MIAMI – A federal criminal complaint was filed today charging City of Miami Police Department (MPD) Officer Frenel Cenat, 40, of Boynton Beach, Florida, with Hobbs Act extortion and attempted extortion under color of official right, theft of government funds, and attempted possession with intent to distribute cocaine.
According to the criminal complaint, Cenat, in conjunction with an individual he believed to be involved in drug trafficking, agreed to use his MPD issued unmarked vehicle and police position to conduct a traffic stop on a driver who was represented to be carrying a large amount of drug proceeds. After making these arrangements, Cenat carried out this traffic stop on the evening of November 3, 2023, using his lights and siren to pull over the vehicle driven by an undercover agent posing as a drug trafficker who had a backpack containing what were represented to be drug proceeds. As the complaint details, Cenat identified himself as “Officer Martez” of the “Miami PD – Dade County Narcotics Unit,” told the driver that he had been investigating him, and then gave the driver the option of giving Cenat the backpack filled with $52,000 in $100 bills or going to jail. Cenat then took the bag of money, let the driver leave, and met up with the individual who told him about the deal, giving him $13,000 and keeping the other $39,000.
Cenat followed this up by conducting another traffic stop theft in conjunction with that individual. As the complaint explained, Cenat asked the individual if he had anyone who they could stop and steal drugs and money from. This led to Cenat once again using his MPD unmarked vehicle and police lights to stop a different undercover agent who he had been told would be transporting both money and 7 “bricks,” a street term for kilograms of cocaine. This traffic stop took place late in the evening of November 16, 2023, in the area of Deerfield Beach in Broward County. During the stop, Cenat introduced himself as “Officer Martez of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office – Narcotics Unit.” Once again, Cenat pretended to have been investigating the driver and gave him the choice of giving up the drugs and money or going to federal prison. Cenat then took the duffle bag containing $80,000 in $100 bills and 7 kilograms of fake cocaine and allowed the driver to leave. When Cenat arrived at the location arranged for the split of the proceeds, he was arrested, and the 7 kilogram-shaped packages and a large quantity of $100 bills were found in his official MPD vehicle.
A pre-trial detention hearing has been scheduled in this matter for Nov. 28 at 9:00 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Panayotta Augustin-Birch in Fort Lauderdale. A preliminary hearing, arraignment and report rate counsel hearing is scheduled for Dec. 1 at 11:00 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Augustin-Birch.
U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey B. Veltri of FBI, Miami Field Office, Chief of Police Manuel A. Morales of the City of Miami Police Department (MPD), and Special Agent in Charge Deanne L. Reuter of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division, announced the charges.
The FBI Miami Palm Beach Resident Agency, DEA Miami Division, along with the Miami Area Corruption task force which includes officers from the City of Miami Police Department’s Internal Affairs Section investigated the case. U.S. Attorney Lapointe thanked the City of Miami Police Department for their invaluable assistance with this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward N. Stamm is prosecuting the case.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners are committed to rooting out corrupt officials,” stated U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida. “We will continue to investigate and prosecute corrupt officials, to include law enforcement officers, that breach the public’s trust by carrying out criminal acts. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is grateful for the invaluable assistance provided by FBI, DEA, and City of Miami Police Department in this matter.”
“I want to thank the City of Miami Police Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida for their close partnership and diligence throughout this investigation,” said Jeffrey B. Veltri, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Miami Field Office. “The FBI is committed to bring to justice government officials, including police officers, who choose to abuse their positions of trust and authority for personal profit. Public corruption is our top priority among criminal investigations.”
“The DEA Miami Field Division stands ready to assist our federal and state law enforcement partners with the investigation and prosecution of any and all serious drug-related crimes,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Deanne L. Reuter. “The DEA is committed to holding those accountable who violate the public’s trust.”
“The Miami police department is always pleased to work with our local and federal partners,” said Chief of Police Manuel A. Morales of the MPD.
A criminal complaint contains mere allegations, and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or at http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov, under case number 23-mj-6566.
A copy of the criminal complaint is attached here: