Love Behind Bars

When Albert Tacher met Dina Mora, he knew it was love. The problem? She was a prisoner, and he was a Broward Sheriff's Office deputy.

• Another male deputy was cleared of wrongdoing after a female inmate accused him of alternately touching her inappropriately and roughing her up after he discovered that she was having a lesbian affair in the jail. He vehemently denied the allegations, and no action was taken by BSO.

Tacher had heard dozens of similar stories before he ever laid eyes on Mora. He knew to guard himself against such relationships. All kinds of administrative charges could result, from associating improperly with criminals, to conduct unbecoming an employee, to distraction from duty, all the way to engaging in sexual activity (which could land a deputy behind bars for up to five years).

Tacher knew these things, and in the end he was accused of all of them. But by that time the importance of his beloved job was paling in comparison to the relationship he'd found in Housing Unit Number Four.

The thing she did for love: Judge Susan Lebow allowed the couple to be married following a hearing in her court
The thing she did for love: Judge Susan Lebow allowed the couple to be married following a hearing in her court
After working 15 years at the North Broward Jail, Tacher was threatened with arrest if he so much as set foot there
After working 15 years at the North Broward Jail, Tacher was threatened with arrest if he so much as set foot there

BSO and DEA agents watched Dina Mora's Coconut Creek house all day on March 4, 1998, waiting for the mysterious visitors to leave. The agents had been working a heroin case on Mora for two months, and they'd already made two undercover buys of 50 grams apiece from one of Mora's associates. The agents learned that, on this day, a major drug transaction was supposed to go down inside Mora's house. So they waited.

After several hours two men finally climbed into the car in which they'd arrived and drove off. Investigators pulled them over and found a pound and a half of heroin inside the car. The agents went back to Mora's house and broke down her door with a sledgehammer. In the house they found $20,000 in cash, some heroin, and Mora and her then-13-year-old son cowering in the bedroom. Mora admitted to selling the drugs and was charged with heroin trafficking.

Then Mora was dropped into Tacher's world, locked behind glass and steel.

Tacher says he doesn't really remember the first time he laid eyes on Mora. "She was there for three months before I even realized that she was there," he recalls. He thought she was pretty, with her long brown hair and striking dark eyes, but then again a lot of inmates were attractive. The only reason he got to know her, he says, is the language they share. "She heard that I spoke Spanish, so she was calling me over to help her," he recalls. "It was no big deal."

Soon they were having regular conversations. He learned about her childhood in Bogotá, where she was brought up in a well-to-do family that imported U.S. goods. As a teen Mora, who didn't get along with her stepfather, moved in with her grandmother. Without much discipline in her life, she married at the age of 16 and had a son. The marriage didn't last, and she was left to raise her son on her own. But she still managed to go to college, where she studied journalism. Then she came to the U.S. as a resident alien, listing her employment as "Importation in Colombia." Here she married an American who quickly left her.

Tacher makes no bones about Mora's criminal activity. Right now, her lawyer, Thomas Cazel, is trying to get the charges dropped on a technicality, claiming that the search of her house was illegal. But Mora has never denied that she was in the heroin trade, nor has Tacher. He says it started with her using drugs herself, mostly marijuana and cocaine. Then she started mixing heroin with her cocaine, and soon she was selling the stuff. "She did something wrong," he says. "She did a bad thing. She got caught in a web. Someone like Dina, alone in a foreign country, needing money… it all starts as a simple thing."

Just how deep into the heroin trade Mora reached remains a mystery. Mora, upon the advice of Cazel, refused to be interviewed at length for this story and has also steadfastly refused to cooperate with drug agents. So the bigger questions, like who her supplier was and if she helped bring the drugs in from Colombia have gone unanswered, at least in public court files. Such questions don't seem to bother Tacher, who is convinced that Mora made a mistake she'll never repeat.

Inside the jail Tacher says he soon found himself trying to find any excuse at all to leave his post to be with her. His vision was becoming myopic: Instead of keeping watch over all the inmates, he says, he only had eyes for Mora.

"It was a chemistry you couldn't stop," he explains. "It would have happened whether she was inside or outside, whatever. We just started talking more and more. It was an attraction that you couldn't stop."

Mora, who spoke briefly with New Times from a jailhouse telephone, describes a similar attraction, saying she quickly came to love his "character, his personality, his way to be." But she's the first to concede that the whole thing is "weird.

"I never imagined in all my life I come into jail to marry," she says in her broken English. "It's the last place you find a husband. Normally, I don't like the deputies."

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