Argus Report: Republican debate marathon getting lukewarm reception with GOP voters, but have to pick one champion to take on Obama
Florida: Will destination resort hotels and casino Senate vote be deferred because of new Bogdanoff amendments?
Miami-Dade County: Commission gives thumbs down to increased police participation in health insurance payments, hundreds will be laid off to balance county budget now in 4th month
Miami-Dade Public Schools: After FIU & Miami-Dade schools compact, dual-enrollment jumps from 400 to over 3,000 high school students in first months
Public Health Trust: PAST WDR: JUNE 2008: Blast from the past: PHT CEO Marvin O’Quinn’s presentation to the Miami-Dade BCC in June 2008 on the financial issues facing Jackson Memorial Health in the years ahead.
City of Miami: City Mgr. Martinez says when it comes to “forgiveness of [Jungle Island] debt,” that is out of the question
City of Miami Beach: Mayor Bower disagrees Mgr. Gonzalez is leaving; activists say gambling & convention center top issues on Beach
City of Coral Gables: Library hosts mini-DMV license facility for local drivers
>>> Other stories around Florida
Broward County: Tax preparer is hit with 2-years in federal Big House for filing bogus tax returns
City of Hollywood: Ex Miami police officer busted by feds in embezzlement scam
Palm Beach County: Eight people sentenced in Broward & Palm Beach in pill mill operation, part of Operation Oxy Alley
Monroe County: Two more people busted and sentenced by feds in Keys lobster case
Community Events: Casa Valentina’s 5th Community Appreciation luncheon – South Dade Cultural Arts Center hosts 8th Black History Month events
Editorials: The dye is cast; hundreds of county employees will start to hit the streets after BCC shoots down Mayor Gimenez’s union contracts concessions
Letters: Reader says U.S. Atty. Coffey made Medicare fraud a big deal in mid 1990s – Physician on new powerful opiate drug for pain – Reader on New Year
Sponsors – Publisher’s mission statement & Subscription information is at the bottom of this issue — Scroll down for all the headline stories text
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ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street
>>> Republican debate marathon getting lukewarm reception with GOP, but have to pick one champion to take on Obama
Respected national pollster John Zogby told the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce members Wednesday by live video after he was snowed in and could not be the keynote speaker as planned, that the Iowa caucuses’ results showed the Republican Party is split into three camps when it came to the field of presidential candidates. Zogby noted that while U.S Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas got 44 percent of the independent voters it was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney who had the most to worry about because “44 percent of the voters for Romney had significant reservations” with their vote for the businessman. He said the results have already reduced the field with Congresswoman Michelle Bachman dropping out and Texas Gov. Rick Perry “reassessing” his candidacy but he since did participate in the Saturday night and Sunday morning debates bringing the field down to six. However, “For Romney there is a ceiling of 25 percent and he spent a lot of money just to get to that number” in Iowa and that effort only put him back to where he was before back in 2008 in the state. Zogby said there were “three separate wings” of the party and Paul got the “libertarians” vote, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum picked up “the Christian Traditional Family wing,” and Romney got the “moderate conservative voters.”
Zogby said the trick for Romney in the future was to stitch together these “three thirds together” saying that was going to be no easy task and “was a pretty tall order.” He said Paul would keep “this movement continuing,” and polling shows “Paul people have no second choice.” And when it came to Santorum, the pollster said the former Pennsylvania senator “will get a lot of scrutiny,” now and by only coming in second short eight votes. He is in “the worst position,” since the other candidates will be looking to pound him with attack ads and suggested he could “be like Pat Buchanan who fizzled because of lack of money and organization.” Zogby also emphasized there was “an enthusiasm gap since only 120,000 people voted” for the pack of candidates and the race “did not create a larger interest’ with the state’s GOP voters. The man closed suggesting that while “Romney won.” President Barack Obama has benefited by this contentious race and the “question will be whether Romney can unite these factions of Republicans,” he closed.
What about the debates over the weekend?
With back-to-back presidential candidate debates over the weekend, Republicans and voters are getting a strong dose of what the six men believe in and while after Iowa. The focus has been on Romney, Santorum, and Paul, with Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman trailing in the polls it is not over yet. Huntsman, a former two-time U.S. Ambassador most recently to the People’s Republic of China appointed by Obama has been putting all his effort in New Hampshire and he must get a strong showing in the Granite State. If he is to be relevant in the race and while many think, he has an interesting narrative and vision. He has continued to be overshadowed by Romney, a fellow Mormon. Perry wants to shorten the time Congress is in session and cut back their pay, Paul wants the nation to pull back its military presence around the world and stop these endless wars. And Santorum supports a “National Right to Work” bill though he notes union’s per say, also contribute to communities and he worked with them in the Keystone State. However, both Romney and Gingrich have past extensive public records and the two men verbally spared with the congressional representative attacking Romney’s claim of not being a career politician. The history professor pillared the former governor saying that was the case only because he had lost the election to U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy and his time out of office was not some civic desire to go back to the private sector.
Further, when people ask the Watchdog Report about the Republican candidates and the lack of a wow factor with voter’s, one thing emerges. Republicans around the nation are like people at a dance looking at the men or women on the other side of the gym, and not only do they have to dance with one of them, they have to marry them, when it comes to their champion in the 2012 General Election against Obama. Further, while Tuesday’s election is important the big political enchilada is South Carolina and Florida primary on Jan. 31 where a candidate’s ground game (which Romney has going for him) is important. Since Florida GOP voters have already requested around 400,000 absentee ballots of which roughly 128,000 have been requested by Miami-Dade voters. But overall, there has been one persistent mantra among party members and that is, “Anyone but Obama,” a refrain I hear constantly among the GOP ranks.
>>> FIU President Rosenberg says, “We get it” and is adamant and committed to raising education expectations
Mark Rosenberg Ph.D., the president of Florida International University (FIU) in a passionate speech Wednesday asked business leaders to raise their expectations when it comes to students being educated at all of the South Florida universities and colleges at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon at Jungle Island. Rosenberg said these academic institutions must look into the future when it comes to preparing graduates for the evolving global technology and economy and the past traditional curriculum is not cutting it in this new century. “We get it,” concerning the new educational skill sets and when The Tampa Bay Times editorial board asked Rosenberg if he “was worried about having too much pressure on you and the university from the business community. He responded with “Quite the opposite,” and said “These expectations are not high enough” and low expectations when it comes to higher education of students are unacceptable. He noted we live in a “knowledge based economy” and “generating high value jobs” has to be the mission.
Rosenberg has 48,000 students at the two campuses and the university graduates 10,000 students a year, he said. And he noted 40 companies interviewed 800 graduates for jobs and hired almost 200 of them. The educator also said when it came to Florida Power & Light. “FIU graduates are the single largest cohort working at FP&L,” and when it comes to supplying teachers for Miami-Dade Public Schools. He said, “25 percent of all Dade public schools teachers have graduated from FIU.” He closed his remarks saying, when it comes to educational excellence, “we get it, and FIU will always answer the phone [when called] for this community,” he closed.
>>> White House press release: Alan B. Krueger, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, issued the following statement today on the employment situation in December. You can view the statement HERE. The Employment Situation in December
Today’s employment report provides further evidence that the economy is continuing to heal from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. It is critical that we continue the economic policies that are helping us to dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the recession that began at the end of 2007. Most importantly, we need to extend the payroll tax cut and continue to provide emergency unemployment benefits through the end of this year, and take other steps the President has proposed in the American Jobs Act. Private sector payrolls increased by 212,000 jobs and overall payroll employment rose by 200,000 jobs in December. The unemployment rate fell 0.2 percentage point to 8.5 percent, the lowest level since February 2009. The drop in unemployment over the month was mostly due to employment growth, not lower labor force participation. The unemployment rate has fallen by 0.9 percentage point in the last 12 months. Despite adverse shocks that have created headwinds for economic growth, the economy has added private sector jobs for 22 straight months, for a total of 3.2 million payroll jobs over that period. In the last 12 months, 1.9 million private sector jobs have been added on net in 2011, more than in any year since 2005. Nonetheless, we need faster growth to put even more Americans back to work.
Sectors with net job increases in December included transportation and warehousing (+50,200), health care and social assistance (+28,700), retail trade (+27,900), manufacturing (+23,000), leisure and hospitality (+21,000), and construction (+17,000). Local governments lost 14,000 jobs and state government employment was unchanged. The monthly employment and unemployment numbers are volatile and employment estimates can be subject to substantial revision. Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.
>>> Press release: U.S. AMBASSADOR TO HAITI COMING TO MIAMI AT TWO-YEAR MARK OF MASSIVE EARTHQUAKE FOR REPORT ON PROGRESS THERE
With the second anniversary of the Haiti earthquake just six days away, Sen. Bill Nelson said today that U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Ken Merten and other high-ranking officials will be in Miami next week for an open-to-the-public meeting on the current status of efforts to help Haitians still in need. Nelson will be joined as co-host of Ambassador Merten’s visit by U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, who represents a South Florida House district that has more Haitian residents than any other in Congress. The meeting with the ambassador is set for 4 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 13, in the Miami Edison Middle School Auditorium. The meeting is open to anyone wanting to attend, and seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Also scheduled to attend is the State Department’s Haiti Special Coordinator Tom Adams and Elizabeth Hogan, a high-ranking USAID official. “There are thousands of Haitians still in need of assistance who remain separated from their families here in America,” Nelson said. “Ambassador Merten will be able to tell all of us the latest on our progress in Haiti and what challenges are ahead.” Besides co-hosting the ambassador’s visit, Nelson and Wilson also joined other members of Congress this week in asking the Obama administration to consider fast-tracking a backlog of approved visas for an estimated 15,000 Haitians who are the spouses or children of U.S. citizens. The two lawmakers signed a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. >>> Next Thursday – Jan. 12 – marks two years since a massive earthquake devastated Haiti killing an estimated 230,000 people. About one-half million Haitians reportedly remain homeless. A cholera epidemic has swept the island. And many Haitians have lost their lives trying to flee. On Christmas Day, Cuban officials said 38 Haitian migrants, 21 men and 17 women, had died after a boat they were in sank off the island’s eastern coast. The boat was spotted in the sea off Cuba’s Guantanamo province, some 590 miles (950 kilometers) from Havana. It was not clear where the Haitians were heading, though the Associated Press reported Cuba likely wasn’t their intended destination.
>>> Press release: U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the following statement today disparaging the alliance between the Cuban and North Korean regimes:
“According to reports, earlier this week the Cuban regime awarded the ‘Friendship Medal’ to North Korea’s ambassador to Havana to convey the strong partnership by these two oppressive regimes. “Whether it’s Kim Jong Il or Kim Jong Un, Fidel Castro or Raul Castro, the dictatorial policies are all the same. These regimes continue to violate human rights, oppress freedom of speech, and undermine democratic principles. “A celebration of these two dictatorships might seem like something that could only be dreamt up in the minds of the dictators themselves, but sometimes their fantasies are given legitimacy by the rest of the world. This past year, North Korea and Cuba served as successive Presidents of the United Nations Conference on Disarmament. The respective regimes probably couldn’t have invented anything more preposterous themselves.
“Both of these nations jeopardize global security, support terrorism, threaten the U.S., and brutalize their own people. Their alliances with one another and other rogue states must be taken seriously. As these regimes unite to promote instability and repression, so too must responsible democratic nations unite to counter the threat posed by these pariah states to global peace and security.”
>>> ROYAL WEST OWNER CHARGED IN SECURITIES FRAUD SCHEME
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announce that Gaston E. Cantens, 73, of Miami, was charged in a criminal Information with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.
According to the Information filed in court, Royal West Properties, Inc. (“Royal West”) was a Miami-Dade corporation that promised to pay investors a fixed rate of return on investments made with the company. Gaston E. Cantens was the president of Royal West Properties, Inc. In this capacity, Cantens allegedly recruited individuals to invest in Royal West by promising investors that their investments would be guaranteed by properties or mortgages that acted as collateral. According to the Information, Cantens misappropriated money from investors by making materially false representations and concealing and omitting to state material facts concerning, among other things, the financial condition of Royal West, the manner in which mortgages and properties were assigned as collateral to investors, the assignment of non-performing mortgages, the assignment of mortgages that were paid in full, the proper recording of mortgages, and the recording of investors’ interests in properties and mortgages.
Specifically, the Information alleges that Cantens told investors that their moneys were collateralized by individual properties but failed to inform them that the collateralized properties had previously been assigned to other investors. Cantens received moneys from investors based on these misrepresentations, and used the moneys for his personal benefit and to further the fraud scheme. The Information alleges specific instances of fraud. For example, according to the Information, in February 2008, Cantens allegedly assigned a property to Our Lady of Belen Jesuit as collateral for an investment. In May 2008, Cantens assigned the same property again as collateral to investor “R.R.” for an investment. In addition, according to the factual proffer in the plea agreement filed today, Royal West sold the property to “V.R.” and assigned the mortgage on the property to yet another investor, “S.M.” Cantens never informed the investors, including Our Lady of Belen Jesuit, of the existence of other investors or their interests in the property. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI. Mr. Ferrer also commended the efforts of SEC Regional Director Eric Bustillo and his staff for their contributions to this investigation and its successful prosecution. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney H. Ron Davidson. An Information is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
>>> All photos in the Watchdog Report are taken from public government sites, and the Report goes on line at www.watchdogreport.net on Monday sometime during the day usually. >>> If you believe it is important to have someone watching your public institutions consider supporting the Watchdog Report for I am a low cost news service, yet I do have to live, thank you! Further, I have been honored over the years by being named a WFOR-4 Hometown Hero in 2000, being profiled in a major way by The Miami New Times, twice in The Miami Herald, and the Orlando Sentinel which ran as a nationwide story on me in the Tribune papers on Jan. 2003 and UNC Chapel Hill naming me one of the top columnists in Florida in a multi-state study of the media back in 2004. I also thank Joseph Cooper for the opportunity to be on the WLRN/NPR showTopical Currents on www.wlrn.org since 2000, including yearly election coverage since then, and also numerous times over the past decade. Further, I am a frequent guest on WWW.WPBT2.ORG on Helen Ferre’s show Issues, and have also appeared on Eliott Rodriguez’s show News & Views.
>>> See what was said about the Watchdog Report in the Miami New Times 2003 — Best of Miami — BEST CITIZEN — Daniel A. Ricker — Three years ago, we said Ricker was our Best Gadfly. Given his dedication and perseverance, this new honor, Best Citizen, is well deserved. Ricker goes to 2,500 mind-melting meetings annually, from the Public Health Trust’s purchasing subcommittee to the Efficiency and Competition Commission to the Alliance for Human Services’ nominating council to the school board’s audit committee. Sometimes he’s the only public observer. Object: to be the Public Citizen for all those out there who can’t attend, and to connect and serve as an information bridge among the special-interest-dominated Miami-Dade governmental institutions that seem so problematic and indifferent to the democratic process.
This month his e-mail newsletter, The Watchdog Report, celebrates its fourth anniversary. In a former life, Ricker made a handsome living as an international salesman of heart pacemakers. As the hard-working publisher of Watchdog Report, though, he’s struggling financially — this despite the fact that his weekly compendium of meeting summaries, analysis, interviews, and commentary has become essential reading for anyone involved in public affairs. What his written work may lack in polish, it more than makes up for in comprehensiveness. So raise a toast to the man whose official slogan says it all: “A community education resource — I go when you cannot!”
>>> Will destination resort hotels and casino Senate vote be deffered because of new Bogdanoff amendments?
The Florida Senate Regulated & Industries Committee is expected to vote this Monday up or down legislation on whether to expand destination resorts and casino gambling and the vote could provide a road map of how the issue plays out in the state legislature in the weeks ahead. State Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Ft. Lauderdale (Net worth $568,000) has pushed the (SB 710) bill in the upper house side and state Rep. Erick Fresen, R-Miami (Net worth $330,000) has the bill’s counterpart in the lower house. Bogdanoff, told www.miamitodaynews.com that she has made 35 amendments to the bill and is suggesting that these new changes may delay a Jan. 9 committee meeting vote on the legislation. However, these multiple new legislation additions are being watched very closely by counties and municipalities around the state, given a statewide vote on gambling may be added to the bill or decided individually where each county might vote on the issue, not just in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.
The Genting Group Malaysia started this frenzy when the company bought The Miami Herald Building and land along Biscayne Bay and the Omni building for arounf $500 million and wants to invest another $2.3 billion in a sprawling hotel, convention center, condominium, casino complex with 50 retail stores. The move has split residents and business leaders in South Florida on the matter and the topic is red hot when it comes to this civic discussion on the pros and cons and how gambling could change the social fabric of the Sunshine State. Further, House Speaker Dean Cannon, R- Winter Park whose district includes Orlando and Disney World is said to be cool about damaging the Florida Family Friendly brand and its core industry tourism and the House may balk at this new gambling expansion. >>> http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/01/07/v-fullstory/2578994/miami-dade-lawmakers-eye-gambling.html >>> www.miamiherald.com
What are the big legislative issues this year?
Further, the Florida Legislature has its hands full with an almost $2 billion budget shortfall, cuts to Medicaid, and the all-important reapportioning of the Senate and House Districts for the upcoming 2012 elections. Gov. Rick Scott (Net worth $103 million) kicks off the General Legislative Session Jan. 6 with his second State of the State Address and he is pushing for a $1 billion boost in education but the reality is state revenues are still down and this is going to be a bruising session with politics on steroids given legislators political fate is at risk. If their district is wiped out in the process and comes to an end, that now includes the inclusion of the two Fair District Amendments that passed with 62 percent of statewide voters to become the law of Florida intermingling with this political the process done every decade after new Census numbers become available showing population shifts in the state and nation.
>>> AG Pam Bondi (Net worth $472,000) press release: This week we stopped two companies for alleged fraudulent activity under the guise of providing foreclosure-rescue related services. These companies preyed on Florida’s distressed homeowners who were already experiencing financial hardships. The laws that protect Floridians from deceptive practices and homeowners during the course of a residential foreclosure must be abided by, and I am pleased that the Court granted our motion to stop these companies from defrauding Floridians. I filed a lawsuit and obtained a temporary injunction and limited asset freeze against MGD Management, LLC, and CRS Marketing, LLC for misleading distressed homeowners by marketing “strategic default” services which purported to keep the consumers in their homes “for free” for three years without paying the mortgage, taxing authorities, homeowners association, or home owners insurance. According to the complaint, the companies promised assistance with the defense of their foreclosure action and represented that the fees paid to the defendants included all legal fees other than bankruptcy filings; advised consumers to ignore any communication from their lenders/creditors unless it came registered mail; and failed to provide legal services.
The Broward County Circuit Court issued a temporary injunction barring the company and its principal, Mark Dalen, from marketing, advertising or providing foreclosure-related rescue services until further order of the Court. The Court also granted a limited asset freeze on the bank accounts of the companies at issue. The injunction order requires that MGD, CRS, and Mark Dalen cease all such misrepresentations and precludes the companies from transferring any assets other than in the normal course of business. We are committed to protecting Floridians, and people who are facing possible foreclosure should not be scammed during the process of trying to get help.
>>> Former Miami Commissioner De Yurre tries for the gold, files for M-DC circuit court judge slot against Hersch
Former Miami Commissioner Victor De Yurre filed Nov.22 to run for the Florida Eleventh Circuit Court Judge Group 49 slot and he is facing Richard Hersch. Hersch has raised $72,773 for his campaign and has loaned himself another $100,000 state election department documents. De Yurre lists no money for the campaign to date and is trying to rehabilitate his career in public service, after being out of office since 1995 and dealing with a nasty divorce a few years ago. He will be the second old time Miami politician to try to get back into the political fray that had Xavier Suarez (Net worth $328,500) getting elected to the Miami-Dade Commission District 7 in late June, after multiple losing races. And both men were mortal enemies of former Mayor Joe Carollo back in the 1990s that included a controversial voter fraud investigation that had Suarez briefly mayor before the election was nullified, and he was replaced by Carollo.
De Yurre in his last commission race in 2005 raised over $436,000 for his campaign but that was a different time when Miami was becoming the laughing stock of the nation and had Suarez later getting the nickname “mayor el loco.” However, De Yurre is betting that any controversies from the past will be forgotten by county voters, and makes his own life now working as a mediator, a little more prestigious. If he pulls this off and is elected to the county’s judiciary.
Further, De Yurre also chaired a Miami Charter Review committee that had Miami Commissioner Willy Gort also on the body that drafted language for a strong mayor form of government and created the office of commission auditor and voters in a special election in 1998 passed it. However, critics said the maneuver was to force Carollo into a new election since he had alienated the five-member commission so badly, though had one of them, ex Commissioner Humberto Hernandez later ending up going to jail. http://www.pulitzer.org/archives/6265 http://www.miaminewtimes.com/1995-11-30/news/dollars-to-doughnuts/
>>> Press release: In observance of International Human Trafficking Awareness Day, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle will host a community forum on January 9, 2012, entitled “The Faces of Human Trafficking: Myths and Realities”.
At any given time, there may be as many as 2.5 million people worldwide unwillingly involved in forced labor and the illicit sex trade. Although Human Trafficking is often portrayed as a broad national or international problem, the reality is that many of the victims of Human Trafficking reside within our communities. It is a little known fact that Florida is often ranked third in the nation in the number of victims of human trafficking. “Knowledge and understanding are the sharpest, most dependable tools in the fight against human trafficking,” commented Miami-Dade-State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle (Net worth $1.75 million). “The more we know and understand, the better we can effectively combat these crimes. This forum will allow us to tackle misconceptions and propose solutions to prosecute and deter a crime that affects so many young and promising lives.”
The forum is aimed at bringing community leaders, service providers and local, state and national law enforcement agencies together to better tackle instances of Human Trafficking in Miami-Dade County and South Florida. Through better awareness, training and legislation, it is State Attorney Fernandez Rundle’s hope that the victims of Human Trafficking can be identified and the perpetrators prosecuted. The forum will be held at the Office of the State Attorney located at 1350 NW 12th Avenue, Miami, FL 33136, in Conference Rooms S418 –S419 commencing at 1:00 PM. >> Media is encouraged to arrive early enough to obtain the required clearance through the building’s security review process.
>>> Gov. Scott taps David Darm as executive director of the Commission on Jobs for Floridians with Disabilities and named Susanne F. Homant as the Commission’s chair.
Darm, 25, of Tallahassee, has been an analyst in the Governor’s Office of Policy and Budget since 2010. He has served on the Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged since 2009, and Governor Scott appointed him as chair in 2011. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Florida and a master’s degree from Florida State University.
Homant, 66, of Tallahassee, has been the president and CEO of The Able Trust since 2007. She is a member of the board of trustees for the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Previously, she was the executive director of Florida chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness from 2006 to 2007. She received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Northern Michigan University and a doctorate degree from Western Michigan University.
>>> Commission gives thumbs down to increased police participation in health insurance payments, hundreds will be laid off to balance county budget now in 4th month
The Miami-Dade Commission after a marathon meeting Thursday shot down Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s (Net worth $923,000) move to impose further reductions with a variety of unions that are at impasse that included the Dade Police Benevolent Association bargaining agreement with the county, after passionate testimony from the rank and file that included relatives of slain police officers. The Gimenez administration had asked for further contributions of police officers to their health insurance benefits but the rank and file balked at the contributions cuts to their salary. And now hundreds of police and officers in the corrections department will be put on furlough because the county has to have a balanced budget at the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30 and the mayor is livid and will veto the decision in the days ahead, he has told the media. >>> Editor’s note: See my editorial on this subject.
>>> Press release: Community Advocacy introduces monthly “FedAssist” program offering quick and easy federal services in Downtown Miami Now part of convenient “DMV To Go” program – The Miami-Dade County Office of Community Advocacy is upgrading its monthly “DMV To Go” event to include “FedAssist,” featuring additional assistance with federal issues like U.S. passport applications, housing, transportation, child support, military/veteran affairs, and more. “FedAssist” is the result of collaboration with the office of Senator Marco Rubio to bring more services to the Stephen P. Clark Center as a convenient one-stop location for residents and commuters in the area. As usual, “DMV To Go” will be available on the third Thursday of every month. Residents can sign up online at www.miamidade.gov/ocr or http://feedback.miamidade.gov/Community/se.ashx?s=57F314586FCAEBCA to renew their license and identification cards on the next available date, January 19, 2012. “DMV To Go” and “FedAssist” services will be open in the Stephen P. Clark Center lobby, 111 NW 1st Street, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. >>> Space is limited for driver’s license services, so residents are encouraged to reserve a spot as quickly as possible. Residents looking to renew their licenses or ID cards must bring proper identification with them listed on www.gathergoget.com.
>>> Commissioner Lynda Bell is giving her State of District 8 Address on Jan. 12 with the reception starting at 6:30 p.m. followed by the program at 7:30 p.m. and the event is being held at the new South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, located at 10950 S.W. 211th Street in Cutler Bay. The event is open to the public and to contact the office go to firstname.lastname@example.org or Click Here
>>> GMCVB press release: RECORD DEMAND FOR TRAVEL TO GREATER MIAMI AND THE BEACHES REMAINS STRONG FOR JANUARY TO NOVEMBER 2011 RESULTING IN DOUBLE-DIGIT INCREASES IN GREATER MIAMI’S TOURIST-RELATED TAX COLLECTIONS
The MIAMI-Dade Resort tax collections (excluding MIAMI Beach, Bal Harbour and Surfside) for January – November 2011 totaled $17,806,554 compared to $14,798,492 in 2010 for an increase of +20.3%. January – November 2011 Food & Beverage tax collections totaled $5,588,110 compared to $4,684,540 for the same period last year for an increase of +19.3%. January – November 2011 Convention Development Tax (CDT) collections for Greater MIAMI and the Beaches totaled $50,666,241 compared to $42,963,249 for the same period last year for an increase of +17.9%.
MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
>>> After FIU & Miami-Dade schools compact, dual-enrollment jumps from 400 to over 3,000 high school students in first months
When Florida International University President Mark Rosenberg, Ph.D. shook Superintendent of public schools Alberto Carvalho’s hand at a school board meeting a while ago, cementing a new dual enrollment compact with FIU and the nation’s fourth largest public schools district. The university president said it all began at a past FIU football game that Carvalho went to and he approached Rosenberg and asked, “Do you think you can waive the enrollment fee?” that high school kids must pay to take university advanced courses. Rosenberg said while his response was “yes” he faced two dilemmas. One was how much would it cost “and did I have the authority,” he wondered at the time but it was worked out. He said both men through “this collaborative are focused on student achievement” and this includes significant “dialogue” between the two public education institutions. He also noted that the new dual-enrollment program between the two public institutions that in the past had around 400 students in it has now surged to over 3,000 in new enrollments at the higher education level since the program was in place, he told members of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce attending the monthly luncheon on Wednesday.
>>> Press release: MIAMI-DADE OUTPERFORMS STATE WITH PERCENTAGE OF “A” HIGH SCHOOLS ~ Miami-Dade County Public Schools outperformed neighboring counties as well as the state in the percentage of high schools with performance grades of A, according to data released today by the Florida Department of Education.
For the first time in many years, no traditional public high school in Miami-Dade was rated F. Four years ago, seven district high schools were rated F. “This is the most dramatic academic performance improvement in the history of our school district,” said Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho. “From three years ago, we doubled the number of A’s from 15 to 31, increased the number of B’s by 33 percent, decreased the number of D’s by 43 percent and eliminated F high schools, many of which reside in some of our most challenging and impoverished communities. Our principals and teachers deserve this community’s gratitude, respect and congratulations.”
Under the state’s expanded high school grading system, which takes into consideration student outcomes including graduation rates as well as student participation and performance in advanced coursework, 49 percent of Miami-Dade’s full-component high schools received performance grades of A this year compared to 31 percent statewide. An additional eight schools in Miami-Dade receive grades based only on FCAT scores; when those schools are factored in, the percentage of A-rated high schools rises to 53 percent. “The data demonstrates that our schools are succeeding at preparing students for college and for the work force,” said Carvalho. “These outcomes are a precursor to the future economic viability and development of our community.”
>>> With your help, Miami-Dade County Public Schools will receive up to $100 in matching federal funds for every $10 you donate.” Alberto M. Carvalho superintendent of Schools
A digital divide splits students with technology access from those without
Help us bring wireless technology to the classroom. As we look to the future, we envision every student learning in digital classrooms where traditional books are replaced with various forms of electronic media. As of 2015, any new textbooks adopted for use in Florida’s public schools must be digital; yet many Miami-Dade County public schools lack wireless technology to accommodate this.
The Foundation for New Education Initiatives, Inc., a direct-support organization for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, aims to raise $7 million by January 31, 2012 to qualify for federal matching funds for wireless improvements in our schools. Every dollar you donate will be multiplied by 10 for an ultimate goal of $70 million. Together, we can bridge the digital divide. It is our moral imperative to do so, giving all students equal access to technology and equal opportunity for success in the global society and marketplace. Please help by donating today! Thank you.
PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST
>>> PAST WDR: JUNE 2008: Blast from the past: PHT CEO Marvin O’Quinn’s presentation to the Miami-Dade BCC in June 2008 on the financial issues facing Jackson Memorial Health in the years ahead.
CITY OF MIAMI
>>> City Mgr. Martinez says when it comes to “forgiveness of [Jungle Island] debt,” that is out of the question
Johnny Martinez, the City of Miami manager told the Watchdog Report after meeting with Jungle Island representatives Friday morning that they “are restructuring the business,” but he told them “any forgiveness of the debt” was totally out of the question with a February payment deadline looming with the county and city. As was reported in a recent past Watchdog Report, the co-owners Bern Levine, D.V.M. and Ron Krongold are working behind the scenes to strike another deal with these public institutions and while Martinez might agree to possible forgo rent owed to the city. He will not agree to anything that might mean money from the city going “out of my pocket,” he said after the meeting. Krongold was spotted earlier outside city hall around 11:45 a.m. along with lobbyists Brian May and Vicky Garcia-Toledo discussing the past meeting and while a separate $10 million note is being held by an outside bank. Martinez when I asked if the note could be called by the bank? He said that loan “was current” when it came to the payments but this leaves Miami-Dade and Miami holding the bag for what was a $25 million HUD note, part of a much larger aggregate loan the county has with the federal agency.
>>> WDR Vol.12 No.34: Leaders wondering if Jungle Island HUD note payment will be made in Feb., jobs were created but business model a disappointment
Jungle Island’s U.S.HUD note payment is coming up for the next six-month payment February and there is concern the organization cannot cover the around $1.4 million payment, forcing the city and the county to cover what is left on the principle and interest on the original $25 million note, and officials are concerned. This Jungle Island HUD commitment is part of a total Miami-Dade County HUD agreement that is over $200 million in county obligations to the federal agency and why the outstanding loans must be kept current. The attraction’s construction began in 2000 and opened in 2003 and after four years in operation and beset by hurricanes and construction near by, it had missed $4.7 million in payments that had to be paid by Miami-Dade to keep the federal loan current. And Jungle Island would later get a loan of $4.7 million from the county commission but that note is coming due in 2012. Further, Jungle Islands attendance estimates also proved high and www.miamiherald.com reported a few years ago that it ranged around 450,000 people yearly, but that was not enough to cover these obligations, but it did create 400 new jobs.
Further, during the early years since the inception, for six years there was no signed agreement between Miami-Dade, Miami and then Parrot Jungle for these HUD payments that had the county pony up the money every six months so that the much larger obligation did not go into default. And by 2006 $17.2 million was still owed on the note, and after Jungle Island could not pay its $1.44 million in property taxes in 2010 that were in the rears. At that time, Miami loaned the organization an $800,000 interest free loan, that required monthly payments of $16,667 over the four years to cover part of these tax obligations and reported in a past Watchdog Report EXTRA. And the whole process regarding the three party contract only concluded in late 2006 after three Miami Managers and three County Managers finally hashed out an agreement that had Miami with 80 percent of any obligation and Miami-Dade 20 percent.
And while Jungle Island is celebrating its 75th Anniversary this month at the new location that was the brainchild of Bern Levine, DVM and Ron Krongold who invested millions of their own money, but they also took a hefty chunk of public money to create the attraction that has had a few hic-ups over the years, like when a Liger (Half Lion and Tiger) large cat attraction, jumped the high fence and roamed freely where the public was for about an hour. The Watchdog Report has spoken to both Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado (Net worth $7,500) about the subject and they both indicated they were watching this issue very carefully and the matter is on a front burner. Readers should stay tuned and see how this plays out next year.
>>> Kids breaking into Grove Playhouse has mother and girl arrested Friday night by Miami PD
Some kids broke into the Coconut Grove Playhouse Friday around 5:30 p.m., it resulted in the police arresting a mother and her daughter after the mother was verbally heated with the Miami police officers on the scene and tried to remove her child from the back seat of the police cruiser. The Playhouse House also suffered some broken windows in the process that had officers using service dogs to find all the people hiding in the building. The Playhouse has been in limbo since 2006 when it was shuttered and had major debt that had employees not being paid at the time, but they eventually did get most of the money owed after County Commissioner Sally Heyman (Net worth $425,000) directed $300,000 to the organization of county money that had been earmarked for candidates applying to the Public Campaign Financing Fund. That fund after abuses in the 2004 elections, was essentially shut down after commissioners approved strict new guidelines that essentially made it almost impossible to qualify for the program. Heyman at the time at the commission meeting called this funding “surplus money” (that we now realize there never was a surplus) and I wrote about it in my Miami Herald column back then, but it did help the employees be financially made whole.
>>> Press release: MIAMI-AREA PATIENT RECRUITER SENTENCED TO 57 MONTHS IN PRISON FOR PARTICIPATING IN MEDICARE FRAUD KICKBACK SCHEME
The owner and president of a Miami-area transportation company was sentenced yesterday to 57 months in prison for her role in a Medicare fraud kickback scheme that funneled patients through a fraudulent mental health company, American Therapeutic Corporation (ATC), announced the Department of Justice, FBI and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Isabel Roque was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Michael K. Moore in the Southern District of Florida. In addition to her prison term, Roque was sentenced to three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $3.8 million in restitution jointly and severally with co-conspirators. Roque, 55, pleaded guilty in November 2011 to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Roque was the president of Isa & Yami Inc., which purported to provide patient transportation services in Miami. According to court documents, Roque agreed to provide Medicare beneficiaries to ATC for partial hospitalization program (PHP) services in exchange for kickbacks. PHP services are used as a form of intensive treatment for patients with severe mental illness. ATC purported to operate PHPs in seven different locations throughout south Florida and Orlando. According to court documents, Roque provided Medicare beneficiaries to four of ATC’s locations, including facilities in Boca Raton, Broward, Homestead and Miami.
Roque admitted that she knew the beneficiaries whom she referred to ATC did not need PHP treatment. Roque also knew that ATC fraudulently billed the Medicare program for the PHP services provided to the beneficiaries she referred. According to court documents, Roque also paid kickbacks to the beneficiaries whom she referred to ATC in exchange for those beneficiaries agreeing to attend ATC. According to court filings, ATC’s owners and operators paid kickbacks to owners and operators of assisted living facilities and halfway houses and to patient brokers in exchange for delivering ineligible patients to ATC and its related company, the American Sleep Institute (ASI). In some cases, the patients received a portion of those kickbacks. Throughout the course of the ATC conspiracy, millions of dollars in kickbacks were paid in exchange for Medicare beneficiaries who did not qualify for PHP services. The ineligible beneficiaries attended treatment programs that were not legitimate so that ATC and ASI could bill Medicare more than $200 million in medically unnecessary services. According to the plea agreement, Roque’s participation in the fraud resulted in more than $3.8 million in fraudulent billing to the Medicare program.
ATC, its management company Medlink Professional Management Group Inc., and various owners, managers, doctors, therapists, patient brokers and marketers of ATC, Medlink and ASI, were charged with various health care fraud, kickback, money laundering and other offenses in two indictments unsealed on Feb. 15, 2011. ATC, Medlink and nine of the individual defendants have pleaded guilty or have been convicted at trial… The case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida. >>> Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,160 defendants that collectively have billed the Medicare program for more than $2.9 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers. To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH
>>> Mayor Bower disagrees Mgr. Gonzalez is leaving, activists say gambling & convention center top issues on Beach
Mayor Mattie Herrera Bower is seeing a lot of political turbulence the last few weeks and when it comes to the discussion of Manager Jorge Gonzalez’s fate in March. She is fielding questions from the public on the matter. The Watchdog Report contacted David Kelsey who organizes the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club and had Bower as its speaker last week asking how it went. In an email on how the gathering was he wrote it “went well, she pulled a good crowd. She was questioned about manager leaving but said she did not think it would happen. And the discussion prior to her arrival noted two big issues for the New Year: 1st: gambling and its effect on Miami Beach, and 2nd: Benefit of a two billion convention center expansion ($650 million construction cost, plus cost of money). There is a lot of doubt about both issues,” wrote Kelsey.
However, Commissioners Deede Weithorn and Jonah Wolfson may have other ideas after a review of the manager came up at a public non-televised meeting where Weithorn seconded the motion to get rid of Gonzalez and was brought forward by Wolfson. That action by the commissioners has drawn an investigation if the Sunshine Law was broken by the two legislators and had they discussed the issue prior to this public meeting. They maintain www.miamiherald.com the two did not discuss the matter prior to the meeting last month and they say there was no violation of the law, but the state attorney’s office has confirmed there is an active investigation on the matter.
>>> Press release: Miami Beach Wants to Honor Women Worth Knowing
The Miami Beach Commission for Women is seeking nominations to honor local women for their contributions to the Miami Beach community. The annual award is called “Women Worth Knowing.” Nominees must be a resident of Miami Beach for at least five years or work in a business in the community for at least five years and should be involved in civic or professional activities that have changed the community. Nominations must be received by January 31, 2012. For information or to request a nomination form, contact Wanda Ortiz, aide to Mayor Matti H. Bower, @ 305.673.7000 ext. 6487 or email@example.com.
>>> County Commission Chairman Joe Martinez will be the Breakfast Club speaker, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012, 8:30AM – 10:00AM, David’s Cafe II, 1654 Meridian Ave., Miami Beach. >>> Since 1996, the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club has been gathering every Tuesday at 8:30AM at a local Miami Beach restaurant for informal, non-partisan discussions of issues – political, governmental, etc. It is not affiliated with any other organization. We are currently meeting at David’s Cafe II, 1654 Meridian Ave., Miami Beach, between Lincoln Road Mall and Macy’s (formerly Burdine’s). There is plenty of parking at that hour in the adjacent municipal parking lot. One orders from the menu or simply has coffee. Guest speakers range across the political, governmental, business, and social issues spectrum. Sessions are open to everyone. Simply show up. www.MBTMBC.com
CITY OF CORAL GABLES
>>> Press release: The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV), in partnership with the Miami-Dade Public Library System, will bring motorist services to the Coral Gables Branch Library – 3443 Segovia Street in Coral Gables. The mini-Florida Licensing on Wheels (FLOW) will visit the branch every second Monday of the month beginning Monday, January 9, 2012, from 10:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. Mini-FLOWS are a convenient way to renew a driver license, change a name or address on a driver license, get an identification card, and renew vehicle registrations. To find out what documents are required, visit www.GatherGoGet.com or call 850.617.3995. Cash, personal checks, MasterCard, American Express and Discover cards are accepted. To learn more about the DHSMV and their services, visit www.flhasmv.gov. For library information, visit www.mdpls.org
>>> Momentum Dance Company Performs: Camille Saint Saens’ CARNIVAL OF THE ANIMALS – Program I in the 2012 Children’s Library Series – Saturday, January 14, 11:00 AM -At the Coral Gables Library 3443 Segovia Ave. For Information, phone the Library at 305-442-8706 – Free & Open to the Public
Seating is Limited, Arrive Early.
>>> OTHER STORIES AROUND FLORIDA
>>> Press release: Tax preparer gets hit with 2-years for filing bogus tax returns
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, announced that defendant Thomas Michael O’Rourke, of Plantation, was sentenced today before U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen M. Williams in connection with criminal tax violations related to his Broward County-based tax preparation business. O’Rourke previously pled guilty to five counts of filing personal false U.S. Individual Income Tax Returns, Forms 1040, for tax years 2002 to 2006, in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section 7206(1). Defendant O’Rourke was sentenced to 24 months’ imprisonment, to be followed by 1 year of supervised release. In addition, O’Rourke was ordered to continue to cooperate with the IRS in the filing of corrected tax returns and pay any taxes that may be owed for tax years 2002 through 2006, which according to court records is approximately $358,364.
According to court documents, O’Rourke used a fraudulent scheme to enrich himself through the preparation and filing of his clients’ tax returns. Beginning in the late 1990’s and through 2008, O’Rourke owned a tax preparation business in Broward County, Florida, through which he fraudulently represented himself to clients and potential clients as a Certified Public Accountant (“CPA”) although he never held such a license. During each of the years 2002 through 2008, O’Rourke prepared two sets of tax returns for his clients. The first return, which he showed to the client, generally reported a refund due to the client. This tax return was not actually filed with the IRS. O’Rourke then prepared a second, false return, and filed it with the IRS through a third party (the “E-filer”) that he had retained to submit returns electronically. This second return showed a larger refund due to O’Rourke’s client. The difference between the expected refund and the larger, fraudulently obtained refund actually paid by the IRS was disbursed by the E-filer to O’Rourke as tax preparation and other fees that the E-filer had been led to believe were owed to O’Rourke. O’Rourke failed to report as part of his gross income at least $1 million he had received from the dual tax return scheme on his personal U.S. Individual Income Tax Returns, Forms 1040, for tax years 2002 to 2006. The tax loss amount is approximately $358,364. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard P. Murad. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.
CITY OF HOLLYWOOD
>>> Ex Miami police officer busted in embezzlement scam
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Miami Field Office, Richard Walker, Special Agent in Charge, United States Department of Labor (DOL), Office of Inspector General (DOL-OIG), and Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI), announce the indictment of Vernell Reynolds, a former City of Miami police officer and former president of the Miami Community Police Benevolent Association (MCPBA), on charges stemming from her embezzlement of MCPBA funds. On January 5, 2012, Reynolds, 46, of Hollywood, Florida, was indicted on sixteen counts of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of the proceeds of the offenses, including more than $200,000. If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum statutory penalty of thirty years’ imprisonment for each count of wire fraud.
According to the allegations in the indictment, the MCPBA is a private association of Miami law enforcement officers that operates in Miami-Dade County. To conduct its affairs, the MCPBA maintained two credit union accounts. The funds contained in the MCPBA credit union accounts consisted primarily of the monthly dues of the MCPBA members. The funds in the accounts were held in trust for the benefit of the MCPBA. In 2005, Reynolds became the president of the MCPBA. As president, Reynolds had signature authority over the MCPBA credit union accounts. Reynolds also possessed and used an ATM/debit card that accessed the MCPBA credit union accounts. The indictment alleges that as early as September 2008, Reynolds began stealing money from the MCPBA accounts and using it for her own purposes. Reynolds’ scheme continued through June 2010. According to the indictment, Reynolds made unauthorized withdrawals from the MCPBA credit union accounts, made unauthorized personal purchases with MCPBA funds and transferred MCPBA funds from the MCPBA accounts to her personal credit union accounts.
The indictment alleges that some of these unauthorized withdrawals occurred at casinos located in South Florida and on at least one occasion in California. Reynolds failed to disclose her unauthorized withdrawals, purchases and transfers to the MCPBA members and presented false financial information to the MCPBA members to conceal her fraud. >>> Mr. Ferrer commends the investigative efforts of the FBI, the DOL-OIG and IRS-CI. Additionally, Mr. Ferrer thanked the City of Miami Police Department Internal Affairs Section, Anti-Corruption Unit for their significant work on this matter and for their full cooperation throughout the investigation. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared E. Dwyer. >>> An indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls
PALM BEACH COUNTY
>>> Press release: Eight people sentenced in Broward & Palm Beach in pill operation, part of Operation Oxy Alley
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division, and José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), announced the sentencing of eight defendants in connection with charges stemming from Operation Oxy Alley, a coordinated investigation into pill mills in Broward and Palm Beach Counties. The eight defendants sentenced to date were charged with twenty-four other defendants in an indictment unsealed on August 23, 2010. The indictment alleged that defendants Christopher and Jeffrey George, twin brothers, operated, managed and financed four pain management clinics in Broward and Palm Beach Counties. According to the indictment and statements made in court, from 2008 to early 2010, these pill mills distributed approximately 20 million oxycodone pills and made more than $40 million from the illegal sales of controlled substances. Thirteen of the thirty-two defendants were doctors.
Today, U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra sentenced four defendants, all of whom had previously pled guilty in Oct. 2011 to one count of racketeering conspiracy. Theodore Obermeyer, 30, of West Palm Beach, was sentenced to 144 months in prison, to be followed by one year of supervised release. Pedro Martinez, 35, of Royal Palm Beach, was sentenced to 60 months in prison, to be followed by one year of supervised release. Vernon Atreidis, M.D., 46, of Fort Lauderdale, was sentenced to 66 months in prison, to be followed by one year of supervised release. Jack Martin, 48, of North Palm Beach, was sentenced to 9 months in prison, to be followed by one year of supervised release. Previously, on December 16, 2011, Judge Marra sentenced four other defendants. Andrew Harrington, 31, of Deerfield Beach, was sentenced to 97 months in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release.
Harrington pled guilty on October 3, 2011 to conspiracy to commit money laundering. Daryl Michael Stewart, 44, of West Palm Beach, was sentenced to 135 months in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release. Stewart pled guilty on September 29, 2011 to one count of racketeering conspiracy. Derik Nolan, 34, of Wellington, was sentenced to 168 months in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release. Nolan pled guilty on October 5, 2011 to one count of racketeering conspiracy. Matthew Siss, 25, of Jupiter, was sentenced to 9 months in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release. Siss pled guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy on October 6, 2011. At present, twenty-eight of the thirty-two defendants named in the indictment have pleaded guilty, including clinic owners Christopher and Jeffrey George. The sentencing hearings are scheduled to continue throughout January and February 2012.
The investigation and prosecution was the result of work by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. FBI, DEA, IRS-CID were assisted by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the Hollywood Police Department, the Boca Raton Police Department, and the Davie Police Department. Coordination efforts also included cooperation by the Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office as well as contributions by the Delray Beach Police Department, Jupiter Police Department, West Palm Beach Police Department, Boynton Beach Police Department, Medley Police Department, Homestead Police Department, North Miami Beach Police Department, and Sunny Isles Police Department. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul F. Schwartz, Lawrence D. LaVecchio and Strider Dickson. >>> A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
>>> Two more people busted and sentenced by feds in Keys lobster case
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Otha Easley, Acting Special Agent in Charge, NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement, Southeast Division, announced that Rush C. Maltz, 36, of the Saddle Bunch Keys, and Titus A. Werner, 36, of Little Torch Key, both pled guilty yesterday in federal District Court in Key West on charges of having conspired to receive, purchase, sell, and transport quantities of lobster for distribution in interstate commerce, without complying with Florida law regarding commercial harvest requirements, licensing provisions, and bag and trip limits essential to the lawful harvest, possession, and sale of saltwater products, in violation of the Lacey Act, all in violation of the federal conspiracy statute, Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. In a subsequent proceeding also held yesterday, their co-defendant Scott A. Greager, 48, of Stock Island, Florida, was sentenced on the same charge.
U.S. District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez accepted the guilty pleas and scheduled sentencing for Maltz and Greager for March 27, 2012 in Key West at 1:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m., respectively. The defendants face up to five years’ imprisonment and a term of supervised release of up to three years, as well as a criminal fine of up to $250,000. Additionally, defendant Maltz is subject to the forfeiture of the proceeds of the sale of two vessels used in furtherance of the criminal offenses. Judge Martinez sentenced Scott Greager to a period of 90 days’ imprisonment, followed by two years of supervised release with a special condition requiring Greager to serve one year of electronically monitored home detention. Greager received a reduced sentence as a result of his substantial assistance to the government, which according to statements in court, was a significant factor in the entry of the guilty pleas by Maltz and Werner.
According to court records, factual statements placed in the record by the parties, and statements made during the hearing, from as early as May 28, 2007 through approximately March 2009, Scott Greager was the sole Director, Officer, Registered Agent, and owner of Holiday Seafood Key West (Holiday), a Florida corporation with its principal business address on Tamarind Drive in Key West. Utilizing a Florida Wholesale Dealer’s License issued in the name of Conch Republic Seafood Company, Greager knowingly made numerous purchases of spiny lobster over the time frame of the conspiracy from Maltz and Werner. These purchases involved the harvest and sale of lobster in excess of the Florida legal daily limit of 250 lobsters. The three defendants also admitted that Greager made payments from an account in the name of Holiday to Maltz and Werner, which they attempted to conceal from the State of Florida by issuing required trip tickets in the name of an unwitting third party. To further limit the likelihood of detection by authorities, the co-conspirators regularly landed lobster that was attributed to harvests from two different vessels – although both were owned by Maltz and operated by the co-conspirators.
According to defendant Greager’s Joint Factual Statement, on seven separate occasions in August 2008, Maltz and Werner made multiple sales to Greager of spiny lobster harvested on the same day using Maltz’ See Vee and T-Craft. Those seven days of multiple transactions, apart from the other illegal sales, represented more than 5,000 pounds of lobster with a wholesale value of almost $40,000. The entire two-year course of conduct involved more than $263,000 in illegally harvested and sold lobster. During the relevant period, Florida Statutes and the Florida Administrative Code set strict requirements for commercial harvest limits on Florida spiny lobster. Florida law also required certain licenses and endorsements for a seafood product harvester to lawfully operate in the State. Wholesale dealers, such as Greager and his business, Holiday, were prohibited from purchasing lobster without first confirming that the seller possessed all required licenses and endorsements, and thereafter making truthful and accurate reports of the transactions to the State. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Special Agents of the NOAA Office for Law Enforcement and thanked the Officers of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission who assisted in bringing the case to our office. The criminal case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
>>> Please join us for Casa Valentina’s Fifth Annual Community Appreciation Luncheon! You are invited to help us celebrate our successes over the past five years, and to hear our plans for the next five years and beyond… Wednesday, February 8, 11:30 am – 1:00 pm, Elizabeth Virrick Park Gymnasium, 3255 Plaza Street, Coconut Grove *Walking tour to Casa Valentina following lunch. Our new Program Director, Karen Haag, will discuss how Casa Valentina’s new program for young mothers aging out of foster care with babies will help these youth to form secure attachment relationships with their children. If you are able to attend, please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, February 3. Special thank you to our sponsor: Fare to Remember Creative Catering!
>>> SOUTH MIAMI-DADE CULTURAL ARTS CENTER AND delancyhill LAW FIRM PRESENT 8TH ANNUAL BLACK HISTORY MONTH CELEBRATION
The Langston Hughes Project featuring The Ron McCurdy Quartet and celebrity Spoken Word artist Malcolm Jamal-Warner
South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center (SMDCAC) celebrates Black History Month with a presentation of the Langston Hughes Project, Ask Your Mama, Twelve Moods for Jazz on Thursday, February 23 at 8:00 p.m. on the main stage. The performance features the Ron McCurdy Quartet with celebrity spoken word artist Malcolm Jamal-Warner. As part of this special evening, delancyhill law firm will host their 8th Annual Black History Month Celebration with a VIP reception honoring Miami-Dade County Commissioner Dennis C. Moss at 6:00 p.m. in the Black Box Studio. Proceeds from the VIP Reception will benefit SMDCAC’s education and outreach programs. Tickets to the performance are $30, $20, $10 ($5 tickets CultureShockmiami.com), $5 off orchestra level seats for students seniors and active military service members. Tickets to the VIP reception are $50 and includes entrance to the performance. The public should contact SMDCAC’s Box Office at 786-573-5300 or visit www.smdcac.org. SMDCAC is located at 10950 SW 211 Street, Cutler Bay.
>>> The dye is cast; hundreds of county employees will start to hit the streets after BCC shoots down Mayor Gimenez’s union contracts concessions
The dye is cast after Miami-Dade County Commissioners voted 7 to 6 to shoot down Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s proposals Thursday to increase a number of unions members contributions for their healthcare by giving up 5 percent of their salary and that act is now forcing the mayor to institute hundreds of layoffs of the 26,000 county employees with the first batch of pink slips going out this week. The county commission when it approved giving Miami-Dade taxpayer’s property tax breaks back in September at the budget hearings knew hard choices were going to have to be made, but the mayor’s goal was to mitigate the number of county employees put on the streets by them making concessions via their union contracts. But a variety of the 10 county unions have not gone along with the program, membership has rejected some new contracts and now police and corrections officers, the biggest block of workers in collective bargaining units with around 5,400 employees, will have to be reduced by hundreds of people in the weeks ahead.
Commissioners on the prevailing side argued it was just a question of priorities and in the case of the police union members. The elected leaders believed the mayor’s administration could have found the $18 million in money and it was just a matter of priorities given the size of the county budget. However, with the clock ticking into the fourth budget month and cash going out the door at the old rate and the county required by state law to have a balanced budget by the end of the fiscal year Sept.30. Drastic fiscal moves are going to have to be made now by the mayor’s administration, this is about real people being let go, and everyday that goes by without a global resolution to the matter will only make the fiscal hole deeper for all employees at Miami-Dade County.
Gimenez has said he will veto the issue after the marathon commission meeting where commissioners listened to over seven hours of heart wrenching testimony of the danger law enforcement officer’s face on a daily basis. But the rubber is meeting the road and while many ideas were suggested during the public hearing on how to raise more revenue, like going after people cheating on their homestead exemptions or code violation fines owed. This is not real money in hand, and in the years ahead might be available, but this crisis and fiscal hemorrhaging continues, and everyday that goes by almost compounds the problem and the dilemma is how to get this resolved and put to bed before it becomes too late. A fiscal situation that is fast approaching in what almost appears to be a game of political chicken that will have only the community in a wide swath of ways paying the final price.
>>> Reader on Medicare fraud in S. Florida and its past history
Re: the 1/1/12 Watchdog Report piece on fraud in S. Fl. >> Two things: 1) Florida statutes incentivizied insurance companies to pay claims promptly by creating somewhat stiff penalties for failing to promptly pay claims when it appears they reasonably should be paid. Although this may have led to some fraud in the wake of Hurricane Andrew, the state considers it better public policy to get money promptly into the hands of those insurance claimants who need the money than to allow insurers to hold onto money, unless the insurer has a very good reason to deny the claim. It is a cost of doing business in this (and many other states). As with Medicare, property and casualty insurers can always pursue fraud charges after prompt payment of questionable claims.
2) While it may be true that “Here in Miami around 2003, the local U.S. Attorney’s office created its first FBI Medicare fraud detail”, the local U.S. Attorney’s office has made Medicare fraud a priority since the early 1990s. As a young lawyer, I was asked to do a story for the Dade Bar Bulletin about the new U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Kendall Coffey, wherein he emphasized that Medicare fraud was a new focus for his office. Unfortunately, it appears that many of the fraudsters may even be agents of the Castro regime who flee back to Cuba when arrest is imminent or when released on bail after stealing millions from the U.S. >>> Happy New Year to you and keep up the good work.
>>> Posted on http://fsamnews.blogspot.com: Attached a link http://www.pressdisplay.com/pressdisplay/viewer.aspx to an interesting article titled “Stronger form of Oxycodone means more pain for the US” published in the Sun Sentinel on December 29th, 2011.
In this commentary the author points out that “several drug companies are completing FDA trials to introduce a new, much stronger form of Oxycodone to the $10 billion opiate prescription drug market in 2013. Unlike the more than 400 opiate painkillers already on the market that blend the powerful narcotic with other medications, the new drug is solely composed of pure Oxycodone. It will be very potent, delivering up to 10 times more pain relief than present prescriptions.”
Whereas all of us are struggling to contain the prescription drug epidemic, pharmaceutical companies, driven by the profit motive, seem to have found a business opportunity to sell more powerful narcotics to the ever growing number of opioid dependent addicts.
Therefore, I agree with the authors’ conclusion: “If tobacco companies are forced to contribute a portion of each sale of a cigarette pack to pay for the effort to curb tobacco use and the financial and medical consequences cause by American smoking cigarettes, why not the manufacturers of the most abused addictive prescriptive drug in the United States? It is time to make politically powerful drug companies responsible and accountable for their destructive products. They, not U.S. taxpayers, should have to bear the brunt of the financial and social burdens from rampant illegal misuse of Oxycodone.”
Bernd Wollschlaeger, MD, FAAFP, FASAM
>>> Happy New Year Dan.
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The Watchdog Report covers a few of the meetings attended weekly. It remains my belief that an informed public will make better decisions. Therefore, I go to meetings, make the presence of an informed citizen known, and bring the information to you. The Watchdog Report is in the fourth year of publication and it has been an honor to be able to send this information to you. It is sent to readers in Miami-Dade, Florida, the U.S. and the world. The Watchdog Report is sent to thousands free and while readers have been prodded to subscribe the results have been mixed. Over 550 reports and Extra’s have been sent since May 5, 2000 and over one million words have been written on our community’s governments and events. The report is an original work based on information gathered at public meetings, interviews and from documents in the public domain.
I welcome letters via e-mail, fax, or snail mail. Letters may be edited for length or clarity and must refer to material published in the Watchdog Report. Please see address and contact information. Please send any additions and corrections by e-mail, fax or snail mail. All corrections will be published in the next Watchdog Report. If you or your organization would like to publish the contents of this newsletter, please contact me. Please send your request to email@example.com
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Copyright © of original material, 2011, Daniel A. Ricker
>>> The Watchdog Report are now available to television stations web pages, and all the newspapers and other media in South Florida if the publishers have an interest to run part or all of the stories. Further, in 2000, I used to have some paper’s running the report in the Spanish press, that option is available again, and publishers should contact me. The news content will not be free, but you can pick and chose the stories of interest, edit them if necessary but you must still keep the general story intact. If you are a news outlet and would like to learn more about, the Watchdog Report and this offer contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
>>> Here is what past newspapers have written about the Watchdog Report publisher including a survey and regional study done by the U. North Carolina at Chapel Hill on the media in the southeast United States.
>>> The Miami Herald and Orlando Sentinel & Sun-Sentinel articles on the Watchdog Report publisher over the years. >>> Published on September 9, 1999, Page 1EA, Miami Herald, The (FL) CITIZEN ADVOCATE’ KEEPS TABS ON POLITICIANS >>> Published on January 3, 2000, Page 1B, Miami Herald, The (FL) MIAMI-DADE WATCHDOG WILL BE MISSED >>> >>> To read the full section large two page front page story, but without the photos and smart box graphics, go to: `I Go When You Cannot’ – Sun Sentinel 20 Jan 2003 … Sometimes Dan Ricker lives in the dark so others may live in the light. … to his weekly Watchdog Report have finally mailed their checks. … http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2003-01-20/news/0301190341_1_ricker-school-board-president-miami-s-first-cuban-american >>>Watchdog Report publisher named ‘Best Citizen’ 2003 by the Miami New Times –The publisher would like to thank the weekly alternative paper Miami New Times for bestowing their 2003 Best of Miami, ‘Best Citizen’ award to me and I am honored. Thank you. To read the full story go to http://www.miaminewtimes.com/issues/2003-05-15/citylife2.html/1/index.html
From the spring of 2003: U. North Carolina, Chapel Hill: Southeast U.S. Media Report lists Watchdog Report publisher as leading Florida commentator >>> Selected excerpts from the report on Florida’s media sources
Those who do read the newspaper in Florida have a bevy of options for state government and political coverage. The dominant newspapers in the state are Knight-Ridder’s The Miami Herald (Acquired by The McClatchy Company in 2006) and the Poynter Institute’s St. Petersburg Times. Both papers endorsed Gore in 2000 but split on the 2002 gubernatorial race, with the Herald endorsing Republican incumbent Jeb Bush and the Times backing Democratic challenger Bill McBride. Daniel Ricker of The Miami Herald also writes an influential column as well as an email newsletter called the Watchdog Report that goes out to more than 100,000 subscribers. FEBRUARY 2004 – Florida: Columnists in Abundance –ERIC GAUTSCHI, graduate student, School of Journalism & Mass Communication, UNC-Chapel Hill – D) LEADING COMMENTATORS – Resource Commentator Organization Type Web site –Steve Bousquet St. Petersburg Times Column www.sptimes.com/columns/bousquet.shtml -“First Friday” WPBT TV (Miami) TV Show www.channel2.org/firstfriday/issues.html –Lucy Morgan St. Petersburg Times Column www.sptimes.com/columns/morgan.shtml –Daniel Ricker Miami Herald/Watchdog Report Newsletter >>> Readers who would like to read the complete University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Southeast United States Media Report go to view the complete report or download all the data used in this study. >>> Watchdog Report Editor’s note to the NCU/CH study: The subscriber number referenced is incorrect and applies to readership.
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