As he walked out of a Miami federal courtroom, Nathaniel Dauphin, a convicted cop who testified over the past two days against a fellow officer, heard someone yell an insult: “Coward.’’
The heckler was one of a dozen family members there to support defendant, Vital Frederick, who is standing trail on charges of pocketing dirty money.
“One of those ass----s just called me a coward,” complained Dauphin, an FBI cooperating witness, after spending Monday afternoon on the witness stand.
By midday Tuesday, U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore got wind of what had happened and warned that he would “excuse anyone from the court who harasses or intimidates this witness.”
“Everyone is on notice,” Moore declared, with the jury absent.
Dauphin, who joined the Miami force in 1993, has become a divisive figure since he agreed last year to help the FBI expose corruption in the North District station in Liberty City.
Dauphin had led a group of officers suspected of providing off-the-books protection for a sports-gambling racket that operated out of the Player’s Choice Barber Shop, 6301 NW Sixth Ave. Dressed in their dark blue uniforms, they stood out so much that one gambler told investigators he thought the place was being run by the Miami Police Department, according to court records. It was shut down in March of last year.
But long before pleading guilty to an extortion charge alleging he received $5,000, Dauphin agreed to wear a wire for the FBI in a sting operation targeting other suspected bad cops.
Among his targets: Frederick, 27, who joined the force in 2008.
Last year, Dauphin persuaded Frederick to provide protection for a check-cashing store at the corner of Northwest 79th Street and Seventh Avenue.
Dauphin, who recorded their conversations, told Frederick that a courier would be carrying $40,000 or $50,000 in “stolen or fraudulent checks,” according to an affidavit, written by FBI special agent Donald Morin. Frederick agreed to protect him from possible robbers.
On four occasions while under FBI surveillance, Frederick escorted the courier driving a black Camaro to and from the check-cashing store. He was paid $200 each time, for a total of $800, in August and September of last year, the affidavit said.
Before one exchange played in court, Dauphin said: “I got that cash for you.” Frederick’s response: “All right, cool.”
Dauphin, who in June was sentenced to one year and two months in prison but has not yet served any time, maintained his composure during direct examination by prosecutor Robin Waugh.
But the government’s key witness grew irritated under cross-examination by Frederick’s defense attorney, Stuart Adelstein. He accused him of initiating almost all of his phone calls with Frederick at the direction of the FBI, calling the undercover operation a “fake” crime because it was a “sting.”
Then, Adelstein accused Dauphin of violating his oath as a police officer and committing one crime after another when he provided protection for the Liberty City sports-gambling ring.
He also accused Dauphin of only trying to save his neck when he agreed to cooperate with the FBI and give up the names of other officers involved in the sports-protection racket, including his girl friend, Carol Vargas, who was relieved of duty this year.
“I was interested in cooperating with them for the sake of my family,” Dauphin testified.
The FBI’s sting operation didn’t end with Dauphin. The FBI quickly found a replacement, persuading another Miami cop accused of stealing people’s identities from a police database to work undercover in a new sting operation.
That replacement was Malinsky Bazile, 28. He also joined the force in 2008 and had known Frederick from high school.
Wired up just like Dauphin, Bazile asked his friend, Frederick, if he would be interested in supplying the names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers of people for a tax-refund scam, according to an FBI affidavit and other court records. Last October, Bazile paid his colleague $600 in cash for turning over two lists with 52 IDs taken from a police database with drivers’ licenses and other personal information.
Meanwhile, Bazile’s own trial started in Fort Lauderdale federal court Tuesday. He’s charged with stealing 1,000 identities from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles database for tax-refund fraud.