BSO officers arrested in FBI probe

By Alex Zequiera

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL (WFLX) -  It's a story made for Hollywood: An FBI affidavit says two deputies were involved in transporting and protecting shipments of what they thought were illegal diamonds, drugs and other valuables. In reality, all the shipments were set up by the FBI and all the transactions were videotaped.

Thirty-seven-year-old Richard V. Tauber, a 14 year veteran of the Broward Sheriff's Office and Kevin D. Frankel, a deputy since 2006, were arrested after, the FBI says, they provided a number of illegal services to undercover agents purporting to be drug lords and members of an organized crime ring in the north.

Both men, along with two others, 38 year-old Robert Thomas Baccari and 37 year-old Christopher C. Provenzano, now face drug and extortion conspiracy charges.

According to federal investigators, Tauber and Frankel accepted bribes to protect and help with the interstate smuggling of diamonds, South African gold coins, and approximately 50 kilos of what they thought was cocaine.

According to US Attorney Alex Acosta, Tauber, with the help his friend Robert Baccari, transported up to $150,000 worth of South African gold coins from South Florida to Connecticut.

Authorities also say Tauber and another friend, Christopher Provenzano, smuggled $500,000 worth of diamonds from New Jersey to South Florida. Diamonds the two men thought were proceeds from a Colombian drug lord.

Investigators also say all four men loaded a plane at the Pompano Beach Municipal Airport with what they thought was 50 kilos of cocaine to take to the northeast.

All of the transactions were set up by undercover FBI agents purporting to be members of the New York/New Jersey Mafia, and a Colombian drug smuggler.

The arrests come at the tail end of a 10 month undercover investigation conducted by the FBI and BSO.

All four men face life in prison and fines upwards of $4 million if convicted on the drug charges. They also face another 20 years with fines of $250,000 if convicted of the extortion charges.

Tauber was released Monday on $500,000 bail. The other three men are scheduled to appear in federal court this Thursday.