After visit from federal agents, Miami-Dade judge backtracks on releasing suspect

Stephen Arnoux
Stephen Arnoux

A Miami-Dade judge was set to release from jail a suspected Kendall burglar shot by police after a harrowing high-speed car chase — until Secret Service agents paid a visit to her chambers.

Their news to the judge: Stephen Arnoux, 29, will soon be indicted in federal court on allegations he defrauded over 650 people of $1.4 million.

And so on Tuesday, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maria Elena Verde backtracked on releasing Arnoux on house arrest while he awaits trial on state burglary and fleeing charges, and now a possible federal indictment.

“I am alarmed about what I heard,” Verde told his lawyer, saying she was worried Arnoux might leave jail and flee with the money he allegedly stole. “I have a duty to protect this community.”

State prosecutors say that in August 2012, Arnoux was burglarizing homes in Kendall when police officers tried to pull him and his cohorts over. He allegedly tried to ram a Miami-Dade police car before leading officers on a high-speed chase broadcast live on local television.

The chase wound through Opa-Locka and Miami Gardens and ended at Northwest 167th Street, west of 27th Avenue. News footage showed police officers firing shots as Arnoux leaped onto a brush-covered embankment.

Arnoux survived with six gunshot wounds. He is charged with a slew of felonies, including burglary, aggravated assault on police and fleeing and eluding.

His lawyer, Andrew Rier, had asked Judge Verde to release him on house arrest. His argument: he had not been able to interview officers involved in the shooting because prosecutors had yet to finish their investigation into the police department’s use of force.

Rier told the judge Tuesday that officers fired over 60 times and used Arnoux as “target practice.”

But Miami-Dade Assistant State Attorney Laura Adams told the judge that most of the officers involved had already testified in open court and prosecutors needed time to conduct a thorough investigation.

She said Arnoux endangered hundreds of motorists that day. “He is so dangerous,” she said.

Over prosecutors’ objections, Judge Verde on Monday told lawyers she would allow Arnoux out on house arrest with a GPS ankle monitor.

But later Monday, two Secret Service agents approached her and told her that Arnoux had been linked to the discovery of a list of names and social security numbers of 650 victims who had been swindled out of $1.4 million.

The judge did not give more details about the federal allegations. The Secret Service typically investigates identity theft and tax fraud.

In court, Rier blasted the federal agents, saying it was “improper” for them to have approached the judge. He also said the agents had visited Arnoux in jail, trying to get him to cooperate with their investigation.

Read more Miami-Dade stories from the Miami Herald

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