Argus Report: Nelson & Mack go toe-to-toe in FL senate debate, stark political differences between the candidates
Florida: State Sen. Boganoff and Sachs battle it out in contested Dist. 34 race, how low will they go?
Miami-Dade County: BCC TC passes $313.8 million new train contract, but some of Commissioner Suarez’s comments during discussion raise eyebrows
Miami-Dade Public Schools: Clock is ticking as voters begin voting, District leaders are pushing for passage of new $1.2 billion bond, but will residents get to it on the long ballot?
Public Health Trust: BCC Commissioner Suarez says it is “inconceivable” any FRB member would believe commission involvement is “political intrusion”
City of Miami: Miami is in a footrace to get $45 million CRA bond deal done, but can it make the Jan. 1 deadline?
City of Miami Gardens: Five Guilty in Shooting Death of Brinks Guard at Calder Casino
City of Miami Beach: Panel discussion on navigating the code violation maze
City of North Miami: Man gets over six years in Big House for identity theft tax refund scam
City of Coral Gables: Gables employees Domestic Partners to get benefits after initial 4-0 vote, no “anticipated” cost to the city, says Mayor Cason
Village of Key Biscayne: Causeway infrastructure upgrades, lane closures and construction
>>> Other stories around Florida
Broward County: More than 30 Defendants Have Been Sentenced in the Past Five Years in Connection with Mortgage Fraud Schemes at Versailles Development
City of Fort Lauderdale: Defendant Pleads Guilty in $39 Million Mortgage Fraud Scheme – To Date; Three Defendants Have Pled Guilty in Scheme
Palm Beach County: West Palm Beach Company and Owners Charged with Conspiracy to Commit Fraud in Connection with Bogus Septic Tank Products
Monroe County: Owner of Miami Home Health Company Sentenced to 120 Months in Prison for $42 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme
Community Events: Multi-County Climate Change Summit in Dec. – School Readiness Workshop — Regional Planning meetings around the counties — Arsht Center events– Kristi House event
Editorials: LA with over 100,000 homeless people on the streets should look to Miami-Dade for a social model, reduced homeless here from over 8,000 to just under 900 since 1993 — 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: http://www.unc.edu/~davismt/SouthNow.pdf
Letters: Reader on school board members – reader on global warming stories – Reader on state of the politically divided nation
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
>>> Nelson & Mack go toe-to-toe in FL senate debate, stark political differences between the candidates
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL the only statewide Democrat faced off against U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV, R-Naples in the only televised debate between the two men Wednesday and it was a feisty affair as they were peppered with questions from three reporters while anchor Michael Williams moderated the face-off. Nelson, an affable 70 year old faced the fresh faced Mack, 45 toe to toe as they verbally parried and thrust with Mack claiming Nelson voted “150 times to raise taxes,” with Nelson countering that “everything the congressman just said is not true.” Nelson was a former Congressman before being elected to the world’s most exclusive club in 2000. In his last run in 2006, he cruised to victory over GOP Congresswomen Kathleen Harris but this race could be different. Nelson while leading in statewide polls with voters in this race is facing not only Mack, but also the voter’s remembrance of his father Connie Mack III. A well-respected Republican U.S. Senator in office for two terms and Nelson replaced him after he dispatched Republican Congressman Bill McCollum in 2000.
Nelson, once a Payload Specialist on the Space Shuttle Columbia weaved that experience into his debate dialogue, how from space you do not see people’s political differences, and there was nothing wrong with crossing party lines seeking political compromise. Mack responds that he is a solid “mainstream conservative,” essentially cut from similar political cloth as his father. And both men went on the attack with Nelson citing the number of votes Mack has missed in the House and Mack countered with Nelson slicing billions from Medicare and his support of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. And both candidates have the backing of their respective political establishment with Republicans circling the wagons around Mack in support that includes former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL.
However, the campaign is essentially a statewide media air war with frequent television and radio spots from both campaigns depicting Nelson as a loyal surrogate of Obama and his policies. And Mack is characterized as unable to handle his personal money, a divorce that included two children, after going to Washington and then marrying Congresswoman Mary Bono, and being a party animal in his younger years. >>> Editor’s note: I could find a smaller public photo of Mack and the larger size is not intentional and does not show support for one candidate or another. >>> To see the debate go to Bill Nelson, Connie Mack debate live video: Senator Nelson, Rep … www.wptv.com/dpp/news/state/bill-nelson-connie-mack-debate-live
a link to the debate.
However, absentee ballots are already being cast and people will soon be going to the early voting polling sites and while the turnout in 2008 when Obama first ran was like a massive voter movement. In this election, voter turnout will not be as energized, and the race for the presidency will be razor thin. And some pundits are even speculating it might go to the lame duck Republican controlled U.S. House for the ultimate resolution, but the proof will be in the pudding and overall voter turnout where long voter lines are expected at the polls.
>>> Calling all Downtown Bay Forum members, send your emails in after computer crash
The Downtown Bay Forum www.downtownbayforum.org has had a catastrophic computer crash and all past members should send their email addresses to William Pena Wells at email@example.com so they can recreate their lost contact list. The Forum over the last 20 years has hosted a wide variety of top elected leaders and community organizations as speakers. And clubs like these throughout America have helped stimulate community dialogue on political and social issues of the day, and these also promote democracy and community engagement. Numerous political debates have occurred at these forums and to possible lose this forum after two decades would be a community tragedy.
>>> Press release: Diaz-Balart: Georgians Set a Shining Example for Emerging Democracies
Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) released the following statement congratulating the citizens of Georgia for their fair and transparent election last month: “I congratulate the people of Georgia for conducting one of the most credible and competitive elections in the county’s young history. International observers and election monitors witnessed a transparent electoral process, and Georgians have set a shining example for other emerging democracies around the world.
“I especially want to commend President Saakashvili for contributing to the process of ensuring a smooth transition of power. President Saakashvili has steadfastly shown his genuine commitment to growing democracy and strengthening democratic institutions. Under his distinguished leadership, Georgia has instituted meaningful reforms that have tackled corruption, raised standards of living, and further integrated Georgia with its Western friends and allies. “I look forward to working with the new government. I will remain engaged with our Georgian partners to deepen ties, further strengthen Georgia’s democratic aspirations, ensure restoration of Georgia’s territorial integrity, and work with Georgia’s government and partners to ensure Georgia’s ultimate membership to NATO.”
>>> Press release: OWNER AND OPERATOR OF FLORIDA HALFWAY HOUSE COMPANY SENTENCED TO 51 MONTHS IN PRISON FOR ROLE IN MEDICARE FRAUD SCHEME
The owner and operator of New Way Recovery Inc., a Florida corporation that operated several halfway houses, was sentenced today to serve 51 months in prison for his role in a $205 million Medicare fraud scheme involving fraudulent claims for purported partial hospitalization program (PHP) services, announced U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida; Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Michael B. Steinbach, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the FBI’s Miami Field Office; and Special Agent-in-Charge Christopher B. Dennis of the HHS Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations Miami Office. Hassan Collins, 41, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kevin Michael Moore in the Southern District of Florida. In addition to his prison term, Collins was sentenced to serve three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $2,413,675 in restitution, jointly and severally with co-conspirators. On June 14, 2012, Collins pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to receive and pay health care fraud kickbacks.
According to court documents, from approximately April 2004 through approximately September 2010, Collins, along with co-conspirators, received kickback payments in exchange for referring Medicare beneficiaries, who did not qualify for PHP treatment, for purported PHP services to American Therapeutic Corporation (ATC), a Florida corporation that operated several purported PHPs throughout Florida. Collins and his co-conspirators caused false and fraudulent claims to be submitted to Medicare for PHP services purportedly provided to Medicare beneficiaries at ATC’s locations, when, in fact, the services were never provided. In related cases, ATC, its management company, Medlink Professional Management Group Inc. and various owners, managers, doctors, therapists, patient brokers and marketers of ATC, were charged with various health care fraud, kickback, money laundering and other offenses in two indictments unsealed in February 2011. ATC, Medlink and more than 20 of the individual defendants charged in these cases have pleaded guilty or have been convicted at trial. 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 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 www.wlrn.org 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 www.CBS4.com and The Florida Roundup on www.wlrn.org
>>> State Sen. Boganoff and Sachs battle it out in contested Dist. 34 race, how low will they go?
The race for state Senate District 34 is heating up with the chair of the Palm Beach Republican Party filing an ethics complaint with the state Commission on Ethics last week against state Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Boca Raton for failing to disclose income and some real estate on the required state financial disclosure form required to be filed by July 1. Sachs is locked in a bitter political battle with state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Ft. Lauderdale for the newly drawn state senate seat that stretches through Broward and Palm Beach Counties. www.palmbeachpost.com Sachs has been pillared in television campaign ads by Bogdanoff as being driven around the state in a limo at the taxpayer’s expense with a man changing a flat complaining that Florida cannot afford her largess at the taxpayer’s expense. Sachs has responded that the charges are not true and in fact, Bogdanoff is an extreme Republican who is gutting public school funding, attacking senior’s benefits and not supporting the state’s middle class families, she retorts.
The Watchdog Report first met Bogdanoff when she and a host of other candidates were interviewed at The Miami Herald back in 2004 for a House seat in Broward. She was the only woman candidate and she conducted herself in a controlled manner versus a couple of the other candidates, who were more expansive in their comments. And since she won that House seat, she has not looked back and her political future is very similar to Sachs political trajectory over the past decade. And the only question now is how low these campaigns will go, how many more charges will surface in the days ahead that may be true or untrue, and voter turnout is expected to be the key to who wins this contentious race on Nov. 6.
What do we know about their finances?
Bogdanoff through December 2011 had a net worth of $658,860 and she lists $90,000 in household goods state’s her financial disclosure form. Her home is valued at $451,890, an office building is worth $227,440 and two retirement funds have $72,409 and $9,975 in the accounts, and there is $1,782 in cash and bonds. She owes Bank of America $296,000 on three notes and her income for the year was $29,337 as a legislator, $8,877 came in from interest and her law practice kicked in $38,341.
Sachs through December of 2011 had a net worth of $895,000 and she lists $50,000 in household goods. Her home is valued at $385,000 and two other properties are worth $203,000, an account with Met Life is worth $17,037, there is $965,000 in a money market fund and there is a $44,300 investment with BankUnited. She lists liabilities of $425,000 with GMAC, Regent Bank is owed $78,000 and another GMAC loan is owed $47,100. The lawmaker’s income for the year was $60,000 from her law practice, there was $12,000 in dividends and the state of Florida kicked in $29,690 as a legislator for the year.
>>> Press release: Gov. Scott reappointments of Michael W. Haycock, Vernon C. Hollingsworth and James S. Horrisberger to the Florida Citrus Commission
Haycock, 63, of Longboat Key, has been the vice president of operations for Tropicana Products. Haycock has 18 years of Citrus Industry experience with Proctor and Gamble as well as Tropicana. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida. He is reappointed for a term beginning October 19, 2012, and ending May 31, 2015.
Hollingsworth, 52, of Arcadia, is manager of VCH Management Inc. He has maintained 4,000 acres of citrus groves in Hardee and Desoto Counties since 1981. Hollingsworth received his bachelor’s degree from Florida Southern College. He is reappointed for a term beginning October 19, 2012, and ending May 31, 2015.
Horrisberger, 59, of Lakeland, is procurement director for the Coca-Cola Company. Previously, Horrisberger worked for Cargill, Inc. from 1978-2007. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota and his master’s degree from the University of St. Thomas. He is reappointed for a term beginning October 19, 2012, and ending May 31, 2015.
These three members join Jesse A. Clark III, Michael J. Garavaglia Jr., G. Ellis Hunt Jr., Martin J. McKenna, Virginia S. Pena, and Michael O. Taylor on the commission. The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
>>> STEM-RELATED JOB OPENINGS ON THE RISE IN FLORIDA – More than 64,000 online job openings available for high skill positions
Gov. Scott press release: The number of available online job openings in STEM-related fields in Florida is up sharply over the previous year, with more than 64,000 postings in September 2012 (the most recent month available). Over-the-year job postings are up almost 9 percent compared to September 2011.
“Jobs in STEM-related fields are high skill positions that are helping to further grow and diversify our economy,” said Governor Rick Scott. “Seeing an increase in the demand for these jobs shows that we’re making significant strides and ensuring that Florida is a leader in growing industries.”
According to the Help Wanted OnLine data series from The Conference Board, the number of STEM-related job postings in Florida in September 2012 increased by over 5,000 from the previous September. Major occupational groups with the most online ads in September were healthcare practitioners and technical occupations; computer and mathematical occupations; and business and financial operations occupations. Hillsborough County led all Florida counties in job postings followed by Miami-Dade, Orange, Broward, Duval and Palm Beach counties. >> STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and STEM-related jobs are ones that are considered high wage and high skill. Workers in STEM occupations use science and math to drive our state’s innovation and competitiveness by generating new ideas, new companies and new industries.
>>> 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.
>>> LEAGUE’S ELECTION & VOTER GUIDE AVAILABLE FOR REPRINTING
The nonpartisan 2012 Election & Voter Guide produced by the League of Women Voters of Florida Education Fund is now available in text-only Word format for convenient reprinting in English or Spanish in Florida newspapers and other publications. The Guide includes candidate information on national and state races, as well as explanations of the 11 constitutional amendments that will appear on the November 6 ballot. The entire 2012 Election & Voter Guide can be viewed at BeReadyToVote.org.
>>> State to Honor Businesses as Exceptional Employers — The state of Florida is recognizing seven businesses for being exceptional employers of people with disabilities. The annual celebration will be held at Tallahassee City Hall, 300 South Adams Street, as part of recognizing October as Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Blind Services, and Vocational Rehabilitation will help present the Exceptional Employer Awards that honor businesses for their commitment to hiring people with disabilities. The award-winning businesses are: Baptist Health South Florida (Miami), Habitat for Humanity (Pasco County), Mangrove Mike’s Café (Islamorada), Miller’s Ale House (Daytona Beach), Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Sirata Beach Resort and Conference Center (St. Pete), Universal Orlando Resort. Governor Rick Scott said, “Employment is one of my top priorities as most people know, and that includes people with disabilities. I am happy to see so many businesses that are inclusive of all individuals in their company’s workforce. There is always an opportunity to be more inclusive. I hope additional companies will follow suit and be open to considering all people who can compete for a position.” APD Director Barbara Palmer said, “I am excited to be able to recognize these Florida companies who give people of all abilities a chance at employment. These business leaders confirm what we have known for years that individuals with disabilities provide a great return on their investment. These employees are dedicated to their employers and wouldn’t dream of missing work because their job means so much to them.” Sonic restaurant employee Stacy Powell, who has a disability, will speak at the event about what having a job means to him.
>>> Press release: Gov. Scott taps Robert N. Clarke, Jr., Allen C. Winsor, and the reappointment of J. Andrew Atkinson, to the Second Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission
J. Andrew Atkinson, of Tallahassee, has been an attorney at Broad and Cassel since 2011. Previously, he served as Assistant General Counsel in the Executive Office of the Governor from 2009 to 2011, senior judicial law clerk to Hon. Melanie G. May in the Fourth District Court of Appeal from 2007 to 2009, and in the Office of the Attorney General as an Assistant Attorney General and Deputy Solicitor General from 2005 to 2007. Atkinson served in the United States Army from 1997 to 2001. He received his bachelor’s degree from Florida State University, and his law degree from Nova Southeastern University. He is reappointed for a term beginning October 17, 2012, and ending July 1, 2016.
Robert N. Clarke, Jr., of Tallahassee, has been an attorney with Ausley & McMullen, P.A., since 1984, and an Adjunct Professor of Law for Florida State University since 1999. He served in the United States Army from 1979 to 1983, the United States Army Reserves from 1983 to 2004, and received both his bachelor’s and law degrees from Florida State University. He succeeds Elizabeth R. Bevington, and is appointed for a term beginning October 17, 2012, and ending July 1, 2016. He is appointed from the list of nominees submitted by the Florida Bar.
Allen C. Winsor, of Tallahassee, has been an attorney with Gray Robinson, P.A., since 2005. Previously, he was and attorney with King & Spalding, L.L.P., from 2003 to 2005. From 2002-2003, Winsor served as a law clerk to Judge Ed Carnes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Winsor received his bachelor’s degree from Auburn University, and his law degree from the University of Florida. He succeeds Carlos A. Rey, and is appointed for a term beginning October 17, 2012, and ending July 1, 2016.
>>> Press release: Governor Rick Scott Reappoints Ann Paul to Florida Industrial and Phosphate Research Institute – Governor Rick Scott announced the reappointment of Ann F. Paul to the Florida Industrial and Phosphate Research Institute. Paul, 62, of Tampa, is a biologist with the National Audubon Society. She is reappointed for a term beginning October 16, 2012, and ending September 30, 2013.
>>> BCC TC passes $313.8 million new train contract, but some of Commissioner Suarez’s comments during discussion raise eyebrows
A $313.8 million contract for new metro rail cars brought out an army of lobbyist and company supporters last week, as well as challengers for the controversial deal that has been percolating along at county hall since 2004 after a number of bid protests. The Regional Transportation Committee of the Miami-Dade County Commission heard the long running item and after considerable debate voted unanimously 5 to 0 to go with Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s recommendation to award the deal to Ansaldobreda S.P.A.. Metrorail cars have been needed for years and the number of cars in service has been reduced because of wear and tear and with the new spur to Miami International Airport (which is only two cars), even fewer cars are available for the over all heavy rail system and why these new cars are needed so badly.
Anything odd happen?
County Commissioner Xavier Suarez surprised people in the chambers when he spoke on the item and some of his concerns. He started his comments with a reference to a popular television show called The Newsroom quoting some of the dialogue referring to different leaders in the Middle East and North Africa and it caught people by surprise in the audience until they realized he was kidding. But Suarez, an attorney and Harvard University law school graduate also said the contract issue was so vexing that he said it would be necessary for him to “pray” on the matter but that also startled some people. Since the commission was debating a contract, not going to war or some major national social issue or civil rights matter that perhaps would have been more in keeping, given his consternation about the matter. But it had people in the chamber shaking their heads and wondering what the newly reelected commissioner to District 7 was thinking.
>>> UM looking for approval of $132 million in new revenue bonds
The Miami-Dade County Educational Facilities Authority is meeting next Wednesday at the Stephen P. Clark government Center to vote on authorizing up to $132 million in new Revenue Bonds for the University of Miami. The bonds are used for a variety of matters at UM, this is a routine request that all the local educational institutions have used over the years, and it is expected to be passed by the Authority’s board.
>>> Press release: With the November 6, 2012 General Election just five weeks away, voters are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the ballot content before casting their vote.
The upcoming election consists of candidate races at all levels of government, 11 state constitutional amendments, one school board question, and 10 County questions. In addition, 17 municipalities have contests on the ballot. Since this ballot is a lengthy one, voters should prepare in advance by viewing their voter-specific customized sample ballot available on the Elections Department’s website. By entering minimal voter information, voters can quickly view a sample ballot containing exactly what they are eligible to vote on. This gives voters the opportunity to make their decisions prior to voting, thereby expediting their voting experience. “Due to length of the ballot, I encourage registered voters to be Election Ready. So, whether they vote early, by absentee or on Election Day, it will be a faster and more efficient process if they take the opportunity to review their sample ballot ahead of time,” said Supervisor of Elections Penelope Townsley. “I would even suggest printing the sample ballot and having it handy while they vote.” Please visit www.miamidade.gov/elections/regist-status.asp to view a customized sample ballot.
>>> Press release: Miami-Dade County’s Art in Public Places continues to be at the forefront of innovation with the launch of a new, highly experiential website
The newly designed website of Miami-Dade Art in Public Places, www.miamidadepublicart.org, extends the accessibility of more than 600 works of art from the Miami-Dade County Public Art Collection. The site allows residents and visitors anytime-online access to images and documentation of the public art collection, the ability to create virtual tours and capabilities to search the collection by media, artist or location. In addition, the new website features expanded content, opportunities for artists, tools, resources and news items that will be constantly updated.
A significant grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation made it possible to secure the services of Mediatrope, pioneers in interactive design, content management, and online strategy, to create the state-of-the-art website and collections management software system. The acquisition of this custom-designed platform not only allows for the collection to be viewed by worldwide visitors, it also serves as the management system for the conservation and stewardship of the collection, including inventory and records-keeping functions. “Twenty-four hour a day, digital access has created a new meaning for the term ‘public art.’ This new site is an opportunity for people all over the world to engage with one of Miami-Dade County’s most valuable artistic assets,” said Dennis Scholl, Vice President/Arts at Knight Foundation. Among the features on the homepage of miamidadepublicart.org, “Search Our Collection” can take visitors quickly to the art or artist they are looking for and allows them to explore additional information about the artists, subject matter, conservation methods, as well as video clips of the artists and artworks. An interactive map, serving as the backdrop of the site, is dotted with locations of the artworks and encourages visitors to create custom-designed public art driving or walking tours.
Michael Spring, Director of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, stated, “With the launch of miamidadepublicart.org, Miami-Dade County Art in Public Places has become one of the first public art programs in the nation to digitally unify all inventory records relating to the public art collection, including tracking of the works in progress and centralizing information related to provenance, conservation and the artists. The website will be a growing and evolving resource for artists, other public art programs and our residents and visitors.” For more information, visit www.KnightFoundation.org. >>> visit www.miamdadearts.org.
MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
>>> Clock is ticking as voters begin voting, District leaders are pushing for passage of new $1.2 billion bond, but will residents get to it on the long ballot?
With a public relations blitz going on throughout the community by elected leaders and Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho to get county voters Nov.6 to pass a $1.2 billion new school board bond. That if approved will be used for the refurbishing of schools, including making these facilities technology ready for students classroom needs, that have changed significantly now that computers and smart boards in classrooms are the norm of the day, and not old fashioned black boards that use chalk. The school district, the fourth largest in the nation has faced zero state funding over the past few years for capital improvements and Carvalho believes that with interest rates so low, that this is the time to float the new paper. Carvalho says the bulk of the money will be spent in the first six to eight years, the fiscal injection into the construction industry will provide thousands of new construction, architectural, and engineering jobs and the massive countywide construction program will be a shot in the economic arm of South Florida.
Further, unlike a past almost billion-dollar bond passed in 1988, in this case there will be a strong independent oversight board made up of 21 skeptical citizens to watch how the money will be spent. And he says this oversight board will minimize any waste, fraud and abuse occurring he has assured the school board and the public at numerous local presentations around Miami-Dade in the past weeks, and he has put his job on the line if that ends up not being the case.
>>> Press release: About Building for Tomorrow -Building for Tomorrow is a Political Committee formed to encourage Miami-Dade County residents to support the issuance of a $1.2 billion General Obligation Bond to renovate our school facilities, update educational technology, build school replacements, expand student capacity, and enhance facility safety. For additional information, please visit www.buildingfortomorrow.org
PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST
>>> BCC Commissioner Suarez says it is “inconceivable” any FRB member would believe commission involvement is “political intrusion”
With the legislation to reactivate the Public Health Trust Board, now dormant since a seven member Financial Recovery Board (FRB) was created about 18 months ago to take its place. The Board of County Commission will hear a new ordinance this Tuesday bringing the PHT board back but with a now seven-member membership instead of the old 17-trustee board. However, it has been the Nominating Council that proffers these board members to the commission for approval that has caused some internal controversy, but a amendment is expected to be proffered that will calm these concerns said a knowledgeable source last week. The issue of the governance structure of the troubled health trust has been percolating behind the scenes for months. And FRB members and the JHS administration have been asking for some permanency when it came to the oversight board. Since the governance question was affecting the Trust’s administration’s ability to make strategic decisions, and the hiring of certain medical staff and was causing angst internally since the future governance structure of the board was unknown.
What about Commissioner Suarez?
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Xavier Suarez wrote an Oct. 15 letter to FRB Chair Marcos Lapciuc after the chair asked for an appointment with the District 7 commissioner to discuss Jackson Health System and the oversight board. Suarez in the letter wrote it was his duty under the County Charter to ensure “maintaining a close oversight on issues such as emergency treatment of indigent patients,” he wrote. The official also thought it was “inconceivable” that any member of the FRB “whose authority is derivative from ours would complain that our efforts to exert oversight responsibility would be a considered an undue ‘political’ intrusion,” by the county commission in the conduct of the PHT. And Suarez referred to the county Charter describing the Trust as a ‘public body corporate and politic.’ The commissioner also suggests that Lapciuc, an unpaid volunteer giving well over 30 hours a month to the job “spread that wording into the minutes of your next board meeting along with the contents of this letter.”
The health trust has been fighting for its fiscal life after years of losing hundreds of millions of dollars. However, this fiscal year it closed the books Sept. 30 in the black after over a year in union workers salary reductions and contributions, that included personnel cuts to staff that has been reduced from a high of around 12,000 employees to around 9,300. Further, while patient census is still down from past years, there has been a modest bump in funding, around $200 million, coming in from the countywide half-cent-sales tax
What else is going on with the PHT and the BCC?
The Miami-Dade Commission on Thursday is holding a joint meeting with the FRB on Oct. 25 in the morning at the commission’s Chambers downtown and people interested in what is going on at JHS should check it out on the county’s cable station or come to the public meeting in the chambers.
>>> PHT press release: DR. JUAN PABLO ZAMBRANO NAMED DIRECTOR OF CARDIOLOGY AT JACKSON SOUTH COMMUNITY HOSPITAL
Juan Pablo Zambrano, M.D., has joined the medical staff at Jackson South Community Hospital as the director of cardiology. Dr. Zambrano is board certified in cardiology, interventional cardiology and nuclear cardiology. His interests focus on cardiac and vascular interventions, carotid and lower extremities interventions to improve circulation, as well as new devices for minimally invasive cardiac and vascular procedures. “Dr. Zambrano has established himself in our community as a leader in cardiac and vascular care,” said Martha Garcia, R.N., M.B.A., M.S.N, chief administrative officer at Jackson South Community Hospital. “We are thrilled to have him as part of the Jackson South family and to be able to offer his unparalleled expertise to Miami-Dade residents.”
Prior to his appointment at Jackson South, Dr. Zambrano was an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. He directed the vascular section of the interventional cardiology program and has trained seven generations of cardiovascular specialists. He was a part of the UM team for stem cells in cardiovascular regeneration and is one of the only two operators with experience in direct cardiac administration of stem cells in South Florida. Dr. Zambrano received his medical degree from Universidad Católica de Santiago de Guayaquil in Ecuador and subsequently completed an externship at the University of Miami through the William J. Harrington Medical Training Programs for Latin America. He then completed his post-graduate training in internal medicine, served as a chief medical resident, and completed cardiology and interventional cardiology fellowships at University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center and Miami VA Medical Center. Dr. Zambrano has authored a number of well-received abstracts, textbook chapters, and papers in his areas of expertise and lectures in medical forums nationally and internationally. He is well-known and highly regarded by both colleagues and students for his dedication and vast-ranging knowledge.
CITY OF MIAMI
>>> Miami is in a footrace to get $45 million CRA bond deal done, but can it make the Jan. 1 deadline?
With the necessity of a $45 million bond offering for the City of Miami’s Community Redevelopment Agency’s contribution to the $1 billion Port of Miami tunnel now about to begin its second tunnel tube. Miami Manager Johnny Martinez is on the hot seat to get the deal done and his finance people are saying they can, but the clock is ticking. And Miami for the last two years could have gotten it done but other factors always mitigated that activity including a SEC investigation on past bond sales, the second in the city’s history, and staff financial turnover in the department is now stabilized. Commission Chair Francis Suarez at the last commission meeting carped about how late in the day the bond was becoming and the need to hammer the deal down. Further, he and Commissioner Frank Carollo are also expected to continue to crack down on the financial side that had Suarez questioning the need for an outside financial consultant and Carollo as a CPA always likes to know the financial facts as well. However, for Martinez, the sixth manager of Miami since 2000, it is another example of juggling multiple policy and financial balls in the air and is vastly different to when he was a local secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation. And in the coming months he will be tested to see if he can get this job done.
CITY OF MIAMI GARDENS
>>> Press release: Five Guilty in Shooting Death of Brinks Guard at Calder Casino
Wifredo A. 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 Matthew Boyd, Chief, Miami Gardens Police Department, announce the conviction by plea and trial of Vladimir Louissant, 26, of Miami Gardens, Reginald Mitchell, 28, of Miami Gardens, Uri Ammar, 27, of Hollywood, Victoria Barkley, 27, of Miami Gardens, and Byron Kyler, 24, of Miami, in connection with the August 21, 2011 shooting death of a Brinks guard at the Calder Casino and Race Course (Calder) in North Miami, Florida. More specifically, Louissant and Mitchell pled guilty before trial and are facing a possible maximum statutory sentence of up to life in prison. Kyler and Barkley also pled guilty and are facing a possible statutory maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Ammar was convicted after trial on October 15, 2012. He faces a possible maximum statutory sentence of up to life in prison. Sentencing has not been scheduled yet.
According to documents filed with the court and evidence presented during trial, on August 21, 2011, Mitchell and Ammar conspired to rob a Brinks guard as he made a scheduled pick-up at Calder. Mitchell and Ammar both worked security at Calder, where Ammar was a Security Shift Manager. Mitchell recruited co-defendants Louissant, Barkley and Kyler. On the day of the murder, Mitchell drove Louissant to Calder in Kyler’s truck, which Kyler had falsely reported stolen. According to the trial evidence, Ammar escorted the Brinks guard through the Calder facility and led him to an open area, where Louissant was waiting. As Ammar and the guard entered the open area, Louissant rushed at the guard, brandishing a firearm. When the guard drew his weapon, Louissant shot the guard and the two exchange gunfire. After shooting the guard, Louissant grabbed the Brinks money bag and fled to Kyler’s truck. Mitchell and Louissant then drove a short distance in Kyler’s truck, which they abandoned to be driven away from the scene by Barkley in another vehicle. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the FBI and Miami Gardens Police Department for their work on this case. Mr. Ferrer also thanked the members of the FBI’s South Florida Violent Crimes and Fugitive Task Force. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Gilfarb and Seth Schlessinger. 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
>>> Press release: “NAVIGATING THE CODE VIOLATION MAZE” PANEL DISCUSSION – Sponsored by: KW PROPERTY MANAGEMENT & CONSULTING Tuesday, October 23, 2012 – Location: Miami Beach Golf Club, 2301 Alton Road, Miami Beach, FL 33140 – 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm RSVP to: William Mathisen 786-363-2458 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Panelists: City of Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Gongora, City of Miami Beach Chief Special Master Abraham Laeser, Rosa M. de La Camara, Attorney at Law, Becker & Poliakoff, Regan Marock, Executive Director, KW PROPERTY MANAGEMENT & CONSULTING Subjects: 40 Year Recertification Property Maintenance Standards . Noise Ordinance, What to do if a code violation is received, What is a 40 year recertification violation, How to avoid a fine from the City, Certificate of Use, Fire Code, What happens if the case is referred to the Special Master, How to request a large fine be reduced, Light Refreshments will be served. Free parking. RSVP: There is no fee to attend. Space is limited. RSVP is required.
CITY OF NORTH MIAMI
>>> Man gets over six years in fed Big House for identity theft tax refund scam
Miami Man Sentenced to 78 Months on Identity Theft Tax Refund Fraud
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), and Larry Gomer, Interim Chief, North Miami Beach Police Department, announced today’s sentencing of Kerly Joseph, 32, of Miami, on charges related to identity theft tax refund fraud. At today’s hearing, U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga sentenced Joseph to 78 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Joseph had pled guilty on July 9, 2012 to one count of access device fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
According to court documents, on April 27, 2012, law enforcement conducted a search of Joseph’s studio apartment and found approximately 73 pre-paid debit cards in different names, a notebook and several computer printouts, containing lists with more than 700 names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers, with notations indicating whether a tax return had been accepted or rejected. Also found during the search were a file folder containing tax returns for numerous individuals and a laptop computer, which was turned on and set to an Internet browser window opened to an online tax preparation website.
According to court documents and statements made in court, law enforcement contacted one of the issuing banks regarding the pre-paid debit cards and determined that there was approximately $161,000 in tax refund money that had been loaded onto 22 of the pre-paid debit cards. Law enforcement also obtained ATM video showing the defendant withdrawing money from one of the pre-paid debit cards issued to a victim named “K.G.” Mr. Ferrer commended IRS-CI and the North Miami Beach Police Department for their work on the case. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael N. Berger. 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.
>>> Press release: Councilman André Williams Hosts Town Hall Meeting
On Youth Violence in Miami Gardens: How do we Save our Children?
A panel discussion on youth violence in the City of Miami Gardens on Monday, October 22, 2012 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m., at the Betty T. Ferguson Community Center located at 3000 NW 199th Street, Miami Gardens, Florida. Confirmed Speakers: Marie Osbourne, Chief, Juvenile Division, Public Defenders Office
Frank Ledee, Assistant State Attorney, Gang Unit, State Attorney’s Office
Morris Copeland, Director, Juvenile Services Department, Miami-Dade County
Pastor Linda Freeman, Executive Director, Trinity Church Professor Laura Finley, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Sociology and Criminology, Barry University Pastor Rogery Adams, Mt. Zion AME Church Special Guest: Judge Orlando Prescott, Administrative Judge, Juvenile Division, Miami Dade Court. We will engage stakeholders from the community to develop an action plan to deal with the increasing number of crimes committed by young people in the city and divert them to available resources. Please submit any questions for the participants that you might have via a response to this email. For more information, please call City of Miami Gardens at 305-622-8000 ext. 2705
CITY OF CORAL GABLES
>>> Gables employees Domestic Partners to get benefits after initial 4-0 vote, no “anticipated” cost to the city, says Mayor Cason
The Coral Gables Commission passed 4 to 0 a first reading ordinance Tuesday granting Domestic Partner Benefits to city employees and the legislation is expected to pass a second reading and become law in the weeks ahead. The Watchdog Report contacted Mayor Jim Cason and the commissioners last week asking how much it would cost the city’s taxpayers if the legislation was implemented and Cason wrote back. “The City Commission passed the Domestic Partner Benefits Ordinance on first reading.
The City does not anticipate a cost increases as a result of this Ordinance. The City already provides the underlying benefits to its employees and is only expanding the circumstances under which such benefits may be used. For example, benefits such as family medical leave are already provided to employees. Once the Ordinance is adopted, an employee will be able to use family medical leave for the serious health condition of a domestic partner, just as an employee may now use such leave for a spouse. With insurance benefits, employees carry the full cost of any dependent coverage. Thus, the full cost of insurance benefits for a domestic partner will be carried by the employee, just as the employee now carries such cost for his or her spouse.
The City has been working towards offering employment benefits to City employees with domestic partners for some time. The City first implemented these benefits through the collective bargaining process with its law enforcement personnel. The Ordinance will provide these benefits to its non-unionized employees and any employee in another union of the City which has agreed to such benefits through the bargaining process. The City recognizes that City employees may form important personal, emotional and economic relationships and those such domestic partnerships live in a committed family relationship. The City believes its employees in domestic partner relationships should be granted the employment benefits as set forth in the Ordinance,” wrote Cason.
Commissioner Ralph Cabrera, Jr., running for mayor against Cason in April responded by email. “The domestic partner benefit ordinance was approved on first reading last Tuesday. The vote was 4-0. I believe Kerdyk or Quesada may have been away from the dais at the time the vote was taken. I moved it and Maria Anderson made the second. Incidentally, I had officially requested the item on the agenda as a personal discussion on Tuesday and was never made aware of the ordinance being introduced/included on first reading until I received my agenda package late Thursday afternoon. Let me know if you require further information and or clarification. As you well know… There is always the rest of the story…” wrote Cabrera elected to the dais in 2001. And Commissioner Maria Anderson, termed out on the dais this spring after being elected in 2001 wrote, “It’s about time! I expect this to be cost-neutral as employees pay for dependents anyway,” wrote the veteran commissioner.
VILLAGE OF KEY BISCAYNE
>>> PUBLIC WORKS AND WASTE MANAGEMENT DEPARTMENT TO BEGIN PHASE II OF THE RICKENBACKER CAUSEWAY ELECTRONIC SIGNAL SPEED SIGN PROJECT
Press release: The Public Works and Waste Management Department will begin work on the second phase of the Rickenbacker Causeway Electronic Digital Speed Sign Project. Installation of eight digital speed signs is scheduled to begin on Monday, October 22, 2012, and should be completed by November 2, 2012, weather permitting. The work will take place along the causeway beginning at the east end of the West Bridge up to the west end of the Bear Cut Bridge at the following locations (see PDF map attachment):
A – Hobie Island north side, westbound before West Bridge
B – Hobie Island center median, westbound before West Bridge
C – Hobie Island center median, eastbound before Powell Bridge
D – Hobie Island south side, eastbound before Powell Bridge and turn around lane
E – Virginia Key north side, westbound before Powell Bridge
F – Virginia Key center median, westbound before Powell Bridge
G – Bear Cut Bridge, west end, eastbound lanes
H – Bear Cut Bridge, west end, center median, eastbound lanes
During the installation of the new signage, at least one traffic lane will remain open at all times. The timing of the work is being scheduled to avoid the rush hour periods; however, motorists may experience traffic delays.
>>> OTHER STORIES AROUND FLORIDA
>>> More than 30 Defendants Have Been Sentenced in the Past Five Years in
Connection with Mortgage Fraud Schemes at Versailles Development
Press release: Wifredo A. 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, José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), Paula Reid, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, Jeff Atwater, Chief Financial Officer, Florida’s Department of Financial Services, Addy M. Villanueva, Special Agent in Charge, Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Linda Charity, Interim Commissioner, State of Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation, and the Palm Beach County Mortgage Fraud Task Force, announce that defendant Juan Carlos Rodriguez, 52, a real estate agent and mortgage broker from Weston, Florida, was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra for his participation in a mortgage fraud scheme relating to properties in the Versailles development in Wellington, Florida.
At yesterday’s hearing, Judge Marra sentenced Rodriguez to forty-two months in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. On May 11, 2012, Juan Carlos Rodriguez pled guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and financial institution fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(h). A restitution hearing has been scheduled for December 21, 2012 at 9:00 a.m. Over the last five years, more than thirty defendants have been prosecuted for mortgage fraud schemes in the Versailles neighborhood. Most recently, in addition to Rodriguez, eight other individuals have pled guilty and been sentenced in four related mortgage fraud schemes that were centered in Versailles: Defendant David Lam, 42, a real estate agent from Parkland, Florida, pled guilty on January 17, 2012 to charges in four separate indictments in connection with more than $15 million in mortgage loans on 12 Versailles properties, and more than $5 million in fraudulent loan proceeds. Lam was sentenced on April 20, 2012 by U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra to 42 months in prison, to be followed by 2 years of supervised release. The Court also ordered Lam to pay $7,117,000 in restitution.
Defendant Pamela Higgins, a mortgage broker who lived in Arizona at the time of the offense, pled guilty on November 4, 2011 to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and financial institution fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Higgins was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra on February 10, 2012 to 36 months in prison, to be followed by 2 years of supervised release. Higgins was ordered to pay $2,141,536 in restitution. Defendant Carl Alexander, 45, of Parkland, Florida, pled guilty on October 5, 2011 to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He was sentenced on January 6, 2012 by U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra to 48 months in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. The Court also ordered Alexander to pay $3,576,724 in restitution. Defendant Carol Asbury, 59, an attorney and title agent in Lake Worth, Florida, pled guilty on September 9, 2011 to two counts of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and two counts of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Asbury was sentenced on November 18, 2011 by U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra to 30 months in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. She was also ordered to pay $6,510,291 in restitution.
Defendant Patrick Brinson, 34, of Miami, Florida, pled guilty on September 7, 2011 to two counts of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Brinson was sentenced on November 29, 2011 by U.S. District Judge Patricia A. Seitz to 78 months in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $1,602,250 in restitution. Defendant Victoria Wilson, 30, a mortgage broker from Hollywood, Florida, pled guilty on August 19, 2011 to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Wilson was sentenced on November 30, 2011 by U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra to 24 months in prison, to be followed by 2 years of supervised release. Wilson was ordered to pay $1,655,466 in restitution. Defendant David Charles Miller, Jr., 44, Miramar, Florida, pled guilty on February 3, 2012 to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Miller was sentenced on April 20, 2012 by U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra to 27 months in prison, to be followed by 2 years of supervised release. Miller was ordered to pay $1,655,466 in restitution. Defendant Thomas Thelusma, 41, a Miami firefighter from Biscayne Park, Florida, pled guilty on February 2, 2012 to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Thelusma was sentenced on April 20, 2012 by U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra to 18 months in prison, to be followed by 2 years of supervised release. Thelusma was ordered to pay $1,035,000 in restitution.
According to court documents, the defendants used “straw buyers” to submit false documentation to various mortgage lenders substantially inflating the purchase price of the properties. As part of the conspiracy, duplicate HUD-1 Settlement Statements were prepared. One set, listing the real price, was provided to the seller; another set, with the inflated price, was provided to the lender. The difference between the real price and the inflated price was either made to appear as if it were a debt owed to business entities controlled by the defendants and their co-conspirators, or was made to appear as profits to the seller. The fraudulent loan proceeds were then laundered through multiple accounts to conceal the source and distribution of the money and were ultimately used for the benefit of the defendants and their co-conspirators…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.
>>> 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 http://www.broward.org/commission/welcome.htm to view the new agenda.
>>> Press release: Defendant Pleads Guilty in $39 Million Mortgage Fraud Scheme – To Date, Three Defendants Have Pled Guilty in Scheme
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Steve Linick, Inspector General, Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General, Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), and Al Lamberti, Sheriff, Broward Sheriff’s Office, announced today’s the guilty plea of defendant Juan Carlos Sanchez, of New York, N.Y., in connection with is [participation in a $39 million mortgage fraud scheme. Sanchez pled guilty before the U.S. District Judge William J. Zloch to count one of the indictment, which charged him with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Sentencing is scheduled for January 3, 2013, in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Sanchez was originally indicted with seven other defendants, Case No. 12-60088-CR-Williams, for fraudulently obtaining mortgages for the purchase of condominium units at Marina Oaks Condominiums in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The other defendants were: Quelyory Rigal, a/k/a “Kelly,” of Homestead, FL, Sandra P. Campo, of Colombia, Osbelia Lazardi, of Southwest Ranches, FL, Dayanara Montero, of Miramar, FL, Edward R. Mena, of Miami, FL, Celeste Mota, of Fort Myers, FL, and David Arboleda, of Doral, FL.
Defendants Mota and Arboleda pled guilty in September 2012, and are awaiting sentencing. Their sentencings are scheduled for November 28 and December 12, 2012, before Judge Zloch in Fort Lauderdale, FL. In addition, on September 5, 2012, defendant Sandra Campo arrived at Miami International Airport from Colombia, and surrendered to agents of the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General and the Broward Sheriff’s Office to face the charges in the indictment. Trial for the remaining defendants is scheduled for January 14, 2013.
According to the indictment, from January 2007 through November 2008, the defendants conspired to recruit individuals who would be willing to purchase condominium units at Marina Oaks Condominiums. These buyers were promised a “buyers’ incentive,” which payment was not disclosed to the lenders or reflected on any of the closing documents. The conspirators would then prepare materially false mortgage applications for the buyers on HUD Uniform Loan Application Form 1003. These forms contained false information as to material facts regarding the borrowers’ credit worthiness in order to qualify the borrowers for mortgages to purchase the Marina Oaks Condominiums. The conspirators would allegedly also create false documents to support the mortgage applications. Once the loans closed, the conspirators would divert portions of the mortgage proceeds for their personal use and benefit. The indictment alleges that the conspirators obtained approximately $39 million in fraudulent mortgage loans. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of the Inspector General, IRS-CI and the Broward Sheriff’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas P. Lanigan.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
>>> Press release: West Palm Beach Company and Owners Charged with Conspiracy to Commit Fraud in Connection with Bogus Septic Tank Products
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Arthur A. Elkins, Jr., Inspector General, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Inspector General (EPA-OIG), announced the filing of an Information of FBK Products, LLC., Gary Kranz, 48, and Marc Rona, 43, all of Pam Beach County, on charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. In addition, Steven Kranz, 50, also of Pam Beach County, was charged with misprision of a felony, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 4. According to the charging documents and statements made in court, FBK, Gary Kranz, Marc Rona, and Steven Kranz, in concert with managers and employees of FBK, knowingly participated in a scheme to fraudulently market and sell an unnecessary septic treatment product to customers throughout the continental United States from March 2009 through October 2010. According to the charges, FBK, G. Kranz, and Rona conspired to use the name FBK and Septic Remedy in sales pitches to customers across the United States. In these sales pitches, the defendants and their co-conspirators fraudulently claimed that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) were affiliated with the septic treatment product, sold by telephone under the name Septic Remedy. Based on these misrepresentations, some elderly customers allegedly purchased more than seventy years’ worth of Septic Remedy. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the efforts of EPA-OIG in this investigation. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Norman O. Hemming, III. An Information is only an accusation and the defendants are 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.
>>> Owner of Miami Home Health Company Sentenced to 120 Months in Prison For $42 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme
Press release: The owner and operator of a Miami health care agency was sentenced yesterday to 120 months in prison for his participation in a $42 million home health Medicare fraud scheme, announced U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida; Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Michael B. Steinbach, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Miami Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Christopher B. Dennis of the HHS Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations Miami Office. Eulises Escalona, 44, of Monroe County, Fla., was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard in the Southern District of Florida. In addition to sentencing Escalona to prison, Judge Lenard ordered him to pay $26.5 million in restitution. On Aug. 2, 2012, Escalona pleaded guilty in the Southern District of Florida to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
According to court documents, Escalona was the owner of Willsand Home Health Inc., a Florida home health agency that purported to provide home health care and physical therapy services to eligible Medicare beneficiaries. Escalona pleaded guilty to conspiring with patient recruiters for the purpose of billing the Medicare program for unnecessary home health care and therapy services. Escalona and his co-conspirators paid kickbacks and bribes to patient recruiters in return for patients, prescriptions, Plans of Care (POCs) and certifications for medically unnecessary therapy and home health services for Medicare beneficiaries. Escalona and co-conspirators also paid kickbacks and bribes directly to physicians, who provided home health and therapy prescriptions, POCs and medical certifications to Escalona and his co-conspirators. Escalona used these prescriptions, POCs and medical certifications to fraudulently bill the Medicare program for home health care services, which Escalona knew was in violation of federal criminal laws.
According to court documents, at Willsand Home Health, patient files for Medicare beneficiaries were falsified to make it appear that such beneficiaries qualified for home health care and therapy services when, in fact, many of the beneficiaries did not actually qualify for such services. Escalona knew that in many cases the patient files at Willsand Home Health were falsified. From approximately January 2006 through November 2009, Escalona and his alleged co-conspirators submitted approximately $42 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare, which paid approximately $27 million on those claims. >>>
This case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Joseph S. Beemsterboer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. 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, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,480 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $4.8 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is 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 www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
>> There is a December multi-county Regional Climate Change Summit in the future and for more information about the event go to: http://southeastfloridaclimatecompact.org/Summit-Invite/
>>> School Readiness Funding Allocation Workshop – With the goal of obtaining community input, Florida’s Office of Early Learning will conduct a School Readiness Funding Allocation Workshop in Miami on Tuesday, October 30. This is a great opportunity to provide input on how the state allocates School Readiness program dollars to all 67 Florida counties. Tuesday, October 30
6:30 – 8:30 p.m. United Way of Miami-Dade Ryder Room, 3250 S.W. Third Ave., Miami, FL 33129
>>> South Florida Regional Planning Board Road Show in seven counties and for more information go to http://seven50.org/uncategorized/registration-work-group-road-show/
>>> 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 www.kristihouse.org or call: Bianca Fernandez – 305-547-6802 Mary Faraldo – 786-218-9748
>>> THE ADRIENNE ARSHT CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS OF
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY ANNOUNCES TWO ADDITIONS TO ITS 2012-2013 LIVE AT KNIGHT SERIES Macy Gray only Florida appearance! -Grammy Award winner to perform soulful versions of Metallica, Radiohead, Eurhythmics and more! November 8, 2012 at 8:30 p.m. “Gray has the most exceptional voice I have seen in a long time!” – The New York Times and an acoustic evening with MATISYAHU Co-presented by the Adrienne Arsht Center and Gelb Promotions Reggae-rock musician returns with acoustic show January 19, 2013 at 8:30 p.m. “Hearing Matis sing a cappella was nothing less than a spiritual experience. His voice soared, on point and pure, never once faltering!” – Miami New Times in the John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall. Both concerts go on sale to Arsht Center members October 1, 2012. The general public will have access to MACY GRAY tickets on October 8, 2012, and to MATISYAHU tickets on October 22, 2012. Tickets may be purchased through the Adrienne Arsht Center box office by calling (305) 949-6722, or online at www.arshtcenter.org. Previously announced Live at Knight performances include: Talib Kweli: Idle Warship with Res (October 19, 2012); Diego El Cigala (November 10, 2012); Lenine (January 18, 2013); Calypso Rose (February 9, 2013); Kodo (March 9, 2013); and Esperanza Spalding (April 19, 2013).
>>> LA with over 100,000 homeless people on the streets should look to Miami-Dade for a social model, reduced homeless here from over 8,000 people to just fewer than 900 since 1993
While Los Angeles may have over 100,000 homeless people on the street Miami-Dade County has under 900 and that has only occurred because of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust and its private partners working together to solve this vexing social problem. Here in South Florida it was business leaders and elected officials that decided back in 1993 that when the streets were filled with over 8,000 people sleeping on the street, the majority of them veterans back then. These people believed that something had to be done to help these less fortunate or addicted men and women transition back into society and productivity. But in many cities around America today there is no such civic push and having once gone undercover as a homeless person around 2003. Not only are you the lowest person on the social ladder but you can be treated almost like you are human trash in a wastebasket.
Locally some people think more should be done and efforts have been amped up since the Great Recession began and the diversity of the population exploded that now includes many homeless families, and the challenge is even greater and the Trust is putting more resources into this effort. But losing your job, your house, or some other malady in a county where around 12 percent of the population is considered to have serious mental problems. And we also face people coming from around the world from over 100 nations that includes dozens and dozens of foreign languages and different life experiences. And while it is easy to close ones eyes to what it must be like to live on the street, where even a few hours on the hot pavement becomes an eternity if it is new to you. And if you are fortunate enough to have not experienced this ordeal. Count yourself lucky for around America much greater numbers of people are living this life and to all the actual providers that provide beds, shelter, food and programs with the winter coming on. The Watchdog Report gives these organizations and all that work with this displaced population a Tip of the Hat. For a society is judged by how they treat their children and those in need of help. Moreover, here in Miami at least we have tried to resolve this sad state of affairs when it comes to the less fortunate among us, and while more work is still to be done. It is more than a start but a success story and model that some cities have replicated throughout America and that is a good thing.
>>> School Board Member Renier Diaz de la Portilla has now confirmed what we thought when he first ran for the School Board. Then, as now, he was looking for a platform from which to start a political career… There was a time, before district elections, when the ranks of School Board Members came entirely from the ranks of PTA leaders and educational activists whose sole interest was to improve educational opportunities, not from among those politicians ambitious for higher office. We need to return to an electoral process that provides a balance between district politicks and the more honest ambition of countywide voters for better learning and better schools.
North Miami Beach
>>> I know the sea level rise is bad news for South Florida! A graduate student of mine a few years ago did a project called Florida Warming where you could put in your zip code and see where your house is over the course of time. After 50 or so years, most of the coast was under water. Scary stuff! Here’s a link to the site – http://www.floridawarming.com/
>>> Liked your comments on fraud and political involvement. Lots of thing just never seem to change….quote from 430 B.C.! Is it reasonable to be hopeful in 2012?
>>> LIFETIME FOUNDING MEMBERS & INITIAL SPONSORS IN 2000
ANGEL ESPINOSA – (Deceased) owner COCONUT GROVE DRY CLEANER’S
HUGH CULVERHOUSE, Jr.
THE MIAMI HERALD www.miamiherald.com (2000-2008)
WILLIAM HUGGETT, Seamen Attorney (Deceased)
LINDA E. RICKER (Deceased)
JOHN S. and JAMES L. KNIGHT FOUNDATION www.knightfoundation.org
THE HONORABLE STANLEY G. TATE
>>> Watchdog Report supporters – $2,000 a year
BADIA SPICES www.badiaspices.com
FLORIDA POWER & LIGHT www.fpl.com
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY www.miamidade.gov
UNITED WAY OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY www.unitedwaymiamidade.org
>>> Watchdog Report supporters – $1,000 a year
AKERMAN SENTERFITT www.akerman.com
BERKOWITZ DICK POLLACK & BRANT www.bdpb.com
LINDA MURPHY: Gave a new laptop in Oct. 2001 to keep me going.
SHUBIN & BASS www.shubinbass.com
>>> Public, Educational & Social institutions – subscribers at $1,000 or less
CAMILLUS HOUSE, INC. www.camillushouse.org
CITY OF MIAMI www.miamigov.com.
CITY OF CORAL GABLES www.coralgables.com
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH www.miamibeachfl.gov
COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP FOR HOMELESS www.cph.org
THE STATE OF FLORIDA www.myflorida.gov
GREATOR MIAMI CHAMBER OF COMMERCE www.miamichamber.com
GREATER MIAMI CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU www.miamiandbeaches.com
HEALTH FOUNDATION OF SOUTH FLORIDA www.hfsf.org
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY www.miamidade.gov
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY ETHICS & PUBLIC TRUST COMMISSION www.miamidade.gov/ethics
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY INSPECTOR GENERAL www.miamidade.gov/ig
MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS BOARD www.dadeschools.net
PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST & JACKSON HEALTH SYSTEM www.jhsmiami.org
THE BEACON COUNCIL www.beaconcouncil.com
THE CHILDREN’S TRUST www.thechildrenstrust.org
THE MIAMI-DADE COUNTY LEAGUE OF CITIES www.mdclc.org
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA http://www.firstgov.gov/
UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI www.miami.edu
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 13th 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.
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
Daniel A. Ricker
Publisher & Editor
Watchdog Report www.watchdogreport.net
Copyright © of original material, 2012, 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.