A Sun Sentinel investigation into the city's undercover drug stings has prompted Sunrise Police to examine whether anyone in the department broke the law.
The newspaper in recent days has asked the department to explain why the addresses of two unwitting homeowners and a Weston pub were used to identify directors of a fake company tied to the undercover narcotics unit. In response to those questions, the police department issued a brief statement Friday saying it would investigate.
It's a felony to file false information in state corporate records, and law enforcement experts said using people's addresses in undercover drug work could put those people in danger.
"Chief [John] Brooks recognizes the importance of ethical and principled police conduct and this investigation will seek to determine if any employee intentionally violated Florida state statute and/or Sunrise Police Department policy," Capt. Robert Voss, head of the criminal investigations division, said in an email.
The Sun Sentinel reported in October that someone formed a company, Casino Marble International, based at the same rented office used by the city's undercover narcotics squad. The unit staged money-making operations in which police lured out-of-town drug buyers into Sunrise with offers of discount cocaine, then seized their cash and cars.
How much money from drug stings was funneled through Casino Marble is unknown. Court records state that cocaine buyers sometimes wired money to an undercover police account.
In Casino Marble's corporate paperwork, the names of purported company representatives are paired with actual addresses belonging to a Hollywood landscaper, a Sunrise homeowner, and a Flanigan's Seafood Bar and Grill in Weston. All said they weren't consulted and didn't agree to the use of their addresses in company filings.
"This is the first I've been made aware of it," said Tim Robbie, son of former Miami Dolphins owner Joe Robbie and a partner in a firm that leases space to Flanigan's. "They certainly didn't have our permission to do that."
If Sunrise had asked, Robbie said the answer likely would have been no, given the controversial nature of the stings.
"I don't think it's the kind of thing we'd want to be involved in," he said.
James G. Flanigan, the restaurant company's chairman, did not return calls to his office for comment.
Landscaper Oscar Guardado said he's never been contacted by Sunrise police about linking the address of a Hollywood home he owns to Casino Marble. "I never heard from them," he said.
Law enforcement experts said borrowing the addresses was unwise and potentially dangerous.
"Especially when dealing with drug dealers, you can really put people's lives at risk there," said John Jay College of Criminal Justice instructor Joseph L. Giacalone, a retired New York Police Department detective sergeant.
"The bad guys are just as computer savvy as everybody else," he said. "If you're doing an operation like this it has to be just about flawless."
The name of a Sunrise cop's aged granddad also was used in the paperwork, filed with the state and visible to anyone online, a blunder that could have exposed the operation and endangered both the detective and his relatives, veteran narcotics investigators told the Sun Sentinel.
"You never want something like that coming back to you, especially when you're working undercover in a narcotics unit," Giacalone said. "Drug dealers don't care. They'll kill you, your family, everybody. There's big money at stake here."
The stings fueled high overtime payments for the undercover officers who worked them and helped Sunrise take in three times as much cash forfeited from criminal suspects as any other city in Broward and Palm Beach counties in recent years.
One lady informant alone helped reel in $5 million and was paid more than $800,000 over five years for her help in the stings, city and court records showed.
Sunrise officials have refused to acknowledge any link to Casino Marble and have denied the Sun Sentinel any financial records or audits related to its activities. The company was established in 2010 and dissolved in late September, just before the newspaper published its investigation.