Three ex-Golden Beach police officers who claim they were falsely implicated in an off-duty billing scam are now suing the town and public corruption investigators.
In lawsuits filed this month, ex-officers Lyndean Peters, Omar Paez and Jon Anterio insist they were victims of “bad faith” police work and “false and unreliable accusations.” Authorities arrested Peters and Paez, but prosecutors last year dropped the charges after determining they could not prove the charges to a jury.
“It was a travesty,” their civil lawyer, Roderick Hannah, said of the criminal probe. “The case had a devastating effect on them, their families and their careers.”
A fourth man, Yovany Diaz, still an active officer, will be filing a lawsuit in the coming days. He too saw criminal charges levied, then dropped. Anterio was never charged criminally but resigned, he claimed, because of the “increasingly hostile work environment” created by the investigation.
A lawyer for Golden Beach, Jeffrey Hochman, said the “claims lack any foundation.”
“My office will vigorously defend the Town of Golden Beach and Mayor [Glenn] Singer,” Hochman said.
The suit asks for monetary damages and legal fees.
In 2011, the Golden Beach officers were accused of under-reporting or not reporting off-duty security jobs they worked for local businesses or road projects in order to avoid paying a cut to the town. Peters was also accused of working off-duty when he was actually supposed to be patrolling the small Northeast Miami-Dade beach community.
The criminal probe was spurred by information given by ex-Golden Beach Officer Tammy Valdes, who is now doing 3 1/2 years prison for illegally dealing in stolen guns and filing false tax returns
Public corruption police, working with a prosecutor, obtained an arrest warrant from a judge to arrest the Golden Beach officers. The case churned through the courts for several years.
Miami-Dade prosecutors, after taking depositions with Golden Beach town officials, realized that much of how the department ran its off-duty program was off-the-books and against official policies — casting serious doubt on whether any laws were actually broken.
In a memo explaining the decision, prosecutors pointed out that officers routinely worked extra hours while on duty, and were allowed to informally shave the hours off another day’s shift as compensation time. That practice, prosecutors concluded, made it difficult to prove that the officers double billed when it was found they were working an off-duty shift at the same time.
According to the newly filed lawsuits, Golden Beach “carelessly provided ... obviously incorrect and incomplete information” to public corruption investigators.
The criminal probe was spearheaded by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Miami-Dade police’s public corruption bureau. The lawsuit is targeting Golden Beach, FDLE and Miami-Dade County.
Also named in the suit: FDLE agents Claudia Mulvey, her former supervisor Robert Breeden; Miami-Dade Detective John Loyal, and his former supervisor, Kelly Sullivan.
“I would describe it as frivolous,” said Breeden’s attorney, Chris Whitelock. “My guy did nothing wrong.”