West Miami-Dade

Sweetwater

Sweetwater detective found guilty of credit card fraud

 

bmedina@elnuevoherald.com

A Miami federal jury Monday found Sweetwater Detective William García guilty of 12 counts of credit card fraud.

Federal Judge Federico Moreno ordered García to be placed in custody immediately after the verdict.

“There is a minimum mandatory sentence of two years for each one of these charges … so he faces many years,” Moreno said. “I consider him a flight risk.”

Defense attorney Jacqueline Arango argued unsuccessfully that García, from Puerto Rico, was not a flight risk and had no connection to any other country.

Among the charges García was found guilty of: fraudulently using one or more credit cards; conspiracy to commit fraud with false credit cards and 10 counts of identity theft — using credit cards belonging to other people.

The jury found him not guilty of three other counts of identity theft.

His sentencing is scheduled for June 26.

García, a veteran detective, was arrested by the FBI in August 2013.

He had been a Sweetwater police officer for 18 years and also worked on a special federal Drug Enforcement Administration team.

His arrest came a few weeks after federal authorities arrested then-Sweetwater Mayor Manuel “Manny” Maroño in a separate case of public corruption. Both arrests unleashed a series of scandals in the small city west of Miami-Dade.

García was a member of an elite detective unit now accused of unjustified arrests and of maintaining an evidence room separate from the official one to hide items seized after arrests.

In a civil case, Sweetwater recently blamed García and two other detectives — now suspended — for losing items seized from a suspect.

FBI agents have been investigating García since 2011, when they got informant Luis Camacho, a former friend of the detective’s, to cooperate in order to incriminate him.

Camacho, who created fraudulent cards using stolen numbers, would give some to García and to former South Miami police officer Richard Muñoz, who, in January, pleaded guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud in a case related to the Sweetwater detective.

During court hearings, the FBI revealed that they sought García’s cooperation in a parallel investigation, of which they gave no details. The detective refused to cooperate.

During a two-week period, García made purchases totaling $823 at several stores and restaurants using the cards.

Federal prosecutors presented videos and audiotapes of conversations between García and Camacho in which the agent spoke about the purchases.

Arango questioned the validity of the statements by the witnesses presented by the prosecutors.

Besides Camacho and Muñoz, Asnays Fernández, Camacho’s nephew, also made a deal with federal authorities to receive reduced sentences in exchange for their testimonies.

“Those people are not to be trusted because they would do or say anything to remain free,” Arango said in her final argument Monday. “Do you believe a police officer is going to risk his 18-year career for $800?”

However, the prosecutors convinced the jury that García took part in the crimes with his informant, instead of preventing them.

“He had no reason to use other people’s credit cards,” federal prosecutor Anthony Lacosta said. “He admitted in the video that he had committed the crimes.”

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