MIAMI, Fla. — Life doesn’t have a delete button, U.S. District Judge Robert Scola told a former Miami-Dade County police detective as he sentenced the man to three years in prison for aiding and abetting a drug family’s distribution racket.
Roderick Silva, a highly valuable asset for the now-imprisoned Santiesteban family, pleaded guilty in April to protecting the violent pot organization, making him the 21st and possibly last defendant to be convicted in the long-running Miami federal case.
In a court apology, Silva said he is ashamed of the man he was and regrets the actions that put his wife and two children “through six years of heartache, stress and financial ruin.” Twenty friends and family members came to support the 46-year-old former officer at the sentencing.
Silva, who joined the Miami-Dade force in 2003, faced between three and four years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines. Scola sentenced Silva to the minimum 37 months, denying the defense’s request for less jail time.
“We expect better from law enforcement officers,” Scala said, noting that although he accepted Silva’s statement of remorse, the crime was not a single indiscretion but a repetitive one. Silva was also charged with extortion for accepting $1,500 to keep quiet about the drug business, though the charge was dropped by prosecutors as part of a plea agreement between lead prosecutor Pat Sullivan and defense attorney Nathan Diamond.
The plea revolves around Silva’s role in helping the notorious Miami-based organization distribute between 100 and 400 kilos of powerful hydroponically grown marijuana in the Northeast. Silva admitted that he tipped off ringleader Derrick Santiesteban about upcoming Miami-Dade police raids in exchange for hefty payments. Silva, a former narcotics detective, came to know him through his younger brother, David, at coke-snorting parties, according to prosecutors.
“Silva gave Derrick handwritten lists of suspected grow houses, so he could determine if any of [his] were under suspicion or about to be raided,” according to court records. “Derrick would pay [Silva] $1,000 for these lists.”
He also gave the clan tips on how to avoid police and even passed along misinformation to his fellow detectives about the Santiesteban family’s large-scale operation, according to a factual statement filed with the plea agreement.
And, he revealed the locations of rival marijuana grow houses, information the Santiestebans used in home-invasion robberies.
The family members — headed by patriarch Gilberto Sr. and joined by sons Derrick, Gilberto Jr., Alexander and Darvis — were charged along with 16 others over the past three years.
Also among those charged: Silva’s younger brother, David, who was one of the key members.
All of the defendants have been convicted and are serving long prison sentences, including Derrick Santiesteban, who received a life sentence.
Investigators say the Santiesteban clan operated 20 indoor hydroponic marijuana grow houses, yielding at least 1,146 potent pot plants that produced millions of dollars in profits from a distribution network in the Northeast.
Miami-Dade police and FBI agents took down the outfit in 2012 after they began investigating the gang’s murder of a rival doper, Fidel Ruz Moreno.
The group was accused of fatally shooting Ruz in June 2009 after he and others had posed as cops and ripped off about 50 pounds of marijuana from Derrick Santiesteban. He and his wife were packaging the load at their Southwest Miami-Dade home to transport to New York.
Silva, the one-time narcotics detective, reported the murder to Miami-Dade investigators a full day after Ruz’s body was found dead on the street in the Hammocks area — though prosecutors later acknowledged he was not aware of the Santiesteban’s retaliatory plot to kidnap Ruz, which led to his death.
Prosecutors said that after the marijuana robbery at his home, Derrick Santiesteban showed Silva a video-surveillance tape. The police officer proposed that Ruz be arrested. But Santiesteban didn’t like the idea, saying “that he’d pursue it on his own,” according to court records.
Ruz’s kipnapping and murder came up at Silva’s sentencing on Tuesday. Both sides agreed that the former cop, who was relieved of duty last year after being assigned to desk work, should receive a slight break in his punishment because he was not involved in the family’s plot.
The defense requested Silva be placed in a local prison so he could be closer to family.