- Alex Diaz de la Portilla
- Art Acevedo
- Art Noriega
- Ball & Chain
- Bill Fuller
- Bruno Barreiro
- City of Miami
- Francis Suarez
- Frank Pichel
- impersonating a police officer
- Joe Carollo
- Jorge Moreno
- Little Haiti
- Manolo Reyes
- Martin Pinella
- Miami Code Enforcement Board
- Miami Commission
- miami dade county
- Miami mayor
- Monroe County
- Taquerias el Mexicano
Officers from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office arrested Miami mayoral candidate Frank Pichel early Friday morning on a felony charge of impersonating a police officer, corroborating claims Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo made in a controversial memo to city officials a week earlier.
He was released roughly two hours later after posting $5,000 bail.
As reported by the Miami Herald, Pichel is accused of claiming to be a Monroe deputy and showing a badge while parked in front of a Key Largo house May 30. Pichel is a licensed private investigator but not a sworn law enforcement officer.
Pichel’s arrest information shows Jorge Moreno as the Monroe officer who took Pichel into custody at 1:33 a.m.
According to an arrest warrant the Herald reviewed, Pichel in May had been sitting in his white BMW in a residential neighborhood when an off-duty Miami-Dade County police officer confronted him. Pichel flashed a gold badge and said he was a Monroe County officer. Video surveillance footage captured the exchange, including audio of Pichel saying, “Don’t worry. I’m Monroe County,” according to arrest records.
The officer ran Pichel’s license, which he later gave to Monroe deputies.
Another neighbor, also a Miami-Dade officer, told deputies he had spoken with Pichel when Pichel walked into his backyard and asked if he knew someone named “Freddie.”
By “Freddie,” Pichel may have been referring to Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who the Herald said is thought to have been in a home in the same neighborhood that day and the subject of Pichel’s surveillance.
In recent years, Pichel has been seen as an ally of former Miami Mayor and current Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo, who in a Sept. 27 Commission meeting led an eight-hour public evisceration of Police Chief Acevedo’s character. Carollo also has feuded several times with Suarez, a former Miami Commissioner.
The meeting was held shortly after Acevedo sent Suarez and Miami City Manager Art Noriega an eight-page memo alleging Carollo and fellow Commissioners Manolo Reyes and Alex Diaz de la Portilla had repeatedly tried to interfere with Miami Police Department affairs, including efforts to stop reforms and attempts to sidetrack an internal investigation into “questionable” uses of force.
The three men, he wrote, discussed confidential aspects of the investigation at public meetings, defunded MPD positions he created to help clean up the department and threatened further budget cuts unless he rehired officers he had let go for misconduct and acted as Carollo’s “personal enforcer against anyone he perceived as offensive.”
Carollo, he wrote, “has complained on numerous occasions to me and the City Manager about alleged corruption in the City Code Enforcement Department,” adding that a subsequent MPD investigation “did not uncover any evidence of corruption.”
Acevedo added that “Carollo and Diaz de la Portilla provided the MPD with a target list of establishments which they claim are engaged in criminal activity and have pointed the finger at establishments in each other’s districts, causing MPD to investigate business establishments based on nothing more than (their) whims…”
That led to “wasted untold hours investigating business establishments because of the improper political influence of, and intimidation by, these two commissioners,” Acevedo wrote.
In “a related development,” Acevedo said he had gotten word a Monroe judge had signed a felony warrant for the arrest of Pichel, whom he described as someone who “works or has worked as a Private Investigator gathering ‘dirt’ for Commissioner Carollo and other elected officials.”
Pichel was suspended from the MPD in 2000 after being accused of telling a public service aide to falsify a police report to cover for a fellow officer who battered a handcuffed prisoner who died a week later in a jail cell. He was never charged.
Eight years later, while working as a sergeant-at-arms at City Hall, he was accused of selling steroids and the erectile dysfunction drug, Cialis. As part of his plea deal, Pichel relinquished his police certification.
In 2018, while on the Miami Code Enforcement Board, Pichel was photographed and recorded on video with Carollo outside Ball & Chain, a popular nightclub, bar and restaurant in the city’s Little Havana neighborhood. Carollo had targeted the nightclub and its owners for years over code violations.
On Oct. 22, 2020, the city revoked the business’ certificate of occupancy, shutting it down. Its owner, Bill Fuller, and his business partner Martin Pinella, sued Carollo in federal court for what they alleged were actions on Carollo’s behalf in retaliation for their support of Carollo’s political opponent in 2017.
This year, the two men poured thousands of dollars into the now-canceled campaign of former Miami-Dade Commissioner and U.S. House candidate Bruno Barreiro, who filed to run for Carollo’s District 3 seat in June. Barreiro pulled out of the race six weeks later.
On Thursday, four affiliates of Mad Room Hospitality, a company Fuller leads, filed suit against the city for $27.9 million in damages for the closing of Ball & Chain and restaurant Taquerias el Mexicano, which the city shut down in August.
In addition to complaints city leaders “deliberately crafted” ordinances targeting Ball & Chain and ordered raids on the businesses at peak operating hours “with the sole purpose of causing substantial business disruption and monetary harm,” the 66-page lawsuit alleges Miami police, code enforcement officers and federal inspectors routinely conducted unwarranted and unlawful inspections of Taquerias since January 2018.
“The City has a shockingly different set of rules and standards for Plaintiffs,” the lawsuit said, “which have not been applied to other businesses in Miami and in Little Havana, in particular.”