A jury on Thursday convicted a 37-year-old Miami man who fooled a Palm Beach County prosecutor, public defender and judge into releasing a jailed burglary defendant after he posed as a detective and told them the inmate was his informant.
Lebrak Morales-Gomez, a convicted sex offender, walked into a Palm Beach County courtroom in April 2010 as Miami-Dade Police detective “Bryan.”
By then, he had already spoken to Assistant State Attorney John Parnofiello and told him that a defendant in a burglary case, Johnny Hernandez Sardinas, was working with him as a confidential informant.
According to arrest reports, Parnofiello agreed to try to get Sardinas released on his own recognizance if Sardinas agreed to work with the fake detective and federal authorities on another case. A hearing on the matter was set before Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes.
A few minutes before the hearing began, Morales-Gomez approached Parnofiello, introduced himself as Bryan and sat in the courtroom while Parnofiello and an assistant public defender told Kastrenakes at a sidebar conference that Sardinas was cooperating with authorities and should be released.
Kastrenakes granted the request and set Sardinas free. Later that month, real Miami-Dade detectives arrested Morales-Gomez on charges he was impersonating a detective in that county. He eventually told authorities about the Palm Beach County case and they drove up to show his photo to Parnofiello, who identified him as the fake detective.
“Parnofiello also made it clear that he would not have agreed” to release Sardinas “had it not been for the belief that the defendant was in fact a police officer and needed Sardinas’ cooperation with other investigations,” Palm Beach County State Attorney’s investigator Mark Anderson wrote in a report.
Sardinas disappeared after his release and had not been found as of last month.
Stephen Mitchell, a special prosecutor from Miami-Dade assigned to the case, had subpoenaed Kastrenakes testify in the case, but Circuit Judge Stephen Rapp shot that request down last month.
Aside from charges of falsely impersonating an officer, falsely impersonating an officer in commission of a felony and unlawfully displaying a law enforcement badge, Morales-Gomez had also been charged with escape. Rapp dismissed that charge Wednesday before jurors began deliberating.
But the six-member panel returned convictions on all the other charges, which means Morales-Gomez faces up to 21 years in prison when he is sentenced. No sentencing date was set Thursday. Morales-Gomez also faces charges of impersonating a police officer in Miami-Dade County.
Aside from a sexual battery conviction from 2003, Florida prison records show Morales-Gomez also has convictions on grand theft, burglary and trafficking in stolen merchandise charges.
But what can you do to stop snitches? Here’s a list of snitches with pictures and locations. Also read: Control of Information so you can stop snitching on yourself. Also: How to find out who’s a snitch and 10 Ways to Spot an Informant and How the cops are tracking you and No Warrant No Problem and Criminal defenses (How to beat your court case) And to inspire you: 7 Fugitives who Became Folk Heroes, How I Lost my friends