Broward News

Broward Sheriff Candidate Jim Fondo Was Once Involved in Bizarre 1980s Cocaine Incident With Cops TV Show

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel has ushered in a reluctant era of change at the sheriff's office — when cops break the law, Israel has said there will be "no thin blue line" to shelter them. He's pushed body cameras onto a department that clearly didn't want them.

Five candidates are vying to unseat Israel in elections this fall, including former BSO corrections officer Donald Jones, former Plantation firefighter Brian Keith Roesch, former Fort Lauderdale Police Officer Willie Jones, and Edison Jules, who has some law enforcement experience in Ohio. There's also Jim Fondo, a former BSO captain, who declared his candidacy April 7. 

Fondo was a member of former Sheriff Al Lamberti's old guard. He left the department in 2012, after Israel cleaned house and told him to either retire or lose his job. (According to Local 10 News reporter and New Times alum Bob Norman, Fondo was given a $142,956 payout for leaving.)

According to an old Sun Sentinel clip we dug up, Fondo was also involved in a bizarre incident with the TV show Cops in 1990 that led to an Internal Affairs perjury investigation.

Per that story, Fondo had arrested four men for cocaine possession in 1989.

Fondo testified that he saw four men huddled around a bench at Modello Park in Dania Beach. He watched them cutting up cocaine and saw one of the men drop a plastic bag near the bench, he said. He picked it up and arrested the men. 

As he made the arrest, Fondo was being tailed by cameramen from the TV show Cops, which was then filming its first season in Broward County. At one point, the camera crew filmed Fondo dropping a bag of cocaine. This clip was then used as evidence in the trial — a suggestion that Fondo had planted the evidence. Charges against three of the four men were ultimately dropped. 

When Internal Affairs investigated on a charge of perjury, Fondo testified that he only dropped the baggie because a cameraman had asked him to "re-create" having found the baggie on the ground.  In a letter, the cameraman, Bertram Van Munster (who later went on to produce The Amazing Race), supported this account, though a producer, John Langley, said Cops never did reenactments. 

Ultimately, Internal Affairs did not sustain Fondo's perjury charge.

"It is this officer's finding that there is no evidence present to lead one to believe that Dep. James Fondo planted or tampered with any evidence in the arrests of [the four men]," then-Capt. Ralph Hernandez wrote.

Reached for comment, Fondo referred New Times to the fact that the charges were unsustained. 

Later in 1989, it seems Fondo was also involved in a separate false-arrest case. According to a different Sun Sentinel story, Fondo signed an affidavit claiming that a man named Robert Earl Miller "had purchased crack cocaine from an undercover officer in a reverse sting operation." 

As it turns out, Miller was actually riding a Greyhound bus at the time. He even had a copy of his ticket to prove it. After spending 80 days in jail, Miller was released and sued the department. The case was settled out of court, and the department paid Miller $35,000.

"These guys just flat-out arrested the wrong guy," Miller's lawyer, Wayne Koppel, told the Sun Sentinel in 1990.

Fondo will face off against Israel in a Democratic primary on August 30. The winner will then face any remaining candidates in November.
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Jerry Iannelli is a staff writer for Miami New Times. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. He moved to South Florida in 2015.
Contact: Jerry Iannelli