During his eight years as a Fort Lauderdale cop, Jason Maldonado has had several episodes that could have cost him his career. It now appears Maldonado's luck is running out.
A reliable source indicates that the detective will be terminated soon, possibly today, following an Internal Affairs investigation into whether he had an improper relationship with a woman who worked for the department as a confidential informant.
But the Juice has learned that Maldonado was not fired for that relationship per se. Rather, it was for his alleged attempts to conceal the nature of the relationship from investigators. Internal Affairs ruled that Maldonado was dishonest and that he used his position as a police officer for personal gain.
Maldonado is known within the department as a tough, fearless cop, adept at dealing with thugs who sling narcotics on Fort Lauderdale streets. He served on the "Raiders" drug enforcement team.
In March 2009, Maldonado was named the department's Officer of the Month for tracking a group of four men in a black BMW who were wielding a shotgun in the city's near west side. While those men were being arrested, Maldonado noticed one of them hiding a gun and 113.7 grams of cocaine.
A Miami Herald article from the same month found that Maldonado was the highest-paid Fort Lauderdale cop, earning $193,000, including overtime pay and the city's pension contribution.
The Internal Affairs investigation detailing Maldonado's most recent case is still pending, so it is not available for public review. But Maldonado's Internal Affairs file lists a number of other cases from the past 18 months that follow a similar arc:
- A man named Shawn Dunn alleged that Maldonado gave him $100 to "get him a girl." The complaint was dismissed for lacking evidence.
- A woman named Ruth Stager made a complaint to the department alleging that Maldonado made visits to an apartment building on SE 20th Street, where he was known by the code name "Ghost." Stager alleged that Maldonado gave Perez drugs and received sex in exchange. The investigation was closed for lack of evidence after sources declined to participate. [SEE UPDATE BELOW]
- In May 2009, a woman who was a "known prostitute" told an FLPD captain that she had a sexual relationship with Maldonado. But when sergeants approached the woman for a follow-up interview, she refused to cooperate. The investigation was closed for lack of evidence.
In all of those instances, there was no evidence to support the claims, so investigators ruled they were unfounded.
Other cases in Maldonado's Internal Affairs file allege poor judgment dealing with drug traffickers.
- In March 2007, Maldonado was ordered to undergo training after he and two other Raiders broke a lock to enter a home on NW 14th Avenue they believed to be occupied by drug users. Following the homeowner's complaint, investigators ruled that the detectives made an unlawful entry.
- Also in March 2007, Maldonado arrested a man named Watson Pierre for drug possession on NW 19th Street. Pierre later told Internal Affairs that he had $1,360 in his pocket but that Maldonado stole it.
- A man who had been arrested by Maldonado and his partner in January 2007 claimed that the cops took his wallet.
Maldonado's personnel file contains a slew of commendations that show the detective helping engineer drug busts. But it's not all good news.
In December 2007, Maldonado was suspended for a day after an investigation into a police report he filed the previous April. Those investigators found that Maldonado's report was false in describing how he came into contact with sources who helped him make an arrest. Then-Chief Bruce Roberts scolded Maldonado for making "the unwise decision to enter (the sources') vehicle and allow them to drive you to the suspect's location, without conducting a thorough search of them and their vehicle."
Based on public records made available by request, Maldonado has a spotty record with operating his police car. In February 2005, while driving in the Broward County Courthouse parking garage, Maldonado struck a parked car, breaking his right signal light. Investigators ruled that the accident was "preventable" and penalized Maldonado by giving him four points and giving him a formal reminder about the importance of safe and courteous driving.
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In November 2007, Maldonado lost control of his car while responding as backup to a felony traffic stop. In heavy rain, his car spun into oncoming lanes before jumping the sidewalk and bumping into a building on NW Sixth Street.
Police spokesman Sgt. Frank Sousa declined to comment on Maldonado's status with the department, saying that because it's an ongoing investigation, commenting would not be appropriate. A reliable source tells the Juice that the department has already decided to fire Maldonado and that the firing will become official after the police union and City Hall are fully apprised.
UPDATE: Ruth Stager denies having told Fort Lauderdale police that Maldonado was having sex with known prostitutes. She says that she was the manager of an apartment building on SE 20th Street and that she had constant hassles with a tenant, Shawn Dunn, whom she believed to be a drug user and who consorted with a group of women she believed were prostitutes.
Stager said that Maldonado made visits to Dunn's apartment at "all hours of the day and night." She adds, "He would take them away to be arrested, but then they'd be right back on the street a few hours later."