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Conflicting Interests Raise Questions about Police Officer Illegally Placing Vending Machines?

As with most organizations or governments, there are ordinances that help to keep members or employees from benefiting from conflicts of interest. This includes guidelines on how an employee or immediate family runs a private business that has contracts with the organization or government. For Officer Alfredo Cata of the Miami Beach police department, this has become a critical issue that could lead to fines or loss of his position.

These allegations were brought to the department’s internal affairs by an anonymous source. This source complained that Officer Cata was attending to the collection of money in various vending machines that included coffee vending machines in the area of South Beach. He was also checking on the creamer levels in the machines frequently. These activities were happening during his on-duty hours. In addition, the officer was also accused of working a second job without approval from the city.

The investigation led to several enlightening facts. First was that this vending service belonged to his wife, whom it was noted did not speak English. The office that oversees the South Beach vending contracts reported that Adriana Cata’s vending service, Miami Food and Beverage Distributors, had not received the contract by the office’s approval. Instead, another vender, Brothers Vending, had given over the South Beach route of their contract to Adriana Cata because they were closing the business. Brothers Vending was completing their contract by allowing Mrs. Cata to borrow the vending machines and to oversee the route. The confusion appeared when Officer Cata called the city’s office and spoke with Anna Parekh to inform her about this. When Ms. Parekh stated that this was not the method of conducting business, Officer Cata stated that the city had already cashed a payment from Adriana Cata. This payment of $2,400 for the vending service was included with the payments from Brothers Vending. This overlooked detail sealed the deal.

Officer Cata’s involvement was due to his wife’s inability to speak English. This conflict of interest continued as Ms. Parekh’s office received word that one of these coffee vending machines randomly appeared in the police headquarters. It was soon discovered that this one was identified as being Officer Cata’s. He was ordered to have this coffee vending machines removed from headquarters. This led the internal affairs investigation to a possible connecting incident of missing vending machines. This incident was found to be absent of Officer Cata’s involvement. The only action to date is an informal warning to the officer until the case is concluded.