USA: Former Miami police officer sentenced for helping drug ring smuggle narcotics and firearms through multiple airports.

A former Miami police lieutenant who authorities said used his position to help drug smugglers elude security at major airports was sentenced to 10 years in prison Wednesday by a judge who called his actions "truly reprehensible." Ralph Mata, a Broward County resident and 22-year veteran of the Miami-Dade police department and a lieutenant for 11 years, stood stoically as the sentence was read. His wife sat in the gallery with her eyes closed and her chin resting on her hand. The two embraced afterward. During a statement to the court, Mata apologized and said he had "tarnished the badge." He called his crimes the "inexcusable, irrational actions of a foolish man" that dishonored his family, his job and the community he once served.

"I realized I didn't have the courage to deal with my weaknesses" that included a drinking problem, he said.

U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton was unmoved by Mata's apology or by his attorneys' noting that he has cooperated with authorities since his arrest last year and made numerous secret audio and video recordings that could lead to further prosecutions. According to Wigenton, the evidence showed Mata wasn't a dupe forced into helping the drug ring, but instead was an active participant who "stopped at nothing" to offer his assistance. That included traveling between Florida, New York and the Dominican Republic, and setting up bank accounts to receive drug proceeds. Prosecutors alleged Mata, who was nicknamed "The Milk Man," helped members of the New Jersey-based organization move hundreds of thousands of dollars in illicit profits. He also allegedly used his airport contacts to smuggle weapons concealed in luggage to the dealers and even suggested how they might carry out a potential hit on a rival gang.

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Source: Sun Sentinel.

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