An ex-Miami-Dade police internal affairs lieutenant who secretly teamed up with cocaine smugglers to smuggle guns through airport security must serve 10 years in prison, a New Jersey federal judge ruled on Wednesday.
The arrest of Ralph Mata — cuffed by federal agents while at his office last year — shocked the Miami-Dade police department, which had assigned him to one of the agency’s most sensitive units.
Earlier this year, Mata pleaded guilty to three federal charges, including aiding and abetting a narcotics conspiracy.
The judge on Wednesday called Mata’s actions “truly reprehensible,” according to the Associated Press.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
His Miami attorney, Bruce Fleisher, who attended the sentencing, declined to comment when reached on Wednesday afternoon.
Federal sentencing guidelines called for Mata to be imprisoned for a term of between 9 and just over 11 years. His defense lawyers had asked for probation and community service.
The disgraced ex-cop worked for a group of smugglers who had for years illegally imported drugs in shipping containers containing bananas from Ecuador and the Dominican Republic.
Mata — who nicknamed himself the “Milk Man” — admitted to buying six guns for the group run by a man named Juan Arias. Using his law enforcement contacts, Mata smuggled the guns through security checkpoints at Miami International Airport and onto planes bound for the Dominican Republic.
In a federal complaint, agents also said Mata helped plan the execution of two rival drug dealers, even proposing that his “contacts” could dress up like cops and pull over the men before killing them. But the plan was eventually scrapped.
According to the FBI, Mata also accompanied a suitcase full of drug money to the island, used his position as a cop to give secret intelligence to the group, and suggested ways to smuggle in dope through Miami.
“We are talking about a man overcome by greed,” federal prosecutor Mary Toscano told the federal judge, according to the AP. “He thought he was untouchable.”
Mata joined the Miami-Dade police in 1992. Among his duties: stints as a canine officer and a lieutenant in Miami Gardens, where he worked on busting drug and prostitution rings.