Dermis Hernandez, a longtime Miami police officer who patrolled the city’s waterways, also ran a side company that he’d been touting to fellow cops for years.
The pitch: Invest in his Costa Rican loan company and expect returns of over 20 percent.
But the company was a sham, federal prosecutors said Tuesday in announcing criminal charges against Hernandez, and the money was used only to enrich himself and pay back early investors.
Hernandez, 41, was arrested Monday after FBI agents learned he was suddenly flying to Costa Rica because of an “emergency.” Fearing he might never return — his wife is a Costa Rican national — agents cuffed the cop while he was boarding a flight at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
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He was the second Miami police officer arrested this month. Officer Adrian Santos was charged earlier with cocaine possession while at a swank Miami nightclub.
Hernandez is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina, speaking at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, said no other officers have been implicated.
“It was disgraceful behavior and we are working to quickly end his employment,” Colina said.
It was unclear Tuesday if Hernandez had a defense attorney. He made an initial appearance in federal court Tuesday, and will have a bond hearing on Friday.
Miami internal affairs and the FBI said Hernandez operated his Ponzi scheme between 2011 and 2015 through a company called DD&M Investments.
According to a criminal complaint, he offered “low-risk” investments in his company, which he claimed was giving high-interest loans to property owners in Costa Rica. The loan recipients used their properties in the Central American country as collateral, he said.
But that wasn’t true, according to agents. Targeting active and retired cops, Hernandez and “co-conspirators” showed phony paperwork showing the company had property rights to land in Costa Rica.
“In truth, Hernandez and his co-conspirators used the investor funds for personal enrichment and to pay the returns of other investors,” according to the criminal complaint by FBI Agent Sarah Halleran.
Federal prosecutors did not disclose how much Hernandez is suspected of getting through his investment scheme.
At least one victim paid out $10,000 from his police retirement fund — with Hernandez instructing him how to withdraw the money. The victim believed he would be getting a 20 percent return on the investment per year.
Another victim told agents he was promised a whopping 24 percent return on the investment. That led him to invest $125,000, while only ever receiving $17,000 back in interest payments.