Argus Report: With Florida looking at a photo finish, Obama and Romney duke it out, but will the Northeast and Hurricane Sandy be the deciding factor
Florida: Former veteran state legislator Diaz de la Portilla & Rodriguez going head to head for House seat 112, how tight will the race be?
Miami-Dade County: Even with the long voter lines, a serene mood seems to prevail; the WDR gives a Tip of the Hat to county & volunteer poll workers –
Wait times at polls on www.miamidade.gov/election
Miami-Dade Public Schools: Will thumbs up or down by county voters of $1.2 billion GOB determine future public offerings for other public institutions?
Public Health Trust: While only 13 days of cash on hand, tens of millions in federal LIP funds have not hit the books yet
City of Miami: City Hall earns best early voting site, idyllic setting, shorter line than most, and parking was not a major issue
Village of Coconut Grove: King Mango Strut meeting
City of Miami Gardens: Three Miami-Dade Residents Sentenced in Tax Refund Fraud Scheme Using Stolen Identities
City of Miami Beach: City Hall voters snapshot of local demographics, wide spectrum of voters wait patiently in long line
City of Coral Gables: Tony local Library inundated with early voters waiting patiently in line, only one incident but code enforcement officials all over campaign signs on public swale
City of Aventura: Mgr. Soroka and Charter Schools USA hit with jury award of $155 million for breach of contract, likely to be appealed
City of Homestead: Miami Area Assisted Living Facility Owners Plead Guilty for Roles in $63 Million Fraud Scheme
>>> Other stories around Florida
City of Coral Springs: Four Convicted in $160 Million Nationwide Tax Fraud Scheme
Polk County: Highlands County Doctor Sentenced to Prison on Pension Fund Theft Charges
Glades County: Owner of I&C Fish Ranch Pleads Guilty in “Operation Long Neck” Involving Trafficking in Live Turtles
Liberty County: Gov. Scott taps Gloria “Gay” Uzzell as Liberty County Superintendent of Schools.
Community Events: Multi-County Climate Change Summit in Dec. — Regional Planning meetings around the counties — Arsht Center events
Editorials: PAST WDR NOV. 2, 2008: May South Florida get through the election without becoming a national embarrassment, once is more than enough – >>> The WDR is going to start investigating where elected officials actually live after the Nov. 6 election — 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 says at a campaign event in 2006 Miami Commissioner Sarnoff said he was a “proud Republican,” later supported Obama in 08
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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>>> If you think it is important to have an alternative mainstream news service, I hope you will consider becoming a financial supporter for I do have to live and pay my rent. I also want to thank again all those people and organizations that have supported me over the years and I have been honored by that trust and support of my efforts over the past almost 14 years.
ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street
>>> With Florida looking at a photo finish, Obama and Romney duke it out, but will the Northeast and Hurricane Sandy be the deciding factor
With Super Storm Sandy, a Category 1 Hurricane barreling though the Northeast last week and left its millions of residents reeling, there are still many people without power in the swing voter region when it comes to the presidential election Nov. 6. And these people are just trying to get their lives together. State governments are trying to figure out how to have voters do their civic duty, while keeping the residents alive with food and fuel shortages are becoming widespread in certain pockets of the multi state disaster area, and as the days tick bye tempers are flaring, and the late fall cold is descending on the region. The race between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is razor thin and in Florida polls, the www.miamiherald.com is reporting a gap is opening and Romney is starting to lead the president seeking a second term, and while voter turnout has been heavy throughout Florida, here in South Florida the lines suggest it could be a record breaker turnout and ultimately the Sunshine State is to close to call.
Florida has been going back and forth between a red, blue or purple state and while election day on Tuesday is looming, if past history is any indication the lines at most of the state’s poll lines will be not be nearly as long as these have been over the past seven early voting days in Miami-Dade. In west Dade GOP voters are turning out in droves, and as one heads east the county gets more purple in its voting demographics. But both political parties are putting fourth a full course press to get the last of the undecided voters, especially independents before the dye is cast on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. when all the campaign ads will finally just stop on the east coast’s television sets.
>>> Congressman Rivera locked in dogfight with challenger Garcia, federal probe dogs the incumbent
U.S. Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami is in the political fight for his life as stories in the media continue to come out about federal investigation for a variety of activities that he repeatedly says he is innocent of, and he says in fact, there is no federal investigation of him that he is aware of. He is facing Democrat Joe Garcia in the race and it is a rematch from 2010 when Rivera bested Garcia for his seat in Congress representing Congressional District 26. The challenger is pounding Rivera on the federal investigations and Rivera is firing back that Garcia is under investigation for election violations, but the two men were spotted at the Hammocks early voting site in west Dade on Tuesday and they each campaigned with a different group of voters in line to vote at what appeared to be a rich GOP voting site.
Garcia in dark slacks and a dress short with a tie was being challenged by some of the voters in line that clearly were Republicans and Rivera in a open dress shirt and khaki slacks talked to voters and even got some photos in with people on the line, but he also was working his cell phone, and when he spotted the Watchdog Report after I was there for about 20 minutes watching the two men campaign. The freshman Congressman dropped out of my sight since the media has been hounding him for his role in an earlier Democratic primary race with a Democratic challenger running against Garcia. And the man Justin Lamar Sternad was a neophyte candidate yet he ran a fairly sophisticated campaign supposedly with Rivera’s help behind the scenes, that Rivera has said is not true, But the federal probe of the congressman is reported to be continuing state’s www.miamiherald.com and a key political operative, Ana Alliegro that helped with the nascent campaign race, but is close to Rivera has dropped out of sight. Since she failed to show up for a meeting with a federal prosecutor and federal agents about six weeks ago.
>>> SECRETARY NAPOLITANO ISSUES TEMPORARY, BLANKET JONES ACT WAIVER
White House press release: As a result of impacts caused by Hurricane Sandy, today Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano issued a temporary, blanket waiver of the Jones Act to immediately allow additional oil tankers coming from the Gulf of Mexico to enter Northeastern ports, to provide additional fuel resources to the region. “The Administration’s highest priority is ensuring the health and safety of those impacted by Hurricane Sandy and this waiver will remove a potential obstacle to bringing additional fuel to the storm damaged region,” said Secretary Napolitano.
Secretary Napolitano’s action immediately allows additional ships, that would otherwise be barred, to begin shipping petroleum products from the Gulf of Mexico to Northeastern ports, increasing the access to fuel in the storm-damaged region. The waiver is operative through November 13th. The Administration is continuing to monitor the situation and is prepared to take additional actions as necessary to ensure that the energy needs of the region affected by Hurricane Sandy are met. For more information, visit www.dhs.gov.
>>> Sunday press release: NewsmaxZogby U.S. Nationwide Tracking Poll Tied Again and Again — Obama 47%-Romney 47%
Pollster John Zogby: “To readers this may seem like watching paint dry. It is. While the lead may change here and there, the polling is clear: The American people are tied. The real question (and vote) will be on November 7 — will we agree to disagree? Will one side give? Will one side concede that the election is the will of the public? Democracy relies on that. Meanwhile, Romney leads among those who have already voted and the two candidates are very close among voters who say they will “definitely” and are “very likely” to vote. Romney now leads among independents (49% Romney, 37% Obama) but 13% are still undecided — and independents, as always, remain volatile. Or are they “decided” about not voting for either? Romney leads 58%-37% among whites, while Obama is solid among Hispanics (69%-23%) and African Americans (91%-7%). Obama has grown his lead among the Creative Class by 19 points (57%-38%), a lead that is growing daily. But Romney has made gains among NASCAR fans and Weekly Wal-Mart Shoppers — both vital to his success. After a week of “presidential leadership” following Sandy, Obama is still not locking this up.”
Full News Release available at – http://www.jzanalytics.com/ >>> Special forbes.com post… What If It’s Not Close After All? I do not make predictions and, to quote the Governor of Texas, “I’m not a bettin’ man.” A real pollster has the humility to admit that real balls are made of human flesh – not of crystal, brass, or even silver. But I do look at trends and try to see the direction of things. The presidential race is indeed too close to call and likely to stay that way-at least in the nationwide popular vote. And the battleground states are mainly too close to call, as well. So what if the nationwide vote stays a 1 pointer and a candidate wins all (or most) of the battleground states by slim margins? I suggested in one of my posts last week that a close election could actually end up in the courts in several states. Not a pretty picture at all – especially with the looming fiscal cliff. But what if one of the candidates wins by a point or two in all the states too close to call right now? Let’s review the situation… Full Blog Post available at – http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnzogby/2012/11/04/what-if-its-not-close-after-all/
>>> Books & Books turns 30, gets a surprise $30,000 check donation in his honor from Knight Foundation for Miami Book Fair
Books & Books of Coral Gables and founded by Mitch Kaplan was celebrating its 30th Anniversary on Saturday and the cherry on the top of the celebration is a $30,000 donation to the Miami Book Fair in his honor by the Knight Foundation. Alberto Ibarguen, the president and CEO of Knight told the Watchdog Report Saturday that after he voted (a around 3 hour process at Miami City Hall) that he was going to the bookstore afterwards to present the check to the community icon, who has done so much for the literary and arts community and now has multiple bookstores including one at MIA. The Watchdog Report gives Kaplan a Tip of the Hat for achieving something that many were skeptical could happen, and the anchor store has seen a host of literary figures, numerous politicians including President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary doing book signings and may he have many more years of success in this special endeavor. www.booksandbooks.com/coralgables
>>> Miami Resident and Mexican National Plead Guilty to Charges Relating to Attempted Sale of Stolen Henri Matisse Painting
Press release: 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, announced that Pedro Antonio Marcuello Guzman, 46, of Miami, Florida, and Maria Martha Elisa Ornelas Lazo, 50, of Mexico City, Mexico, pled guilty yesterday to charges relating to the July 17, 2012 attempted sale of the stolen Henri Matisse painting, “Odalisque in Red Pants,” in Miami Beach, Florida. More specifically, Marcuello pled guilty to conspiracy to transport and sell stolen property, interstate transportation of stolen property, and possession of stolen property, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 371, 2314 and 2315. Ornelas pled guilty to conspiracy to transport and sell stolen property, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. Sentencing is scheduled for January 22, 2013 before U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks. At sentencing, Marcuello faces a statutory maximum sentence of ten years in prison. Ornelas faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison.
According to court documents, between December 2011 and July 13, 2012, Marcuello, in a series of meetings with undercover agents of the FBI, negotiated the sale of an original Henri Matisse painting entitled “Odalisque in Red Pants,” which had been stolen from the Caracas Museum of Contemporary Art in Caracas, Venezuela in or around December 2002. During these meetings, Marcuello agreed to sell the stolen painting to the undercover agents for approximately $740,000.00 U.S. dollars, and also agreed to have the painting transported to the United States from Mexico, where the painting was stored, by courier, whom Marcuello identified as Ornelas. On July 16, 2012, consistent with the discussions to date, Ornelas transported the stolen Matisse painting to Miami from Mexico City. According to court documents, the following day both Marcuello and Ornelas produced the Matisse painting titled “Odalisque in Red Pants” to undercover agents as part of the purported sales transaction. At the time of the purported sales transaction, both Marcuello and Ornelas knew the Matisse painting had been stolen. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI. Mr. Ferrer would also like to thank the FBI Legal Attaché in Caracas and Paris, the FBI’s Art Crime Team, the Department of Justice Office of International Affairs, and the Department of Justice Attaché in Paris. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elisa Castrolugo. 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
>>> Former veteran legislator Diaz de la Portilla & Rodriguez going head to head for House seat 112, how tight will the race be?
In Miami-Dade County, one of the most watched state legislative races is between Republican Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Democrat Jose Javier Rodriguez, a former federal prosecutor. For the Florida House District 112 that includes Little Havana, downtown Miami and Coconut Grove, and while Rodriguez has been at the early polling site at Miami City Hall. Voters are only seeing his opponent at the site by meeting the candidate’s sister or his brother Renier, a school board member who is leaving the board, and some other supporters to represent the former state legislator. Diaz de la Portilla has been a fixture in the state legislature for over a decade in both the house and senate where most recently, he was termed out in 2010 and he was followed in the seat by his older brother state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami in 2010.
Further Alex had considered running for the state senate seat against Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami but earlier in the year. He decided the long-term veteran legislator would be too hard to beat and went for the redrawn House seat instead. He has been a political and campaign consultant who worked on getting Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez elected in August and politics runs deep in the family who has a strong political past in Cuba before his parents fled Fidel Castro decades ago (The mayor’s son Carlos was giving out campaign material at the city of Miami early voting site late Saturday for Diaz de la Portilla). However, Diaz de la Portilla has been dogged by controversy over the years while in political office, including most recently, a nasty divorce where his wife claimed he was abusive and she took out a restraining order on the man. His campaign signs dot the landscape (even though these are illegal when on the public swale or on the fence of a Miami Parking Authority parking lot next to the county government center downtown), and while these are small things. He has always seemed to be above the usual constraints that other candidates follow and is consistent with him pushing the campaign envelope to get a victory. In addition, in Rodriguez he is getting a viable challenger for the race and as one person said Saturday afternoon. The younger former prosecutor was “the future” type of candidates South Florida will be seeing in the years to come as a second wave of young lawmakers try to make their mark in the evolving political arena.
How weird is the race getting?
The Watchdog Report had heard about the negative robo calls by Diaz de la Portilla (Net worth $31,643 in 2010) surrogates attacking Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez (Net worth $328,500) who represents commission District 7 and overlaps much of the state house district. In the www.miamiherald.com Suarez who is supporting Rodriguez and is a fellow Harvard graduate, in these automated calls by the challenger question Suarez’s political past. Including the Miami mayoral race he won in 1997 but then the election was voided by a circuit court judge because of widespread voter fraud and while he ran for office after that debacle. He lost all the races he ran in and has been in a political wilderness until the spring of 2011 when he finally won the county commission seat by beating former state Rep. Julio Robaina, R-South Miami. The Diaz de la Portilla campaign is trying to capitalize on Suarez’s past political performance that earned him a number of colorful nicknames suggesting emotional instability and while he says, Diaz de la Portilla should be careful especially since these robo calls included giving out his cell phone number, that he is considering changing.
Supporters such as Suarez helping other candidates do carry political baggage and their past with them and his father’s performance in office also reflects on his son Francis. Now the Miami Commission chair and insiders note the son, an attorney has a great political future, if he is not too tainted by any actions his father might take or say now or in the future. And in the case of Diaz de la Portilla. His political career is also checkered and he abides by the philosophy of win at all cost and if he pulls this race off. It will be interesting to see how he deals with the high maintenance voters of Coconut Grove that have been prior to this election been represented by state Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami who will soon be sworn in as the Miami-Dade Property Appraiser at the end of the month.
>>> Controversial Judge Hirsch in the spotlight, had $1.88 million net worth through 2011
Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Milton Hirsch is in the spotlight this week and the former CPA got his law degree from Georgetown University. He has been a former assistant state attorney, teaches at the University of Miami and was elected unopposed to the bench in 2010. The man is an author of several books, one that is considered a primary reference for new practicing attorneys and he has a flair for showing how erudite he is using Latin phrases in some of the rulings and quoting from literature from the bench. However, over the past year he has had a number of controversial cases including not accepting the marijuana laws that he has questioned, and more recently the validity of fingerprints and the experts that testify to the match with a criminal defendant. http://miami.cbslocal.com/2011/08/24/miami-dade-judge-throws-drug-cases-out/ >>> http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/10/28/3071658/miami-dade-judge-rules-fingerprint.html
What do we know about his finances?
Hirsch through Dec. 2011 had a net worth of $1.88 million and he lists $50,000 in household goods on his financial disclosure forms for the year. His total assets are $2.04 million including a home valued at $446,000, a vacation home in Palm Beach Gardens is worth $272,000, and he holds an extensive list of stocks and securities. He lists liabilities of $216,860 and his income for the year was $137,000 as a circuit court judge, St. Thomas University kicked in $12,000 and the University of Miami kicked in $10,000 for a total of $170,000 in all income for the year.
>>> AG Bondi press release: President-designate Don Gaetz, Speaker-designate Will Weatherford and I announced our support for a plan for allocating the remaining $300 million that my office recovered for Floridians in the national mortgage settlement. The plan obtains much-needed assistance for homeowners and ensures that the settlement funds are spent with the transparency, accountability and flexibility that comes from the legislative process. These settlement funds are in addition to the approximately $7.5 billion in expected relief that the national mortgage settlement provides directly to Florida homeowners. I am grateful to President-designate Gaetz and Speaker-designate Weatherford for working with me to implement the mortgage settlement in a way that’s in the best interests of our state.
>>> 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.
>>> Even with the long voter lines, a serene mood seems to prevail, the WDR gives a Tip of the Hat to county & volunteer poll workers
The Watchdog Report over the course of the past week branched out by going to most of the 20 Miami-Dade Early Voting sites throughout the county and one of the busiest sites was the Kendall Regional Library in the Hammocks in west Dade near the end of Killian Drive where the line was robust when it came to voters and wait times were in the multiple hours. The county election department staff was in full swing the last seven days and with polls opening at 7:00 a.m. All of the sites had people lining up after 6:00 a.m. but the cooler weather and blue sky during the day without a raindrop in sight made the civic exercise almost a community event where people from both side of the political aisle joked and talked with each other, while sipping on bottled water supplied free by the county.
Further, the early voters should also give the poll workers a Tip of the Hat as they toiled in their duties and dealt with people who had disabilities or the uninformed voter who could not understand the questions on the ballot. (And these people were sent home with a sample ballot to study since poll staff could not make any recommendations on the candidates or any of the amendments). Further, while these workers are paid a small sum for helping the electorate do their duty and many are veteran poll workers that have done this for decades. These people allow the overall process to be smoother and at a reduced cost to the county’s general fund and the activity is similar to the role volunteers play in enhancing parks, the libraries or at the Arsht Center for example where millions of dollars are saved by these people that have stepped up to help. And in the case of these poll workers it is Showtime Tuesday and voters should thank them and the county’s Goodwill Ambassadors staffing the hundreds of soon to be open precincts for being there to help. Because it is the average citizen that steps forward that makes the Republic work in the long run, and when tempers run hot. It is these men and women that become election diplomats in most of the cases and overall in the last week they have done a magnificent job.
What about the fights?
At a number of sites over the past week, it was necessary to call the police after supporters of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama moved past the usual verbal tussle and became more aggressive. One such disruption at the West Dade Regional Library on Coral Way in the previous weekend was said to have started because Obama supports were furious at the Fire Obama signs that dotted the public swale at the facility. There was also a disturbance at the Coral Gables Library but these eruptions of passion by the candidates supporters were overall muted throughout the week.
What about parking for voters?
One vexing problem at many of the 20 polling sites was the inability to park, that was an added frustration for voters, and in the future. The county election’s department must consider some of the logistics of these secure sites where the machines are set up. For the popularity of early voting has been validated and in future presidential elections this parking issue should be mitigated for the population is only going to get bigger and the parking problem should be taken into consideration.
>>> Will the Commission Dist.11 race get any uglier as charges fly between Zapata & Machado?
The race for the County Commission District 11 seat on the 13-member dais has produced a acrimonious campaign that is pitting former state Rep. Juan Zapata, R- Miami against Manny Machado, a Miami-Dade cop and at the Kendall Library in the Hammocks the two men worked the voter line with diligence on Monday and Tuesday, but also kept their distance. The commission district that represents west Dade at the county is teeming with voters as western development and subdivisions dot the crowed landscape, where traffic is known to be a nightmare during rush hour and this part of Miami-Dade seems to be a world of its own. Zapata was interviewed on Michael Putney’s show This Week in South Florida a few weeks ago, but Machado declined the invitation believing the media is biased in the race. The two men in the three-candidate primary split the vote with Zapata getting 48 percent of the vote to Machado’s 37 percent but this head to head race has the charges flying as they try to win the seat being vacated by Commission Chair Joe Martinez. After his bid to become Miami-Dade mayor failed. When Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez won a decisive victory getting 54 percent of the vote to Martinez’s 31 percent in the seven candidate primary race on Aug.14.
>>> MIA Dir. Abreu says his departure looking more like March when last three gates are completed
The Watchdog Report contacted José Abreu, the Miami-Dade Aviation Director about his departure at Miami International Airport in the future and Abreu in an email back wrote that he has not talked to Mayor Carlos Gimenez about any successor but he noted. “I did have two separate conversations recently with folks from American Airlines and Mayor Gimenez and [I] have agreed to stay until the last three gates are functional. This looks like a March date now,” the veteran airport maven wrote back. When I asked about the impact of Hurricane Sandy on MIA passenger and flight delays on MIA air traffic his office sent the following information.
|Hurricane SANDY Delayed and cancelled Flights|
|Total delayed Arrival||Total delayed Departures||Total cancelled Arrivals||Total Cancelled Departures|
>>> MIAMI-DADE AVIATION DIRECTOR TO RECEIVE TRANSPORTATION AWARD Aviation Director José Abreu (For bio, go to http://www.miami-airport.com/jose_abreu.asp)
Press release: Miami-Dade Aviation Director José Abreu will receive the Center for Urban Transportation Research’s (CUTR) 2012 Transportation Achievement Award at the organization’s annual awards event on November 1 in Tampa. The award recognizes an individual’s overall contribution to the transportation profession. The awardee is selected based on lasting contributions to the transportation field, impact of those activities, and general leadership and mentorship in the transportation community.
“Congratulations to José for earning the 2012 Transportation Achievement Award. The Center for Urban Transportation Research couldn’t have picked a more worthy recipient,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez. “Miami-Dade County and the entire Sunshine State owe Director Abreu a debt of gratitude for his decades of public service and lasting contributions to our transportation infrastructure. José is truly one-of-a-kind, and his boundless energy and sense of humor have helped him to successfully deliver complex, high-stress projects like the massive MIA expansion.” Abreu has been Miami-Dade Aviation Director since July 2005, responsible for the operations of Miami International Airport (MIA) and four general aviation airports in the Miami area. He has also overseen one of the largest airport expansion programs in the U.S., a $6.4 billion capital improvement program that has added new terminals, roadways and other infrastructure at MIA. Under his leadership, MIA has doubled in size to more than 7.5 million square feet, with the final sections of the airport’s capital improvement program scheduled for completion in early 2013.
Before joining the Department, he served for two and a half years as Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) under Governor Jeb Bush. In this role, he oversaw FDOT’s seven districts and the Florida Turnpike Enterprise, encompassing the entire state, 7,500 employees and an annual budget of $9 billion. Prior to his position as Secretary, Mr. Abreu served 18 years in progressively senior positions at FDOT, including eight years as District Six Secretary for Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. The CUTR at the University of South Florida, established in 1988, is an internationally recognized resource for policymakers, transportation professionals and the public. CUTR’s faculty of 45 full-time researchers, which includes experts in economics, planning, engineering, public policy and geography, provides research, policy analysis, comprehensive training, education and technical assistance. The multi-disciplinary research faculty receives more than $8 million per year in contracts and grants to support its research, education, training and technical assistance missions. CUTR also is the home for the National Center for Transit Research and the National Bus Rapid Transit Institute. For more information, go to http://www.cutr.usf.edu/.
>>> New M-DC Inspector General report on AA Arena:
OIG Audit of the Agreements Between Miami-Dade County and Basketball Properties, Ltd., et.al., to Operate the American Airlines Arena; Audit Close-out, IG11-34, October 31, 2012.
>>> Nominations must be postmarked by December 14, 2012
Press release: The Parks Foundation of Miami-Dade, in partnership with the Miami-Dade County Commission for Women and Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces, is seeking to honor outstanding Miami-Dade women for the 25th Annual In the Company of Women Awards Ceremony to be held in March 2013. Timed to coincide with Women’s History Month, In the Company of Women recognizes the accomplishments of professional female leaders in the community in the following categories: Outstanding Woman in Arts and Entertainment, Outstanding Woman in Business and Economics, Outstanding Woman in Communications and Literature, Outstanding Woman in Education and Research, Outstanding Woman in Government and Law, Outstanding Woman in Health and Human Services, Outstanding Woman in Science and Technology, Outstanding Woman in Sports and Athletics, Community Spirit Award, Mayor’s Pioneer Award Posthumous Award
New this year, two women will be selected for the category of “Outstanding Woman in Government and Law,” one elected and one non-elected. The Community Spirit Award recognizes an outstanding woman who, through volunteering, has made a difference within the community. No professional background is required. The Mayor’s Pioneer Award honors a trailblazer who has proven leadership, creativity, and vision in addressing community issues and advancing the status of women in Miami-Dade County. The Posthumous Award is in honor of a woman who has passed away and recognizes her contribution within Miami-Dade County. All honorees must demonstrate professional development, community responsibility, leadership and vision, contribution to women’s progress and promotion of pluralism. To download the nomination form, please visit http://miamidade.gov/parks/women.asp. Completed forms must be mailed to Laura Morilla, Executive Director, Miami-Dade County Commission for Women, 111 NW 1st Street, Suite 1034, Miami, FL, 33128. Nominations must be postmarked by Friday, December 14, 2012. >>> A committee of community leaders will review nomination forms in order to determine the nominee’s eligibility. Emphasis will be placed on the nominee’s contribution to women’s progress in her profession/area of interest. For the Mayor’s Pioneer Award, emphasis will be on overall involvement in the community and women’s progress. Appointees from Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez office will review the nominations for the Mayor’s Pioneer Award.
Nominators are required to complete the nomination form and submit nine copies of the form along with nine photocopies of any newspaper or magazine articles about the nominee, if available. If nominating for the Mayor’s Pioneer Award, please submit only three photocopies of the nomination form, along with three photocopies of recommendation letters from three individuals, not including the nominator, and any supporting materials including newspaper or magazine articles. Nominations that fail to include these items and/or do not meet the application deadline will be automatically disqualified. Nominations will not be accepted via email. Past recipients of the In the Company award are not eligible.
>>> MIAMI-DADE WATER AND SEWER DEPARTMENT TO CHANGE WATER CHLORINATION METHOD FOR TWO-WEEK PERIOD
Press release: The Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department (WASD) will change its method of chlorination at each of its regional water treatment facilities for two weeks, beginning Monday, Nov. 5th and ending Sunday, Nov. 18th. Specifically, free chlorine, instead of the standard combined chlorine (chloramine) will be used during the treatment process. In a partnership with the Miami-Dade County Department of Health and the Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources (RER), WASD annually uses this free-chlorine treatment. This routine procedure is regularly scheduled each year, as free chlorine is considered an effective method of cleansing water distribution systems.
County residents may experience some chlorine smell and/or taste in their water during this short-term changeover. This is normal as free chlorine has a slightly different taste and smell than combined chlorine. The temporary change does not cause adverse health effects and is a necessary part of WASD’s ongoing efforts to provide safe, potable drinking water to Miami-Dade County residents. It is the priority of the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department to provide safe, reliable service to its customers. For additional information about Department services and programs, visit www.miamidade.gov/water.
>>> GMCVB press release: GREATER MIAMI HOTELS EXPERIENCE SIGNIFICANT ECONOMIC IMPACT FROM HOSTING THE TRANSCATHETER CARDIOVASCULAR THERAPEUTICS (TCT) ANNUAL MEETING AT THE MIAMI BEACH CONVENTION CENTER OCTOBER 22-26,2012
More than 21,000 total room nights were booked at 52 host hotels during the TCT convention, which is the world’s largest educational meeting specializing in interventional cardiovascular medicine. The TCT convention held at the Miami Beach Convention Center was attended by more than 12,000 cardiologists, radiologists, scientists and other health care professionals and exhibitors from 90 countries. This meeting, in addition to other leisure and business travelers, helped generate strong hotel statistics last week.
Hotel RevPAR in Miami-Dade County increased +35.1% for the week of October 21- 27, 2012 and room rates were up +20.4% when compared to the same time period last year. Occupancy increased for the week of October 21- 27, 2012 by +12.2%.
|Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR)|
|October 21-27, 2012||October 23-29, 2011||% Change|
|Average Daily Room Rate|
|October 21-27, 2012||October 23-29, 2011||% Change|
|October 21-27, 2012||October 23-29, 2011||% Change|
MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOL
>>> Will thumbs up or down by county voters of $1.2 billion GOB determine future public offerings for other institutions?
With a $1.2 billion bond question on the Nov. 6 ballot that has had early voters all week going to the polls and Superintendent Alberto Carvalho being a whirling dervish when it comes to campaigning for the issue. The school board members themselves have seemed somewhat tepid in promoting the issue and while they have made some effort to drum-up support in their nine-member district’s. Critics say more should have been done that has board member Raquel Regalado being the most visible member of the board out in public trying to drum up support for its passage. The nation’s fourth-largest public schools district is asking for this money, the bulk to be spent in the first six to eight years of the bonds life to repair aging schools suffering from a wide variety of infrastructure ills and also includes updating the facilities technology since conventional chalk and blackboards are rarely used anymore unless there is no choice.
What about the bond’s chance of passing?
People have been asking the Watchdog Report what are the chances of the bond passing, and if it does, does this mean the county’s taxpayers might have an appetite for other public issuances for culture or Miami-Dade College or the Jackson Health System floating such paper in other upcoming elections in the years ahead. And how this school capital improvement bond goes will give an indication the mood of taxpayers when it comes to paying for these upgrades and the community will get a fairly accurate idea of the success or failure in the future if the issue is approved or shot down in flames. To see more on what Carvalho is doing to promote the issue go to:
>>> 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
>>> While only 13 days of cash on hand, tens of millions in federal LIP funds have not hit the books yet
At the Financial Recovery Board meeting in the Miami-Dade Commission Chambers, the seven-member board was told by their senior finance staff that while the Jackson Health System had only 13 days of cash on hand. That number did not reflect the around $80 million coming in from the Lower Income Pool (LIP) contribution which is a federal draw down program of federal funding to the state of Florida and then divided up among public and not for profit hospitals. JHS is a major financial contributor to this program that will be phased out when the federal Affordable Care Act kicks in fully in the coming years but for the past decade, Jackson’s contribution to this federal drawdown program has been the state’s largest contributor, and this federal finding is no small sum of money.
CITY OF MIAMI
>>> City Hall earns best early voting site, idyllic setting, shorter line than most, and parking was not a major issue
The Watchdog Report has used the Miami-Dade County Early Polling site at Miami City Hall as my beta site for how the elections and voter turnout were going and it appears while having a steady and determined line of voters’ everyday last week. The site, next to Dinner Key Marina was almost surreal with yachts and sailboats moored and the view of the bay and it generally had the shortest line of any of the other 19 sites that opened last Saturday. Here the line snaked for maybe a hundred yards at anyone time but if you arrived 20 minutes before the poll opened at 7:00 a.m., the voter line was significantly shorter. And people voting over the week, were seen reading books, talking to neighbors, and on the whole in good spirits since bottled water was provided by the county elections department, and as the evening drew closer each day and temperatures dropped further. The crowd waiting to vote almost became mellow and there was a noticeable bump in the mood of the participants waiting in line to cast their ballot.
What about the media?
Two media outlets were there in the mornings and one last week was a senior journalist from Aljazeera Network in Qatar who had come to watch and report on the election. And when one considers how voting is done in the Sudan or other African countries the Grove marina is quite a contrast he considered.
Any problems with the city hall bathrooms?
Dwight Dania, the interim Miami Clerk had to pull double duty on Saturday morning when he came to city hall to open the building for early voting and discovered the facilities restrooms were a shambles with the floor covered with feces. He cleaned it up himself and it shows just a small sample of the logistics of holding an election and what election officials and staff face in the course of the week.
Village of Coconut Grove
>>> 2012 Mangohead Meeting & Party Schedule GREENSTREET CAFE – Wednesday, Nov. 7, 7:00 p.m. 3110 Commodore Plaza
CITY OF MIAMI GARDENS
>>> Three Miami-Dade Residents Sentenced in Tax Refund Fraud Scheme Using Stolen Identities
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI), and Paula Reid, Special Agent in Charge, United States Secret Service (USSS), announced today’s sentencing of Lewon Antoine Lurry, 26, of Miami Gardens, Darius Andre Morgan, 18, of Miami Gardens, and Christie Shanae Lurry, 24, of Miami Gardens, for charges relating to their participation in a tax refund scheme using stolen identities.
At today’s hearing, U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks sentenced Lewon Lurry to 32 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Darius Morgan was sentenced to 36 months in prison, to be followed by three years supervised release. Christie Lurry, whose role was limited to cashing one tax refund check, was sentenced to three years’ probation. All of the defendants pled guilty on August 20, 2012 to charges relating to the theft of government funds and identity theft. According to court documents, between January 31, 2012 and February 11, 2012, the defendants cashed a total of eleven fraudulently obtained tax refund checks at a Check Cashing USA store in Miami-Dade County. The tax refund checks had been issued based on federal income tax returns that had been submitted using the stolen identities of unwitting victims. The total amount of tax refund checks cashed by the defendants as part of this scheme was $39,902.92.
Also as part of this scheme, according to court documents, at the time of Morgan’s arrest on March 29, 2012, Morgan had in his possession three additional fraudulently obtained tax refund checks, four refund anticipation checks, and corresponding means of identification for the payees. These additional tax refund checks totaled $26,314.00. Mr. Ferrer thanked IRS-CI and the Secret Service for their work on this case. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elisa Castrolugo. 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
>>> City Hall voters snapshot of local demographics, wide spectrum of voters wait patiently in long line
The Miami Beach City Hall was an early voting site and the voter line there surged in length with voters as the line snaked out of the building into the adjacent sidewalk. The Beach sites were all said to be packed with voters trying to get their ballot in early and the voter demographics of young, middle age and elderly blending together was an example of the diversity of the city and county.
What about candidates running for mayor in 2013?
Mayor Mattie Bower is termed out in 2013 and while insiders say, she may try to run again as a commissioner. It is the field of candidates that may try to succeed her in office that is the talk of the town. Commissioners Jerry Libbin and Michael Gongora are said to be eyeing the top post, and Commissioner Jonah Wolfson told the Watchdog Report last week while campaigning for his wife Andrea’s election as a county judge. He said his current plan after running his wife’s campaign that had her in a runoff that he is tired and is concentrating on “being a good public servant” for the municipality in the months ahead that has been rocked by scandals.
>>> Press release: Celebrate Veterans Day with Colorful Parade and U.S. Army Golden Knights Demonstration Miami Beach is a Designated Regional Site for the Observance of Veterans Day WHAT: Miami Beach Veterans Day Parade & Wreath Laying Ceremony Including the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team Landing on Field and a flyover by the U.S. Air Force F-16 Mako jetfighters squadron WHEN: Veterans Day, Sunday, November 11, 2012 9:00 a.m.: Parade with approximately 50+ participating groups 10:30 a.m.: Ceremony WHERE: Parade spectator locations: Washington Avenue from 17 Street to 11 Street
11 Street from Washington Avenue to Alton Road Alton Road from 11 Street to 12 Street Ceremony: Memorial Stadium at Flamingo Park, 999 11 Street, Miami Beach WHO: Miami Beach Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3559, American Legion Post 85 and Military Officials including VFW State Commander Wayne E. Carrignan and Southern Command Major General Joe DiSalvo
CITY OF CORAL GABLES
>>> Tony local Library inundated with early voters waiting patiently in line, only one incident but code enforcement officials all over campaign signs on public swale
Who would have thought the Coral Gable’s Library, a county early voting sight the last seven days would be have such a deluge of voters going to the polls early and the line easily went over 100 yards at times with wait times ranging from almost two hours to the last voter leaving around 10:30 p.m. on Friday night after people entering the line ended at 7:00 p.m. The Gables library is usually a more staid location and while there was one incident between supporters for Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. The voters who were also provided with water stoically waited patiently to cast their vote, while experiencing some of the most gorgeous cool weather, with no rain that accompanied the week of early voting.
What about the pickup truck vote?
Coral Gables voters besides choosing a host of political candidates will vote on the lifting the ban on pickup trucks in peoples driveways that has become a contentious issue that has split City Beautiful residents. Mayor Jim Cason and commissioners thought getting the item on the general election ballot was the way to go after a couple of contentious commission meetings on the subject where the public came out to speak their mind and the enforcement of the law has been in a moratorium since then. Now residents will get to decide and way in on the matter and the questions is, to allow trucks over night or not, that is the question.
>>> Here is the question: AN ORDINANCE PERTAINING TO PARKING OF PICKUP TRUCKS IN CORAL GABLES.
The City has an existing ordinance that prohibits pickup trucks being parked outside of garages in residential areas for aesthetic purposes. Shall this ordinance be amended to allow one pickup truck for non-commercial use to be parked outside of a residence, if such truck has no items in the bed, has no commercial markings or equipment, and has no more than four wheels?
>>> UM press release: $1 Billion and Counting – We are delighted and honored to share some wonderful news with you: The University of Miami’s Momentum2 campaign has now raised $1 billion. This magnificent milestone is making history in U.S. higher education, as we achieved the same feat just six years ago on our way to raising $1.4 billion for the first Momentum campaign. We are deeply grateful to all of the individuals, families, and community organizations whose generosity is reflected in our accomplishments. Validating your loyal support, UM is now consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the nation’s top 50 institutions of higher education. In other great news, we have broadened our campaign leadership as many dynamic and dedicated members of the UM family recently stepped up to serve as school-based campaign chairs and vice chairs.
Thanks as always for all you do for the U.
CITY OF AVENTURA
>>> Mgr. Soroka and Charter Schools USA hit with jury award of $155 million for breach of contract
Long serving and the only manager the City of Aventura has ever had since it was incorporated, Eric Soroka got a wake up call Friday night when a jury in a civil case decided to award Katherine Murphy, Ph.D. $155 million in damages for a breach of contract, defamation of character, intentional inflicting of emotional distress, intentional interference and conspiracy. Circuit Court Judge Rosa Rodriguez presided over the four-week long trial, and Murphy brought the case after she was recruited to run the new Charter School in the city but was later fired. After she claimed Soroka interfered with her running the school and creating a hostile environment and he was hit with $500,000 in punitive damages as well.
Murphy was the Founding principle of the Aventura City of Excellence Schools run by Charter Schools USA, Inc. around the mid 2000s and in the suit the City of Aventura was also included as a defendant as well, and while this damage claim is expected to be appealed. The sum awarded is no paltry amount and may give elected leaders pause when it comes to the only manager the city has ever known. And the lead trial attorneys who brought the case to the court’s for Murphy were Benedict Kuehne and Richard Burton.
CITY OF HOMESTEAD
>>> Miami Area Assisted Living Facility Owners Plead Guilty for Roles in $63 Million Fraud Scheme
Press release: Two owners of Miami area assisted living facilities (ALF) pleaded guilty Friday in connection with a health care fraud scheme involving defunct Miami area health provider Health Care Solutions Network Inc. (HCSN), 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 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), Office of Investigations Miami office.
Raymond Rivero, 55, of Homestead, Fla., and Ivon Perez, 50, of Miami, each pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga in the Southern District of Florida to one count of conspiracy to solicit and receive cash kickbacks. Rivero, who was the owner of Miami-based God Is First ALF, and Perez, who was the owner of Kayleen and Denis Care Corp, admitted to participating in a fraud scheme that was orchestrated by the owners and operators of HCSN, which operated purported partial hospitalization programs (PHPs), a form of intensive mental health treatment for severe mental illness.
Earlier this week, the owner of another ALF in the Miami area that was involved in the HCSN fraud scheme pleaded guilty for his role in the scheme. On Oct. 22, 2012, Daniel Martinez, 45, of Homestead, the owner of Mi Renacer ALF, pleaded guilty before Judge Altonaga to one count of soliciting and receiving cash kickbacks. According to an indictment unsealed on May 2, 2012, HCSN obtained Medicare beneficiaries to attend HCSN for purported PHP treatment that was unnecessary and, in many instances, not provided. HCSN obtained those beneficiaries by paying kickbacks to owners and operators of ALFs or by otherwise recruiting them from ALFs and nursing homes. Rivero, Martinez and Perez pleaded guilty to referring Medicare and/or Florida Medicaid beneficiaries to HCSN in exchange for cash bribes.
According to court documents, ALF residents referred by Rivero, Martinez and Perez were not qualified to be placed in HCSN’s PHP and were only selected because they had Medicare or state of Florida Medicaid benefits. In some cases, ALF patients suffered from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or mental retardation or were otherwise unable to benefit from the purported mental health services.
According to court documents, from 2004 through 2011, HCSN billed Medicare and Medicaid approximately $63 million for purported mental health services.
Perez also pleaded guilty before Judge Altonaga in another criminal case to a second count of conspiracy in connection with accepting kickbacks from Superstar Home Health Care Inc. for purported home health services to her ALF residents. In another related case, a former HCSN employee, Sarah Da Silva Keller, 28, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke in the Southern District of Florida to a 24-month prison term and ordered to pay $1,067,300 in restitution to the Medicare program. In June 2012, Keller pleaded guilty to an information charging one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
According to court documents, Keller falsified patient attendance and medical records for Medicare beneficiaries who attended HCSN for mental health treatment. The falsified records were then utilized to submit fraudulent billing to the Medicare program. According to Keller’s plea agreement, Keller’s participation in the fraud resulted in more than $2.4 million in fraudulent billing to the Medicare program. The cases are being prosecuted by Special Trial Attorney William Parente and Trial Attorney Allan J. Medina of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The Superstar Home Health case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Morales of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida. These cases were investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and were 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.
>>> OTHER STORIES AROUND FLORIDA
CITY OF CORAL SPRINGS
>>> Four Convicted in $160 Million Nationwide Tax Fraud Scheme
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Kathryn Keneally, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, and Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, IRS-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Miami Office, announced that, after a four week trial, a federal jury today convicted four men of tax crimes relating to a nationwide scheme to obtain fraudulent tax refunds. Michael Beiter, formerly of Coral Springs, Fla., David Clum, of Whites Creek, Tenn., Dale Peters, of San Mateo, Calif., and Christopher Marrero, of Davie, Fla., were each convicted of one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States with respect to claims. Each was also convicted of filing false claims for tax refunds (Beiter and Clum on forty-one counts; Peters on thirty-one counts; Marrero on six counts). Sentencing has been scheduled before U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas for January 7, 2012.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “For a $750 fee, complicit clients across the United States expected the defendants to submit false returns to the IRS on their behalf, claiming exorbitant fraudulent refunds, to be shared with the defendants. Instead of receiving enormous refunds, however, the clients received substantial civil penalties and were subject to aggressive collection efforts by the IRS. The defendants now face substantial jail time.” “This is one of many recent prosecutions of individuals who have attempted to steal by filing false claims for tax refunds,” said Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Keneally. “Committing and helping others to commit tax fraud is a pretty good plan if your goal is to go to jail. As this case shows, the wealth it creates is temporary.”
“These verdicts send a strong message to those who file fraudulent tax returns or assist others when filing false tax returns that they will be brought to justice,” stated Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation Division. “Filing a false tax return or creating a false tax document is a crime. Those who violate the tax laws will be held accountable for their actions.” The evidence at trial showed that the defendants operated the false return scheme under the name PMDD Services LLC, and, later, Forever Grace LLC. The false return scheme was nationwide, causing the filing of tax returns for at least 180 clients from 30 different states, requesting more than $160 million in fraudulent tax refunds. The defendants and clients of the scheme collectively filed more than 380 tax returns, mostly from tax year 2008 but also for other tax years. The tax returns falsely reported the amount of their personal debt obligations as both income and as federal tax withholding. The fictitious income and withholding was reported to the IRS on Forms 1099-OID.
According to the evidence at trial, the tax returns prepared as part of the scheme claimed substantial tax refunds to which the clients were not entitled. The refunds requested were in amounts specifically intended to allow the clients to pay off their mortgages, credit cards, student loans, and other personal debts. Clients paid $750 to have the defendants prepare a tax return reporting this fictitious “OID” income, and clients agreed to share 10 percent of their tax refund with defendants. The trial evidence also showed that defendant Beiter and Clum held seminars in Florida and Tennessee, respectively, in which they recruited potential clients.
The evidence at trial showed that most clients of the scheme did not receive the enormous refunds requested, but instead received substantial civil penalties. Those who did receive refunds were typically subject to aggressive collection efforts by the IRS. In addition, the evidence showed that defendants Beiter, Clum, and Marrero recruited clients for the scheme. Clum also filed false “OID” tax returns himself. Peters was PMDD Services’ information technology specialist, writing software and implementing computerized procedures to automate the process of preparing the fraudulent tax returns. Separate from the 1099-OID scheme, Marrero was charged with filing three false tax returns at three separate IRS offices on the same day. Each return requested a refund in excess of $80,000 based on non-existing gambling income and associated tax withholding.
Three other defendants charged in the case, Penny Jones, Laura Barel, and John Michael Smith Jr., previously pled guilty. Jones pled guilty without the benefit of a plea agreement to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States with respect to claims and forty one counts of filing false claims for tax refunds. Jones was also previously civilly enjoined by a federal court from preparing tax returns. Barel and Smith each pled guilty to one count of filing a false claim for a tax refund. Previously, in a related case, a client of the scheme, Philip Butcher, formerly of Rogers, Ark., pled guilty to filing a false claim for a tax refund. Butcher filed two tax returns reporting his loans as OID income and tax withholding, claiming tax refunds totaling $1,456,696. The IRS paid Butcher $672,781.
Jones, Beiter, and Clum each face up to 215 years in prison. Peters faces up to 165 years. Marrero faces up to 40 years. Smith and Barel face up to 5 years each. All of the defendants are also subject to fines and mandatory restitution to the IRS. These cases were investigated by Special Agents of the IRS-CI. Trial Attorneys Jonathan Marx and Jed Silversmith of the U.S. Department of Justice, Tax Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Bertha Mitrani prosecuted the case.
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.
>>> Highlands County Doctor Sentenced to Prison on Pension Fund Theft Charges
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Isabel Colon, Regional Director of the Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), Atlanta Regional Office, announce that defendant Alfred Robert Massam, 69, of Polk County, who practiced orthopedic surgery in Sebring, Highlands County, was sentenced today in federal court on charges of theft of federally protected pension funds. Massam had previously pled guilty to misappropriating more than $1.2 million of pension plan funds, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 664. At today’s hearing, U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez sentenced Massam to 24 months in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release. In addition, Massam was ordered to pay a $50,000 fine and $147,478 in restitution to the former employee pension fund participants defrauded by his conduct.
On September 15, 2011, defendant Massam was indicted on charges of pension fund theft, money laundering, and making a false statement to federal investigators. According to documents filed with the court and statements made during the plea and sentencing hearing, Massam embezzled for his own use money and assets of employee benefit pension plans subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. Massam diverted more than $1.2 million in pension fund money by wire transfer to a European bank in Austria, then used the money for his personal benefit, including to pay for divorce, bankruptcy, and living expenses and operating expenses for his practice.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “When funds are stolen from employee benefit programs, not only do workers lose their hard-earned money, but the public also loses confidence in our financial markets. We will continue to aggressively prosecute financial fraud schemes, punish the fraudsters, and obtain restitution for the victims.” “Theft of employee benefit assets jeopardizes the benefits of workers. This case reaffirms the Labor Department’s commitment to protect workers’ benefits by identifying criminal activity wherever and whenever it occurs,” said Isabel Colon, Regional Director of EBSA’s Atlanta Regional Office and the Miami District Office. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Department of Labor, EBSA. 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 www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
>>> Owner of I&C Fish Ranch Pleads Guilty in “Operation Long Neck” Involving Trafficking in Live Turtles
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Andrew Aloise, Resident Agent in Charge, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and Major Curtis Brown, Statewide Investigations, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), announced today that James Cheung, 57, of Moore Haven, Glades County, Florida, entered a plea of guilty to Count 3 of an Indictment by a federal grand jury for trafficking of live turtles in interstate commerce, in violation of Title 16, United States Code, Sections 33372(a)(2)(A) and 3373(d)(1)(B). According to the court documents, on or about April 29, 2012, in Broward County, and elsewhere in the Southern District of Florida, Cheung caused to be packed and shipped aboard domestic aircraft, approximately seventeen (17) Florida soft-shell turtles (Apalone ferox), in violation of the laws and regulations of the State of Florida, F.A.C. §§ 68A-25.002(6)(a)(2)(g). Additionally, according to the plea agreement and Court documents, Cheung agreed to the forfeiture of one 2006 white, refrigerated Isuzu truck, which was used to transport the turtles.
After allocution, U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard accepted Cheung’s plea. Sentencing for the defendant is scheduled on January 14, 2013 before U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard. Cheung faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison; three years supervised release, a maximum fine of $250,000.00, and a special assessment of $100.00. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the joint efforts of FWS and FWC. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jaime Raich, Norman O. Hemming, III, 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 www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
>>> Press release: Gov. Scott taps Gloria “Gay” Uzzell as Liberty County Superintendent of Schools.
Uzzell, 50, of Bristol, is currently the Superintendent-elect and Director of Administration for the Liberty County School Board. She succeeds Dr. Sue Summers and is appointed for a term beginning November 1, 2012, and ending November 19, 2012.
>> 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/
>>> 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/
>>> 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).
>>> PAST WDR NOV. 2, 2008: May South Florida get through the election without becoming a national embarrassment, once is more than enough
What can you say when you see voters from all ages and ethnic groups literally migrating to the polls with the intensity and determination almost like salmon going back to where they spawned, and long lines, like river rapids fail to deter none of them from reaching their early voting polls and finally voting. In the past decades, there has been no phenomenon like what is taking place today with early voting being done in 34 states around the nation and calling this election historic is an understatement. The Republican brand has faded and Democrats are on the rise but this dominance of one party has happened before and if the Democrats get control of all three branches of the federal government. The party will find that in 2010 voters may give them a backlash since the one unspoken truth by both parties is that there will be no money for any new federal programs and Barack Obama supporters are trying to tone down voters expectations about what can be done by the federal government.
The Watchdog Report is predicting that Miami-Dade will handle the General Election and while lines may be long on Tuesday, if history is any judge, everyone who wants to vote in the state’s largest county will very likely be able to. However, in Broward and Palm Beach counties, I am not that confident and the early voting there will be key if excessively long lines are not going to confront voters on Election Day. Further, since Broward and Palm Beach have elected supervisors of elections the finger of blame can be pointed to these people but in the case of Palm Beach, that supervisor lost in the August primary and is a lame duck, with someone from the Gov. Charlie Crist’s office watching over the elections operations.
In 2000, the state and South Florida were ground zero when it came to election chaos. In 2004, Ohio took the election screw-up hit (Thank you) but the way things could break. Florida could again be the epicenter of election chaos and with 27 Electoral College votes could delay the nation knowing whom their new president will be. So if you are religious pray that all goes smoothly in South Florida for the eyes of the nation are starting to focus on the region and may we be spared the embarrassment of once again screwing up a election for once is enough in a lifetime for any state and region.
>>> The WDR is going to start investigating where elected officials actually live after the Nov. 6 election
When the general election is over this week, the Watchdog Report is going to start to track down where elected leaders actually live since I am being informed there are a number of officials that do not live in the required municipal district as required. In South Florida and while this is not a new phenomenon it has always been a disturbing problem. For if your local leader does not live in the neighborhood, they do not qualify to represent you and voters deserve better than this. And the Miami-Dade Ethics and Public Trust, an organization that has investigators that have dealt with this issue in the past, will also flag the issue. And if I was an elected official not living in my district you might want to move back. For when your neighbors never see you at your supposed house in the district and you are spotted elsewhere, that is not a good thing and certainly is not a political resume builder.
>>> I don’t know if you were at our Upper Eastside very large and well attended candidate’s forum years ago when all the candidates were asked their party affiliation, Marc Sarnoff specifically stated most emphatically that he was a “lifelong Republican and proud of it.” Then two weeks before the runoff when Joe Arriola funneled some $$ to the DNC national. They in turn paid for some very slick campaign literature, at which point Sarnoff, with the assistance of Brett Berlin, suddenly became a Democrat.
>>> 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 POLLACK BRANT Advisors and Accountants www.bpbcpa.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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com 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.