Transcript for Florida City Cops' Controversial Cocaine Stings
What if cops could legally make money from drug deals? And what if they were the ones doing the selling? It is actually happening in one florida city where drug sting operations often cooked up at family friendly restaurants are raising millions in revenue and serious questions about crime fighting. Here is abc's matt gutman. Reporter: You are watching video of a kilo of coke being sold for about $23,000. Where are the cops? They're in on it. The guy on the right in the video is a police detective playing part of a cocaine dealer. The man on the left is the buyer. And the two with their backs to the camera are the paid informants. This is called a reverse sting. The cops aren't buying the drugs, they're selling them. It is a controversial tactic in which cops lure in potential buyers who drive or fly in from all over the country with wads of cash. In most cases the cops keep the cash and the buyer's cars and pump millions into local coffers. According to the buyer, the business ran like clockwork. Did you ever suspect him of being undercover? No. Not at all. I honestly thought he was a real deal he was doing, you know? Reporter: This isn't a seedy part of the sunshine state, the retirement central. Sunrise, florida, home to a giant shopping center, coral colored homes and lots of drug busts. Here you go. Reporter: A nurse by profession, father of two from homestead, florida, who on this day carried a satchel stuffed with $23,000 in cash. He said he had been convinced to go by a friend. Reporter: Did you thin tubing yourself at any point how did i get myself involved in a drug deal? Yeah. Yes, I did. I mean -- afterward. But I mean it was, it wasn't easy for him, for the informant to convince me. But he managed to do it. Reporter: Risky business and in sleepy sunrise, these stings have become big business. He says he was there because a man owed him money for five years and told him this was the only way he would ever get paid back. Reporter: You are no walt white from breaking bad. Exactly. Reporter: He walked into a trap. The female paid informant, aggressively draws him into the action. To keep the money. They have to make it look like i am buying the drugs. There you go. She. Reporter: She is digging into your bag, taking the money out. She is not taking no for an answer. They don't care if I've am a drug dealer or not. They just want the money. Reporter: The woman physically puts the drugs into his bag, to establish possession. He is second away from facing a possible mandatory 15-year prison sentence for trafficking narcotics. Well, as soon as the cops came in. They busted us. Okay? That's when I realized they set me up. If I am the financial manager of the city of sunrise, every morning I would walk into the police department and applaud them. Reporter: The scale that seems almost industrial, defended him in court. This is a huge business. Multimillion dollar business going on for years. It has been a daily event in the city of sunrise. Reporter: The lucrative sting operations first came to light in an investigative report in sun sentinel newspaper. N't police the police aren't finding the drug dealers on their own, you would think that might be happening. They rely on paid, unpaid informants for people looking for cocaine. It be came obvious to us, that the reason they're doing this is because of money. Reporter: Big, big money. Over the past two years the department netted over $5.8 million. The money was used for new equipment and a lot of overtime for cops involved. Some even doubling their sal rechlt sal -- salary. The permit allows nonmonetary assets to be seized from suspects. They take their cars, jewelry, one fellow told us the police said I like the sunglasses you are wearing. And snatched them. Reporter: It is not only the police officers who are raking it in. An unknown woman, sunrise records show made a total of $800,000 over five years as an informer. The town's mayor defended the practice and the cops. Denying it is about money. We are effective. We are getting the people off the street. Reporter: Nothing to do with the money? It has everything to do with fighting crime. I will tell you this it is a tool that fights crime. The suggestion that somehow getting the money out of a drug deal is a bad thing is wrong. We know that one way that you tackle the drug organization is to find out how they're supplying the money and how they're getting part of it. This is one way. Reporter: Ultimate low he got his $23,000 back. And the prosecutor gave him a plea deal on solicitation to purchase cocaine charge. Bah the informant may have gone too far. These people only get paid if the deal goes down. Gus isn't the one that pulled off his backpack and opened it up. The informant did. She takes his backpack off. Unzips it. She is reaching in for the money. Gus isn't the one who -- took the cocaine. Sunny took a kilo of cocaine. Stuffed it in his backpack. Here is the backpack. Go get arrested. How did you feel when you realized they did this to a lot of people? Well you feel like it's very unfair. I mean why should you go to jail if you are not a criminal? Why do they have to make up cases? You know? I mean only criminals are supposed to go to jail. Reporter: Mayor wright says with reporters breathing down their necks revealing informants identities, the reverse stings have stopped. The department will go back to fighting crime inside sunrise. For "nightline," matt gutman, sunrise, florida.
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