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Miami police sergeant takes stand, denies accusations in federal corruption trial

A Miami police sergeant who ran a drug-fighting squad testified Monday that a string of government witnesses — including four detectives from his unit — all lied while accusing him of planting dope on a suspect, and stealing drugs and money from street dealers.

Sgt. Raul Iglesias, 40, former commander of the Crime Suppression Unit, denied again and again that he ever did anything illegal on the job, including asking detectives for “throw-down dope” to plant on the suspect in a downtown Miami parking lot in early 2010.

“Absolutely not,” Iglesias testified, disputing the recent testimony of two detectives. “That’s a ridiculous statement,” he said, calling his former colleagues “liars.’’

Iglesias further testified he never told a third detective that it was OK to pay confidential informants with drugs. The detective, Roberto Asanza, testified he did just that in May 2010, with Iglesias sitting by his side.

But Iglesias denied the confidential informant was paid with a small baggie of cocaine after a bust in the Allapattah area. Asanza, after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor possession charge, received a probationary sentence last year.

“I have no knowledge that he ever paid [the informant] with drugs,’’ Iglesias testified during direct examination as the first defense witness.

Iglesias, who faces nine counts of conspiracy to possess cocaine, violating suspects’ civil rights, obstruction of justice and making false statements, seemed unflappable as his defense attorney, Rick Diaz, questioned him Monday. Iglesias was relieved of duty with pay in May 2010.

But on cross examination, federal prosecutor Ricardo Del Toro mocked the 18-year veteran officer’s testimony, saying that if he is to be believed, that means five government witnesses lied and he is the only one telling the truth.

“That’s No. 5,” Del Toro declared in astonishment at one point, as Iglesias accused one more witness of lying about his alleged wrongdoing.

Earlier in the trial, CSU detectives Suberto Hernandez and Luis Valdes told jurors that Iglesias asked the pair if they had any “throw-down dope” to plant on a drug suspect after a search of the man during a Jan. 27, 2010, surveillance operation turned up no drugs.

“He looked at myself and Hernandez and he asked for throw-down dope,” said Valdes, an officer for nearly nine years. “I said, ‘We don’t do that here. Nobody on this team does it.’ ’’

Hernandez was the first officer to stop the suspected buyer. He told jurors that he searched the man thoroughly but found no drugs on him or his bike.

A few minutes later, Iglesias asked if they had any “throw-down dope to plant on the individual,” said Hernandez, a 24-year police veteran.

When the two detectives did not comply, Iglesias then called another detective from the police gang unit, Ricardo Martinez, who came to the scene and shook hands with Iglesias, Valdes said. After meeting with Martinez, Iglesias then produced a small baggie of cocaine.

Prosecutors say Martinez, who was convicted of fencing stolen goods in an unrelated case in 2011, gave the bag of cocaine to Iglesias.

On the stand, Iglesias denied that Martinez, who had once worked for him, ever showed up at the parking lot bust.

Last week, another detective, Calvin Chalumeau, testified that Iglesias stole an unspecified amount of money seized from a Miami crack-cocaine dealer in April 2010. Chalumeau said Iglesias took the cash from an envelope while sitting in his unmarked police car, and that Chalumeau reported the alleged theft to other detectives on the Crime Suppression team.

On Monday, Iglesias was asked by his attorney if that alleged theft ever happened. “No, it did not,” he answered.

Another witness, a homeless crack addict who Iglesias used as a confidential informant, testified last week that Iglesias paid him with drugs and money seized from street dealers “four or five times.”

“Sarge used to pay me from the envelope” of seized contraband, Allan Brookins, a career criminal serving time for burglary and theft, testified.

Brookins said Iglesias even paid him with rocks of crack cocaine, which the defendant’s lawyer challenged.

“I’m absolutely positive he paid me with crack cocaine,” Brookins testified. “I know crack when I smoke it.”

But on Monday, Iglesias denied ever paying Brookins. “Absolutely not,” he testified. “That would be ridiculous.”