MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) — Florida Department of Law Enforcement Agents rounded up and arrested eight people Friday connected to an alleged car buying and leasing scam.
A total of ten people are facing racketeering, conspiracy and a host of other charges. One is still on the loose. The other person turned himself in Wednesday and is perhaps the most surprising of the lot: Miami Beach Police Officer George Navarro, Jr., who complied with his arrest warrant and bonded out of jail Thursday.
Investigators said Navarro was a straw buyer who helped others to bilk Miami area businesses out of nearly half a million dollars.
“He is an extraordinary and exemplary police officer and is deserving of the court’s consideration,” said Navarro’s attorney Michael Band.
Judge Jose Fernandez granted a reduced bond and set it at $88,500. Navarro Jr. was also ordered to surrender his passport and any other travel documentation. He bonded out of jail Thursday afternoon.
According to his arrest warrant, Navarro used misleading information on his credit application to buy a car at Lexus of North Miami. The warrant said he defaulted on the loan. It said a third party picked up the car and then Navarro Jr. filed a stolen vehicle report.
The allegations were a far cry from the description given by his attorney in bond court.
“This is an officer who led the department in arrests, officer of the month countless times, earned the medal of valor at his department,” said Band.
But his attorney also argued that Navarro’s only crime was his longtime friendship to a convicted drug dealer named Marlon Mayoli. The DEA arrested Mayoli and Rafael Guedes on Federal drug charges in 2011. That is when police sources said they found the uniforms for two police officers inside Guedes home. One was Navarro’s uniform and the other was the uniform of Boynton Beach Police officer David Britto. Britto has since fled the country.
A statement by Miami Beach Police Chief Raymond A. Martinez read, “This was an investigation initiated by the Miami Beach Police Department and it is part of the process of rooting out corruption in the department. I will not let the actions of one; tarnish this agency and the outstanding work that is done on an everyday basis by the men and women of the Miami Beach Police Department.”
Navarro Jr. is the son of former Miami Beach police Cmdr. George Navarro Sr. who was the lead homicide detective in the infamous 1997 shooting death of designer Gianni Versace at his mansion on Ocean Drive. He also investigated the suicide death of Versace’s assailant Andrew Cunanan. Navarro Sr. now works as the city’s emergency manager.
After Thursday’s hearing, George Navarro Sr. spoke to CBS4’s Kara Kostanich said his son is innocent of these allegations.
“I believe in the justice system, it’s not a perfect system, but it’s the best,” he told Kostanich.
Navarro Jr.’s attorney said his client is accused of being a “straw purchaser” who was allegedly associated with a ring of people leasing or purchasing cars then selling them or dismembering them and selling parts.
Navarro Jr. was on desk duty for months while under investigation but is now currently relieved of duty with pay