It began in a trailer in the shadows of one of Florida's most elegant malls, a brazen plan by two small police agencies to take on the hemisphere's most dangerous drug cartels. Forming their own task force, members of the Bal Harbour police and Glades County Sheriff's Office struck deals with criminal organizations across the country in what grew into the largest state undercover money-laundering investigation in years.
Posing as launderers, the task force took in $55.6 million from the criminal groups, keeping thousands each week for themselves for laundering the money. They spent lavishly on first-class flights and five-star hotel stays. They bought Mac computers and submachine guns.
In the end, they made no arrests of their own, and ended up returning all the money they laundered to the criminal groups. They also withdrew $1 million in cash with no records to show where the money went – and struck millions in additional money-laundering deals that were never disclosed.