Drug War

Small Town, Big Deal

Caracas connection


Bal Harbour, a village just north of Miami Beach, has a population of just 2,600—and a police department that took it upon itself to investigate the international drug trade. Between 2010 and 2012, a police task force there conducted a money laundering sting operation, eventually moving more than $50 million and sending much of it overseas while making no arrests.

Last year, a Miami Herald investigation revealed that Bal Harbour cops had sent more than $4 million to accounts in Venezuela, including one associated with William Amaro Sanchez, an aide to Nicolas Maduro, the foreign minister at the time. Maduro is now president of Venezuela. The department never informed the federal government, as required, about its international operations.

The Herald previously reported that Bal Harbour police also sent $4.1 million to Panama and $1.6 million to China.

A 2012 investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) found rampant abuse of asset forfeiture funds in the same department. In October, the DOJ launched a new investigation into the village's latest money laundering sting, with the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago and the Internal Revenue Service seizing hundreds of files.