Miami Police Officer Sentenced After FBI Probe

April 23, 2013
Former Miami Police Officer Harold James was sentenced to a year and three months in prison.

An eight-year Miami police veteran who pleaded guilty in February to two extortion charges for protecting a Liberty City check-cashing business was sentenced in federal court Tuesday.

Harold James, 29, was sentenced to a year and three months in prison by U.S. District Judge Robert Scola, according to a plea agreement with the U.S. attorney's office. He is scheduled to surrender at the end of June.

James, who had resigned in November, was targeted by a fellow police officer who flipped for the feds after Miami-Dade police raided a sports gambling ring in Liberty City last year.

Thus marked the beginning of an FBI probe that would expose internal corruption and rattle the Miami Police Department.

Officer Nathaniel Dauphin, at the direction of FBI agents, called and met with James last April and paid him $100 for providing "protection coverage" at the betting operation, according to court documents and sources familiar with the case. Then, while secretly recording their meeting, Dauphin enticed James to provide protection for another business that was purportedly cashing fraudulent tax refund checks.

The "cat is doing something shady ... trying to keep from getting hit," Dauphin told James, referring to the check-cashing proprietor. Dauphin told James he would be paid "cash under the table."

James' response: "Sounds good to me."

James, while under surveillance by the FBI and Miami police internal affairs detectives, provided protection for the Liberty City check-cashing store -- in reality, part of an undercover "sting" -- five times in April and May 2012, according to a statement filed with his plea agreement in federal court.

He was paid $800 by Dauphin, who had told him the detail was to protect a courier worried about getting robbed and for "warning" about "police activity" around the check-cashing store at Northwest 79th Street and Seventh Avenue.

Although Dauphin was not identified by name in James' plea statement, multiple sources familiar with the investigation said it referred to Dauphin, who they said began cooperating with the FBI's corruption task force soon after the sports gambling operation was shut down in March of last year. The court document refers only to a "cooperating defendant."

Dauphin, 41, who allegedly helped organize the protection racket for the Liberty City sports-betting operation, pleaded guilty in February to a single charge of extortion conspiracy. It alleged he "protected and facilitated illegal activity -- gambling -- in exchange for receipts of cash payments" between November 2010 and March 2012.

Dauphin, a police officer since 1996, was paid $5,000, according to the charge. He is scheduled for sentencing next Monday.

James and Dauphin are among 11 Miami police officers facing federal criminal charges or internal discipline related to the gambling protection scheme and other criminal activities, The Miami Herald has learned. Among the other criminal offenses: stealing names from a state driver's license database for tax-refund fraud schemes.

The officers under scrutiny have already resigned or been relieved of duty. The targeted officers, who worked in the Model City substation, are primarily accused of providing off-the-books protection to the sports gambling ring, which operated out of the Player's Choice Barber Shop, 6301 NW Sixth Ave.

Copyright 2013 - The Miami Herald

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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