Jury Convicts Former Hialeah Police Officer and Wife of Dealing in Firearms without a License
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Hugo Barrera, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Miami Field Division, Michael J. De Palma, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Scott J. Israel, Sheriff, Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BSO), and Ric L. Bradshaw, Sheriff, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (PBSO), announce that Rafael Oscar Valdes and Tammy Lynn Valdes, of Miami, Florida, were found guilty by a federal jury of all counts charged in connection with the unlawful sale of hundreds of firearms without a federal firearms license.
After a two week trial and over 300 items of admitted evidence, the jury convicted Rafael Valdes with dealing in firearms without a license (18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(1)(A)), making a false statement to a federal firearms dealer (18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6)), interstate transportation of stolen property (18 U.S.C. § 2314), and filing false tax returns for years 2008 – 2011 (26 U.S.C. § 7206(1)). The jury also convicted Tammy Valdes with dealing in firearms without a license and filing false tax returns for years 2008 – 2011. At sentencing, Rafael Valdes faces a combined maximum statutory term of imprisonment of 37 years, as well as paying restitution to the City of Hialeah and possible fines. At sentencing, Tammy Valdes faces a combined maximum statutory term of imprisonment of 18 years and possible fines. Sentencing is scheduled for December 12, 2013, before U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks.
According to the court record and evidence presented at trial, Rafael Valdes was employed as a police officer with the City of Hialeah, Florida since 2004. Tammy Valdes was also once employed as a police officer with the City of West Miami, Florida, from 2004 until 2008 and the Town of Golden Beach, Florida, from 2008 through 2009. Neither defendant ever possessed a federal firearms license.
The Valdeses were initially indicted on December 13, 2012, for dealing in firearms without a license. Starting as early as July 2005, and continuing through June 2012, the defendants sold hundreds of firearms. In November 2008, the defendants began buying and selling firearms under the fictitious name of Custom Weapons Systems. The defendants advertised and sold over 100 firearms via the Internet to persons across the nation. The defendants also attended over 100 gun shows in the Southern and Middle Districts of Florida, during which they purchased over 400 firearms and sold over 500 firearms. At times, their purchase and subsequent sale of firearms took place on the same day. Additionally, the defendants sold nine firearms to undercover agents, solicited the purchase of firearms from undercover agents, and offered to acquire firearms for undercover agents on a repetitive basis.
As part of the initial indictment, Rafael Valdes was charged with making a false statement to a licensed firearms dealer in December 2008 when he purchased three AR-15 serialized lower receivers. Evidence admitted during trial proved that Rafael Valdes purchased those receivers for the sole purpose of building and selling completed rifles to three other officers after taking deposits. Rafael Valdes then falsely stated on an ATF Form 4473 that all three receivers were his, when in fact he was acquiring those receivers for other persons.
On July 31, 2013, a superseding indictment added tax charges against both defendants for filing false tax returns from 2008 – 2011, in that they failed to report their total income which included money derived from firearm sales. During trial, evidence was presented that the Valdeses failed to report over $350,000.00 in gross receipts during 2008 - 2011.
The superseding indictment also charged Rafael Valdes with transporting stolen firearm parts from the Hialeah Police Department where he was employed in the training section. During trial, the evidence showed that Rafael Valdes took apart firearms that were in evidence at the Hialeah Police Department and deemed to be destroyed. Rafael Valdes then advertised those parts for sale on the internet and later transported those parts to buyers located across the United States, including; New York, California, Utah, and Missouri. Rafael Valdes then deposited the proceeds into his personal bank account. In addition to selling parts of firearms that were once in evidence, Rafael Valdes also sold machine gun parts taken from six different Heckler and Koch, MP-5 machine guns which had been utilized by the Hialeah Police Department SWAT team.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative and cooperative efforts of ATF, IRS-CI, BSO, PBSO, Miami-Dade Police Department, Miami Beach Police Department, City of Miami Police Department, Virginia Gardens Police Department, Hialeah Police Department, FDLE, FBI and HSI. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Adam McMichael and John McMillan.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.