Bal Harbour officers routinely claimed that they worked thousands of hours on individual cases that rarely lasted more than one month.
Under federal guidelines regulating the use of cash seized from suspected criminals, police departments are not allowed to spend those seized funds for salaries or benefits particularly when the benefits go to the same officers whose investigations led to the cash being seized.
The idea is to keep police departments in the business of serve and protect, and not turn them into profit centers for cities and towns.
A January 2011 email to Hunker from Douglas Gonzales, a lawyer in the village attorneys office, spelled out the permissible and prohibited uses for the funds, specifically citing overtime as one of the uses that were inappropriate and prohibited.
The memo was not heeded.
Bal Harbour police officials declined to comment for this story, citing the ongoing investigation by the Justice Department.
Among the laundry list of alleged misconduct cited by federal investigators: that documented overtime by Bal Harbour police was inflated and abused.
The Justice Department singled out the overtime of Sgt. Deitado, a cop with more than 20 years on the force, who logged 933 hours of overtime in 2012, bumping his regular pay of $86,777 a year by more than 76 percent, or $66,617.
In 2011, Deitados overtime earnings exceeded $90,000. Ditto for 2010.
Deitado declined to comment for this story, as did his supervisor, Capt. Mike Daddario, who was appointed acting chief after Hunker stepped aside.
The village has retained legal counsel to investigate all aspects of the DOJ investigation, Daddario said in an email to The Herald. Due to the ongoing nature of this investigation, I will not be able to comment.
Though the Justice Department has not filed criminal charges against anyone in the Bal Harbour department, it did suspend the village from the federal forfeiture program, and demanded the prompt return of more than $4 million the village had received.
Village officials returned about $1.3 million of that in December. They are negotiating a settlement for the rest. They also disbanded the VIN unit.
Officers previously assigned to VIN were reassigned to patrol duty or administrative roles.
Bal Harbour also suspended all police overtime except for emergencies or when officers must stay late to finish a case, attend court, or fill a staffing shortage.