Watchdog Report Vol.13 No.48 April 28, 2013 Est.05.05.00 – Celebrating my 14th Anniversary May 5th – Miami Dolphins stadium issue
Argus Report: Miami Dolphins CEO Dee pushing ahead with Sun Life Stadium $350 million upgrade with media blitz, but will Senate version be the answer that includes five other stadium deals in FL?
Florida: Passage of alimony bill that could retroactively change divorce settlements raises eyebrows with some women around the state
Miami-Dade County: Atty. H.T. Smith & auto magnate Braman argue the Sun Life Stadium deal, personal attacks, misinformation, as both sides go for the jugular at forum with May 14 vote looming
Miami-Dade Public Schools: IG Mazzella says sayonara to nation’s fourth largest public school district, but the office remains in place
Public Health Trust: Boston Marathon bombing tragedy highlights importance of JHS/UM Ryder Trauma; JHS is anchor for any WMDs or local mass causality events
City of Miami: Redistricting of Districts 2 & 5 gets more complicated, since CDBG allocations reduction “will have impact,” on Spence-Jones District 5
City of Miami Beach: Creation of the sustainability committee in 2007 it has numerous firsts, trying to make the Beach the Emerald City
City of Coral Gables: Has calm descended on Gables commission with new Commissioners Keon and Lago at the dais?
City of Homestead: Defendant Convicted in $39 Million Mortgage Fraud Case
>>> Other stories around Florida
Broward County: Plea deal of county Commissioner Wasserman-Rubin raises eyebrows; she could keep her pension
City of Fort Lauderdale: South Florida Women Sentenced in Identity Theft Tax Refund Fraud Scheme Involving the Filing of Approximately 2,000 Fraudulent Tax Returns Seeking $11 Million Dollars in Refunds
City of Hallandale Beach: Broward IG questions millions spent by city CRA
City of Pompano Beach: Defendant Convicted in Identity Theft Tax Refund Fraud Scheme
Collier County: Florida Man Sentenced to 55 Months Imprisonment for Role in Health Care-Fraud and Money Remitting Ring
Community Events: League of Women Voter’s get together to discuss Human Trafficking
Editorials: – 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 what is going on at the City of Doral – Greetings from a Watchdog organization
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
>>> Miami Dolphins CEO Dee pushing ahead with Sun Life Stadium $350 million upgrade with media blitz, stalls in House, but will Senate version be the answer that includes five other stadium deals in FL?
With early voting beginning Monday in Miami-Dade on whether the Miami Dolphins professional football team will get $379 million in tax money over decades to renovate the stadium through a public/private deal hammered out by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. Mike Dee the senior front man and CEO for the pro football team took the media on a guided tour of Sun Life Stadium and showed the press corps some of the upgrades that would be done, including the reduction of Sky Box seats, but these could also be expanded to 150 luxury facilities, where to be competitive for a Super Bowl, of which Miami has gotten ten. He said you need that many Sky Boxes to be in the hunt and only the new stadium in Dallas has a higher number of such high-end facilities.
Dee told reporters who peppered him with questions about the delays in the Florida Legislature that has the Dolphin sales tax rebate bill in the House stalled for the moment, and the Senate has yet to vote out legislation that includes some of the needed tax breaks. He said they have been fighting obstacles from the very beginning but he remained optimistic that they would get the legislation done and his army of lobbyist (around 23 people) will be working with legislators over the weekend and the time is tight, since the session does end May 3. Further, the Dolphins have started a massive public relations media barrage campaign, including finally getting the team’s owner Stephen Ross’ in front of the cameras as well as a week ago when he did WPLG Channel 10 Michel Putney’s This Week in South Florida Show. .http://www.local10.com/news/Miami-Dolphins-owner-talks-about-Sun-Life-Stadium-deal/-/1717324/19835574/-/t2a1m1z/-/index.html and Ross talks about the deal and why he just does not pay for the upgrades himself since he is estimated to be worth around $4.4 billion.
And the whole effort of the team has run into local billionaire Norman Braman who has done extensive interviews and forums calling the deal similar to the Miami Marlins stadium that he also fought, but was eventually built on the old Orange Bowl site, and finances out to $2.5 billion when the bonds are paid off. However, while the legislation is stalled in the Florida House it may be the Senate version that actually plays out. If the bill is to be passed by the Florida Legislature and in the Senate version of the legislation. It could add five other stadiums in the state to the list of these facilities getting tax break help from the Florida legislature and some insiders say this may be the way the Dolphins get this deal done, but time is running out with Friday looming and ends the legislative session.
What about any local grassroots effort to stop the deal?
Cutler Bay Mayor Edward “Mac” MacDougal has been waging a grass roots campaign since the upgrades were first proposed months ago and he wants to have voters say no to the Sun Life Stadium deal. And he has attended numerous meetings at Miami-Dade County Hall in the commission chambers and he finally is getting some mention in some of the local media for his efforts. See him on WPLG Channel 10 on Senior Political Reporter Michael Putney’s Sunday show http://www.local10.com/-/1717430/19520008/-/5x4vf5z/-/index.html
What about early voting and absentee ballot voters?
The Miami Dolphins know in a low turnout vote that is expected, that absentee ballots could play a decisive role, but with the past ballot broker scandals still in voters minds from the Aug. and Nov. 2012 races. It remains to be seen if the Dolphins kick in the proverbial ballot broker machine behind this countywide absentee ballot effort, that could easily swing the this issue up or down.
What about polling?
Besides the ongoing media blitz and an extensive mailer campaign, that is hitting voter’s mailboxes almost daily. Last week the Watchdog Report was contacted by my cell phone and I took the wide-ranging poll covering the Dolphins stadium deal, to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Gov. Rick Scott’s job approval, and a host of other questions, trying to gauge voter feedback to the proposal and other issues.
What did Dee say to the Watchdog Report?
Dee when reporters first began the tour at the stadium saw the Watchdog Report and joked. “I only see you at the [Stephen P.] Clark [Government] Center and they have let you out,” he joked. Since this was my first trip up to Sun Life in at least a decade, and when we got out into the empty playing field. You got the sense of how big the stadium is. And when it comes to who the most important people are for the Dolphins. All over the facility you see the words the “fans are the most valuable member of our team,” wrote Stephen Ross.
>>> White House press release: REMARKS BY PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA AT DEDICATION OF THE GEORGE W. BUSH PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY
To President Bush and Mrs. Bush; to President Clinton and now-former Secretary Clinton; to President George H.W. Bush and Mrs. Bush; to President and Mrs. Carter; to current and former world leaders and all the distinguished guests here today — Michelle and I are honored to be with you to mark this historic occasion. This is a Texas-sized party. And that’s worthy of what we’re here to do today: honor the life and legacy of the 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush.
When all the living former Presidents are together, it’s also a special day for our democracy. We’ve been called “the world’s most exclusive club” — and we do have a pretty nice clubhouse. But the truth is, our club is more like a support group. The last time we all got together was just before I took office. And I needed that. Because as each of these leaders will tell you, no matter how much you may think you’re ready to assume the office of the presidency, it’s impossible to truly understand the nature of the job until it’s yours, until you’re sitting at that desk.
And that’s why every President gains a greater appreciation for all those who served before him; for the leaders from both parties who have taken on the momentous challenges and felt the enormous weight of a nation on their shoulders. And for me, that appreciation very much extends to President Bush. The first thing I found in that desk the day I took office was a letter from George, and one that demonstrated his compassion and generosity. For he knew that I would come to learn what he had learned — that being President, above all, is a humbling job. There are moments where you make mistakes. There are times where you wish you could turn back the clock. And what I know is true about President Bush, and I hope my successor will say about me, is that we love this country and we do our best. Now, in the past, President Bush has said it’s impossible to pass judgment on his presidency while he’s still alive. So maybe this is a little bit premature. But even now, there are certain things that we know for certain.
We know about the son who was raised by two strong, loving parents in Midland, famously inheriting, as he says, “my daddy’s eyes and my mother’s mouth.” (Laughter.) The young boy who once came home after a trip to a museum and proudly presented his horrified mother with a small dinosaur tailbone he had smuggled home in his pocket. (Laughter.) I’ll bet that went over great with Barbara. We know about the young man who met the love of his life at a dinner party, ditching his plans to go to bed early and instead talking with the brilliant and charming Laura Welch late into the night.
We know about the father who raised two remarkable, caring, beautiful daughters, even after they tried to discourage him from running for President, saying, “Dad, you’re not as cool as you think you are.” (Laughter.) Mr. President, I can relate. (Laughter.) And now we see President Bush the grandfather, just beginning to spoil his brand-new granddaughter. So we know President Bush the man. And what President Clinton said is absolutely true — to know the man is to like the man, because he’s comfortable in his own skin. He knows who he is. He doesn’t put on any pretenses. He takes his job seriously, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He is a good man.
But we also know something about George Bush the leader. As we walk through this library, obviously we’re reminded of the incredible strength and resolve that came through that bullhorn as he stood amid the rubble and the ruins of Ground Zero, promising to deliver justice to those who had sought to destroy our way of life. We remember the compassion that he showed by leading the global fight against HIV/AIDS and malaria, helping to save millions of lives and reminding people in some of the poorest corners of the globe that America cares and that we’re here to help.
We remember his commitment to reaching across the aisle to unlikely allies like Ted Kennedy, because he believed that we had to reform our schools in ways that help every child learn, not just some; that we have to repair a broken immigration system; and that this progress is only possible when we do it together. Seven years ago, President Bush restarted an important conversation by speaking with the American people about our history as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. And even though comprehensive immigration reform has taken a little longer than any of us expected, I am hopeful that this year, with the help of Speaker Boehner and some of the senators and members of Congress who are here today, that we bring it home — for our families, and our economy, and our security, and for this incredible country that we love. And if we do that, it will be in large part thanks to the hard work of President George W. Bush.
And finally, a President bears no greater decision and no more solemn burden than serving as Commander-in-Chief of the greatest military that the world has ever known. As President Bush himself has said, “America must and will keep its word to the men and women who have given us so much.” So even as we Americans may at times disagree on matters of foreign policy, we share a profound respect and reverence for the men and women of our military and their families. And we are united in our determination to comfort the families of the fallen and to care for those who wear the uniform of the United States. (Applause.) On the flight back from Russia, after negotiating with Nikita Khrushchev at the height of the Cold War, President Kennedy’s secretary found a small slip of paper on which the President had written a favorite saying: “I know there is a God. And I see a storm coming. If he has a place for me, I believe I am ready.”
No one can be completely ready for this office. But America needs leaders who are willing to face the storm head on, even as they pray for God’s strength and wisdom so that they can do what they believe is right. And that’s what the leaders with whom I share this stage have all done. That’s what President George W. Bush chose to do. That’s why I’m honored to be part of today’s celebration. Mr. President, for your service, for your courage, for your sense of humor, and, most of all, for your love of country, thank you very much. From all the citizens of the United States of America, God bless you. And God bless these United States.
>>> Press release: In Concerted Bicameral Effort To Help Local Municipalities, Ros-Lehtinen, Diaz-Balart, Wasserman Schultz, Wilson & Garcia Re-Introduce Legislation That Gives More Flexibility To Cash Strapped Cities To Use Community Development Block Grants (CDBG); Senator Nelson Presented Companion Bill
Cong. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, along with her South Florida colleagues Congs. Mario Diaz-Balart, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Frederica Wilson and Joe Garcia re-introduced legislation that would give cities greater flexibility to use funds from Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) for public services programs that have decreased because of budget cuts and the recent economic downturn. The legislation “CDBG Public Services Flexibility Act” was introduced today, Thursday, in the House and also in the Senate by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL).
This bill will provide communities with greater flexibility to use funds from CDBG for public services. It does not increase funding or change the overall formula for the CDBG programs, but rather it increases the CDBG public service percentage expenditure for participating communities from 15 to 25 percent.
Said Ros-Lehtinen, “During times of budget cutbacks and weak economic growth, the most impacted segment in our communities are the ones that need the most from government services: low income individuals and families. This is why my South Florida Congressional colleagues and me, along with Sen. Nelson, are re-introducing this important legislation so that we can help diminish the pain many of the less fortunate in our state and across the nation will experience as a result of fewer social services. This bill has a simple goal and that is to give greater flexibility to cities in how they spend their CDBG funds in their public services accounts. I urge my colleagues to support our effort to assist those that need our help during these tough economic times.”
“The CDBG grant program is used by cities and counties to address local housing, community, and economic development issues. This legislation gives communities greater flexibility in helping meet their unique needs. By increasing the expenditure cap, public services such as food banks, child care, senior services, and crime prevention can continue to be provided to at-risk and vulnerable populations,” Said Cong. Diaz-Balart. “During tough budget times this would enable local leaders to more specifically decide what’s best for their community,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.
>>> Press release: Majority Approve of Obama Job – 52%-46% By: John Zogby Forbes.com Contributor – Our new Zogby Analytics of 1000 likely voters shows President Barack Obama holding on to a majority job approval rating, while 46% disapprove. The new poll was taken online April 17-18 and has a margin of sampling error of +/-3.2 percentage points. See the X-tabs.
During a week that featured a horrible terrorist attack at the finish line of the Boston Marathon and a Senate defeat for the President of a compromise background check amendment on gun control, the President’s numbers are bolstered by continued strong support from his base and solid support among key swing voters. Despite vocal liberal opposition to some elements of Mr. Obama’s budget proposal calling for some key entitlement cuts, he retains big support among Democrats (87% approval, 12% disapproval), liberals (85%-12%), moderates (59%-39%), men and women (52% men, 53% women), 18-29 year olds (60%-39%), 30-49 year olds (57%-39%), Hispanics (76%-22%), African Americans (83%-12%), Catholics (57%-42%), households with a union member (74%-25%), and self-identified members of the Creative Class (57%-40%), NASCAR fans (52%-46%), Weekly Wal-Mart Shoppers (53%-45%), the Investor Class (54%-43%). Please click the link below to read the full release:
>>> United States Successful in False Claims Act Cases Against Landlords Charging Housing Choice Voucher Tenants Excess Rents
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Marcia K. Cypen, Executive Director, Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc. (LSGMI), announced the United States’ successful prosecution of several civil False Claims Act cases brought under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. §3730(b) against landlords participating in the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Housing Choice Voucher/Section 8 (HCV) Program who unlawfully received excessive rent subsidies known as Housing Assistance Payments (HAP).
Through Section 8 of the United States Housing Act of 1937, as amended, HUD distributes federal funds to local public housing agencies to assist eligible low income families in obtaining decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private rental market. To receive federally subsidized rents, landlords participating in the HCV Program contractually agree to comply with HUD requirements, to charge only the rent authorized by the local public housing agency and to not raise rents or change lease terms without the written approval of the local public housing agency.
Two of the False Claims Act cases were originally filed by LSGMI who represented Sabrina R. Newberry and Taronda Wade, two low income tenants participating in the HCV Program administered by the Miami-Dade Public Housing and Community Development, a department of Miami-Dade County previously known as the Miami-Dade Public Housing Agency. The tenants brought the cases on behalf of the United States alleging that their landlords, the defendants, made unlawful false claims for rental subsidies by charging and accepting excessive rents, in violation of HUD rules and contractual requirements. After investigating the cases, the United States intervened in the two suits. The United States filed amended complaints asserting that the landlords violated the False Claims Act by making false statements to the County’s HCV Program and endorsing HAP rent subsidy checks for which the United States suffered damages…
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “We will not tolerate abuse of federal housing or other programs. Schemes such as the ones uncovered in these cases steal taxpayers’ monies and often prey on those who need our assistance the most. We appreciate the actions of Legal Services of Greater Miami in bringing these cases and applaud whistleblowers for coming forward and exposing these schemes. We are pleased to return these monies to the taxpayers.” “This is not only a legal victory for low-income tenants but also serves as a deterrent to other landlords who do not comply with federal housing requirements,” said LSGMI Senior Staff Attorney Sean Rowley. Added Mr. Rowley, “This case also illustrates how the novel use of the False Claims Act to challenge illegal conduct by landlords can be a highly effective legal strategy and can serve as precedent for other public housing tenant advocates.” Mr. Ferrer commended LSGM and Miami-Dade Public Housing and Community Development for their assistance and investigative efforts. These cases were prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney James A. Weinkle. 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 and on LSGMI’s website at www.lsgmi.org.
>>> The Watchdog Report turns 14 on May 5th. I’ve taken a licking but keep on ticking thanks to my supporters and friends over those years! Thank you for the trust in me and allowing the WDR to provide accurate news on matters many times never covered by the other mainstream media.
The Watchdog Report is celebrating its 14th Anniversary on May 5 and I would like to thank all the people and sponsors that thought what I was doing back then was important to the community and the internet allowed me to reach the reader base I have today, along with the help of The Miami Herald, WLRN/NPR and WPBT for having me so often on their shows. It has been a real honor, and I have tried to shine a high definition light and reporting of what is going on at your public institutions that benefit from your tax dollars and provide the services all residents enjoy every day from police, fire rescue, the Miami-Dade School District to Jackson Memorial Hospital to name just a few of the public institutions covered over the weeks over the years. And not in my wildest dreams did I ever believe I would hit this milestone and would be starting a 14th year next month. And to those people that helped me achieve this milestone. I thank you from the bottom of my heart and those people that have passed over the years. Your contribution, friendship and advice are always part of me.
>>> 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
>>> Passage of alimony bill that could retroactively change divorce alimony settlements raises eyebrows with some women around the state
The passage of a Florida Legislative bill possible reducing the time a spouse must pay alimony and that past divorce settlements can be renegotiated in some cases has caused a silent rage among people, mainly women, getting alimony, after decades of marriage, especially if they are in their 50s or 60s where going back into the workforce can be a difficult task. The sponsor was state Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne (Net Worth negative $454,330) and the opposing debate was made by state Rep. Barbara Watson, D- Miami Gardens, and other lawmakers that pushed the bill were state Reps. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, (Net worth $111,544) Rep. Elizabeth Porter, (Net worth $76,500) and Rep. Dana Young, R- Tampa (Net worth $904,732).
However, it is the part of the legislation, that could change a previous divorce settlement, that is causing the greatest concern, and attorneys in the divorce field may end up challenging this part of the new state legislation in the courts many are suggesting. To see a discussion on the alimony bill, go to WPBT 2 and Helen Ferre’s show Issues: http://ka.uvuvideo.org/_Issues-Alimony-Bill/video/1830406/86294.html >>> Editor’s note: While I am divorced, I am not paying any alimony. This issue just seemed to be under reported in the media. Here is more: http://jacksonville.com/news/florida/2013-04-18/story/bill-ending-permanent-alimony-florida-goes-governor
>>> 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.
>>> Atty. Smith and auto magnate Braman argue the Sun Life Stadium deal, personal attacks, misinformation, as both sides go for the jugular with May 14 vote looming
An Animated debate about the upgrading of Sun Life Stadium for the Miami Dolphins pro football team took place Wednesday between attorney and civic activist H.T. Smith and auto magnate Norman Braman at the www.downtownbayforum.org and the luncheon debate was moderated by WPLG Channel 10 Senior Political Reporter Michael Putney. Smith thanked Braman for his “energy” in fighting the public private stadium deal that will be on a ballot for county voter’s consideration May 14 and early voting starts Monday. Smith said when “people get the facts” he believes they will “vote for the community interest.” He said the deal itself hammered out by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez was considered by The Miami Herald in an editorial as a “game changer,” versus the Miami Marlins stadium deal considered a debacle when the financing is considered and the complex at the end will have cost $2.5 billion after financing. Smith said Gimenez and his advisors got to look “at the books” and concluded as the Dolphins have the organization needed public help. However, a sales tax benefit bill needed for the Dolphin Stadium project is now stalled in the Florida Legislature: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/04/27/3367075/dolphins-stadium-bill-stalled.html
Smith said the deal crafted “protects the taxpayers,” has the team paying for 70 percent of the modernization costs, including any costs overruns and will bring a host of high end events such as the NFL Super Bowl and would pay up to $120 million in penalties if there are not four Super Bowls, 20 International soccer matches and four BCS Championship games states one of the team’s public relations handouts. Smith also went after Braman personally saying originally the man just asked “Let the people vote,” on the issue and now he is still fighting it even though the referendum is being held. He also charged Braman through a “Lobbyist in Tallahassee,” trying to “kill the deal,” and Smith believed the right thing to do would be to “Trust the people,” by having what is considered a low county turnout vote given its timing in May.
However, Braman verbally fired back that “This deal is the same rip-off as the Marlins gave us a few years ago.” He noted “jobs” was one of the main reasons cited in the past deal, is a number highly inflated, and is a “rip off of misinformation,” Braman said. And when it came to the new stadium roof, the “game should be played in all elements,” he quoted the NFL Commissioner saying in the past and the “rain” during a previous Super Bowl in 2010 should not be the driving force for the need to spend this money. He also noted that the deal only requires the Dolphins to install “a new roof and upgrade the lighting,” and not all the other some 20 other proposed improvements. And while this deal is better than the Marlins stadium, Braman said, “The Dolphins and Marlins are two fish very much alike,” and suggested the “no Super Bowl” threat was like when the Marlins threatened the same thing about the team moving. But later that turned out to be a bluff to move the baseball team to Texas but the threat gave them an edge with county and City of Miami officials that ultimately approved the much-criticized deal.
Smith countered with “Lets talk about the deal” that includes spending $350 million “to modernize a public/private” facility and has a $195 million contribution from the owner Stephen Ross and it is “the responsibility of the Dolphins to borrow the money.” And when it comes to increasing the local “tourist” tax that is not being paid for by local property tax payers because “the community cannot stand any more taxes, let the tourist pay,” he said.
Braman noted while he himself is a billionaire, Ross is one of the wealthiest people in the nation and he should pay for the improvements himself. Braman said the hotel tourist tax would increase from “six to seven” percent, which is a “17 percent” increase he said. The civic activist noted that this could dampen “tourism” and these visitors “along with construction” are what “pushes the local economy,” he said. He also noted this money should be used for other purposes such as “schools or hospitals,” and thought the deal was “welfare for billionaires, [since Ross] is the 83rd wealthiest person in the U.S.” Further, during the debate, Braman was asked what he has spent on the one lobbyist he has in Tallahassee and he replied “$25,000.” And Smith when asked what compensation he was getting from the Dolphins said $12,000 in April and he expects $6,000 in May.
>>> The scourge of domestic violence & Human Trafficking talk of the day
Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking were the topics of the day on Friday at daylong conference at the Miami-Dade Coordinated Victims Center and the assembled group heard ways to access current programs and other services available to help with this social scourge. Domestic Violence in Miami-Dade is a persistent problem and there is a board managing the public money the organization gets to run two shelters in North and South Dade.
However, the issue of human trafficking, mostly children in the state’s foster care system has also become a huge problem and the local U.S. Attorney and Miami-Dade state attorney offices have their own units prosecuting these adults that participate in the activity. Last year a federal prosecutor told the Miami-Dade Public Schools Board that since seventh and eight grade girls get such a premium in the Human Trafficking market. That adult pimps are using the girl’s male peers to be the contact to draw these people into that world. And globally the illicit industry is second only to drug trafficking when it comes to the billions in dollars involved in the activity around the globe.
>>>CLERGY AND FAITH BASED LEADERS MEET TO DISCUSS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Press release: In commemoration of National Victims’ Rights Week members of the faith based community will take part in a unique dialogue on violence – Members of Miami’s faith based community will be participating in “Congregational Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking Awareness Day” activities taking place at the Miami-Dade Coordinated Victims Assistance Center (CVAC) located at 2400 South Dixie Highway, in Miami Florida on Friday, April 26, 2013 at 9:00 AM. The event is geared towards raising awareness among members of the clergy on domestic violence and human trafficking.
Attendees at the one-day event will participate in workshops aimed at preparing them to deal with issues relating to domestic violence and the services available to help victims. The workshops are being presented in English, Spanish and Creole and are open to the public. “Faith based organizations and churches play an extremely important role in combating domestic violence and human trafficking, and are important to eliminating both forms of violence in our community” explains Ivon Mesa, Director of Violence Prevention and Intervention Services for the Miami-Dade Community Action and Human Services Department (CAHSD). For more information about Violence Prevention and Intervention Services, please call (786) 469-4600 or visit us on the web at www.miamidade.gov/socialservices.
>>> Press release: Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters and the newly appointed Miami-Dade Police Department Director J.D. Patterson, Jr. will speak on the state of juvenile violence at the Juvenile Justice Forum on Monday, May, 6, 2013, at the Miami-Dade Main Library, 101 W Flagler Street, beginning at 1:30 p.m. The free forum is hosted by Miami-Dade Economic Advocacy Trust (MDEAT) in partnership with Juvenile Services Department and will provide updates on current juvenile justice legislation and their impacts on local communities. The forum will also provide an opportunity to inquire about the latest approaches to addressing neighborhood juvenile crime. “This forum gives the community a chance to speak to two key decision-makers regarding their juvenile justice concerns,” MDEAT Executive Director John Dixon said. “The topic of juvenile crime is a concern for many residents and this forum serves as an opportunity to address those concerns.” To RSVP, contact Anthony Williams at 305.375.5661 or AWILL1@miamidade.gov. For general agency information, visit www.miamidade.gov/economicadvocacytrust.
>>> Supervisor of $63 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme Convicted
Press release: A federal jury today convicted a Miami-area supervisor of a mental health care company, Health Care Solutions Network (HCSN), for helping to orchestrate a fraud scheme that crossed state lines and that resulted in the submission of more than $63 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare and Florida Medicaid. The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida; Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Michael B. Steinbach, 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 Investigation’s Miami Office.
After a five-day trial, a jury in the Southern District of Florida found Wondera Eason, 51, guilty of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Sentencing is scheduled for July 8, 2013. Eason was employed as the Director of Medical Records at HCSN’s Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP). A PHP is a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness. In Florida, HCSN operated community mental health centers at two locations. After stealing millions from Medicare and Medicaid in Florida, HCSN’s owner, Armando Gonzalez, exported the scheme to North Carolina, opening a third HCSN location in Hendersonville.
Evidence at trial showed that at all three locations, Eason, a certified medical records technician, oversaw the alteration, fabrication, and forgery of thousands of documents, which purported to support the fraudulent claims HCSN submitted to Medicare and Florida Medicaid. Many of these medical records were created weeks or months after the patients were admitted to HCSN facilities in Florida for purported PHP treatment and were utilized to support false and fraudulent billing to government sponsored health care benefit programs, including Medicare and Florida Medicaid. Eason directed therapists to fabricate documents, and she also forged the signature of therapists and others on documents that she was in charge of maintaining. Eason interacted with Medicare and Medicaid auditors, providing them with false and fraudulent documents, while certifying the documents were accurate.
The “therapy” at HCSN oftentimes consisted of nothing more than patients watching Disney movies, playing bingo and having barbeques. Eason directed therapists to remove any references to these recreational activities in the medical records. According to evidence at trial, Eason was aware that HCSN in Florida paid illegal kickbacks to owners and operators of Miami-Dade County Assisted Living Facilities (ALF) in exchange for patient referral information to be used to submit false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and Medicaid. Eason also knew that many of the ALF referral patients were ineligible for PHP services because many patients suffered from mental retardation, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. From 2004 through 2011, HCSN billed Medicare and the Florida Medicaid program approximately $63 million for purported mental health services. Fifteen defendants have been charged for their alleged roles in the HCSN health care fraud scheme, and 12 defendants have pleaded guilty. On Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, Gonzalez was sentenced to serve 168 months in prison for his role in the scheme. Alleged co-conspirators Alina Feas and Lisset Palmero are scheduled for trial on June 3, 2013. Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty at trial.
This case is being 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. This case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Allan J. Medina and Steven Kim, former Special Trial Attorney William Parente and Deputy Chief Benjamin D. Singer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. 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 the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
>>> VIZCAYA MUSEUM AND GARDENS SEEKS VOLUNTEER GUIDES
Press release: Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Miami’s extraordinary European-inspired estate on Biscayne Bay, is seeking volunteers to lead tours for our visitors. Join us on Wednesday, May 1, 2013, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., for refreshments and a chance to learn more about the program. New Volunteer Guide training begins on May 14, 2013 for seven weeks. Training will be held on Tuesdays from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Vizcaya and attendance at all seven sessions is required.
Benefits of being a Volunteer Guide include opportunities for camaraderie and educational development, complimentary daytime admission to the Museum, and discounts on events and at the Vizcaya Café and Shop. “The Vizcaya Volunteer Guides program has opened my eyes to what a wonderful learning tool Vizcaya is and has given me the skills and confidence to facilitate this learning process with our visitors,” Volunteer Guide Jo Mobley. Who: Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, What: Information Reception for Volunteer Guides Where: Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, 3251 South Miami Avenue, Miami, FL 33129 When: Wednesday, May 1, from 6 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Vizcaya’s guided tours promote active and social learning and empower our visitors to make meaningful personal connections. Volunteer Guides will be selected based on an application and interview process during this Open House. If you wish to attend, please RSVP by April 29, contact Vizcaya Guiding Program Manager Mark Osterman at firstname.lastname@example.org
>>> Miami-Dade County is partnering with the American Cancer Society as it looks to local residents to help finish the fight against cancer by reaching full enrollment in a historic research study. Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3) will give scientists a better understanding of cancer causes and prevention. The Society is looking for local men and women between the ages of 30 and 65 from various racial/ethnic backgrounds with no personal history of cancer to help reach full enrollment of at least 300,000 people. “By joining this study, people can literally help save lives, giving future generations more time with families and friends,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez. “As the American Cancer Society celebrates its 100th birthday in 2013, I can think of no more valuable contribution to the cancer fight.” Signing up requires a one-time in-person visit to read and sign a consent form, complete a survey, have your waist measured, and give a small non-fasting blood sample like what you’d do during a routine doctor visit. Participants will also complete a more detailed survey at home and will continue to receive periodic follow-up surveys in the future that researchers will use to look for more clues to cancer’s causes.
“Many individuals diagnosed with cancer struggle to answer the question, ‘What caused my cancer?’ In many cases, we don’t know the answer,” said Alpa V. Patel, Ph.D., principal investigator of CPS-3. “CPS-3 will help us better understand what factors cause cancer, and once we know that, we can be better equipped to prevent cancer.” CPS-3 is the latest addition to the Society’s groundbreaking cancer prevention studies, which have been instrumental in helping identify major factors that can affect cancer risk. Researchers say CPS-3 holds the best hope of identifying new and emerging cancer risks. But its success depends on members of the community becoming involved. Researchers will use data from CPS-3 to build on evidence from those earlier cancer prevention studies, which began in the 1950s and involved hundreds of thousands of volunteer participants. For more information, visit www.cancer.org/cps3florida or call Lainie Jones at 305-779-2848.
>>> GMCVB press release: RECORD DEMAND FOR TRAVEL TO GREATER MIAMI & THE BEACHES – THE DESTINATION RANKS #1 IN REVENUE PER AVAILABLE ROOM (REVPAR), #1 IN AVERAGE DAILY ROOM RATE (ADR) AND #1 IN HOTEL ROOM OCCUPANCY FOR MARCH 2013 AMONG THE TOP 25 U.S. MARKETS
For March 2013, Greater Miami and the Beaches showed record increases vs. 2012, ranking #1 in Revenue Per Available Room (RevPar) at $212.20, #1 in Average Daily Room rate (ADR) at $238.12, and #1 in Hotel Room Occupancy at 89.1% among the Top 25 Markets in the U.S. Smith Travel Research compares the top markets in the United States based on Occupancy, Average Daily Room Rate (ADR) and Revenue Per Available Room (RevPar). Thanks to Ultra, Winter Music Conference, Sony Open and other great event for driving these numbers.
|REVENUE PER AVAILABLE ROOM (REVPAR)|
|Market||$||% Change vs. 2012|
|2. New York||$197.39||+12.4%|
|3. Oahu Island||$173.40||+18.6%|
|4. San Francisco||$130.57||+11.0%|
|5. New Orleans||$122.07||+5.8%|
|AVERAGE DAILY ROOM RATE|
|Market||$||% Change vs. 2012|
|2. New York||$234.56||+8.5%|
|3. Oahu Island||$208.12||+19.5%|
|4. San Francisco||$166.70||+7.4%|
|AVERAGE DAILY OCCUPANCY|
|Market||% Occupancy||% Change vs. 2012|
|3. New York||84.2%||+3.7%|
|5. Oahu Island||83.3%||-0.7%|
MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
>>> IG Mazzella says sayonara to nation’s fourth largest public school district, but the office remains in place
Christopher Mazzella, the Miami-Dade County Inspector General who also had the duty at the nation’s fourth largest public schools district since around 2007 said sayonara at the school board’s monthly meeting. He is retiring at the end of April and the interim IG will be Patra Liu. Mazzella said, “I leave with a great deal of regret” after being involved with the public district for the past years and “all the hard work you have contributed [the school board members] have contributed to drastic changes” and there have been some “amazing accomplishments,” the former FBI special agent said.
Board Chair Perla Tabares Hantman said having Mazzella at the district over the years was of “great comfort” and she had “great confidence [in him] as the IG.” School Board member Raquel Regalado said she was a “big fan” of Mazzella and believed his office was part of the reason there is such “public confidence [about the district] and you have been a part of that,” she thought. In addition, Board member Carlos Curbelo said the IG had been a “great source of guidance, and “what you have achieved here will never be forgotten,” he intoned. Moreover, Dorothy Bendross Mindingall said she liked his “no nonsense style,” and thanked the man “for being our guide.” Moreover, the office has helped along with the school board to bring “ethics, accountability and transparency,” to the county’s largest public entity that educates 350,000 students, and includes almost 400 public schools in the district.
PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST
>>> Boston bombing tragedy highlights importance of Ryder Trauma; JHS is anchor for any WMDs or local mass causality events
The recent bombings in Boston have reminded the community of the need for a top notch Level I Trauma Center and at the Ryder Trauma Center this past week. Physicians and other medical personnel discussed what was learned from the tragic event and how Boston Hospitals handled the event and what could be learned. Ryder is the federal District 7 anchor hospital for any such catastrophic event or after a WMD event and this critical need first came to the forefront after the Sept. 11 attacks on the nation. Ryder, as part of Jackson Health System and the University of Miami’s Miller Medical School back then had to respond in a major way after these attacks. And tens of millions of dollars were spent after the attack for new equipment to handle such a event and drills were done around the county in preparation of such a attack or biological out break, of either chemical or biological weapons. That had the general public on edge at the time after Anthrax started to appear in people’s letters back then. And Ryder highlights one of the major areas that JHS is responsible for besides the general medical treatment of some $1 billion in uncompensated and charity care for patients currently being done now, and Ryder’s capabilities is one of the reasons JHS is the medical jewel that it is.
>>> Press release: RYDER TRAUMA CENTER’S EXPERT SURGEONS WILL EXAMINE THE MEDICAL RESPONSE TO BOSTON’S BOMBING VICTIMS
~Doctors Worldwide to Participate in Telemedicine conference from Jackson’s Trauma Center~ Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital will host an international telemedicine conference on Friday, April, 26, to examine the medical response to the Boston bombings. During the videoconference, University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center physicians and medical professionals from across the globe will assess intra-hospital preparation for mass casualty events; explain the triage of victims in mass casualty incidents; and analyze the management of blast, penetrating and traumatic amputation injuries. They will also talk about disaster preparedness during high attendance events.
The featured presenter will be Dr. David King, a Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) trauma surgeon and army reservist, who ran the Boston marathon. Following the bombing Dr. King immediately went to MGH to treat victims. Dr. King trained at Jackson Memorial Hospital in general and critical care from 2006 through 2007, before being deployed to Iraq. Physicians from Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Thailand, Iraq and other countries are expected to be on the telemedicine conference.
What about the FRB trustees?
Readers have asked what the status of state Rep. Michael Bileca, R-Miami is on the Financial Recovery Board that oversees JHS and the representative in an email to the Watchdog Report said. “I am still on. Just working from here [at the state legislature session],” and being on the FRB “is a juggling act,” while the legislature is in session through May 3, wrote the FRB member appointed by the local Miami-Dade County Legislative delegation chair.
And Dr. Irene Lipof is the new seventh FRB trustee designee by the local unions at JHS. She is a retired 33-year educator with Miami-Dade College and has two doctoral degrees in Guidance and Counseling and Educational Instruction and for her bio go to http://faculty.mdc.edu/ilipof/ . She stopped by at the FRB committee meeting recently, but has yet to be confirmed by the Miami-Dade County Commission and that conformation vote is expected in the coming weeks at the next BCC meeting.
>>> The April 29, 2013 PHT Financial Recovery Board televised meeting agenda and supporting documents are available for view on the JHS website. As of June 2011, the Public Health Trust Financial Recovery Board committee and board meeting agendas and other supporting documents are now available for download in PDF format on the Jackson Health System’s website accessible at the following link: http://www.jhsmiami.org/webApps/publicDocs/pDindex_PHT.cfm or http://www.jhsmiami.org
CITY OF MIAMI
>>> Redistricting of Districts 2 & 5 get more complicated, since CDBG allocations “will have impact,” on Spence-Jones district
Who knew the new Miami Commission district maps after the 2010 Census results for residents in District 2 and 5 would get so complicated and while some activists try to keep residents on the Upper East Side in one district. These changes could also diminish the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money available for District 5 held by Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones. She noted that picking up part of this area that is considered affluent versus her own district of Liberty City and Overtown, “will have an impact” on the amount of CDBG funding going into the overall district.
And she believed her fellow commissioners should keep that in mind when the federal funds are allocated in the future. And when it came to the redistricting discussion and any new maps that might be considered. She is “always open for more viewpoints,” on the subject. And the commission with held taking action since Miguel De Grandy, an attorney, and former state representative who lost an election by one vote in the early 1990s was ill and recovering successfully from open-heart surgery, said District 2 Commission Chair Marc Sarnoff at the beginning of the commission discussion on the matter.
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH
>>> Creation of the sustainability committee in 2007 it has numerous firsts, trying to be the Emerald City
Developed the City of Miami Beach Sustainability Master Plan? Implemented a Single Stream Recycling Program for Single-Family Homes, thus tripling the Collection of Recyclables in the City? Installed 100 Recycling Containers in Public Rights of Way (Lincoln Rd, Washington and Collins Ave, Ocean Dr. and beach entrances) at no Cost to the City? Approved a New 2013n Recycling Ordinance Requiring all Commercial Establishment and Multifamily Residence (9 Units or More) to have a Recycling Program in Place? Enforcement begins on July 2013!!!! So make sure you have your program in place. Implemented the Deco Bike Program, now considered one of the US’ largest Shared Bike Rental Program? Implemented the Hertz On Demand Car Sharing Program? Installed Four Electric Car Charging Stations in the 13th Street Garage?
Contracted AMERESCO, an Energy Savings Company to do an Energy Audit of all city-owned buildings and implement a comprehensive program to Reduce the City’s Energy and Water Consumption, thus Saving the City approximately $1.2 Million Dollars/year? Adopted an Alternative Fuel Vehicles Citywide Parking Permit tor a Low Annual Fee of $100? Set Aside 2% of two South Beach Parking Garages for Alternative Fuel Vehicles? Sponsored and continues to sponsor a variety of Conferences and Workshops that promote sustainability such as the Annual MIAGREEN Conference & Trade Show, the Florida Green Lodging Conference, Sustainatopia, and the Mayors’ Green Initiatives for Economic Growth? Adopted an Incentive-Based Voluntary Green (LEED) Building Ordinance? Created the City of Miami Beach Green Page to educate residents and visitors about the City’s sustainable programs? Click on the link to learn more. http://ecomb.org/events/native-flags-eco-art-project-a-miami-beach-earth-day- celebration/?utm_source=Copy+of+Earth+Month+Cool+Events&utm_campaign=GEARTH+MONTH+NEWS&utm_medium=email MAKING MIAMI BEACH ONE OF THE GREENEST CITIES IN THE US! MORE GREAT INITIATIVES TO COME SOON! MIAMI BEACH: THE NEW EMERALD CITY BY SEA!
>>> Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club Meeting Date: April 30th, 2013 Meeting Time: 8:30 AM Meeting Place: New Location: David’s One, corner of Collins Ave. and 11th Street — Candidate for Miami Beach City Commission Michael Grieco will be our guest speaker at the April 30th meeting of the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club. After graduating from the University of Miami Law School in1999 Michael joined the State Attorney’s office as an Assistant State Attorney where he worked himself up to becoming a supervising Felony Division Chief. In 2007 he opened his own law practice on Miami Beach. Michael is married and has a 4-year-old son. There is no charge for attending and everyone is welcome. David Kelsey, Moderator Please note new location. Visit our web site at www.MBTMBC.com
CITY OF CORAL GABLES
>>> Has calm descended on commission with new Commissioners Keon and Lago?
The Tuesday Coral Gables Commission meeting was a kumbaya affair after the last few years where former Commissioners Maria Anderson and Ralph Cabrera would snipe at the performance and job City Beautiful Manager Pat Salerno was doing and how they had been isolated from knowing what was going on in the tony municipality. The two commissioners were termed out on the commission, and Commissioners Pat Keon and Vincent Lago have replaced them on the dais and they both participated in the discussion on the city’s healthcare program for employees. And Keon was named to be the city’s representative at the Miami-Dade League of Cities and Lago was tapped to be on a Green Corridor committee, since he has some technical background in this area.
Lago thanked Staff for “making the transition the past two weeks smooth.” In addition, during a discussion on the approval of a new one-year healthcare contract with HUMANA and another contract for dental care. Keon, a former nurse, asked about whether the city “had a wellness program,” that has historically been “very effective in keeping the costs down for diabetes” and “High blood pressure,” diseases she said. She also inquired about the cost in “claims for chronic illness” and the “management of diabetes.” And when it came to chronic illness costs that the city is facing. A healthcare advisor at the dais said these were related primarily to “the heart and cancer related issues,” he said. Further, in the negotiations this year, there was a “carrier retention deduction” an administrative fee from “9.5 percent to 7.5 percent” but “keeps the current benefits the same,” he said.
What about the water and sewer system in the Gables?
Commissioners discussed the issue of improving the city’s water and sewer infrastructure and Salerno said they are completing “sewer infrastructure and have spent $7 million on local pump stations” though he believes they should have “been a county investment.” However, he said that is the municipality’s responsibility and the county only does “treatment and runs the treatment plants,” he said. However, the discussion brought up the fact that “most people in the Gables are still on septic tanks,” said Commissioner Bill Kerdyke, Jr. In addition, Salerno said any expansion or effort to put new sewer infrastructure in these homes on a dedicated sewer line would have considerable costs to local homeowners, and is not seen as feasible at the present time.
CITY OF HOMESTEAD
>>> Defendant Convicted in $39 Million Mortgage Fraud Case
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Steve Linick, Inspector General, Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General, and José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), announced yesterday’s conviction of defendant Quelyory A. Rigal, a/k/a “Kelly”, of Homestead, FL, after a jury trial before U.S. District Judge William J. Zloch in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Sentencing is scheduled for July 18, 2013 at 10:30 a.m.
Rigal was originally indicted with seven other defendants in 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 indictment charged defendant Rigal with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, as well as substantive counts of wire fraud and mail fraud. Defendant Rigal was found guilty on all counts charged in the indictment. Rigal faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison on each count.
The other defendants were: Juan Carlos Sanchez, of New York, N.Y., 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. With the exception of Rigal who proceeded to trial, all other defendants plead guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Defendant Sanchez was sentenced to 180 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Defendant Mena was sentenced to 54 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Defendant Arboleda was sentenced to 30 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Defendant Montero was sentenced to 22 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Defendant Mota was sentenced to five years of supervised release. Defendants Lazardi and Campo are awaiting sentencing. The sentencings are scheduled for May 5 and May 6, 2013, respectively, before Judge Zloch in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
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 at Marina Oaks, resulting in $34 million in losses to the various lenders including Fannie Mae, which reported losses over $4.1 million to date, while Freddie Mac faces potential exposure of an additional $8.5 million. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of the Inspector General, as the lead investigative agency in the prosecution of Rigal, and IRS-CI and the Broward Sheriff’s Office for their participation in this investigation.
>>> OTHER STORIES AROUND FLORIDA
>>> Plea deal by county Commissioner Wasserman-Rubin raises eyebrows; she could keep her pension
Diana Wasserman-Rubin’s misdemeanor plea deal that includes three years of probation and a $3,000 fine for approving a park grant that benefited her husband because she is in ill health with Parkinson’s has the Broward public and local media riled. http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-wasserman-rubin-mayocol-b042513-20130424,0,2372965.column Further, she will likely keep her $58,740 annual pension and is seen by many just a slap on the hand for the former Broward County Commissioner and one time county mayor. The case because of conflicts of interest in Broward with the ling serving commissioner and previous school board member was prosecuted here in Miami-Dade by the local state attorney’s office but the plea deal was also affected by a local judge’s comments and it ends a long brewing but seen as difficult case, but the punishment seems light to many court observers.
>>> 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.
>>> South Florida Women Sentenced in Identity Theft Tax Refund Fraud Scheme Involving the Filing of Approximately 2,000 Fraudulent Tax Returns Seeking $11 Million Dollars in Refunds
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), Miami Field Office, and Paula Reid, Special Agent in Charge, United States Secret Service (USSS), Miami Field Office, announced the sentencing of Alci Bonannee, 36, of Fort Lauderdale, and Sonyini Clay, 40, of Miami Gardens, for their roles in an identity theft tax refund fraud scheme. Bonannee was sentenced to 317 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. Clay was sentenced to 121 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. Judge James I. Cohn also ordered Bonannee to pay $1,908,182 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service. On January 28, 2013, Bonannnee was convicted at trial of conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to claims (18 U.S.C. § 286), filing false claims (18 U.S.C. § 287), wire fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1343), and aggravated identity theft (18 U.S.C. § 1028A). On January 13, 2013, Clay pled guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to claims (18 U.S.C. § 286) and aggravated identity theft (18 U.S.C. § 1028A).
According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, Bonannee, Clay and co-defendant Chante Mozley, engaged in a large scale identity theft tax fraud scheme that operated from December 2010 through June 2012. During the course of the fraud scheme, there were approximately 2,000 fraudulent tax returns submitted to the Internal Revenue Service for payment seeking $11 million dollars in refunds. The Department of Treasury paid out approximately $3.5 million dollars into bank accounts held in the name of and controlled by the defendants, who withdrew approximately $1.9 million in cash. According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, Bonannee filed a majority of the fraudulent tax returns from her house and other locations. Bonannee filed many of these fraudulent returns using compromised personal identification information obtained from a nurse at a local hospital. Clay filed several hundred fraudulent tax returns form her house and other locations.
On March 29, 2013, after having pled guilty to conspiracy to file fraudulent claims (18 U.S.C. § 286), U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn sentenced Mozley to 42 months imprisonment to be followed by three years of supervised release after having pled guilty to conspiracy to file fraudulent claims. Mozley was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,908,182.00 to the Internal Revenue Service. Mr. Ferrer commended IRS-CID and USSS for their work on the case. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael N. Berger and Wilfredo Fernandez. 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 HALLANDALE BEACH
>>> Broward IG Scott questions millions spent by city CRA
The Hallandale Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) has received a blistering report from the Broward County Inspector General John Scott and how some of these millions in public funds were spent over the past years. The final reports some $2.1 million were spent on questionable purchases and while the city first challenged the IG’s authority to review the CRA over the past year. The detailed report on how this money was spent is not pretty. http://www.broward.org/InspectorGeneral/Documents/OIG11-020HallandaleFinalE-REPORT04-18-13.docx.pdf
And Scott’s office created in 2010 has been increasing busy as the office roots out waste fraud and abuse at the county level and also the 31 municipalities that make up Broward County. Further, CRA’s have historically not come under much scrutiny in Broward or in Miami-Dade County, the entities are usually chaired and have been under the oversight of local commissioners and mayors, but critics of CRAs have said for years. These community redevelopment agencies have become the candy store for local officials to fund their favorite projects, whether these might be needed or are successful or not. And when Broward county voters approved the IG office, the oversight of the municipalities was included in the office’s charge, versus in Miami-Dade where the Office of the Inspector General’s duties are relegated to only county entities and the office does not do oversight of the 35 municipalities in Miami-Dade unless county public money is involved. http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/04/18/3352150/broward-inspector-general-finalizes.html
CITY OF POMPANO BEACH
>>> Defendant Convicted in Identity Theft Tax Refund Fraud Scheme
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), Miami Field Office, and Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announce the conviction of Nael Dawud Sammour, 52, of Pompano Beach, after a three day jury trial in front of U.S. District Court Judge William P. Dimitrouleas. More specifically, Sammour was convicted of two counts of aggravated identity theft in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028A, for his role in possessing and transferring the means of identification of identity theft victims in conjunction with the transfer and attempted negotiation of fraudulently obtained U.S. Treasury tax refund checks. Prior to trial, Sammour pled guilty to eight counts of theft of public money in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 641. Sentencing has been scheduled for July 1, 2013 at 1:15 P.M. in front of the Honorable William P. Dimitrouleas in Ft. Lauderdale. At sentencing, Sammour faces a maximum statutory sentence of up to ten years in prison on each of the theft of public money counts, as well as mandatory two year consecutive sentences on the Aggravated Identity Theft counts.
According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, as well as from court documents, unknown individuals used stolen identification information, including the names, dates of birth, and social security numbers of unsuspecting taxpayers to fraudulently apply for and receive U.S. tax refunds to which they were not entitled. Thereafter, Sammour obtained many of these fraudulently obtained U.S. Treasury tax refund checks and later transferred these checks, along with counterfeit driver’s licenses and Social Security cards, to undercover IRS agents posing as check cashers. In total, agents seized 75 fraudulently obtained U.S. Treasury tax refund checks totaling $750,369.45 from Defendant Sammour. Moreover, when Sammour was arrested, law enforcement located and seized $30,128.24 in U.S. currency. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the IRS-CID and the FBI for their work on the case. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Anton.
>>> Florida Man Sentenced to 55 Months Imprisonment for Role in Health Care-Fraud and Money Remitting Ring
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney of the Southern District of Florida, Addy Villanueva, Special Agent in Charge, Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Christopher B. Dennis, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), announced that Oscar Sanchez, 47, of Naples, was sentenced to 55 months imprisonment, 20 months home confinement, and three years of supervised release for his role in a money laundering conspiracy, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(h). In addition, U.S. District Judge Paul Huck entered a forfeiture order that consisted of a personal money judgment against Sanchez in the amount of $10,000,000. In partial satisfaction of that judgment, Sanchez will be forfeiting to the United States four properties worth about $635,000, and $63,196, in cash. Sanchez also must perform 1,600 hours of community service during his first year after his term of imprisonment.
On August 30, 2012, Sanchez pled guilty to conspiring to launder the proceeds of health care fraud. According to court documents, Sanchez acted as a middleman between individuals engaging in health care fraud, and Caribbean Transfers, a company that remitted money from the United States to Cuba. Sanchez admitted to providing approximately $10 million in cash to individuals who defrauded the Medicare program. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of FDLE, FBI, and HHS-OIG in coordination with the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, for their work on this case. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys H. Ron Davidson and Eloisa Fernandez. 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.
>>> League of Women Voters – Cocktails & Conversation with the League: Human Trafficking: What you need to know & what you can do! Greater Miami ranks 9th & Florida 3rd, as highest trafficking destinations in the country, and half of all trafficking victims are children. Join the conversation with representatives from: U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, Miami-Dade Office of the State Attorney, 11th Judicial Circuit, Miami-Dade Police Department, Kristi House Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 5:30 p.m. City Hall The Restaurant, 2004 Biscayne Blvd. RSVP to email@example.com or
>>> I wonder why you stopped writing about our beautiful City of Doral. There is so much to write about. Our Vice Mayor, Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, recently won a battle with Miami Voice (Vanessa Brito- led the recall effort behind Natacha Seijas and Carlos Alvarez, among others) who submitted petitions to recall her. Not only did Vanessa turn them in late, she did not collect enough petitions (signatures) to make it a valid recall. I thought that was something worth writing about… among other things.
Ana Maria Rodriguez
(City of Doral Councilwoman)
>>> Happy Friday Watchdogs, When citizens are watchful, we can shine the light on what is going on in our government. Sunshine is the best disinfectant, but it takes watchful citizens to make sure this is happening. Whether you’re new to citizen journalism or you’ve been around a long time, sometimes it’s helpful to see what others are doing to get our own ideas flowing. We have two excellent examples for you today of citizens being watchful.
Story 1: This first story is from Andrea Blachford from Michigan. It’s a compelling story of property rights and freedom of speech. She followed this local story, went to the court hearing and interviewed the lawyer via smartphone. Read the story here.
Story 2: Floridian Barb Haseldon is very active in attending local meetings. She had a friend film her in the below post, and testified last week. Another citizen getting involved for the entire process! Read the story here.
Take Action — Be Watchful!
You can be watchful too, just like Andrea and Barb. Visit your village, township, city, county and state web sites and find some meetings that are interesting to you. Attend them. Bring your smartphone or another recording device (read our tips here). Interview someone. Place a FOIA (freedom of information act) request to get the documents you need to write your story. Then, post your story to WatchdogWire.com.
If you’re already a contributor you have access, or you can visit our Get Involved page to sign up as a contributor and share your story. And, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for help along the way. When citizens are watchful, great things can happen! Here’s to being watchful, The Citizen Watchdog Team
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Citizen Watchdog is a project of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
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ANGEL ESPINOSA – (Deceased) owner COCONUT GROVE DRY CLEANER’S
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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
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LINDA MURPHY: Gave a new laptop in Oct. 2001 to keep me going.
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GREATOR MIAMI CHAMBER OF COMMERCE www.miamichamber.com
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HEALTH FOUNDATION OF SOUTH FLORIDA www.hfsf.org
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY COMMISSION www.miamidade.gov
MIAMI-DADE COMMISSION OFFICE OF THE CHAIR 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
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PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST & JACKSON HEALTH SYSTEM www.jhsmiami.org
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The Watchdog Report covers a few of the meetings attended weekly. It remains my belief that an informed public will make better decisions. Therefore, I go to meetings, make the presence of an informed citizen known, and bring the information to you. The Watchdog Report is in the 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, 2013, 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.