With no job to pay for Anthony's chemotherapy, Andrew turned back to crime. When cops pulled him over January 25, 2001, for a routine traffic stop, they found a silver 9mm pistol under his back seat. He was sentenced to three years.

Andrew saw his son only once more. On February 6, 2002, a judge granted him a furlough to visit Anthony, then 3 years old. His cancer had returned. As an armed guard waited outside the Miami Children's Hospital room, Andrew signed papers to take Anthony off life support. Then he sat with the comatose child until his two hours of furlough were up. Anthony died later that day.

When Andrew was released in 2004, the first thing he did was ask Ladonna for forgiveness. His mother had died from bone cancer while he was in prison. Ladonna had moved on. But the repeat felon promised to stay out of jail to help raise their surviving son, A.J.

Antonio Andrew celebrates his son A.J.'s first birthday in 1995.
Courtesy of Ladonna Florence
Antonio Andrew celebrates his son A.J.'s first birthday in 1995.
The Redland house where Miami-Dade police ambushed the robbers.
Michael E. Miller
The Redland house where Miami-Dade police ambushed the robbers.

For seven years, he kept his word. He found work as a nightclub bouncer; then he started his own business — a lawn-care service called the Rite Choice. He even began to take care of A.J., driving him to the mall to buy school clothes and teaching him to play basketball.

"For Andrew, seven years without going to jail was a miracle," Ladonna says. "I thought he had turned his life around."


It's still not clear how or when Andrew hooked up with the gang he was with the night he died. What is certain is that the group's ringleader was a violent criminal headed for disaster. Records show that Roger Gonzalez Sr. was an intelligent but ruthless man who masterminded scores of violent home invasions, sometimes targeting drug dealers or crooks — but also robbing innocent families. He threatened rape or murder and even outright tortured victims to force them to reveal the locations of jewelry or safes. And he was training his son to do the same.

Records also reveal another reason police decided to set an elaborate trap for Gonzalez in the Redland: Not only had he been busted in a similar raid years before — leaving him well acquainted with police techniques — but he had also been let out of jail early after working as a confidential informant.

Gonzalez's increasingly violent escapades began 15 years ago in Little Havana. On January 17, 1997, Jessica Rivera answered her front door. A smiling man held out a bouquet of flowers. When she let him inside, however, he thrust a gun in her face. Several more gunmen walked in and threatened to kill her if she didn't open her father's safe. When she couldn't give them the combination, they vanished.

Soon, Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials started to notice a pattern of similar violent home invasions. The same group struck again in March, July, and several times in August. A few weeks later, they used flex cuffs to restrain a woman and threatened to rape her and her daughter. They stole $30,000 worth of her jewelry, according to a police report.

Police quickly determined that Gonzalez — a balding, short, sallow-skinned Cuban immigrant — was the gang's leader. They tapped his phones and started surveillance. Then, in October 1997, they convinced an ex-con named Jesus Marrero to infiltrate the crew. Marrero told the ringleader that he knew of a warehouse where drug traffickers stored 100 kilos of cocaine. Gonzalez cannily evaded the sting — thanks to a spy sent up to the warehouse roof who spotted the SWAT team inside — but he was arrested the next week in Collier County.

In jail, the crook began cooperating with prosecutors and police. Facing more than 20 counts of kidnapping, armed robbery, racketeering, and attempted cocaine trafficking, he signed a deal sentencing him to 14 years and a chance to leave early if he helped the cops.

In 2006, that's just what he did, spending six months helping Miami-Dade detectives with a murder case. He continued working with cops for the next three years on various other cases, cutting nearly five months off his sentence in return.

Miami-Dade will not confirm whether Gonzalez worked as an informant. But it's clear from court records that when Gonzalez walked out of prison August 4, 2010, he had cops and prosecutors to thank for his early release.

He didn't waste much time. On August 30, a Miami woman named Onelia Machado was baby-sitting her infant nephew when an alarm beeped. She left the bedroom to find two men with bandannas over their faces and handguns drawn. They shoved her and shouted in Spanish: "Stay face down on the bed and don't move, or we'll kill you!"

Just as in 1997, the home invasions kept coming. On January 16, 2011, Gonzalez's son, Roger Jr., was released from prison for his own series of robberies. Now working as a team, they targeted drug dealers and criminals, police say, but also tied up innocent families. During one smash-and-grab, the thieves cut their victim's boxer shorts and then slashed his scrotum before stealing his Mercedes SUV. A few weeks later, one of them tried to cut off a victim's finger.

Cops soon caught a break. Rosendo Betancourt had recently finished a three-year sentence for cocaine trafficking. The wiry Cuban had past convictions for stealing cars and threatening witnesses. He also had connections to Roger Gonzalez Sr. Betancourt secretly approached Miami-Dade police and told them the Gonzalezes were responsible for the vicious break-ins, court records show. Cops began wiretapping the father and son's phones and planning how to bust the gang.

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2 comments
anhonestcitizen
anhonestcitizen

Armed Felones in the process of commiting yet ANOTHER series of Violent Crimes. Shot Dead before they could do so. It doesn't get any better than that....

Sendmovers
Sendmovers

New Times has no business reporting the news to the general public. This company stays in business by selling and promoting ads for prostitutes in the back of their paper (see it for yourself). If you enjoy sticking up for drug dealers and sex traffic operations then this is a good newspaper to read. Just tell me where to get cheap dinners and beers like you specialize in and let the real newspapers handle the "Crime" stories. Thanks,  P.S. I'm reading this article and it says it's published on Thursday, May 24th 2012 but Today is only TUESDAY MAY 22nd 2012. 

 
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