They became good friends in high school, then worked together as cops out of the same Miami police station. But their bond came undone when one of them — accused of stealing ID’s from a police database to score income-tax refunds — helped FBI agents catch the other in a sting operation.
The story of Malinksy Bazile, 28, and the sting’s target, Vital Frederick, 27, is unfolding in different federal courts. Frederick goes to trial Monday in Miami; Bazile starts trial Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale.
The two men are among 10 Miami police officers from the North District station in Liberty city to have been prosecuted and/or relieved of duty because of alleged wrongdoing over the past year. The investigations, led by an FBI anti-corruption task force including Miami internal affairs detectives, took off after an illegal sports-gambling ring operating out of a Liberty City barbershop was shut down in March of last year.
If convicted, Frederick and Bazile, who both joined the Miami police force in 2008, may receive long prison sentences for the increasingly common crimes of ID theft and tax-refund fraud. Both were arrested last March.
“This is a man who dedicated his life to protecting the community,” Bazile’s defense attorney, Saam Zangeneh told the Miami Herald. “He wants to exercise his right to go to trial.”
Frederick’s attorney, Stuart Adelstein, declined to comment.
FIRST TO WEAR A WIRE
Another man in the middle of the FBI’s overall investigation is Miami officer Nathaniel Dauphin, 41, who in January became the first of several cops swept up in the broad anti-corruption dragnet of the city’s beleaguered police department.
Dauphin, who joined the Miami force in 1996, led a group of officers suspected of providing off-the-books protection and of frequenting 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.
But long before pleading guilty to an extortion charge alleging he received $5,000, Dauphin agreed to wear a wire for the FBI to target other suspected dirty cops.
In April of last year, Dauphin called and met fellow officer Harold James and paid him $100 for providing “protection coverage” at the betting operation, according to an FBI affidavit and sources familiar with the case. Then, while secretly recording their meeting, Dauphin enticed James to provide protection for another business that was purportedly cashing fraudulent tax-refund checks.
The “cat is doing something shady … trying to keep from getting hit,” Dauphin told James, referring to the check-cashing proprietor. Dauphin told James he would be paid “cash under the table.”
James’ response: “Sounds good to me.”
James, while under surveillance by the FBI and Miami police internal affairs detectives, provided protection for the Liberty City check-cashing store five times in April and May 2012, according to court records.
He was paid $800 by Dauphin, who had told him the detail was to protect a purported courier worried about getting robbed, and for “warning” about “police activity” around the check-cashing store at Northwest 79th Street and Seventh Avenue.
James, 29, would later plead guilty and be sentenced to one year and three months in prison.
After that undercover operation, the FBI deployed Dauphin to sting another police target: Frederick. In August and September of last year, Dauphin reprised his role and persuaded Frederick to provide the same protection for the check-cashing store, according to an FBI affidavit and sources familiar with the case.
Dauphin, who recorded the conversations, told Frederick that the courier would be carrying $40,000 or $50,000 in “stolen or fraudulent checks that needs to be bust down,” according to the affidavit, written by FBI special agent Donald Morin. Frederick agreed to protect him from possible robbers.
On four occasions, Frederick escorted the courier to and from the check-cashing store, while under FBI surveillance. He was paid $200 each time, for a total of $800, the affidavit said. When Dauphin handed over the cash payments in a Winn-Dixie parking lot, Frederick was recorded saying: “That s--- feels crispy.”
Dauphin, who in June was sentenced to one year and two months in prison but has still not surrendered, is expected to testify for prosecutor Robin Waugh at Frederick’s trial.
The FBI’s sting operation didn’t end with Dauphin. The FBI quickly found a replacement, persuading another Miami cop to work undercover in a new sting operation.
That replacement was Bazile.
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 the 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.
FBI agents confronted Frederick in January about the illicit protection work and stolen identities, and he “acknowledged” both crimes, the affidavit said.
On a parallel track, FBI agents and Miami detectives had suspected Bazile was using his access to the same police database to steal people’s IDs for seeking fraudulent income-tax refunds.
Investigators came to learn about Bazile’s illicit activity after Fort Lauderdale police had stopped his step-brother, Jean Baptiste Charles, in a rented Mercedes-Benz in 2011. Among the items found in the car: 10 pre-paid debit cards with 25 different people’s tax refunds loaded onto them totaling about $31,000.
Investigators found that Bazile had supplied three of the names on those debit cards to his step-brother, Charles, with whom he lived (Charles later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 3 1/2years in prison).
With that evidence, investigators installed a tracking device on Bazile’s police-issued laptop computer and found he ran more than 1,000 “suspicious” searches of people’s names in the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles database, according to a second FBI affidavit.
Investigators also found that Bazile obtained personal information for hundreds of women with the same last names, such as Rogers, Gonzalez, Martinez, Lopez and Sanders, who were between 57 and 61, according to the FBI affidavit. Bazile filed nearly identical tax returns — with fabricated income information — in their names, claiming that each had earned unemployment compensation of $6,500, the affidavit said. He sought refunds up to $1,700 each.
Investigators also obtained ATM photos of Bazile as he withdrew thousands of dollars on debit cards loaded with the refunds issued by the Internal Revenue Service, prosecutor Michael Berger said in court papers.
When investigators confronted Bazile last October, he signed a written confession, admitting he used the state database and withdrew money from the ATM machines on the debit cards, according to the affidavit.
Bazile, whose lawyer unsuccessfully tried to suppress certain evidence obtained by federal agents, admitted that he collected between $130,000 and $140,000 in unlawful tax refunds in 2011-2012.