MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A Miami-Dade Police Lieutenant accused of conspiring to distribute cocaine went before a federal magistrate Wednesday, a day after his arrest following a lengthy investigation that stretched from New Jersey to Miami and the Dominican Republic.
Lt. Ralph Mata sat silently in the courtroom wearing a tan jumpsuit, his hands restrained in front of him. He whispered only briefly with his attorney, Bruce Fleischer, who at one point requested a little bit more time to talk to his client. Fleischer said he’d only spoken to Mata for about 45 minutes before the hearing.
Mata’s wife and other friends and relatives sat in the back corner of the room.
Lt. Mata is touted as a man who helped dismantle two major drug gangs in Miami Gardens, but now he’s accused of working with a drug trafficking organization.
“I want the public to know that Ralph Mata is a good cop,” Fleischer said outside the brief hearing before magistrate Alicia M. Otazo-Reyes Wednesday afternoon.
The 21-year veteran of MDPD went by the nickname “The Milk Man” according to the criminal complaint filed in the US District Court in New Jersey.
He’s accused of conspiring to distribute cocaine and accepting money for the transactions as well as plotting to have rival drug dealers killed.
“They are serious allegations but all serious allegations need due diligence and investigating. That’s what we’ll do,” Fleischer said.
Mata works in the internal affairs unit, but now he finds himself under the microscope.
The complaint alleges Mata planned to have police impersonators kill two drug dealers for approximately $300,000.
It goes on to say he used his contacts at Miami International Airport to transport firearms to the Dominican Republic and accepted thousands of dollars and a Rolex watch for helping transport narcotics proceeds through the airport.
Neighbors in Mata’s Pembroke Pines subdivision were surprised to learn of his arrest.
“I mean he’s a nice guy,” Joel Acosta said. “I would never suspect him to do that. He has 2 kids. It’s just mind-blowing that he would be involved in that.”
Mata’s wife declined to comment on-camera, only briefly saying she loves her husband.
“His wife is a very supportive wife,” Fleischer said. “She loves her husband very much. They want to try to get him out on bond as soon as possible… He wants to clear his name.”
Mata’s pre-trial detention hearing is set for next Monday morning.
His attorney said he plans to ask for a “reasonable bond” of $100,000, but the government will ask Mata be held without bond, calling him a flight risk and a danger to the community.
CBS4 News has yet to receive a statement from the Miami-Dade Police Department, despite multiple requests for comment.