Soon after David Silva became fast friends with drug dealer Derrick Santiesteban a decade ago, he introduced him to his big brother, Roderick Silva.
Silva, a Miami-Dade County police detective, would snort cocaine with them at parties. He would also turn into a highly valuable asset for the Santiesteban family’s marijuana-distribution ring, federal prosecutors say.
“Silva gave Derrick hand-written lists of suspected grow houses, so he could determine if any of [his] were under suspicion or about to be raided,” according to court records. “Derrick would pay [Silva] $1,000 for these lists.”
On Thursday, the onetime narcotics detective pleaded guilty to protecting the family’s violent pot organization, making Silva the 21st and possibly last defendant to be convicted in the long-running federal case.
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Silva, who joined the Miami-Dade force in 2003, was charged last year with aiding and abetting the Santiesteban family’s distribution network and with extortion for accepting $1,500 to keep quiet about its illegal drug business.
His plea agreement was struck before the start of his trial next week. Prosecutors agreed to drop the extortion charge as part of the deal. Silva, 45, faces between three and five years in prison at his sentencing July 21 before U.S. District Judge Robert Scola.
The plea agreement, negotiated between lead prosecutor Pat Sullivan and defense attorney Nathan Diamond, revolves around Silva’s role in helping the notorious Miami-based organization distribute between 100 and 400 kilos of powerful hydroponically grown marijuana in the Northeast.
On Thursday, Silva admitted that he tipped off the Santiesteban organization about upcoming Miami-Dade police raids in exchange for payments ranging from $1,000 to $5,000.
He also gave the clan tips on how to avoid police and even passed along misinformation to his fellow detectives about the Santiesteban family’s large-scale operation, according to a factual statement filed with the plea agreement.
And, he revealed the locations of rival marijuana grow houses, information the Santiestebans used in home-invasion robberies.
The family members — headed by patriarch Gilberto Sr. and joined by sons Derrick, Gilberto Jr., Alexander and Darvis — were charged along with 16 others over the past three years. Also among those charged: Silva’s younger brother, David, who was one of the key members.
All but Roderick Silva had been convicted — until Thursday.
All of the gang members are serving long prison sentences, including Derrick Santiesteban, who received a life sentence.
Investigators say the Santiesteban clan operated 20 indoor hydroponic marijuana grow houses, yielding at least 1,146 potent pot plants that produced millions of dollars in profits from a distribution network in the Northeast.
Miami-Dade police and FBI agents took down the outfit in 2012 after they began investigating the gang's murder of a rival doper, Fidel Ruz Moreno.
The group was accused of fatally shooting Ruz in June 2009 after he and others had posed as cops and ripped off about 50 pounds of marijuana from Derrick Santiesteban. He and his wife were packaging the load at their southwest Miami-Dade home to transport to New York.
Silva, the onetime detective, reported the murder to Miami-Dade investigators a full day after Ruz’s body was found dead on the street in the Hammocks area. Silva lied that Derrick Santiesteban was a “confidential informant” about marijuana growers — instead of revealing “it was likely that Derrick was involved in the murder” of the rival dope dealer, according to Silva’s factual statement.
Silva refused to “go on the record” with a sworn statement because “he feared retaliation from Derrick Santiesteban.” He said he would prefer to resign from the Miami-Dade force than testify against him.
After exposing himself as a suspect in the Santiesteban case, Silva was placed on desk duty in the records unit. Last year, he was relieved of duty.