Archive for August 2012


Watchdog Report Vol.13 No.16 August 26, 2012 Est.05.05.00 – I go when you cannot – T.S. Isaac issue


Argus Report: Controversy continues to follow Congressman Rivera, using up many of his political lives with these continuing FBI investigations

Florida: House Speaker Cannon says sayonara from office, attorney had $347,000 net worth through 2011

Miami-Dade County: Will MIA director Abreu say sayonara before March?  No conversation with Mayor Gimenez, “but it is possible,” he says after seven years in the job

Miami-Dade Public Schools: Voters to decide on $1.2 billion bond issue, but no local public dollars should go for the 103 charter schools in Miami-Dade, schools are not public assets

Public Health Trust: Two Home Health Care Nurses Convicted of Conspiracy to Commit Health Care Fraud and Health Care Fraud

City of Miami: Another torpedo hits Miami as CFO Larned threatens to bail out of city, residents should expect rough fiscal weather ahead

City of Miami Beach: Gov. Scott reappoints Anne “Sandy” Batchelor-Robjohns to South Florida Water Management District Board.

City of Coral Gables: Softball story on new hires by Mgr. Salerno gets calls from manager and Commissioner Anderson

>>> Other stories around Florida

Broward County: Snipes elected unopposed, took over from controversial Oliphant suspended by Gov. Bush, incumbent had $608,000 net worth through 2011

Community Event: hosts 9/11 conversation with former Senator Bob Graham on September 11

Palm Beach County: Elections supervisor Bucher faces three opponents, McDuffie main challenger in race and she had $1.67 million net worth through Jun. 2012

Lake County: Lake County Woman Sentenced on Bank Fraud Conspiracy Charges

Monroe County: Elections Supervisor Sawyer in the spotlight, defies Gov. Scott wanting longer early voting days, has $225,000 net worth through 2011

Community Events: Greater Miami Chamber luncheon event Tuesday allows people to meet the Miami Dolphins players and staff — Kristi House event

Editorials: PAST WDR JUN. 2009: Trust with taxpayers becoming a rare thing for government, new Marlins ballpark is another example of that bond going awry  Check out the past national story in the Tribune papers:  Paperwork Tiger By Maya Bell, Miami Bureau, Orlando Sun-Sentinel January 20, 2003 >>> And a 2004 UNC Chapel Hill study of the Southeast United States 15 states media outlet study where the Watchdog Report is listed as writing a “influential” column in Florida with over 100,000 readers:

Letters: City’s Proposed Twenty Year/$206 Million Storm Water Management Plan — Would the School Board be willing to put language in the proposed ballot issue for new capital funds that all of the money will go to properties owned by the public schools

Sponsors – Publisher’s mission statement & Subscription information is at the bottom of this issue — Scroll down for all the headline stories text

>>> Just because you do not take an interest in politics does not mean politics will not take an interest in you. –Pericles (430 B.C.)

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>>> May you and your family be safe as Tropical Storm Isaac passes by South Florida today and tonight and the storm is why the WDR is going out early since I will likely lose my power later in the day and this is a truncated issue this week.

ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street

>>> Controversy continues to follow GOP Congressman Rivera, using up many of his political lives with these continuing FBI investigations

U.S. Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami is being worked over in the media after a Democratic Party primary candidate sent out attack mailers against Joe Garcia, also a candidate in the Party’s primary concerning his divorce. The Miami Herald has done a series of stories over the week detailing the freshman congressional representative’s role in the campaign and the use of Hugh Cochran, an IT information maven and former FBI special-agent who gives voter and demographic data to a wide variety of campaigns. Rivera says The Herald is wrong and denies knowing the controversial candidate in the Democrats race. However, Rivera produced amended documents for Justin Lamar Sternad the Democratic Party candidate in question, and the congressman demurred on how he came in possession of the documents.

Further, a political operative close to Rivera, Ana Alliegro helped Sternad with the multiple campaign flyer mailings and was reported paid $7,000 in new $100.00 bills and she was once a candidate for the Flroida House in 2000 when she ran against state Rep. Carlos Lacasa, R-Miami who defeated her in the GOP primary back then (He raised $285,000 for that race to her $63,900). She was said at the time to be put up to the run by the Diaz de la Portilla family, had dated state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami in some sort of political feud, but she has morphed since then into a seasoned campaign operative in her own right. And she may now have a social relationship with Rivera.

The Rivera political saga has been going on for years but this latest dustup has his friends and past supporters wondering what is going on and the FBI is looking into the amended federal campaign submitted by Sternard and the sudden listing of $43,000 in contributions and from where this new money came in. >>> >>>–96036314.html >>> Story on Alliegro from 2001

>>> Press release: Anti-Semitic Imagery Has No Place In Our Discourse, Ros-Lehtinen Says

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the following statement today regarding reports that Austrian politician Heinz-Christian Strache published an anti-Semitic caricature on his Facebook page depicting a banker (wearing cufflinks with the Star of David on them) benefiting from the financial crisis. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen: “The recent dissemination of an anti-Semitic caricature by an Austrian politician is a stark reminder that the fight against anti-Semitism is far from over. While we have made significant strides in promoting religious tolerance and understanding, we cannot be lulled into a false sense of security regarding our success. We must remain vigilant to prevent anti-Semitic slurs and stereotypes from gaining any traction in the public consciousness. These offensive images and despicable comments have no place in our discourse.”

>>> All photos in the Watchdog Report are taken from public government sites, and the Report goes on line at 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 and was Best Citizen in the 2003 Best of Miami of The Miami New Times, profiled twice in The Miami Herald, and the Orlando Sentinel ran a nationwide story on me in the Tribune papers on Jan. 2003, and UNC Chapel Hill named 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 91.3 FM 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 on and The Florida Roundup on


>>> House Speaker Cannon says sayonara from office, attorney had $347,000 net worth through 2011

State Rep. Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park is in the spotlight this week and his tenure as Speaker of the House ends this year since he is termed out. Cannon was first elected in 2004 and he rose up the party’s ranks with speed  and reached the top pinnacle of the House in 2011. He was born in Germany since his father was in the military, and he has two degrees from the University of Florida, an undergraduate degree in journalism and a law degree.

What do we know about his finances?

Cannon through Dec. 2011 had a net worth of $347,310 and he lists $92,500 in household goods. His home is worth $750,000, one in the state capital is valued at $300,000, a retirement account has $164,347, a bank account has $10,364 and a GMC Yukon is valued at $33,500. The state lawmaker owes Wells Fargo $692,000, $277,500, $89,700, and $12,800 and he filed his IRS 1040 for the year. His listed joint income for the year on the tax return was $294,098, and he paid $34,014 in federal taxes.

Cannon – Bio:

>>> Children’s Movement of Florida  Voices of Florida – We all have a story, a story that defines us. It is our collective story, our challenges and our triumphs that inspire a movement. Floridians from all walks of life have joined together with an understanding that the future of our state rests on the well-being of our children. Visit The Children’s Movement website to read their stories and share your own. >>> I find it unacceptable, as all of us should, that at least a half-million children in Florida – all citizens — have no health insurance. How could this be in our beloved country that seeks to be a beacon to the world? Health insurance for all children is one of the five major planks of The Children’s Movement.

With the support of Florida Covering Kids and Families, The Children’s Movement is working with dozens of local partners to help build a meaningful signing-up initiative in more than a dozen Florida communities. Already we have: Completed 18 KidCare trainings around the state. Signed up, trained and deployed more than a hundred volunteers. Begun to build a growing collaboration between local school districts and KidCare outreach coalitions. It’s a good start, but only the start. If you’d like to become a volunteer, just click here. Another way to help is to make a contribution – of any size – to help support this work. It is easy. Just click here. A real movement isn’t possible without your helping in some meaningful way. Dave Lawrence, Chair The Children’s Movement.

>>> Press release: South Florida Regional Planning Council (SFRPC) and Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council (TCRPC) are participating in a project to identify strategies to diversify Florida’s energy future. This effort is being done in association with the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Energy, and Florida Office of Energy. The project involves running economic impact scenarios on the effects of diversifying our energy portfolio and examines ways to become less reliant on imported oil. Information gathered will be used to develop strategies to improve energy resiliency and create domestic energy jobs. The purpose of this email is to ask you to participate in this planning effort by taking an online energy survey available at:

The energy survey website contains separate residential and business surveys. You may take the Residential Energy Survey on behalf of your home living experience. You may also take the Business Energy Survey on behalf of your work situation. The surveys will only take a few minutes of your time. The results of the surveys will be made available in October when we hold a workshop to discuss economic impact scenarios and discuss energy resiliency strategies. If you have questions about the Statewide Energy Resiliency Strategy project, please contact Peter G. Merritt, Assistant Director, TCRPC (772-221-4060; or Zhijun Jeanne Tan, Senior Policy Analyst, SFRPC (954-985-4416;

>>> Press release: Florida State Senator Gwen Margolis Receives 2012 Public Leadership in the Arts Award for State Arts Leadership from Americans for the Arts and the National Conference of State Legislatures

Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education, and the National Conference of State Legislatures today announced Florida State Senator Gwen Margolis as the recipient of the 2012 Public Leadership in the Arts Award for State Arts Leadership, which honors a public official who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in the advancement of the arts at the state level. Senator Margolis will receive her award today at the today at the National Conference of State Legislatures Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Senator Gwen Margolis has been championing pro-arts policies at the local and state government levels for decades. Of the eight years that she served on the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners, she was chair for 6 years and leveraged her position to elevate the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs from an agency to a full department while also tripling its budget. During her tenure as Senate President, she led the successful restoration of funding for the grants programs under the Division of Cultural Affairs. And now as the vice chair of the Senate Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee, she has championed restoring Florida’s investment in its arts and cultural grants programs. Under her leadership, she initiated the restoration of the state of Florida’s arts funding which had been slashed in previous years.

“Senator Margolis has been a tremendous supporter of the arts,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. “Her advocacy for the arts in Florida not only demonstrates her commitment to public funding for the arts but also to the people of Florida who benefit from the arts and the financial benefits they provide for all of the state’s communities.” “Florida’s quality of life amenities are too numerous to list. The cultural and recreations offerings, natural environment, beaches, culture enhance the quality of life by increasing the awareness of the art industry, and to work tirelessly to ensure funding will always exist.” >>> Americans for the Arts is the leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts in America. With offices in Washington, D.C. and New York City, it has a record of more than 50 years of service. Americans for the Arts is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for every American to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts. Additional information is available at

nary experiences, and festivals, draws millions of people to the State of Florida each year,” said Margolis. “It has always been my goal.


>>> Will MIA director Abreu say sayonara before March?  No conversation with Mayor Gimenez, “but it is possible,” he says after seven years in job

Jose Abreu, the Miami-Dade Aviation director has a new presentation of the past “Seven Years of Growth at MIA,” and he lists all his accomplishments since he took over at MIA and was charged with completing the $6.4 billion decade’s old capital improvement plan that included finishing the new North and South Terminals. Abreu had indicated in the past that while he could step down in November, he suggested he would more likely stay until March when all the construction was expected to be completed but with this presentation. People inside of MIA are asking if he may bailout earlier than expected. The Watchdog Report contacted the professional engineer on Friday about him leaving the post earlier and he wrote, “I have not had the conversation with the Mayor [Carlos Gimenez], but it’s possible.” However, no matter what happens in the months ahead he has done a good job in the pressure cooker job and the real question in a county that is totally political. Will the next director have the skills necessary or will it become a political position that in the months ahead will have to make $1 million a day of debt payments on the construction bill for the two terminals that is at 322 days before that happens, but when it hits 365 days. Every concession and revenue stream better be firing on all cylinders for the margin of error is slight when it comes to the debt financing cost of the MIA expansion over the past 20 years.

>>> Commissioner Souto in the spotlight, fixture on dais, but sometimes “we have liftoff,” chair Teele used to say, had net worth of $591,000 through 2011

Javier Souto, the long serving county commissioner who represents Commission District 10 is in the spotlight this week and while he can ramble on. He has fended off past challengers and is a fanatic about constituent services that has his commission staff driving to locations in a different manner to increase the eyes on what is going on. Souto a former Bay of Pigs participant also was one of the first Cuban Americans to serve in the state house and senate and he still periodically wears his Florida Senate pin on his lapel. He is known for his passionate speeches from the dais and “I know things,” and how the county works are constant themes that eventually get into the problem of county “corruption” and he and he periodically calls the county hall building “The palace of corruption.” However, he sometimes rambles and this past week a number of citizens attending the commission meeting on Thursday carped that he was getting on in the years and someone in 2014 should run against him. Souto who once challenged me because years ago I wrote he seemed to maybe have a “stroke” on the dais to this day periodically brings the issue up but he is highly visible in the commission district and holds numerous town hall meetings with the public.

What do we know about his finances?

Souto through Dec. 2011 had a net worth of $591,000 and he lists $11,000 in household goods. His home is valued at $350,000, two condominiums are valued at $90,000 and $150,000, a property at Briny Breezes is worth $80,000, and there is $395,000 in savings and CDs. He has mortgages owed $136,000, $16,000, and $302,000 and he owes a credit union $28,000. His listed income for the year was $29,260 as a commissioner, another $12,000 came in because of interest, social security kick in $21,830 and another $24,000 was income from an expense account as commissioner.


>>> Voters to decide on $1.2 billion bond issue, but no local public dollars should go for the 103 charter schools in Miami-Dade, schools are not public assets

With the discussion now of Miami-Dade voters passing a $1.2 billion new capital improvement bond now on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. A persistent question has been will any of this public money go the 103 charter schools found around the county. Charter schools are already getting public funding from the state for capital improvements, and there must be some safeguard that this new money does not go to these many times for profit organizations but directed exclusively to the nation’s fourth largest public schools facilities. If voters are expected to buy into the bond. The current almost $1 billion bond passed in 1988 for new school faculties ends in 2017 and if the new paper is approved, payments on that note would go out to 2050.

>>> Press release: Miami-Dade Superintendent of Schools Alberto M. Carvalho announced today that all Miami-Dade County public schools, adult education centers and offices will be closed on Monday, August 27th, due to the effects of Tropical Storm Isaac.  All extracurricular activities and athletic events for Monday have been canceled.  The decision was made after conversations with Florida’s Governor and Commissioner of Education, and after consultations with Miami-Dade County Emergency Operations and the National Hurricane Center. The anticipation of high wind and flooding will make transportation to schools difficult, particularly for school buses. The effects of the storm are predicted to be felt Sunday night and Monday morning, which will make assessment of facilities difficult in time for school on Monday. Information updates on Tropical Storm Isaac and school status can be found at 305-995-3000.


>>> Press release: Two Home Health Care Nurses Convicted of Conspiracy to Commit Health Care Fraud and Health Care Fraud

Wifredo Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Michael B. Steinbach, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Christopher Dennis, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), announce that a federal jury in Miami found Odalys Fernandez, of Miami, Florida, and Kelvin Soto, of Hialeah, Florida, guilty of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and health care fraud charges following a one week trial before U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro. The jury convicted Fernandez and Soto each of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349, and five counts of health care fraud for Fernandez, and four counts of health care fraud for Soto, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1347.

According to the evidence presented at trial, Soto and Fernandez were Registered Nurses (R.N.) employed by Ideal Home Health, a company that submitted approximately $40 million in false claims to Medicare. As part of their jobs as R.N.’s, Soto and Fernandez purportedly provided skilled nursing services to homebound insulin dependent diabetics who were so ill that they were unable to inject themselves with insulin.  Under Medicare regulations Soto and Fernandez were required to keep records of each and every time they provided a skilled nursing service to a Medicare beneficiary. Between August 17, 2007, through March 19, 2009, the defendants completed hundreds of documents in which they claimed that they had injected Medicare beneficiaries with insulin two times a day, seven days per week. At trial, the evidence showed that at least three of the Medicare beneficiaries that the defendants claimed to be injecting with insulin were not even diabetic.

Evidence was also presented showing that beneficiaries were paid $1000 cash kickbacks in return for agreeing to pretend to need the skilled nursing services. In addition, there was evidence presented that defendant Soto claimed to be providing injections to 2 and 3 Medicare beneficiaries at the same time. Based upon the defendants’ false statements, hundreds of thousands of dollars in claims were submitted to Medicare for services that were not medically necessary or actually provided to Medicare beneficiaries. Sentencing in this case has been set for November 9, 2012.  The defendants are facing a statutory maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment as to each count. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and HHS-OIG.  This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel Bernstein and Robert Luck. 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


>>> Another torpedo hits Miami as CFO Larned threatens to bail out of city, residents should expect rough fiscal weather ahead

With the threat of losing the Miami CFO Janice Larned reported  in ,the Mayor Tomas Regalado and Manager Johnny Martinez administration are fighting for the city’s fiscal life now that a local court ruled the manager could not declare financial urgency, the  commission had to do that, and thus $40 million in needed concessions for the new budget year Oct.1 need to be found and time is running out with just over a month before the commission has to approve a new balanced budget for the year. The Watchdog Report last week noted that some of the new city staff is lite on the credentials but in this case, Lerned is a professional that is just trying to do her job.

But this continued local administrative turmoil that includes a SEC investigation that concluded Miami ginned the numbers of a city bond issued a few years ago and the new budget hole is apparently stressing out some of the staff that actually have to do something. And her leaving or any of the other people involved in finance or budgeting departing as well, this is not be a good sign. And Regalado and Martinez have to now navigate the city through this fiscal mine field and the way things are looking now, that will be no easy task in the coming weeks that includes two public budget hearings in September. >>> The Watchdog Report contacted Regalado and Martinez by email Saturday asking if any other members in a variety of senior budget, finance or capital programs has resigned, but by my deadline I received no answer.


>>> Press release:  Gov. Scott reappoints Anne “Sandy” Batchelor-Robjohns to South Florida Water Management District Board.

Batchelor-Robjohns, 59, of Miami Beach, has been chairman and co-CEO of The Batchelor Foundation Inc. since 2007 and previously served as an officer and director of the organization since its inception in 1990. She was also an officer and member of the board of directors of Aerospace Finance L.T.D. from 1999 to 2005. She has been the personal representative of the George E. Batchelor estate since 2002. Her community involvement includes serving on boards for Audubon of Florida, the University of Miami Rosenstiel School Marine and Atmospheric Science and the Florida International University Medical School.  Batchelor-Robjohns received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona, a master’s degree from the University of Florida, a law degree from the St. Thomas University School of Law and a Master of Laws from the University of Miami. She is reappointed for a term beginning August 21, 2012, and ending March 1, 2016. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

>>> Press release: Miami Beach city manager Kathie Brooks is Breakfast Club speaker Tuesday, Aug. 28, 8:30AM – 10:00AM.  [Note new location: David’s Cafe Collins Ave. & 11th St.] >>> 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 now meeting at David’s Cafe I, corner of Collins Ave. & 11th St., Miami Beach. 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.  For scheduling contact David Kelsey at . To be placed on mailing list contact Harry Cherry, same e-mail address.


>>> Softball story on new hires by Mgr. Salerno gets calls from manager and Commissioner Anderson

After last week’s story in the WDR, Pat Salerno the manager of Coral Gables on Monday contacted the Watchdog Report by phone and wanted to be sure I understood that the new hires I wrote about “were done in early July,” and had nothing to do with the contentious meeting at the end of the month where Commissioners Ralph Cabrera, Jr., and Maria Anderson lost a vote to have the top administrator removed by 3 to 2. He said that had been in the works before that meeting and he wanted to make it clear there was no linkage to the matter. Further, Anderson called me an hour or so afterwards and she also wanted to be clear she did not take the issue of the manager’s dismissal lightly and she was concerned about the morale among Gables city workers. She also noted the manager was very good behind the scenes in getting what he thought the city needed passed by the mayor and commission and the issue of his performance was not personal in nature from her perspective.

>>> City webpage: Additional Staff Joins City’s Management Team – There are two new faces in the City of Coral Gables. City Manager Pat Salerno continues to rebuild and move the organization forward without increasing the number of City employees. As a result, the following new staff members have recently joined the organization:

Nicole Cueto will be returning to the City as Assistant to the City Manager. Nicole was previously an intern in the Mayor’s Office. She is currently working for the City of Miami as a senior staff assistant to Commission Chairman Francis Suarez. Nicole recently completed her law degree and has been admitted to The Florida Bar. She also recently received her MBA.

Jessica Keller is the new Director of the City’s Community Services Department. The Parks and Recreation, Parking, and Public Service functions were consolidated into the new Community Services Department. Jessica has significant experience in transportation planning, project manage­ment and engineering. She most recently served as the Director of Service Development at the Maryland Transit Administration. Prior to that, Jessica was the Chief of Planning for the Baltimore City Department of Transportation. She has a Master’s degree in Engineering from the University of Maryland and Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Analysis and Planning.



>>> Snipes elected unopposed, took over from controversial Oliphant suspended by Gov. Bush, incumbent had $608,000 net worth through 2011

Brenda Snipes, the Broward Elections Supervisor is in the spotlight this week, she replaced Miriam Oliphant who was suspended from office after chaotic elections back in 2002, and then Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Snipes to the office. Snipes in 2004 would later win the office in her own right, she has prevailed with county voters since then, and she ran again this year unopposed. Since her appointment, she has run a steady elections office though she has had budget battles with the Broward Commission over the years but overall Broward residents apparently are satisfied with her performance in office.

What do we know about her finances?

Snipes through Dec. 2011 had a net worth of $608,000 and she lists $49,000 in household goods. Her Lauderdale Lakes home is valued at $92,000, two pieces of property in Alabama are worth $15,000 and $7,500, and there is $480,000 in a variety of bonds, annuities and savings accounts. Her only creditor is a credit card company owed $4,500 and her salary for the year was $142,000, Social Security kicked in $22,380 and the Florida Retirement System contributed $44,208.


>>> Thank you for using the Broward County Commission Agenda E-mail Notification System. A new Broward County Commission Agenda is available. Point your browser to to view the new agenda.

>>> Press release: Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti today announced an additional arrest as part of continuing enforcement efforts under Operation Dirty Money.  Zairis Cruz, 37, employee of I & T Financial Service, LLC, located in Miami, was charged with 29 counts of money service business violations for her part in a $2.5 million, fraudulent check cashing scheme. “Our workers’ comp fraud taskforce is continuing to crack down on check cashing schemes that divert nearly $1 billion from Florida’s economy annually,” CFO Atwater said. “These fraudsters put all businesses and employees at risk. Make no mistake, if you are involved in workers’ comp fraud you will be caught and be brought to justice.” “When we announced the initial results of Operation Dirty Money we said it was just the beginning,” Sheriff Al Lamberti said. “It’s a pattern of organized fraud, not an isolated incident or two, and the task force will continue its work.” The Workers’ Compensation Fraud Task Force investigation revealed that Cruz submitted 29 Currency Transaction Reports containing materially false information about the transactions to the Internal Revenue Service totaling over $2.5 million. Each fraudulent Currency Transaction Report completed and submitted to the IRS as accurate constitutes a third degree felony. Cruz was booked into the Miami-Dade County Jail and is being held on $145,000 bond. If convicted on all charges, she faces up to 150 years in prison. The charges against Cruz will be prosecuted by Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. >>> The Workers’ Compensation Fraud Task Force was jointly created by CFO Atwater’s Division of Insurance Fraud and Sheriff Lamberti’s office in August of 2011. Through joint efforts, the task force has been able to successfully shut down 12 shell companies and identify $140 million in fraudulent transactions associated with these companies. Anyone with information about these or any other incidents of suspected insurance fraud is asked to call 1-800-378-0445. Citizens who provide tips can remain anonymous. The Department of Financial Services to date has awarded almost $275,000 to more than 40 citizens as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program. The program rewards individuals up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme.


>>> hosts 9/11 conversation with former Senator Bob Graham on September 11

Questions about Saudi Arabia’s possible involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks have lingered for more than a decade. Over the past year, has reported how Congress and the 9/11 Commission were kept in the dark about a secret FBI investigation that found troubling ties between the 9/11 hijackers and Saudis then living in Sarasota.

Former Florida U.S. senator and two-term governor Bob Graham, co-chair of Congress’s Joint Inquiry into the attacks, was privy to top-secret information on suspected foreign support for the hijackers. He believes events in Sarasota offer important clues about what happened, and has called on President Obama to reopen the investigation. Join us at the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale on Sept. 11 for a special evening with Sen. Graham on the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks for our program, “Unanswered Questions of 9/11: A Conversation With Bob Graham.”  Sen. Graham will answer questions and be available afterward to sign copies of his latest book, “Keys to the Kingdom.” >>> Ticket Options: Tickets are available at Meet Sen. Graham at the 5:30 p.m. VIP Cocktail Reception. $75 ticket includes drinks and hors d’oeuvres, lecture, upfront seating and priority access at the book signing. Pre-sale general admission tickets to the 6:30 p.m. lecture are available for $20 through Aug. 31; $30 on Sept. 1-11. Proceeds benefit Broward, an independent 501(c) 3 nonprofit providing local watchdog reporting in the public interest.


>>> Elections supervisor Bucher faces three opponents, McDuffie main challenger in race and she had $1.67 million net worth through Jun. 2012

Susan Bucher, the Palm Beach Elections Supervisor is in the spotlight this week and the former Democratic state representative was elected in 2008. She has three challengers in the primary race including Nelson “Woodie” McDuffie, Caneste Succe and write in candidate Maxo Marc. Bucher had $55,140 in her campaign war chest, McDuffie has $43,012 and the other two candidates list raising no money for the race that she won and became the first elections supervisor to win reelection since the controversial 2000 Gore versus Bush presidential race that involved the infamous and confusing butterfly ballot design.

What do we know about her finances?

Bucher through June 2012 had a net worth of $1.67 million and she lists $45,000 in household goods. There is $776,000 in brokerage investments, savings has $200,000, there is $252,000 in retirement accounts, her home is worth $400,000, and she lists no liabilities. Her income for the year was $140,000 from the elected office and there was $23,500 in dividends.




>>> Press release: Lake County Woman Sentenced on Bank Fraud Conspiracy Charges

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Michael B. Steinbach, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announce that defendant Linda Irene Rovetto, 69, of Lake County, was sentenced today in federal court for her participation in a bank fraud conspiracy scheme.  Rovetto had previously pled guilty to converting and misdirecting more than $3.5 million of real estate escrow funds, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1344 and 1349.  At today’s hearing, U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez sentenced Rovetto to 42 months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release.  In addition, Rovetto was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $2,040,343.14 to the banks defrauded by her conduct.

On December 9, 2010, defendant Rovetto and three others were indicted on bank fraud, conspiracy, and related mortgage fraud charges.  According to the charges, Rovetto, through her company Florida Lakes Title & Closing, LLC, along with various co-defendants, was diverting escrowed mortgaged funds from real estate closings.  The defendants diverted more than $3.5 million in mortgage loans to Raviworld New Homes, Inc., a company managed by codefendant Bhaardwaj “Deo” Seecharan.  Bhaardwaj Seecharan pled guilty on April 2, 2012 to the same charges as Rovetto.  Sentencing for both Seecharan and his wife and codefendant Gergawattie “Kamla” Seecharan is scheduled for September 25, 2012 before Judge Martinez. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI.  Mr. Ferrer also thanked the State of Florida Office of Financial Regulation, Bureau of Finance, West Palm Beach Regional Office, for their work on this investigation.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Theodore Cooperstein.  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


>>> Elections Supervisor Sawyer in the spotlight, defies Gov. Scott wanting longer early voting days, has $225,000 net worth through 2011

Harry Sawyer, Jr., the sole hold out of four other counties elections supervisors for wanting longer early voting days for the Florida Keys and is the Monroe elections supervisor is in the spotlight this week. Sawyer is defying Gov. Rick Scott (Net worth $82.5 million) who wants a uniform eight days of the early voting before the Nov. 6 general election. Scott got the other four county election supervisors from Collier, Hillsborough, Hardy and Hendry counties to go along with the shorter early voting days but Sawyer said that was not enough time for the spread out Key voters he insists. These five counties because of past voting discrimination have to get U. S. Justice Department approval for any voting issues and an earlier plan by the state was rejected by a federal court saying the eight days would suppress African-American voters’ participation. But the governor is insisting on having a uniform voting time throughout the state’s 67 counties and by Monroe holding out for a longer time frame. Sawyer is earning the wrath of Scott but the local elections supervisor seems to have public support, but insiders are wondering. If Scott might suspend him for failure to carryout his elected duties of the office.

Sawyer, who is not running again this year, was first elected in 2004 unopposed and the two candidates running to replace him are Republican Barry Gibson who has $6,850 in his campaign war chest and the Democratic Party challenger is Joyce Griffin who has $17,300 for the campaign.

What do we know about his finances?

Sawyer through Dec. 2011 had a net worth of $225,000 and he lists $67,000 in household goods. His home is worth $235,000, two other properties are valued at $195,000 and $62,000 and there is a life insurance policy of $6,149. And his liabilities include two mortgages owed $57,630 and $240,000 and a credit union wants $33,765 and $8,300 and on his IRS 1040 for the year. His income was $150,191.


>>> Press release: Keys Resident Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy To Illegal Ly Harvest Spiny Lobsters

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Otha Easley, Acting Special Agent in Charge, NOAA Fisheries Office of the Law Enforcement, Sean Morton, Superintendent of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS), and David Pharo, Resident Agent in Charge U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Miami, announced that Manuel Ravelo, Jr., 40, of Big Coppitt Key in the Florida Keys, pled guilty today in federal District Court in Key West to conspiring to illegally harvest spiny lobsters from artificial habitat placed in the FKNMS. U.S. Magistrate Judge Lurana S. Snow accepted Ravelo’s plea to the felony charge, and indicated that she would recommend Ravelo be formally adjudicated guilty by District Judge Jose E. Martinez, who has been assigned the case. Judge Martinez had referred the matter for hearing by Magistrate Judge Snow, and has set the case for sentencing on November 19, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. in the Sidney M. Aronovitz Federal Courthouse in Key West. Ravelo faces a maximum statutory sentence of up to five years in prison, to be followed by a term of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000. The plea agreement executed by Ravelo and accepted by the Court also required the immediate surrender of Ravelo’s navigation equipment and location data for all the artificial habitat sites. His plea will also result in the forfeiture of a 29′ Sea Vee vessel, and the related engines, tackle, equipment, and trailers, which were used by the defendant to facilitate the criminal conduct. Finally, the defendant must surrender all of his Crawfish and Dive Endorsements to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission within five business days of the plea.

According to the charging Information, and statements in Court, the defendant was involved in the illegal harvest of spiny lobster from as early as August 2007 through approximately September 2008. FKNMS regulations implemented in 1977, at Title 15, C.F.R. §922.163(a)(3), prohibit any alterations of, or construction on the seabed of the Sanctuary. Constructing, placing, or abandoning any structure, material, or other matter on the seabed is prohibited as part of the effort to preserve the marine environment.  As part of the plea, defendant admitted constructing, placing and using artificial structures in the FKNMS as part of his criminal conduct. It was revealed in Court that the defendant has, under the supervision of NOAA personnel, already removed more than 300 of the artificial lobster habitats known as “casitas” from approximately 200 different sites in the Sanctuary, using his own vessel and at his own expense, as part of the resolution of the case.

Florida Administrative Code, Section 68B-24.006, which in part addresses gear that may be employed in harvesting lobster, and “Prohibited Devices,” states “No person shall harvest any spiny lobster from artificial habitat.”  The regulation defines artificial habitat as “any material placed in the waters of the state that is reasonably suited to providing cover and habitat for spiny lobster. Such material may be constructed of, but is not limited to, wood, metal, fiberglass, concrete, or plastic, or any combination thereof, and may be fabricated for this specific purpose or for some other purpose….”  Other regulations in Chapter 68B prohibit any person from commercially harvesting, attempting to harvest, or having in their possession, regardless of where taken, any spiny lobster during the closed season.  The sanctioned commercial season runs from August 6 through March 31 of the following year. An exception exists for the annual lobster sport mini-season.

According to the Court record, Ravelo, along with other unnamed individuals, made multiple landings of lobster that exceeded the daily harvest and possession limit of 250 lobster, and concealed the excess harvest by fraudulently attributing some of the harvest to a commercial dive endorsement held in the name of a third party who was not involved in the harvesting effort, and by failing to meet the requirements of Florida law regarding the reporting of all commercially harvested lobster to the State of Florida on the actual date of harvest. Ravelo regularly split the amount harvested, reporting the take over multiple days to avoid the catch limits. The defendant marketed the illegal catch through two licensed wholesaler dealers in Key West, Rusty Anchor Seafood of Key West and Scott Greager d/b/a Holiday Seafood Key West, both previously convicted for engaging in related criminal conduct. Court records reflect that Ravelo’s involvement in the scheme was valued at more than $375,000 in retail value. >>> The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) is a 2,800 square nautical mile area that surrounds the entire archipelago of the Florida Keys and includes the productive waters of Florida Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic Ocean. The FKNMS encompasses coastal and oceanic waters, and the submerged lands thereunder, surrounding the Florida Keys, and extending westward to include the Tortugas islands, but excluding Dry Tortugas National Park. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the NOAA Office of the Law Enforcement and the Fish & Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas Watts-FitzGerald and Antonia Barnes. >>> 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


>>> The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce is hosting a lunch on Tuesday Aug. 28 at Jungle Island to meet the Miami Dolphins and for information go to

>>> Kristi House press release: Please mark your calendars! We hope you will join us for the 13th Annual Touch A Heart Dinner on Friday, November 2, 2012 at

the Four Seasons Hotel 7:00 p.m. Reception 8:00 p.m. Dinner For more information, please visit or call: Bianca Fernandez – 305-547-6802 Mary Faraldo – 786-218-9748


>>> PAST WDR JUN. 2009: Trust with taxpayers becoming a rare thing for government, new Marlins ballpark is another example of that bond going awry

In God We Trust says America’s currency and here in South Florida many of our public institutions leaders are putting their trust in God’s hands when it comes to compacts with county and municipal residents, when it comes to the actual results. On Miami Beach, the New World Symphony project is now changing from its initial plan five-years ago, Miami-Dade County has recently unified a countywide half-cent-sales tax for transportation passed in 2002 and when it comes to the new Florida Marlins ballpark. The public is being asked to trust the stadium and associated garage will come in at its projected $634 million construction cost, though past history of such projects shows a 20 percent minimum increase from the projected cost.

Trust is also being asked for on a national basis as the President Barack Obama administration plans to add trillions of debt to the nation based on the dire economic times that he says calls for this massive new spending to get the economy unfrozen but at what cost will the nation ultimately pay, especially when other nation’s like China are becoming our bankers accumulating our ever mounting debt to the tune of $1 trillion in different forms of U.S. securities. Yes, trust is a good thing if you can also verify and with the new ballpark being the next example of potentially breaking that word. The public is going to watch what happens with that complex, and any overruns, for the way it is being presented by community elected leaders. We have to trust the city, county and professional baseball team knowing what they are doing when dealing with such a massive project, and the proof will be in the pudding that will probable be paid for with some public tax dollars in the end. Especially if projected tourism tax revenues do not hold up in the years ahead as projected by the local leaders. 


>>> City’s Proposed Twenty Year/$206 Million Storm Water Management Plan

This morning the city’s engineering consultant presented a plan for mitigating the impacts of rising sea levels, particularly as higher high tides prevent storm water from draining. The plan looks out twenty years, and estimates costs of $196 million plus a $10 million “adjustment factor”, total $206 million.
Features of the plan: Back flow preventers – (one-way gates so that high tides don’t push sea water into the outflow/drainage system) Streets designed for better storm water run off collection High-volume pumps and pump stations (to pump storm water into wells and storage tanks) Large capacity underground storage tanks (“in the future”) Collecting and treating storm water for non-drinking use Sea walls. (No estimates of operating costs, especially powering high capacity pumps, were presented.) I asked what would be the cost of a plan designed for thirty years (versus the twenty year plan proposed), and whether the facilities necessary to deal with higher and more frequent flooding under a thirty year plan would have to be designed to a higher capacity.

The consultant had justified a plan for only twenty years by saying “this is the life-span of pumps and infrastructure”, and that the plan was “adaptable” to changing conditions such as more rapid sea level and tidal rise than presently modeled.  I questioned this approach.  Why design expensive capital works such as sea walls, pumping systems, wells and storage facilities, as well as streets, catch basins and outfall pipes, that have a useful life of more than twenty years, for only twenty-year capacity?  Why not design them at the very beginning for a time period more in keeping with the thirty-year standard employed by developers, home buyers, lenders and capital bonding?

At the end of the presentation, Mayor Bower went to the microphone and advocated a “holistic” approach.  I agree; I think we should broaden the scope.  I think the city’s Storm Water Management Master Plan should take the private sector into account, as well as public sector capital projects not specifically in the storm water management plan.  Investors, homebuyers, and mortgage lenders generally look ahead for at least one thirty-year mortgage cycle. Non-profit and cultural institutions seeking contributions, and public projects such as schools and other facilities requiring capital bonding, generally use a thirty-year bond retirement period in their planning.  The city consultant’s database can be used for a thirty-year plan projection as well as the twenty-year plan he proposes, and I urge the city administration to put these two questions to its consultant: What would be the cost of a thirty-year storm water management plan? What would be the significant design, capacity differences between a thirty-year plan, and the twenty-year plan proposed?

Frank Del Vecchio

Miami Beach

>>> Would the School Board be willing to put language in the proposed ballot issue for new capital funds that all of the money will go to properties owned by the public, and none of the funds will be used for capital improvements at privately owned charter schools? That is my main concern, that somehow this noble proposal to improve public school infrastructure will become another trough for those that seek private gain from public education funds.





THE MIAMI HERALD (2000-2008)


WILLIAM HUGGETT, Seamen Attorney (Deceased)


LINDA E. RICKER (Deceased)



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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 600 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.


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