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Miami mayoral candidate arrested in Key West on impersonating officer charge

He is accused of flashing a badge and claiming to be a sheriff’s deputy while he was sitting in a parked in a BMW in Key West.
Frank Pichel, a controversial candidate for mayor of the city of Miami, was arrested by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office early Friday morning on a felony charge of impersonating a police officer.
Frank Pichel, a controversial candidate for mayor of the city of Miami, was arrested by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office early Friday morning on a felony charge of impersonating a police officer. [ Monroe County Sheriff's Office ]
Published Oct. 1

MIAMI — Frank Pichel, a controversial candidate for mayor of the city of Miami, was arrested by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office early Friday morning on a felony charge of impersonating a police officer.

According to the sheriff’s office, he was booked into county jail at midnight. He was released about two hours later after posting a $5,000 bond.

His attorney, Matthew Baldwin, was not immediately available for comment.

Pichel, 59, is accused of flashing a badge and claiming to be a Monroe deputy while he was sitting in a parked in a BMW in front of a house in a Key Largo subdivision May 30.

His charging and arrest confirm an allegation made by embattled Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo who wrote in a memo last week that Pichel was going to be arrested. In the eight-page document, Acevedo wrote that Pichel was “working as a private investigator” on behalf of Miami City Commissioner Joe Carrollo and “other elected officials.”

Pichel, who is a licensed private investigator, is challenging Miami Mayor Francis Suarez in the November election.

As he was booked, an arrest warrant obtained by the Herald reveals more details about the evidence compiled against him.

According to the warrant, an off-duty Miami-Dade police officer, who was visiting a friend in Key Largo, noticed Pichel sitting in his white BMW in the residential neighborhood on May 30. The officer and his friend confronted Pichel, who “produced a gold badge and identified himself as a Monroe County Police Officer.”

“The driver stated ... he was ‘waiting for relief,’” according to the warrant filed in Monroe Circuit Court.

Pichel, deputies said, drove off after the off-duty officer and his friend went back inside. But the interaction was captured on video surveillance, with audio of the man believed to be Pichel saying, “Don’t worry I’m Monroe County,” according to the warrant.

The off-duty officer ran Pichel’s tag number and later provided it to Monroe deputies.

Another neighbor, who also happened to be an off-duty Miami-Dade cop, also told deputies that he had an encounter with Pichel that day. He identified Pichel, and said the man had walked into his backyard and “asked if he knew a contractor named Freddie,” the warrant said.

The neighbor said no and Pichel left the property. “During the short contact, Pichel was looking around as if looking for something,” the warrant said.

It was uncertain Friday if the “Freddie” was a reference to Mayor Suarez, who is believed to have been in a home on the block that day and the target of Pichel’s surveillance.

The neighbor picked Pichel out of a photo lineup. There’s more evidence: a police license plate reader noted Pichel’s white BMW leaving Key Largo three times that summer.

In his arrest warrant, Monroe Detective Ian Barnett notes that he spoke with a Miami internal affairs detective, Orlando Benitez, who “indicated there was a current ID investigation into an incident [on the block] where photographs were taken of a City of Miami official.”

“When asked about Pichel, Benitez indicated he may have been involved,” the deputy wrote.