Coral Springs firefighter was armed guard for drug dealer in undercover sting, feds say

Santiago Gonzalez

A Coral Springs firefighter/paramedic is locked up on allegations that he provided armed protection for what he thought was a drug dealer picking up cocaine on four occasions in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Santiago Gonzalez, 49, of Davie, was arrested Thursday after an undercover sting operation by federal agents. He is being held at Broward County's Main Jail.

The strange tale started in August when a confidential informant told authorities that Gonzalez had told him that "he had been involved in the robbery and murder of a Hungarian couple in Miami in the 1990s and the subsequent disposal of the bodies."

Agents offered no insight about whether they thought Gonzalez was telling the truth.


Photos: Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade

The informant, who was not identified in court records, also told North Miami Beach police officers and an agent from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that Gonzalez told him that "he had participated in numerous armed kidnappings and robberies in the past."

Federal agents arranged for the informant to meet with Gonzalez in August at a Miami Lakes cigar shop to ask Gonzalez to protect him while moving around large amounts of cocaine. During the secretly recorded conversation, the informant told Gonzalez he'd been robbed while delivering 11 pounds of cocaine.

Gonzalez talked about buying an M-4 rifle for future escort jobs and said he "could do more damage" if he "remained invisible and no one knew he was providing security."

The two had another secretly recorded meeting at a Southwest Ranches restaurant in late August and the informant told him that Gonzalez would be paid $500 per kilo of cocaine delivered.

In early September, the informant picked up more than 22 pounds of artificial cocaine left in a vehicle in Florida City and delivered it to a hotel in Tamarac. Gonzalez escorted the shipment, carrying a 9 mm handgun and extra ammunition, according to court records.

In October, Gonzalez was armed and followed while the informant delivered what Gonzalez thought was about 11 pounds of cocaine from Hialeah to Deerfield Beach. He offered to act as an alibi for the informant and say they were repossessing vehicles if they were stopped by police. Gonzalez was paid about $2,500 during a later meeting at a home improvement store in Weston, agents said.

A third collection and delivery went down in December between the Sawgrass Mills mall in Sunrise, the Dolphin Mall in Miami-Dade County and Coral Springs, according to court records.

Finally, on Jan. 24, the informant picked up more than 17 pounds of sham cocaine and they delivered it to a hotel in Tamarac. Shortly after, law enforcement pulled Gonzalez over and arrested him. They said he had a 9 mm handgun with several magazines in his truck.

Gonzalez is scheduled to appear in federal court in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday.

Deputy City Manager Susan Grant said city officials found out about his arrest on Friday and "will be taking swift and appropriate action" on his job status this week. He was hired by the city in March 2003.

pmcmahon@tribune.com, 954-356-4533 or Twitter @SentinelPaula