A Miami Beach police officer could be in hot water over his ties to unauthorized snack machines discovered on city property — including a coffee vending machine “illegally placed” in police headquarters.
Officer Alfredo Cata was cleared in March by internal affairs of an anonymous complaint that he spent on-duty hours removing cash and coins from vending machines in South Beach.
But Cata received an informal counseling memo for acting as a business representative for a company registered to his wife without city approval to work a second job.
Investigators also contacted the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust out of concern that Cata may have violated the county’s conflict of interest laws, which regulate when municipal workers and family can conduct private business with a government employer.
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“Employees may contract with the county or the municipality by which they are employed as long as they are not involved in the award of the contract, in determining contract provisions and enforcement of the contract,” according to Miami-Dade County’s website. “Immediate family members (spouse, parents and children) are also prohibited from contracting under the ordinance.”
Penalties range from fines to “forfeiture of office or position” for “willful” violations.
Last month, ethics investigator Sylvia Batista asked Miami Beach to provide invoices, payments and emails related to Miami Food and Beverage Distributors, which state records show is run by Adriana Cata.
Officer Cata, reached through a union representative, declined to comment. He told internal affairs investigators that he did nothing wrong.
“Officer Cata stated [...] he does not have a second job and Miami Food and Beverage is not his business, but his wife’s,” internal affairs wrote.
Just how Miami Food and Beverage Distributors came to do business with the city is somewhat confusing, according to Anna Parekh, who oversees Miami Beach’s vending machine contracts.
Parekh said she learned that the company was profiting from vending machines on city property a year ago when Cata called her office.
According to Parekh, Cata told her that he acquired the Miami Beach “route” — or business rights — from Miami Beach contractor Brothers Vending.
“Brothers Vending didn’t have the authority to sell you any route,” Parekh said she told Cata.
She said Cata then explained that the city had already cashed a $2,400 payment from his company for the Miami Beach contract on June 16.
“Unfortunately, we discovered that City staff had inadvertently accepted one $2,400 check from [Miami Food and Beverage Distributors], which was submitted with a Brothers Vending invoice,” Parekh explained.
Manny Diaz Jr., the owner of Brothers Vending, said the Catas were only helping him get out of a city contract he no longer wanted, and borrowed his machines. He said he told city officials he was either closing or selling his business before the Catas took over.
He said Adriana Cata owned and ran the company.
Officer Cata told internal affairs that he only called the city because his wife doesn’t speak English.
But a police sergeant told internal affairs he overheard Cata talking about “his” coffee machine and how he had to keep it fully stocked with coffee and creamer because it would spit java when fluid levels fell too low.
And on July 21 of last year, Parekh’s office received a complaint that a random coffee machine had shown up in police headquarters. She called the department’s patrol section secretary and was told it belonged to “Officer Cata.”
That was one day after internal affairs launched a probe into whether Cata was driving around South Beach and pocketing vending machine cash while on duty. Cata was shortly after ordered to remove all his “illegal” vending machines.
An investigator later “conducted a canvas” of the locations of the “illegally placed” machines. At Flamingo Park, he found a missing ice cream machine and looked at surveillance video, which showed men removing the machine.
But there was no sign of Officer Cata.