Maria Cabrera Gonzalez is no cop. But her girlfriend is.
Prosecutors say Cabrera — without authorization and posing as a plainclothes detective — was riding along with that girlfriend, Miami Police Officer Sheila Belfort, when the two pulled over a motorist in June 2014. But the misconduct didn’t stop there.
After the motorist was jailed, detectives say, Cabrera shook down his family for $2,400, promising the cash would free him from jail and help with “immigration concerns.”
The motorist later complained to Miami police’s internal affairs. On Friday, prosecutors formally charged Cabrera, 50, with impersonating a police officer and grand theft. She is expected to plead guilty later Friday.
Belfort has not been charged. She remains under investigation for her role in the episode, according to a police spokesman. She is not on duty after being involved in an unrelated car accident several weeks ago.
The family of motorist, Moises Escoto, who has since been deported to Honduras, is now planning a possible lawsuit against Belfort and the police department. His lawyer said Belfort pushed to get Escoto deported, even though his arrest was for a misdemeanor charge of driving with a suspended license.
“Clearly, Sheila Belfort should continued to be investigated,” said lawyer John de Leon. “She showed a complete abuse of power against a defenseless immigrant.”
Cabrera is expected to plead guilty later Friday and will accept two years of house arrest, four years of probation and restitution.
Her lawyer, Orlando Rodriguez, said Cabrera – who is unable to post bond – is accepting the deal to avoid sitting in jail. “We’re happy with the resolution in this case,” he said.
According to an arrest warrant, Moises Escoto pulled over in Little Havana for driving without a license. Belfort was in uniform, while Cabrera sported a badge hanging around her neck. The two rode in a marked patrol car.
As Escoto was being arrested, she repeatedly identified herself as “Officer Rosa.”
Not long after the arrest, Cabrera called Escoto’s mother, Emma Rojas, on her cell phone. The sham cop initially asked for the cash to “assist” with being released from jail and staving off possible deportation, the warrant said.
Cabrera ordered the family to meet her at a nearby restaurant to exchange the money, which they scrounged up and paid. The money did not go to bonding him out of jail. Escoto’s girlfriend wound up putting up the bail money.
Investigators from the FBI and Miami’s internal affairs unit corroborated the story through surveillance footage and cell phone records.
When confronted, Belfort admitted she allowed her live-in girlfriend, who has never been a city employee, to ride along in her patrol unit “to assist her with translations,” the warrant said.
But the cop insisted she did not know of the shake-down of Escoto’s family. She also said Cabrera had a “bad gambling problem.”