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Miami police officer guilty of planting drugs, stealing from dealers

A Miami police sergeant who authorities say planted cocaine on a suspect and stole drugs and money from dealers has been convicted of civil rights violations, narcotics distribution conspiracy and obstruction of justice, the United States Attorney's Office said Friday.

Raul Iglesias, 40, who was with the Miami Police Department for 18 years, was found guilty by a jury after a two-week trial before U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga, the Attorney's Office said.

"A law enforcement badge brings with it privileges and responsibilities," U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said in a statement. "Although it bestows on the bearer the trust and respect of the community, the bearer is expected to preserve that trust through his actions: by following the law, doing what is right, and seeking to do justice."

Ferrer said that Iglesias "did just the opposite: he broke the law by planting drugs on a private citizen, distributing drugs, obstructing justice, and making false statements."

Iglesias ran the Central District's Crime Suppression unit, which targeted drug traffickers. Rick Diaz, the attorney who represented Iglesias, had defended his client, accusing undercover detectives and FBI agents of setting up Iglesias by planting incriminating evidence on him in a sting.

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An indictment cited at least four dates when Iglesias allegedly stole or planted drugs, or lied to investigators. One date was Jan. 27, 2010, when Iglesias allegedly ordered two of his officers to search a man, and when no drugs were found, Iglesias allegedly asked his officers for some "throw-down dope" to plant on the man.

Iglesias was convicted of eight counts, including two civil rights violations, conspiracy to possess and possession with the intent to distribute cocaine and crack cocaine, obstruction of justice and making false official statements, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Iglesias' sentencing is scheduled for March 28. He faces a maximum of up to 20 years in prison.