Miami-Dade detectives capped a three-month-long investigation into allegations of prostitution, gambling and drug dealing at Kareta Kafe on Bird Road and a nearby business, El Cortadito, with the arrest of four people for charges including possessing and selling cocaine and operating illegal gambling machines.
On Thursday evening, police served search warrants at Kareta Kafe on Bird Road near Kendall Regional Hospital and at El Cortadito at 9873 SW 40th St.
Found inside: bags of cocaine, gambling machines and evidence of prostitution. The machines were destroyed on site.
The investigation opened with a Sept. 1 visit to Kareta, 10505 SW 40th St., by an undercover detective with $40 in hand to spend. What he got was a quintessential South Florida sale.
According to a police report, Carolina Hernandez, 39, a waitress at Kareta Kafe, asked the officer if he was “ready to purchase cocaine.” When the man said yes and ordered a beer, Hernandez reached behind the bar and handed him a small baggie of coke. The detective handed Hernandez $40 in cash for the beer and coke, upon which Hernandez handed the money to an unidentified woman at the bar with the instruction to ring up the purchase for the narcotics and brew.
The tab: $5 for the beer, $20 for the cocaine — he received $15 in change. And another opportunity to while away a Thursday evening.
An as-yet unidentified woman approached the detective and offered him “a sexual act of manual stimulation, commonly referred to as a hand job in the bathroom” in exchange for a few hits of his coke, the report read. The officer declined, telling her he had purchased the powder for a pal so he could not share it with her. She asked him for $5 anyway, for talking to him while he drank his beer. An “entertainment fee,” she said.
A week later, the undercover detective sat in front of a gaming machine and saw Hernandez tending to customers at the machines. She served them beers as they gambled. He ordered cocaine again and, this time, she allegedly reached into her shirt and whipped out a bag of cocaine from her bra.
Emboldened, the detective upped the ante on Sept. 29, by asking Hernandez if she had “an 8 ball” to sell — street lingo for three grams of cocaine. She said yes, asking why he needed so much blow.
The officer said “he had a small client base and that they requested for him to buy drugs for them,” the arrest report read. Hernandez instructed the detective to follow her to the bar, where she once again reached into her bra and laid out eight small clear, red baggies containing suspected cocaine onto the counter. The tab, she told him, $140.
Meantime, at El Cortadito officers observed several gambling machines along a western wall and customers playing and receiving payouts in amounts of $10 and $20.
In the Thursday raid, in addition to Hernandez, Yanelis Lamont, 35, was arrested on gambling charges. Yusimi Ponce-Garcia, 31, and Ileana Medina, 47, were arrested on cocaine charges. All but Lamont were arrested at Kareta.
Yvette Orozco, owner of a nearby fitness facility, told CBS4 that the shenanigans were not surprising. “I always thought something was going on there,” she said.
Miami-Dade police say they are continuing the investigation, which began with a tip to Crime Stoppers, and expect to make more arrests.
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