their chat, Asanza — who was cooperating with authorities and trying to bait his boss into incriminating statements — expressed fears about lying on the witness stand if he was asked to testify. Iglesias agreed that committing perjury would be a bad idea.
“Yeah, of course, you don’t wanna, you don’t wanna f---ing lie,’’ Iglesias responded.
The secret tape recording from June 2010 was the last piece of evidence that prosecutors presented before resting their corruption case Friday against Iglesias, 40, who has been on the force for 18 years.
Iglesias, an ex-Marine and Iraq War veteran who was shot in the leg during a 2004 drug bust, is standing trial on charges of planting cocaine on a suspect, stealing drugs and money from dope dealers, and lying to investigators about a box of money left in an abandoned car as part of an FBI sting.
Asanza, 33, also an ex-Marine, pleaded guilty last year to a misdemeanor charge of possessing cocaine and marijuana. The deal helped him avoid a felony conviction; in exchange, he testified Thursday that Iglesias told him it was “okay” to pay off confidential informants with drugs.
The secret tape recording could cut both ways for jurors. On it, Iglesias did not say anything to Asanza to implicate himself in connection with charges in the nine-count indictment, his defense attorney, Rick Diaz, pointed out Friday. The charges encompass the police sergeant’s brief stint as head of the Crime Supression Unit from January to May 2010.
Miami Internal Affairs Sgt. Ron Luquis, a government witness, agreed with Diaz’s general assessment during his testimony Friday, though the witness also sided with many of prosecutor Ricardo Del Toro’s critical views of the same evidence.
Asanza, despite agreeing to cooperate, discreetly gave his supervisor a heads-up that he was facing a potential criminal investigation when they met for the recorded conversation, according to sources familiar with probe.
The recording was made two months after other members of Iglesias’ Crime Suppression Unit wrote an anonymous letter to internal affairs, alleging that he was “stealing drugs and money” from dealers “2-3 times per 4-day work week.” Five CSU members, including Asanza, testified against Iglesias over the past week.
Asanza’s recording of Iglesias was less intelligible when both went inside the police sergeant’s home. Asanza’s wire picked up the sound of a barking dog, a blaring TV and the rustling of paper. Investigators believe Iglesias wrote down information on sheets of paper and later burned them, but that evidence was not presented to jurors.
At one point, Asanza said: “The day that I go to trial, I’m under oath, so, should I say what happened?”
Iglesias did not answer, and the questioned was followed by long periods of small talk, silence, coughing and rustling paper.
During the 90-minute recording, Iglesias came across as a potential criminal defendant who vowed to fight likely federal charges. But he also seemed defensive and scared, asking Asanza about Asanza’s summons to testify before a federal grand jury.
“They ain’t got nothing, or maybe they don’t proceed,” Iglesias said. “But if they do get something, they’ll prepare it. ... And, then, obviously there’ll be a plea, whatever. But, then, if I plead guilty or some s--t like that ... the department starts the termination package and that’s it, I’m done. So, it’s scary.
“And just like you, you’re f---ing broke, no more paycheck, no more nothing,” Iglesias concluded.
Before he left, Iglesias asked Asanza to drop by in the future for a beer with other police officers.
On Thursday, Asanza — who was sentenced to probation and forced to resign after his plea — took the witness stand against his former boss.
Asanza testified that with Iglesias’s permission, he gave a small baggie of powdered cocaine to a confidential informant in his Dodge pick-up truck while Iglesias was sitting next to him in the passenger seat. He further testified that Iglesias paid the informant with what he thought were “official city funds” presumably authorized to compensate informants.
The payoff was for informant David Altoro’s help in the May 5, 2010 bust of Luis Roman, a dope dealer who operated out of an Allapattah window-tint shop. The arrest set off alarms because Iglesias and Asanza did the takedown without alerting other CSU members and an undercover FBI agent who worked with them.
Iglesias faces nine counts of conspiracy to possess cocaine, violating suspects’ civil rights, obstruction of justice and making false statements. His lawyer, Diaz, starts his defense Monday. If convicted, Iglesias faces up to 20 years in prison.