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SWEETWATER (CBSMiami) – When Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigators came to Sweetwater earlier this summer, the mayor thought they would be there for three, maybe four days.
They ended up sticking around for a month and a half, after finding the city’s property room was mess.
Sweetwater’s Property and Evidence Room is now sealed.
A red piece of tape with Wednesday’s date marks the last time it was accessed, to allow a CBS4 camera inside to get a glimpse of the now catalogued and organized space.
The FDLE audit determined many items that are supposed to be in that room are nowhere to be found.
“It didn’t take much from walking in the door and looking in the evidence room to realize there was a problem,” said Interim Police Chief Placido Diaz at a press conference announcing the findings of the audit Wednesday. “Given the history and past incidents, what I’d heard to be the clandestine property room, this raised the hairs on the back of my neck.”
Chief Diaz and Sweetwater Mayor Orlando Lopez requested the FDLE to audit in June.
The audit found a pattern of “Incomplete Documentation of Room Access Logs”, “No Uniform Dual Evidence Control” and “Incomplete Property Receipts.”
In all, 7,877 evidence and property items are missing, including 19 weapons, 177 valuables, 19 bikes and 44 items from the narcotics cage.
“I’m not surprised. There have been rumors for the last year or two that there were firearms removed from the police department by at least one police officer. It is disturbing,” said Mayor Lopez.
This chief says this audit doesn’t even include the contents of a separate, secret property room CBS4 first told you about in October 2013.
Months earlier, Sweetwater’s then-Mayor, Manny Maroño, was arrested on corruption charges.
“That’s when you started asking more questions and that’s when all these problems started arising,” Mayor Lopez said.
While Sweetwater’s property room is off-limits, city officers will make use of the Miami-Dade Police Department’s property and evidence unit.
“This is an administration that wants transparency and wants to talk this department forward. I think this is the first stop in bringing this department to the next level,” Chief Diaz said.
Diaz added this is still an open investigation so he could not say who, if anyone, may face criminal charges.