One of the candidates being considered for the deputy police chief position in Opa-locka is a former North Miami cop with a lengthy internal affairs file.
The file on Peter Cruz, a North Miami officer for 28 years, shows that he was the subject of a criminal investigation for insurance fraud; that other officers accused Cruz of harassment, including a claim he superimposed a colleague’s face onto photos of gay pornography; and that higher-ups repeatedly admonished him to act professionally.
In all, Cruz has 24 disciplinary cases against him dating back to 1985. The most recent complaints against Cruz were from 2001.
The most serious charge in the file, a 2001 allegation of insurance fraud that was sustained by internal affairs but never filed by prosecutors, was based on administrative errors, Cruz said.
“It’s unfortunate that after 28 years of service to the city, it’s resulted in negative information,” Cruz said.
Cruz retired from North Miami on March 8. He told his bosses he had been hired as Opa-locka’s deputy police chief, according to North Miami City Manager Stephen Johnson.
North Miami’s mayor even sent an email blast congratulating Cruz on his new job.
But Opa-locka has denied that Cruz has been offered the job.
Opa-locka City Manager Kelvin Baker also previously denied reports that Cruz’s longtime friend and colleague, Jeffrey Key, had been hired as the city’s police chief. Yet, last week, Baker introduced Key at a press conference as the city’s new chief.
During the press conference, Key called Cruz “a viable candidate” for the deputy chief’s post.
The 2001 fraud accusation against Cruz was referred to the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office for criminal investigation, but no criminal charges were filed and the city took no disciplinary action against Cruz.
“That was done during past administrations, and those people are no longer here,” said North Miami police spokesman Maj. Neal Cuevas. “We don’t have an explanation as to why no action was taken at that time.”
Cruz said the city didn’t discipline him because the insurance claim was legitimate and the errors were made administratively in the police department’s processing of the claim.
“It was determined after the internal affairs case that the city gave inaccurate information to AFLAC [the insurance company]. AFLAC ended paying me a settlement out of court of $10,000 for damages,” he said.
The internal affairs investigation found Cruz submitted a false application for insurance, presented false insurance claims to AFLAC and received unlawful compensation from the claims. Cruz also gave false and misleading information during the investigation, according to the internal affairs report.
The matter was turned over to the state attorney’s office public corruption unit for review.
In a letter to the police department, Cruz’s attorney, David Forestier, denied any wrongdoing by his client, but said Cruz was bracing himself for further legal action.
“Sgt Cruz has gone so far as to actually prepare and brief his wife and daughters that he might be arrested and charged with the crime of insurance fraud, a third degree felony punishable by five years in prison,” Forestier wrote.