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Press Release

Miami-Dade, Florida, Police Officer Admits Role In Cocaine Distribution Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. – A former lieutenant with the Miami-Dade Police Department, Internal Affairs, today admitted his role in a narcotics conspiracy, including purchasing six firearms for a drug trafficking organization and smuggling those weapons through security checkpoints at the Miami International Airport, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Ralph Mata, 45, a/k/a “the Milk Man,” of Broward County, Florida, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Susan D. Wigenton in Newark federal court to an information charging him with one count of aiding and abetting a narcotics conspiracy, one count of conspiring to distribute cocaine and one count of engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from unlawful activity. Judge Wigenton continued Mata’s release on bail pending sentencing.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

From June 2012 through November 2012, Mata purchased at least six firearms from a gun store in Florida, which ultimately were provided to members of the Juan Arias Drug Trafficking Organization. Using his prior experience as a lieutenant assigned to the Miami International Airport, as well as his law enforcement contacts at the airport, Mata and others smuggled the six firearms through airport security checkpoints and onto a commercial airliner destined for the Dominican Republic.

Mata also provided advice, guidance and counsel to Juan Arias regarding the means and methods the drug trafficking organization should use to import and distribute cocaine. Mata transported narcotics proceeds for the organization.

He also engaged in monetary transactions in property derived from the sale of narcotics. On March 28, 2013, Mata traveled from Miami to New Jersey and received approximately $60,000 in narcotics proceeds from Juan Arias and others. Using a portion of that $60,000, Mata made separate $10,000 cash deposits at two different bank locations in Fort Lee, New Jersey. As payment for his assistance to the drug trafficking organization, Mata accepted a total of approximately $100,000 in cash and gifts from the Juan Arias drug trafficking organization.

The charges of aiding and abetting a narcotics conspiracy and conspiring to distribute cocaine each carry a minimum penalty of 10 years in prison, a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, and a maximum fine of $10 million. The money laundering charge is punishable by a maximum term of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. As part of his plea, Mata also agreed to forfeit the $75,405.17 seized on April 9, 2014. Sentencing is scheduled for July 14, 2015.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI’s Garret Mountain Resident Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Richard M. Frankel in Newark; special agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Carl J. Kotowski; and special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea. He also thanked the Miami FBI, the Miami-Dade Police Department, the Miami-Area Corruption Task Force and the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, New York, for their assistance with the investigation.

This case was conducted under the auspices of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mary E. Toscano and José R. Almonte of the Special Prosecutions Division in Newark, and Barbara Ward of the Office’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Unit.

Defense counsel: Jay V. Surgent Esq., Parsippany, New Jersey, and Bruce H. Fleisher Esq., Miami


Updated September 10, 2015

Press Release Number: 15-111