For six months, Miami Beach police working undercover milled about as patrons of the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall on the ground floor of the Floridian Condominium in Miami Beach.
Three times, cops purchased small amounts of cocaine for $20 a pop from an old-timer there named Miguel Sacerio. A larger buy was set up for late January when police set up a meeting with Sacerio on 16th Street and Jefferson Avenue to sell two ounces of cocaine.
They said they found 11 grams on him. Sacerio was busted that same day, charged with possession, trafficking and intent to sell cocaine, according to his arrest affidavit.
In April, a cop inserted $20 into a video gaming machine at the same VFW. By the time he was done playing, the police report says, bartender Resty Nelson Cordova retrieved a ticket from the machine, placed it in a jar on the bar, and handed the officer his $20 back.
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When police went to arrest Cordova last week, his arrest affidavit says, he dropped small plastic bags with Xanax and cocaine on the ground. Cordova, 50, was arrested and charged with gambling, cocaine sales and possession of a controlled substance.
A week later, VFW Post 3559 at 650 West Ave. — a dank, large room with window views of Biscayne Bay and cigarette smoke-stained walls underneath a thriving and popular Miami Beach condo — remains closed.
It’s been there since 1936. When the Floridian was erected, developers had to build around the VFW. Its $3 beers and $4 drinks are still popular. Now, veterans who went there regularly are angry. Others who drank the bar’s reasonably priced beer and wine are bewildered.
And no one — not even the senior military veterans running other VFWs — is certain when, or if, the place will ever open again.
“It’s horrific what happened. It’s not what the VFW is all about,” said George Robert, the quartermaster for the VFW in Hollywood.
Miami Beach police say they began their investigation into the VFW in October 2015. In November and again in January they met with Sacerio and bought cocaine there. Then a deal was brokered for a bigger buy. The agreement was for Sacerio and the undercover cop to buy two ounces of cocaine, then to cut it with another product and double their profits.
At one point, the police report says, Sacerio while in the cop car became so upset that he said, “I have it in my pocket. What’s wrong with you? You want me to show it out here to you in the street?”
The cops then gave a take-down signal, the report says.