Manny Hernandez, a lawyer and money launderer in Miami, must have been a little surprised when his client, a cocaine cowboy from the Sinaloa cartel, asked for a favor: Could he score him a kilo of coke?
The cartel associate had a good reason, though. It was just before Labor Day weekend in 2020, and the Mexican coke distributor was busy planning a party for some of his “clients” — a few rappers, some pro basketball players — and he was all out of blow. It was embarrassing to admit, but the pandemic had slowed production in Colombia and the cartel was having trouble with their supply lines into the U.S. The money launderer, however, had his back — he knew a guy he could ask.
Later in their conversation, the cartel associate asked Hernandez for a second favor — he was interested in the dirty Miami cops the money launderer kept on his payroll. Would Hernandez loan them out for protection on a load of coke the cartel associate was about to move? The two settled on a price for the cops, but Hernandez also wanted a cut for loaning them out. He reminded the cartel associate that, in America, dirty cops were worth extra since they came armed and can “kill and get away with anything.”
As news headlines prove, that’s often true enough. But eventually, some do get caught. As was the case for these two cops — Officers Roderick Flowers, 30, and Keith Edwards, 32, both of whom were detectives in the Miami-Dade Police Department. The cause of their downfall was pretty simple: The cartel associate was actually a confidential source for the DEA, and this pre-Labor Day meeting took place at the tail end of an elaborate six-month sting operation.
Flowers and Edwards fancied themselves supercops, just like the characters Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnett, played by Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, respectively, in the 1995 buddy cop movie Bad Boys, set in Miami. In 2019, Flowers and Edwards even dressed up for Halloween as their cinematic dopplegangers. Flowers posted a photo of them in their costumes on Facebook captioned, “We ride together. We die together. Bad Boys 4 Life.” Meanwhile, you could find Flowers on Instagram with the handle “Detective Mike Lowery.”
On paper, Flowers, whose father was a police chief, and Edwards, who had served in the military, didn’t look like the sort who would become drug mules for the Sinaloa cartel. But they were also “Bad Boys 4 Life,” and apparently the lure of role-play overpowered their duty to serve and protect.
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The DEA sting began in May 2020. According to the criminal complaint, “A DEA Confidential Source (the ‘CS’), posing as a member of the Sinaloa cartel, began to meet with a Miami-area money launderer named Manny Carlos Hernandez, aka ‘Manny.’ The CS presented himself as both a cocaine trafficker and a money launderer.”
When the DEA Confidential Source was first getting to know Hernandez, the lawyer bragged about his cash-cleaning operation and how he used the overheated real estate market to launder cartel millions. As the criminal complaint states, Hernandez confided that his father “uses drug proceeds to purchase and flip residential houses in the Los Angeles area. Once the houses are flipped, Hernandez is wired the money.” With so much money in the L.A. real estate market, who could possibly tell which millions were legitimate and which were cartel dollars?
In June, the DEA source returned to meet with Hernandez about laundering some serious coin. For this second meeting, the DEA source brought along an undercover DEA agent. Pretending to be the cartel associate’s underling, the agent set a yellow Louis Vuitton bag on Hernandez’s desk. Hernandez reached into the purse and pulled out a black Chanel shoebox filled with $100,000 in cash. They agreed on a price for the cleaned money and made plans to do business.
At the end of July, the DEA source visited Hernandez’s office again to discuss their next round of cash-washing. While they talked shop, a new business offer came up. Hernandez knew a South Florida strip club owner involved in Russian organized crime who also wanted to wash dirty money and might be looking for a cocaine supplier. Hernandez offered to introduce them.
The Russians, though, turned out to be a bum deal. When Hernandez met with the DEA source two weeks later, he told him the bad news: The Russian strip club owners were government snitches. Then Hernandez dropped a pearl in what had looked to be a pile of shit — he bragged that he got the info from a Miami cop he kept on his payroll. This piqued the cartel associate’s interest, so he asked for a favor. Could Hernandez’s law enforcement contacts run a plate for him? He wanted info on someone who owed him money. Hernandez sent the info to his dirty cop, and 10 minutes later, he received a screenshot of a police computer monitor with the info requested. The cartel associate was duly impressed.
Shortly thereafter, he asked Hernandez to meet the dirty cop. In particular, he wanted to know if the cop could work protection for his next big coke run. It would be a $5 million haul, and stakes were especially high considering how tight the cocaine market was since the start of the pandemic. Bragging about how deep the cop was in his pocket, Hernandez told the DEA source, “he could have the cop ready for anything, as he wanted to make money.”
On September 9th, Flowers first met with Hernandez in his private upstairs office, along with the DEA source and the undercover DEA agent. As he eyed the officer suspiciously, the DEA source asked if he was really a cop. Flowers responded, “Yeah, I don’t look like one, right?” Satisfied, the DEA source strategized with Flowers about how they could run a $5 million shipment of cocaine, for which they already had a code name: “White Girls.”
Along the way, Flowers told his new partners that he had the perfect cop to bring in as a second escort — his cousin. He bragged about his aim at 25 yards and his SWAT training. Then, he claimed that if anything went wrong during transport, Flowers could pull his badge to get them out of trouble. The DEA source signalled to the undercover DEA agent to pay Flowers five grand.
Five days later, Flowers, now with Edwards, paid yet another visit to Hernandez’s private office. When the DEA source arrived to meet them, his first question was to ask if Edwards was a cop. “Yes,” he replied. The DEA source told Edwards what the job would be and gave both he and Flowers a tutorial on “how shipments of cocaine get intercepted by the authorities, and the impact those interceptions have on price.”
Edwards replied, in knowing agreement, “supply and demand.” He added to his limited insight into market dynamics with a casual confession: “My people used to move product.” Once again, the deal was sealed with five grand — this time for Edwards.
Then, in what seems like dialogue from a movie, Edwards told Hernandez and the DEA source and undercover agent that he “protects people, and that he knows what he’s capable of when it comes to protecting people.” He also informed them that there was one other thing they should know about him: He wouldn’t actually touch any of the coke because he was a “cop’s cop.”
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The cocaine distributors picked a Wednesday to move their product. The plan was to meet in a parking lot in Homestead, Florida. Flowers showed up driving a black Chrysler 300 and Edwards drove a white Honda. From there, the convoy drove over to a hotel. A third undercover DEA agent, posing as a distributor with a rolling travel suitcase containing 10 kilos of fake cocaine, was waiting for them in the lobby.
The DEA source asked if all “10 white girls” were in the suitcase, which the newest undercover agent confirmed. The DEA source stood up, took the handle of the suitcase and rolled it out of the hotel. Edwards followed, watching their six.
The convoy now took off for a hotel in Aventura, Florida — Flowers in the lead, the undercover vehicle following behind him and Edwards’ Honda bringing up the rear. Once there, the DEA source and Edwards went into the lobby, where they met yet another undercover DEA agent. The DEA source sat down at the table with the undercover agent and directed Edwards to sit with them “so that it didn’t look awkward.”
Sticking to the code, the DEA source informed the latest undercover DEA agent, posing as the buyer, that there were “10 white girls” in the suitcase and asked when they could expect payment. The undercover agent laughed and said, “Next year.” But then he became serious: “Next week, maybe Monday.”
Their business done, the DEA source got up and walked out. As the criminal collaborators walked back to their respective cars, the DEA source shouted to Flowers and Edwards, “Welcome to the Sinaloa cartel!” The cops laughed, then got in their cars and drove off.
But they didn’t get to enjoy their time in a pretend cartel for long. By November, Hernandez was arrested and charged with drug trafficking and money laundering. His dirty cops quickly went down with him. Flowers and Edwards were tried, convicted and sentenced to a year in federal prison for distribution of drugs.
Or as they might say, “We ride together. We die together. Bad Boys 4 Life.”