Watchdog Report Vol.14 No.12 July 28, 2013 Est.05.05.00 – I go when you cannot – Financial Disclosure Issue

CONTENTS

Argus Report: Feds drop hammer on Medicare fraud in Miami-Dade, Monroe Counties, freeze new applications for home health agencies because of rampant abuse of federal program costing billions in tax dollars

Florida: Ag & Consumer Affairs Commissioner Putnam in the spotlight, first elected to Congress at 25, net worth jumps to $7.23 million in 2012, up from $6.49 million last year — LAST WK WDR: In a few weeks all state and county leaders’ financial disclosures will be on line, some are there now, www.ethics.state.fl.us, sea change for transparency of elected official’s finances

Miami-Dade County: M-DC Homeless Trust shoots down Miami DDA request for targeted five-year plan for downtown chronic homeless, Trust dealing with macro issue of ending chronic homeless countywide, which will reduce Miami homeless numbers

Miami-Dade Public Schools: Board Workshop reviews $350 million self insured healthcare benefits program, $52 million in reserves, two month cushion, goes to audit advisory committee for closer review in August

Public Health Trust: Trustees review proposed $1.6 billion budget for 2013-2014, higher patient admissions crucial to sustained growth, “legacy” CHI funding in Homestead set at $6.8 million

City of Miami: Appeal Court rules Spence-Jones termed out, now challengers Dunn and Malone duke it out for Dist 5 seat on dais, whom she supports in race could be critical to their victory

Village of Coconut Grove: Rotary Club taps Kesler as president, small group in tony village, but raises considerable money for the community

City of Miami Beach: Commission Libbin drops out of mayoral race, now five candidates vie for top political post

City of North Miami: Three North Miami Residents Charged with Filing Fraudulent Tax Returns and Receiving over $1.8 Million in Fraudulent Refunds

>>> Other stories around Florida

Broward County: Commissioner Ritter in the spotlight this week, net worth drops to $139,500 from $147,500 in the previous year

City of Ft. Lauderdale: Two Broward Residents Sentenced for Identity Theft Scheme

City of Miramar: Two Florida Residents Indicted on Charges of Scheming to Defraud and Threaten Spanish-Speaking Consumers

Palm Beach County: Commissioner Santamaria in the spotlight, had $6.6 million net worth through 2012, down from $10.3 million in 2010

West Palm Beach: Eleven More Defendants Plead Guilty in Staged Automobile Accident Scheme

Monroe County: Former Monroe Clerk Kolhage, now commissioner in the spotlight, net worth in 2012 jumps to $875,000, up from $785,000 in 2011

Community Events: Florida Legislative update at Downtown Bay Forum luncheon – The Miami Foundation to launch contest awarding $100,000 to improve local public spaces — TedX Miami event at Arsht Center

Editorials: Elected leaders disregarding the will of the voters is getting old for many Miami-Dade taxpayers, and will increase resistance for any new funding initiatives in the future — Check out the past 2003 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 leadership and life trials and tribulations facing President Lincoln – Reader on Beach Commissioner Wolfson letter

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

>>> Feds drop hammer on Medicare fraud in Miami-Dade, Monroe Counties, freeze new applications for home health agencies because of rampant abuse of federal system costing billions in tax dollars

A six month federal moratorium on the issuing of Medicare licenses to new home health agencies in Miami-Dade and Monroe County, because of the wide spread Medicare and Medicaid fraud, that spawned the first FBI detail, solely dedicated to root out Medicare fraud in 2003. And subsequently made Miami and South Florida the “Graduate school of fraud,” in 2006, said then local U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta.  This recent move last week by the federal healthcare agency, CMS, which approves these applications, is getting rave reviews from federal legislators. And the move is part of the Federal Affordable Care Act regulations trying to tamp down this rampant looting of the federal health care safety net program for the poor, and has made the region ground zero for such fraudulent activity over the past decade. http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/26/3524612/feds-ban-new-home-healthcare-agencies.html Further, the region is so good at scamming Medicare and Medicaid that these wayward individuals actually do the beta sites here, until perfected, and then export the scam around Florida, and the rest of the nation, and is why if there is any Miami connection. The local U.S. Attorney’s office ends up handling the bulk of the prosecutions. Since federal law enforcement authorities are so experienced in the activity in South Florida.

The Watchdog Report for over a decade has highlighted this local blight that siphons off precious public tax dollars, and has driven the cost for medical care to the highest in the nation. And public institutions like the Miami-Dade School District and the County are paying the price as they see healthcare costs for their employees soar through the roof, and are generally the second highest cost center in their respective budgets, and costs the public schools district some $350 million a year to self insure they’re employees, and that number is rising.

John Gillies, the former SAC of the FBI was shocked when he came here in 2009 at how rampant the fraud was and he called for the community to help federal law enforcement agencies tamp out this scourge that was depriving hospitals and the needy of this public funding and billions in federal tax dollars have been diverted to these scammers enterprises, that sometimes see the perpetrators fleeing the country, sometimes to Cuba, where they get a safe haven from prosecution.

>>> PAST 2012 MARCH WDR:  FBI Dir. Mueller asks business community to rise up and help fight fraud and public corruption across S. FL

Robert S. Mueller III, the Director of the FBI since September 4, 2001 when he was appointed to the post by President George W. Bush a week before 9/11 took a road trip to Miami Wednesday and asked the local business community to rise up in arms and help federal authorities tamp down the rampant fraud and abuse of public taxpayer dollars that has Florida ranking number one or two around the nation when it comes to fraud. Mueller, a veteran Vietnam Marine officer with a host of medals including the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, went to Princeton, before going to Southeast Asia, later got a Masters from New York University and his law degree is from the University of Virginia. He has served in a number of federal positions under a number of different president’s administrations and prior to being tapped for this top FBI post. He was the U.S. Attorney in San Francisco.

Mueller, attending the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Jungle Island joked at first he was “intrigued” by the location that featured animals that were predators. He said half jokingly that when he testifies in front of Congress he is in a similar environment and “predators are not just here,” but the man then shifted his talk to the War on Terrorism and the “economic predators” in our nation’s midst. He said some “of the most prominent frauds” the FBI is investigating have been spawned in South Florida, which had the first FBI Healthcare Task Force detail established in the nation in 2002-2003. And since Medicare represents 18 percent of America’s budget going to healthcare, these frauds cost “tens of billions of dollars a year,” he said. The man cited a case of healthcare fraud that involved a company called American Therapeutic Corp where they “preyed on people with mental disorders” and a host of people getting “Kickbacks” helped perpetuate the fraudulent acts. He said one person got 50-years and another person is “serving 35 years in prison.”

Mueller said the FBI is beefing up the fraud and intelligence staff involved with healthcare, mortgage, identity theft, or cyber-terrorism and in the case of Medicare fraud. “All of us are victims and the money is to be used to care for the sick, not line someone’s pocket,” he said. He also noted there were 2,600 active mortgage fraud cases each over $1 million, where buyers lied about their income, or the “appraiser inflated the homes price.” He also said people running “rescue services for people in mortgage default or underwater with their properties” are being scammed as well and “charged thousands of dollars in fees” and it is a “false hope” and the federal bureau “recognizes the impact [vacant homes] have on a family and community.” And when it came to SEC fraud and “self dealing insider trading,” they are committed too root it out and he cited the fact Raj Rajaratnam the CEO of the Galleon Group is now serving 11 years for $17 million in insider trading and the sentence is “the longest time in SEC history,” said the long serving director.

The Director set to retire in Sept. 2011 was asked by President Barack Obama in May 2011 to stay on for another two-years and the U.S. Senate approved that request on July 2011 since the office has a mandatory ten-year retirement clause that in this case was overridden. Mueller said here in South Florida, we had are own poster child of fraud in the Scott Rothstein’s $1.6 billion Ponzi scheme with the former Broward attorney now serving 50-years in the federal Big House. The case had Rothstein and a host of associates “forging federal judge’s signatures” and it is these types of cases that had the FBI adding “250 forensic accountants,” that he likened to “SWAT teams of accountants” with their calculators and computers “but without the body armor,” he said. The attorney also said the FBI has “special agents imbedded within the SEC that helps the organization “identify fraud early on” before these scams “bilk investors of their lifetime savings.”

He carped in the movies like The Sting, with Paul Newman and Robert Redford. The con artists are portrayed as good guys and charming. However, “in real life these people are not so charming” and when people are “putting trust in others like buying a home and healthcare” and then they are scammed it impacts “are whole way of life since it [the American economy] is built on trust.” And when we find these “Big Cons,” we all lose and why he said to the business community “your help is so vital.” And that includes “protecting yourself and your company because it really is a jungle out there,” he closed before taking a variety of questions from the 350 people or so attending the affair.

>>> Past 2012 Press release: The House passed legislation aimed at preventing the use of Social Security Account numbers on Medicare cards as part of the continuing fight against Medicare fraud. The “Medicare Identity Theft Prevention Act” (H.R. 1509) will be a valuable tool in helping reduce Medicare fraud.  Social Security numbers have become the identifier of choice and are used for many everyday business transactions.

The risk of ID theft goes far beyond an individual’s card being stolen. Every medical record at nursing homes, hospitals, and doctor offices has a Social Security number written on it. The wholesale amount of Social Security numbers that are available to identity thieves is staggering and completely unnecessary. This bill reinforces a key point in Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen’s legislation, H.R. 3735, the “Medicare Fraud Enforcement & Prevention Act” which was introduced earlier in this session of Congress. That bill would create a new criminal offense punishable with a 10-year minimum sentence for those who knowingly sell or distribute the ID numbers of Medicare beneficiaries.

Said Ros-Lehtinen, “I am pleased that the House approved this bill with strong support from both parties. South Florida has been the epicenter of Medicare fraud over the years and its way past time Congress ramp up its efforts in combating this waste and abuse.  Medicare corruption in South Florida alone costs taxpayers between $3 and $4 billion every year. This bill is an important first step in trying to cut fraud and help eliminate these huge costs associated with it.”

>>> Veteran broadcasters Hudson and Mitchell to interim host the Florida Roundup on WLRN, with Latzman’s departure, Former Miami Herald reporter Grech also gone in past weeks

Veteran broadcast journalist Phil Latzman is off the air as host to WLRN/ Herald News the Florida Roundup and other on air duties, and former Miami Herald reporter Dan Grech is no longer with the station as well. The Watchdog Report contacted WLRN General Manager John Labonia last week asking what for a comment on the matter and who might replace Latzman on air? And he wrote back last week, “I have no comment on the departures. The positions have been posted and a search is underway. Tom Hudson and Kelley Mitchell will share hosting responsibilities for Florida Roundup on an interim basis,” wrote the GM. And when the Watchdog Report asked Miami-Dade County School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho about the firings. He said he stays out of such matters since the “integrity” and independence of the station might seem to be compromised. Editor’s note: I have been on the Florida Roundup hosted at the time by Latzman. >>> For more on the story go to: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/fl-wlrn-radio-departures-20130723,0,7592974.story

>>> Zogby press release: Anthony Weiner: Just Go Away ASAP By: John Zogby Forbes.com Contributor

Frankly I figured my thoughts on this at this point in time would be late. Beating the dead horse; gasoline on the fire. Whatever. But Anthony Weiner is still in the race for the Democratic nomination for mayor of America’s premier city.

Endless and boring discussion on narcissism, the state of marriage in the 21st century, the role of the internet in our lives. Is Huma a “good wife”? Should she be? What are her real motives? Is this the Clintons redux? Please click on the link below to read the full article:
http://www.zogbyanalytics.com/news/320-anthony-weiner-just-go-away-asap

>>> New use of links to financial disclosure reports after 14 years of detailing these weekly in the Watchdog Report — Since 2000, the Watchdog Report has detailed elected leaders financial disclosure forms, some 6,000 are in my possession, that prior to July 1 were not going on line every year, but that has now changed. And I am only using the link to these reports for readers to see the actual document filed by these people given the new circumstances, and any reader that has some further information on these financial matters. They can contact the publisher confidentially with any new information that might be of interest to the public or authorities.

>>> 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

FLORIDA

>>> Ag & Consumer Affairs Commissioner Putnam in the spotlight, first elected to Congress at 25, net worth jumps to $7.23 million in 2012, up from $6.49 million last year

Adam Putnam, the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services is in the spotlight this week. And he was elected to the statewide office in 2010 after serving in Congress for a decade since he was 25 years old. And Putnam prior to that, served in the Florida House from 1996 to 2000, before the Republican ran for Congress. Putnam bio:  http://www.freshfromflorida.com/commissioner/bio.html

What do we know about his finances?

Putnam through Dec. 2012 had a net worth of $7.23 million, which is up from $6.49 million in 2011. For more on this year’s disclosure go to:

http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/Forms/2012/234671-Form6.pdf

>>> PAST WDR:  In a few weeks all state and county leaders’ financial disclosures will be on line, some are there now, sea change for transparency of elected officials’ finances

The Florida Commission on Ethics, as a result of new state ethics and transparency legislation passed during the past session legislative session and signed by Gov. Rick Scott is now as of Jul. 1 putting elected leaders financial disclosure forms online from counties and state elected office and is a required yearly ritual for lawmakers. The Watchdog Report for the past 14 years has weekly gotten an endless stream of these required disclosure forms from the ethics commission, but now anyone in the public can go the commission’s webpage and type in a name, and if the document has been posted you can easily review these public Florida Form 6 submissions. I have some 6,000 of the forms now, but with a click, anyone in the public can review the forms that allow one to get an idea what their elected leader’s personal financial life is and are these people worthy to serve in an elected capacity, based on their private business affairs. An area that gets many politicians into trouble, with many of them being subsequently removed from office and going to jail.

And last week when I requested some of the forms for a few elected leaders from Kimberly R. Holmes, the head of the Financial Disclosure Unit, and someone that has been great to the WDR for over a decade providing past electronic documents. She wrote, “I understand you are requesting filing information on disclosure forms for certain lawmakers.  As a part of the ethics legislation passed this year, Florida lawmakers’ Form 6 disclosures will be posted on the Commission’s website.  The forms can be viewed by clicking this link on the homepage of the Commission’s website (www.ethics.state.fl.us): http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/search.cfm?date={ts%20’2013-06-28%2023:47:03′}&CFID=277210&CFTOKEN=70301042

Staff has worked hard to get this system up and running in the short time between the bill becoming law and the first forms being filed.  As forms are received, they will be posted to the website as soon as they’ve been recorded and any information required by law to be maintained as confidential, is redacted from the form.  This process may take a few business days, but eliminates the need for calls or emails to obtain the information and records from staff.

We hope you find the new web feature helpful.  Please let me know if you have any questions,” wrote Holmes. And she also noted the commission has moved its office to 325 John Knox Road, Building E, Suite 200, Tallahassee, FL 32303 www.ethics.state.fl.us And this information now being on line is a real boost to Floridians understanding of their lawmakers and their personal financial lives.

>>> And if you ever thought about adopting a child, check out the great kids on the Children’s Trust’s Heart Gallery page http://www.miamiheartgallery.org/#start looking for a home and great new parents.

>>> 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, Jr., Chair The Children’s Movement.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

>>> M-DC Homeless Trust shoots down DDA request for targeted five year plan Downtown for chronic homeless, Trust dealing with macro issue of ending chronic homeless countywide, which will reduce Miami homeless numbers

The Miami-Dade Homeless Trust Board Friday morning nixed a “motion,” that asked to “alter the [Established Trust’s service and reallocation] plan” that the trust operates its programs under, and to “Direct staff to come up with a plan to look at the chronic population of homeless” in downtown Miami. And what “kind of population” the chronic homeless are and what are the “resources needed to reduce homeless in a five year period in downtown.” Trust member Brian Alonso made the motion, a DDA advocate, and the issue has been simmering for months with City of Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff being critical of past Trust efforts, even though the Trust has directed significant resources in the downtown area for the past three years.

Ron Book, the Trust long time chair said the organization is acutely aware of the problem of the chronically homeless and was why “out of our reserves was taken a lot of money over the last three years to fund Emergency Beds and services specifically for Downtown,” Book said during the discussion. Further, Hilda Fernandez, the executive director of the Trust, before the final vote of the large board’s trustees. She said on a global county basis the new U.S. HUD goal and future directive is to “focus on ending chronic homeless period,” and that is what staff dedicates its time too. And the request would divert time and limited resources on “the biggest issue,” and her staff spends “a lot of time” focusing on “ending chronic homeless” and by following this plan, “by default the plan will dramatically reduce chronic homeless Downtown,” she concluded.

The discussion followed a presentation by Dr. Rolando Montoya, a Miami Downtown Development Authority member who headed up the organization’s Homeless Task Force studying the issue well over the past year. His presentation noted the concentration of over 300 chronic homeless in Downtown Miami and “We want to see results.” The provost from Miami-Dade College said he understood many of these people “Had mental issues” and they are the hardest to get into a continuum of care program. But he implored the Trust that “We really do want to come out with a plan and get something done.” Montoya later told the Watchdog Report that the DDA was going to do a study of the chronic homeless and what these people need in the way of services to get them off the street. And in the future if that cannot be achieved, they will just have to deal with the homeless. However, he refuses to just let these people live on the street “for the rest of their lives,” he said.

>>> Chair Sosa in the spotlight this week, former West Miami mayor elected to commission in 2001, had $210,000 net worth for 2012, down from $439,000 a few years before

Miami-Dade County Commission Chair Rebeca Sosa is in the spotlight this week and prior to being elected to the 13-member commission, she was the mayor of West Miami. She ran for the Commission District 6 seat when then ex commissioner Pedro Reboredo, had to resign his seat in a plea deal with the state attorney’s office in 2001, and Sosa a Republican has been reelected ever since. The Commission elected her chair for 2013 2014, and she loves following the “process,” and fighting for Miami-Dade County getting its fair share of state and federal funding. The educator recently stressed to the Secretary of FDOT the county wants its share of transportation dollars, since Miami-Dade is a donor community and represents around 30 percent of the state’s tax revenue, said Florida CFO Jeff Atwater a few months ago.

She also supported the review of the governance of Jackson Health System, and Sosa thought a “not-for-profit model,” might have been a better model for JHS. However, the commission at the time shot down that idea a few years ago.  Sosa is also planning to open up her 2014 reelection campaign account for another run on the commission, after all the county’s budget hearings are done in September, she told the Watchdog Report recently. In addition, she works for the Miami-Dade Public Schools, and keeps very accurate time cards with her employeer, and the grandmother loves to take cruises with her husband.

Sosa

What do we know about her finances?

Sosa through Dec. 2012 had a net worth of $210,000, which is down from $439,000 a few years before and she lists $27,500 in household goods. To see the full disclosure report go to: http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/Forms/2012/64832-Form6.pdf

>>> Vice Chair Bell in the spotlight, elected in 2010, had $274,000 net worth through 2012

Miami-Dade County Commission vice Chair Lynda Bell is in the spotlight this week, and the former Homestead Mayor won the District 8 seat vacated by long serving Commissioner Katy Sorenson, in a tight race in 2010. She is on a host of committees and county organizations like the Commission’s Sports Commission and has taken a couple of international trade missions, most recently to Asia promoting the Port of Miami and South Florida in general.

Bell

What do we know about her finances?

Bell through 2012 had a net worth of $274,486 and she lists $50,000 in household goods and to see her financial disclosure report go to

http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/Forms/2012/86655-Form6.pdf

>>> Pres release: Governor Rick Scott today announced the appointments of Adrian Alfonso, Philip “Flip” Gassman, and Gordon “Eric” Knowles to the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe.

Alfonso, 33, of Miami, is a partner with PerezAbreu, Alguerrebere, Suerio and Torres, PL. He succeeds Octavio Verdeja and is appointed as chair for a term beginning July 25, 2013, and ending April 30, 2017.

Gassman, 48, of Miami, is the executive vice president and managing director of professional and executive banking for Marquis Bank. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning July 25, 2013, and ending April 30, 2015.

Knowles, 57, of Fort Lauderdale, is semi retired and was previously senior director of government affairs for the Miami Dolphins. He succeeds Gerald Schwartz and is appointed for a term beginning July 25, 2013, and ending April 30, 2016.

>>> GMCVB press release: RECORD DEMAND FOR TRAVEL TO GREATER MIAMI & THE BEACHES – THE DESTINATION RANKS #3 IN REVENUE PER AVAILABLE ROOM (REVPAR), #3 IN AVERAGE DAILY ROOM RATE (ADR), AND #3 IN HOTEL ROOM OCCUPANCY FOR JANUARY - JUNE 2013 AMONG THE TOP 25 U.S. MARKETS

For January - June 2013, Greater Miami and the Beaches showed increases vs. 2012, ranking #3 in Revenue Per Available Room (RevPar) at $157.68, #3 in Average Daily Room Rate (ADR) at $194.41 and #3 in Average Daily Occupancy at 81.1%, among top the Top 25 Markets in the U.S. Smith Travel Research compares the top markets in the United States based on Revenue Per Available Room (RevPar), Average Daily Room Rate (ADR) and Occupancy.

JANUARY - JUNE 2013
REVENUE PER AVAILABLE ROOM (REVPAR)
Market $ % Change vs. 2012
1. New York $198.54 +7.5%
2. Oahu Island $172.18 +16.1%
#3. Miami $157.68 +11.7%
4. San Francisco $140.85 +10.9%
5. Boston $110.30 +2.6%
AVERAGE DAILY ROOM RATE (ADR)
Market % Occupancy % Change vs. 2012
1. New York $240.55 +4.1%
2. Oahu Island $204.73 +15.9%
#3. Miami $194.41 +9.0%
4. San Francisco $175.16 +7.3%
5. Boston $158.44 +2.0%
AVERAGE DAILY OCCUPANCY
Market $ % Change vs. 2012
1. New York 84.1% +0.2%
2. Oahu Island 82.5% +3.3%
#3. Miami 81.1% +2.4%
4. San Francisco 80.4% +3.3%
5. Los Angeles 76.1% +1.7%

MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS

>>> Board Workshop reviews $350 million self insured healthcare benefits program, $52 million in reserves, two month cushion, goes to audit advisory committee for closer review in Aug.

Since the public schools District is the largest employer in Miami-Dade County, the district’s healthcare program continues to disproportionately pay for the high cost of healthcare in South Florida. And the cost is a $350 to $400 million budgeted program next year, the “second largest liability,” the public schools deals with, except paying for teachers and educational instruction. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told a school board workshop Thursday on the matter that the staggering healthcare costs, are also the fault of residents. And is why South Florida is ground zero for Medicare and Medicaid and other insurance frauds. He noted at the workshop, “Fraud, abuse, greed,” is a great part of the problem with the skyrocketing costs, as well as the wide range of pricing different hospitals charge for procedures. And when it comes to these higher costs, Carvalho said, we “Lead the nation, not just a little bit, but a lot,” and the costs we pay are higher than in “New York City, Philadelphia and Boston,” he noted. And since the healthcare market is competitive with a variety of options for people to take, “there is a significant effort to drive employees to the highest cost facilities,” he thought.

The school district is self-insured, the health insurance program has two months of reserves in it, around $52 million, and the whole program’s review will now go to the Board’s Audit and Budget Advisory Committee for a more vigilant look in August, but the financial documents show for the moment it is fiscally sound. However, the wellness of the around 45,000 employees in these programs is still a problem, with Diabetes a significant cost problem. And critics say the schools employees themselves must do more to keep their health and should consider their weight, lifestyle and do more exercise than many of them do, and such preventative life style changes is being pushed in the private sector to keep healthcare costs down.

PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST

>>> Trustees review proposed $1.6 billion budget for 2013-2014, higher patient admissions crucial to sustained growth, “legacy” CHI funding in Homestead set at $6.8 million

The PHT board held a workshop Tuesday on the 2013-2014 $1.6 billion budget for the coming year and while the public health system is tracking to make $35 million by the end of the year. Big challenges to the health system remain including increasing not only patient admissions, but also higher admissions of insured patients is critical; to offset the overall fixed operateing costs of operateing a hospital system this size. The PHT board will be holding its public hearing on next year’s budget on Aug. 23.

What about the PHT legacy payment to CHI?

Historically, over the past two decades since the Trust got a half-cent-sales tax in 1991 approved by countywide voters, CHI in South Dade has been funded by JHS to the tune of $6.8 million in the coming budget year and it is an unfunded county mandate put on the Trust by the county commission. Former PHT Chair Marcos Lapciuc noted the funding was an “unfunded mandate” and it was hoped at the time that some of the organization’s patients would get “referrals to Jackson South.” In addition, it was a “deal done by the “commission back in the day to get support for the sales tax for Jackson” (Now over $200 million a year) at the time. In addition, he noted that when the PHT was losing hundreds of millions in some of the prior past years “We politically could never change,” the funding.

Moreover, while years ago CHI was a “was a forward operateing area for Jackson early on,” the current funding is “a legacy number,” he said. And Trust Chair Darryl Sharpton noted, “The County decided the “CHI funding,” that is primarily for Homestead residents, and “that was the dollar amount agreed to by the County.” The new chair also said the issue is very political and he “Knows from [County] Commissioner Dennis Moss how sensitive the issue is down there.” >>> For more on CHI go to http://www.chisouthfl.org/ .

>>> Press release: The PHT Board of Trustees regular televised meeting previously scheduled for Thursday, August 29, 2013 has been changed.  The PHT Board of Trustees regular  televised meeting has been rescheduled for Friday, August 23, 2013 from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the Commission Chambers, located on the Second Floor at 111 N. W. First Street, Miami, FL 33128. Also, at 5:01 p.m. in the same location a PHT Budget Hearing is scheduled to begin.

CITY OF MIAMI

>>> Appeal Court rules Spence-Jones termed out, now challengers Dunn and Malone duke it out for Dist 5 seat on dais,  who she supports in race could be critical to they’re victory

Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones lost her judicial appeal that she was termed out after two four-year terms this November after first being elected in 2005. But on Wednesday she lost that appeal when the Third Circuit Court of Appeal ruled against her being allowed another four-year term under the Miami Charter. http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/24/3518445/appeals-court-shoots-down-miamis.html The Watchdog Report attended the Miami Charter Review meetings back in 1999 when the term limit question was put on the ballot and city voters approved the change. Moreover, I thought this would be the outcome because while her case was unusual, since two different governors suspended her from office a number of times. She had fulfilled the office’s requirements and was a duly qualified candidate for the races. She now will finish her term in November and she will have to wait to 2017 if, she wants to run again.

The popular District 5 commissioner is expected to be a King Maker in regard to who follows her on the dais after this court ruling. That has Richard Dunn, II who filed the court suit initially challenging the issue, now facing off against political newcomer Dr. Robert Malone Jr. In addition, she could play a pivotal role in the mayoral election, where she is supporting Commissioner Francis Suarez over incumbent Mayor Tomas Regalado looking for a second final term.

>>> Accountant Charged with Filing False Tax Return

Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Michael J. DePalma, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), announced today Edda Obando, 65, of Miami, pled guilty to a two count Information charging her with making and subscribing a false tax return, in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section 7206(1). According to the Information, Obando, who worked as an accountant, prepared a false and fraudulent tax return and significantly underreported income on her personal tax return. Obando is scheduled for sentencing on September 30, 2013 before U.S. District Judge Frederico A. Moreno.  She faces a maximum statutory sentence of up to three years in prison. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Norman O. Hemming, III. 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 http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.

VILLAGE OF COCONUT GROVE

>>> Grove Rotary Club taps Kesler as president, small but raises considerable money for the community

Press release: The Coconut Grove Rotary had their Installation of officers Ceremony Thursday June 27th, 2013 at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club.   The new officers for 2013 are: Don Kesler, President; Anita Sandler, Secretary; and Phil Everingham, Treasurer.   Mr. Kesler was sworn in by Michael Messer, Rotary Assistant Governor, Area 6.  An afternoon reception followed.  The Coconut Grove Rotary is responsible for numerous charitable community projects such as donating turkeys to the less fortunate at Thanksgiving, and most recently donating a total of $50,000 to the  Miami Youth Sports and Education Association in the West Grove.  The Coconut Grove Rotary has luncheon meetings every Thursday from 12:30-1:30 at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club and welcomes new members.

CITY OF MIAMI BEACH

>>> Commission Libbin drops out of mayoral race; five candidates vie for top political post

With Commissioner Jerry Libbin withdrawing from the now five man Miami Beach mayoral race, locals expect the race to really heat up between Beach Commissioner Michael Gongora and business executive Philip Levine. Gongora, won, lost and then won a Commission seat over the years. And Levine is a new face on the campaign trail, and the other challengers are Steve Berke (who ran for mayor back in 2011 and he lost to Mayor Matti Herrera Bower, who is now running for the commission again in November), Raphael Herman, and David Hundley round out the field of contenders.

What about Libbin?

Libbin in the http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/24/3519773/miami-beach-commissioner-jerry.html says he does not have the time to essentially do the job. He is the president of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce and that is a time consuming position and potentially could cause him conflicts where he might have to recuse himself. If he landed the top city post.

CITY OF NORTH MIAMI

>>> Three North Miami Residents Charged with Filing Fraudulent Tax Returns and Receiving over $1.8 Million in Fraudulent Refunds

Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Michael J. DePalma, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Ronald Verrocchio, Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and Paula Reid, Special Agent in Charge, United States Secret Service (USSS), Miami Field Office, announced the filing of an indictment charging defendants Gerald Duverger, 34, and Jean Louis, 40, both of North Miami, with filing false, fictitious, and fraudulent claims and with wire fraud. A separate indictment was filed charging Jeaneno Florent, 37, also of North Miami, with filing false, fictitious, and fraudulent claims. Defendants Duverger and Louis were arraigned today in federal court in Miami before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry L. Garber at 10:00 a.m.  Defendant Florent will be arraigned at a later date.

Defendant Louis is charged with one count and defendants Duverger and Florent are each charged with two counts of filing false, fictitious, and fraudulent claims, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 287. Defendants Duverger and Louis are each charged with one count of wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343.

According to the charging documents, in 2012, the USSS received information that two large tax refund checks had been paid on tax returns filed by Duverger and Florent. With respect to Duverger, the tax return fraudulently indicated that Duverger made $8 million in wages from Capitol Records, Inc. and was entitled to a refund of approximately $613,043. The Department of Treasury sent the tax refund to a bank account controlled by Duverger.

As further alleged in the charging documents,  in January 2013, a tax return was submitted in the name of Louis claiming over $9 million in wages from Warner Bros Distribution Corporation and seeking a refund of approximately $600,281. On July 3, 2013, the Department of Treasury sent the tax refund of approximately $603,883 to Louis’ bank account. If convicted, the defendants face a possible maximum statutory sentence of five years in prison for each count of filing false, fictitious and fraudulent claims and 20 years in prison for each count of wire fraud.  Mr. Ferrer thanked IRS-CI, USPIS, USSS, and Miami Beach Police Department for their work on this case.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael N. Berger.  An indictment is only an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.

>>> OTHER STORIES AROUND FLORIDA

BROWARD COUNTY

>>> Commissioner Ritter in the spotlight this week, net worth drops to $139,500 from $147,500 in the previous year

Commissioner Stacy Ritter, an attorney is in the spotlight this week and the long serving commissioner for District 3 was first elected in 2006 on the nine member county commission dais, and she was a state representative prior to that until she was termed out in the legislature in 2004. She has been the county’s mayor in the past, and historically she has been the possible subject of campaign contribution investigations, but none of the investigations have ever panned out in her political career. http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2010-12-03/news/fl-ritter-violations-20101203_1_campaign-law-violations-campaign-funds-russ-klenet

Ritter was an early supporter of the Barack Obama campaign and when he won in 2008 there was talk, the Commissioner might go to Washington to be part of the new administration. But that did happen, and she has stayed on the dais and won reelection since then and is up again in 2014.

Ritter and bio http://www.broward.org/Commission/District3/Pages/About.aspx

What do we know about her finances?

Ritter through Dec. 2012 had a net worth of $139,500, which is down from $147,500 in 2011 and to read her complete financial disclosure report go to

http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/Forms/2012/18714-Form6.pdf

CITY OF FORT LAUDERDALE

>>> Two Broward Residents Sentenced for Identity Theft Scheme

Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Michael J. DePalma, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), announced that defendants Nathaniel Troy Maye, a/k/a Troy May, 44, and Tiwanna Tenise Thomason, 40, both of Ft. Lauderdale, were sentenced today before U.S. District Judge William J. Zloch.  Maye was sentenced to 66 months in prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release.  Thomason was sentenced to 5 years’ probation.

Both defendants previously pled guilty to one count of possession of 15 or more unauthorized access devices, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1029(a)(3) and 2, and one count of aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1028A(a)(1) and 2. According to court documents, on January 5, 2013, a cooperating source (CS) met with Thomason and Maye.  During the meeting, Maye told the CS that he had a large number of stolen identities on a flash drive, and discussed using the stolen identities to file fraudulent tax returns and get refunds from those returns.  On January 7, 2013, Maye gave the CS a flash drive containing 50 names, dates of birth, and accompanying social security numbers.

On January 8, 2013, the IRS executed a search warrant at Thomason’s apartment.  During the search, the IRS recovered numerous electronic storage devices, including computers and flash drives.  On two of the flash drives, the IRS found the personal identifying information of thousands of individuals, most of whom were from outside the state of Florida.  The personal identifying information included the names, dates of birth, addresses, and social security numbers of numerous individuals. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Strider Dickson. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.

CITY OF MIRAMAR

>>> Two Florida Residents Indicted on Charges of Scheming to Defraud and Threaten Spanish-Speaking Consumers

Press release: A grand jury in the Southern District of Florida issued an indictment for two individuals on charges of conspiracy, fraud and extortion alleging they operated a series of fraudulent businesses targeting Spanish-speaking consumers, the Justice Department and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) announced today.  The indictment charges Daniel Carrasco, 54, and Federico Martin Gioja, 45, both of Miramar, Fla., with incorporating, owning and operating Florida companies that used telemarketers in a phone room in Argentina to extract money from consumers, using lies and extortion. Carrasco and Gioja were charged by criminal complaint and arrested on June 26, 2013.  They have remained incarcerated since that time.  Carrasco and Gioja, and a third individual, Romino Tasso, also were named in a civil suit filed by the Justice Department.  In the civil case, the Justice Department requested that the court issue an injunction, and, subsequently, Judge Cecilia Altonaga issued a temporary restraining order barring further lies to consumers and freezing the assets of Carrasco, Gioja, Tasso and companies under their control.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “These defendants specifically targeted Spanish-speaking victims, pretending to be affiliated with Univision, to sell their products from their phone room in Argentina, when in fact, they had absolutely no connection to Univision, and their companies did not deliver the products consumers ordered.  “We are committed to investigating and prosecuting such fraudsters, both domestic and international, whose schemes defraud consumers.” “We will use every tool at our disposal, including asset freezes, injunctive relief and criminal prosecution, against companies that lie to, extort, threaten and defraud consumers,” said Stuart F. Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “Protecting Americans from fraud continues to be a top priority for the Department of Justice.”

According to the civil complaint and the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, the case resulted from a referral by Spanish-language television station, Univision.  Companies belonging to Carrasco and Gioja are alleged to have falsely claimed an affiliation with Univision and purported to sell products such as vitamins, lotions, medical insurance and English-language training products.  However, the companies frequently did not deliver products ordered by consumers.  Since the companies allegedly did not have many of the products they promised to send to consumers, consumers received other products instead.  Then, according to the indictment, after consumers refused delivery of the companies’ shipments, the Argentinean phone room telemarketers called and falsely threatened consumers with arrest, deportation or fines on their gas and electric bills.

According to the criminal and civil complaints, Carrasco and Gioja routinely changed the names of the companies under which they did business to evade consumer complaints, regulators and law enforcement.  Allegedly, a variety of state agencies contacted the businesses regarding their illicit practices.  Those working with Carrasco and Gioja, in emails cited in the affidavit in support of arrest, referred to these companies tainted by complaints as “burnt.”  Rather than changing the “burnt” companies’ practices, Carrasco and Gioja allegedly incorporated new companies and started the same illegal practices again.

The alleged fraud first came to light when the Spanish language network Univision informed the USPIS that they believed a company was involved in a fraud scheme in which it misrepresented its affiliation with the network.  Subsequently, the USPIS investigated the case, submitted the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint and arrested the defendants.

“Postal inspectors will continue to investigate cases involving fraud against consumers and will vigorously pursue those individuals who use the mail to further their criminal schemes,” said Ronald Verrochio, U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge in Miami. Acting Assistant Attorney General Delery commended the Postal Inspection Service for their investigative efforts and thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida for their contributions to the civil case.  The criminal case is being prosecuted by Assistant Director Richard Goldberg with the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

PALM BEACH COUNTY

>>> Commissioner Santamaria in the spotlight, had $6.6 million net worth through 2012, down from $10.3 million in 2010

Palm Beach Commissioner Jess Santamaria, 75, is in the spotlight this week and he represents Commission District 6. He was first elected in 2006 after his predecessor, was under a federal probe at the time and ended up with a host of past county commissioners back then going to the federal Big House. Santamaria, a past developer and University of Pennsylvania Wharton graduate worked for IBM and other companies in his business career. A Democrat, he defeated two challengers when he first ran back then, and he is up for reelection in 2014. The man once took the position that he would only seek one term in office, but he later clearly changed his mind. In addition, he made a fuss when he thought he might get a leadership position a few years ago, but that did not happen when the commission voted for one of his peers as chair and vice chair of the seven-member body. >>> http://weblogs.sun-sentinel.com/news/politics/palm/blog/jess_santamaria/

Santamaria http://www.co.palm- beach.fl.us/countycommissioners/district6/biography.htm

What do we know about his finances?

Santamaria through Jan 1, 2013 had a net worth of $6.602 million, which is down from 2010 when he listed a net worth of $10.3 million, and he has $100,000 in household goods. For his complete financial disclosure form go to:  http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/Forms/2012/211657-Form6.pdf

WEST PALM BEACH

>>> Eleven More Defendants Plead Guilty in Staged Automobile Accident Scheme ~ 92 defendants have been charged to date in Operation Sledgehammer I-VI

Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, Michael J. DePalma, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Jeff Atwater, Florida Chief Financial Officer, and Dave Aronberg, State Attorney, Office of the State Attorney for Palm Beach County, announced that defendants Helenne Vazquez, 30, of West Palm Beach, Maykel Marquez, 32, of West Palm Beach, and Juan Francisco Avon, 61, of Miami, pled guilty today for their participation in a staged automobile accident and fraudulent chiropractic clinic scheme that resulted in the theft of millions of dollars from Florida’s automobile insurance companies and Florida drivers.  Defendants Yenisleydi Ramos, 26, of West Palm Beach, and Noelia Marichal, 52, of West Palm Beach, pled guilty yesterday; defendants Nelson Felix Martinez Torres, 47, of West Palm Beach, Yanet Hernandez Marichal, a/k/a Yanet Hernandez, 26, of West Palm Beach, and Oscar Montiel Martinez, 34, of Lake Worth, pled guilty on July 23, 2013; defendant Wilfredo Sauceda, 33, of West Palm Beach, pled guilty on July 22, 2013; defendant Alien Moya, 29, of West Palm Beach, pled guilty on July 19, 2013; and Yeisy Chouza, 31, of Miami, pled guilty on July 9, 2013.

Defendant Chouza is scheduled to be sentenced on September 30, 2013, at 9:00 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra in West Palm Beach along with three other defendants who entered guilty pleas in June.  Defendants Alien Moya, Wilfredo Sauceda, Oscar Montiel Martinez, Nelson Felix Martinez Torres, and Yanet Hernandez Marichal are scheduled to be sentenced on October 21, 2013, beginning at 9:00 a.m. before Judge Marra.  Defendants Yenisleydi Ramos, Noelia Marichal, Helenne Vazquez, Maykel Marquez, and Juan Francisco Avon are scheduled to be sentenced on October 28, 2013, beginning at 9:00 a.m. before Judge Marra.

Each of the defendants pled guilty to one count of conspiring to commit mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341, all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349.  Some of the defendants also pled guilty to mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1341 and 2; conspiring to commit money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1956(a)(1), all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(h); and money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1956(a)(1)(A)(i), 1956(a)(1)(B)(i), 1956(a)(1)(B)(ii), and 2. For each count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, substantive mail fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and substantive money laundering the defendants face a possible maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison.  Restitution to the victims of the offenses is mandatory.

According to court documents, between approximately October 2006 and December 2012, the defendants staged automobile accidents and thereafter caused the submission of false insurance claims through chiropractic clinics they controlled.  To execute the scheme, the true owners of the chiropractic clinics recruited individuals, who had the medical or chiropractic licenses required by the state to open a clinic, to act as “nominee owners” of the clinics.  The defendants also recruited individuals, whom they referred to as “Perro” and “Perra,” to participate in the accidents, and others to help the clinics launder the insurance proceeds.  The defendants also hired complicit chiropractors and therapists who prescribed and billed for unnecessary treatments and/or for services that had not been rendered.  Thereafter, complicit clinic employees prepared and submitted claims to the automobile insurance companies for payment for these unnecessary or non-rendered services. Twenty-one clinics participated in this scheme.

Starting with Operation Sledgehammer I in June 2011 and including the defendants charged in Operation Sledgehammer VI, 92 defendants have been charged for their participation in this automobile insurance fraud scheme. Of those 92 defendants, 56 have been charged federally by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, resulting in court-ordered restitution of more than $5 million to the defrauded insurance companies. Thirty-six defendants have been arrested by the Florida  Department  of Financial  Services – Insurance Fraud Division for prosecution by the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office. >>> Mr. Ferrer commended the efforts of the FBI, IRS-CI, the Florida Department of Insurance Fraud, the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office, and the Greater Palm Beach County Health Care Fraud Task Force for their outstanding work in this case.  Mr. Ferrer also recognized the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) for its collaboration and assistance in this investigation.  The federal cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney A. Marie Villafaña and the state cases are being prosecuted by the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office. 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.

MONROE COUNTY

>>> Former Monroe Clerk Kolhage, now county commissioner in the spotlight, net worth in 2012 jumps to $875,000, up from $785,000 in 2011

Monroe County Commissioner Danny Kolhage, the three decade long Monroe Clerk retired from the office in 2012 with a sterling reputation for personal integrity and rather than retire. He ran for the Monroe Commission District 1 seat in 2012 and is now a member of the five-member commission that overseas the nation’s southern most county.

Kolhage

What do we know about his finances?

Kolhage through Dec. 2012 had a net worth of $875,000, which is up from $785,000 in the previous year and he lists $30,000 in household goods. And to read his complete financial disclosure report go to: http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/Forms/2012/15866-Form6.pdf

>>> Idaho Man Convicted of Obstruction of Justice in Key West Marine Life Case

Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Otha Easley, Acting Special Agent in Charge, NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement, and David Pharo, Resident Agent in Charge, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Miami Field Office, announced that Peter C. Covino, IV, 20, of Eagle, Idaho, was convicted today after a jury trial, for knowingly and corruptly attempting to persuade another to alter, destroy, mutilate, or conceal an object with the intent to impair the object’s integrity and availability for use in an official proceeding, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1512(b)(2)(B) and 2. According to testimony presented in Court, and documents in the case file, in February 2013 Covino made two phone calls to a business in the Florida Keys involved in the wholesale marine life trade. His purpose in doing so was in part to direct one of the business owners “to erase all the text messages, and emails, or any other evidence” linking the Florida business to Ammon Covino, the uncle of defendant Peter Covino.

In a separate criminal proceeding, United States v. Ammon Covino, et al., Case No. 12-10020-CR-Martinez, Ammon Covino had been arrested on February 21, 2013, in connection with allegations that he engaged in conspiracy and various violations of the federal Lacey Act by purchasing and transporting wildlife from the Florida Keys to Idaho for exhibit at the Idaho Aquarium in Boise, Idaho. According to the charges, the wildlife included spotted eagle rays and lemon sharks, for which the required Florida licenses and permits were never acquired.  Testimony established at trial that Ammon Covino had made the arrangements for the illegal purchases by emails, text messages, and telephone calls. Prior to the two calls made by defendant Peter Covino on February 21, 2013, and before the arrest and initial court appearance of Ammon Covino, Peter Covino had never been involved with the acquisition of wildlife from Florida and had no prior direct dealings with the Florida-based supplier. Unknown to Peter Covino, the business owner was cooperating with federal authorities and his phone conversations were recorded. During his trial testimony, Peter Covino admitted that he made the calls at the direction of Ammon Covino.

Peter Covino faces a possible sentence of up to 20 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to three years. United States District Judge Jose E. Martinez, who presided over the trial, set sentencing in this matter for September 24, 2013 at 1:00 p.m. in the Key West Courthouse. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of NOAA Office for Law Enforcement and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement.  Mr. Ferrer also thanked the Officers of the Idaho Department of Fish & Game.  This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov

COMMUNITY EVENTS

>>> Press release: The Downtown Bay Forum www.downtownbayforum.org INVITES YOU TO OUR LUNCHEON MEETING ON Wednesday July 31, 2013 11:30-1:30pm – Moderated by Robert M. Levy, Robert M. Levy & Associates 2013 Florida Legislative Forum – Join our panel of Florida State Legislators as they discuss the impact of the 2013 session and the Governor’s veto pen. Senator Dwight Bullard (D), Rep. Jose Felix Diaz (R), Rep. Holly Merrill Raschein (R), Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez (D) WOLFSON AUDITORIUM @ TEMPLE ISRAEL, 137 NE 19th Street MIAMI Free Self Parking Available Call ANNETTE EISENBERG (305)757-3633 Fax (305)754-2015 **RESERVATIONS REQUIRED

>>> Press release: The Miami Foundation to launch contest awarding $100,000 to improve local public spaces Our Miami Project Launch to introduce county-wide challenge and talent retention initiative

The Miami Foundation will host up-and-coming young talent, local change-agents and engaged Miamians at their kickoff event for two new projects: the Public Space Challenge and a talent retention project. The reception will take place on Wednesday, July 31, 6 – 8 p.m. at The Stage Miami, located in the heart of the Design District at 170 NE 38th Street Miami, FL 33137.  Entry is complimentary with RSVP and open to the public. Attendees may RSVP at miamifoundation.org/ourmiamirsvp and connect with other attendees on Facebook. Both programs are part of the Foundation’s Our Miami initiative, which fosters community by building attachment to the city, developing public spaces and retaining young talent in Miami.

“Our Miami uses research from our Soul of the Community Study that clearly shows attracting and retaining young, talented and creative people in Greater Miami will grow the economy faster than other more traditional measures of economic development,” said Javier Alberto Soto, president and CEO of The Miami Foundation.  “The initiative’s programs are excellent opportunities for anyone who is passionate about building a greater Miami and want to get involved in making it happen.” The Miami Foundation developed a countywide challenge to uncover the best ideas for creating and improving local public spaces: parks, libraries, public buildings, markets, plazas, playgrounds or any place where people can convene and connect. Ideas can be submitted from anyone, including individuals, groups, for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations.  Community experts and professional placemakers will identify the top ideas; The Miami Foundation will invest $100,000 to make the ideas become reality. In addition to the Public Space Challenge, the foundation will also launch a talent retention project and Web survey. The online tool measures an individual’s “attachment” to Greater Miami and provides the participant suggestions about how to become more engaged where they live.  Results will be made available to community stakeholders to help guide talent retention efforts.  The tool is based on research from a Georgetown University study and has been instrumental in reducing year-over-year employee turnover at Fortune 50 companies.

“Miami has the eighth-highest percentage of college students per capita in the U.S. and one of the highest flight rates of those students once they graduate,” continued Soto. “It is incumbent on us to develop, attract and retain the best and brightest here in Miami – our future depends on it.” >>> About The Miami Foundation:  Established in 1967, The Miami Foundation has helped hundreds of people create powerful legacies by establishing custom, charitable Funds. More than $150 million in grants and scholarships has been awarded in the Foundation’s history. Today, the Foundation stewards more than $160 million in charitable assets.  Through its Our Miami initiative, the Foundation positions Miami as a premier place for young talent to live, work, connect and engage. Visit miamifoundation.org and ourmiami.org for more information.

>>> TEDxMiami Thursday, October 24 @ 7pm, Knight Concert Hall — For four years, TEDxMiami has been a hub of diverse creativity, innovative ideas, and progressive thought leadership that has been a cornerstone of Miami’s creative, intellectual, and entrepreneurial audiences. The main event in the fall will feature live speakers giving unique, locally relevant talks. TED is an international nonprofit organization and its mission is to share ideas worth spreading. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. Follow #TEDxMiami2013 for event updates and keep up with TedxMiami throughout the year on Facebook and Twitter. Member Pre-Sale: NOW! Public On Sale: Tuesday, July 30 CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS Or call 305-949-6722 today!

EDITORIAL

>>> Elected leaders disregarding the will of the voters is getting old for many Miami-Dade taxpayers, and will increase resistance for any new funding initiatives in the future

Elected leaders in Miami-Dade County and the municipalities are walking on thin ice when it comes to ignoring voter’s wishes when the electorate is asked to approve sales taxes dedicated to a variety of public organizations for example. Over the years, voters were asked to approve some $60 million in money dedicated to the restoration of the now demolished Orange Bowl (And the money was later used to help finance the new Miami Marlins stadium now on the site). Later in 2002, it was a countywide half-cent sales tax for enhanced transportation needs, that is now “unified,” and the bulk of the money is just paying for the department’s bond liabilities. Moreover, more recently the county commission is blowing off the 450,000 voters that approved increased funding for the Miami-Dade Animal Services Department, after it had the Commission and Mayor Carlos Gimenez back tracking on that enhanced funding and has sent animal activists through the roof.

And if comments to the Watchdog Report over the years is any indication, these bait and switch moves when it comes to these ballot questions and how the money is used by elected leaders at all levels is doing great harm to establishing any trust in their government with the electorate. And while the county’s public schools did get a $1.2 billion GOB approved this past November, that generosity of taxpayers is not a given in the future. And past use of this new money will be a factor if Jackson Health System’s $830 million GOB passes in November, despite the merits and need of the money for the public hospital system. In addition, while many elected leaders blow off the change of the money’s initial intent. They do so at their own peril. If taxpayers are going to continue to support these new funding initiatives, and they should always remember the phrase, when it comes to the taxpayers. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

LETTERS

>>> Reader on leadership and life trials and tribulations facing President Lincoln

When it comes to measuring the importance of leadership in solving problems, I’m always eager to learn from those who came before us for guidance and inspiration. Please invest a few minutes to consider how the life experiences of one of our nation’s iconic leaders shines a beacon for us to follow… One of the greatest human examples of perseverance and persistence is found in the life of Abraham Lincoln. As he was so magnificently portrayed by actor Daniel Day Lewis in Steven Spielberg’s much-heralded film Lincoln, our 16th president did not view adversity as a barrier, but rather an opportunity to strive harder to achieve a noble goal…..human equality under the law, first envisioned by our nation’s founders and in need of serious rededication in the wake of the scourge of slavery.

Born into poverty, Abraham Lincoln faced disappointment and defeat throughout his life.  He lost eight elections, twice failed in business, and suffered a debilitating nervous disorder. Abraham Lincoln could have given up but didn’t.  Because he persevered, he is now viewed as the greatest president in the history of our nation…a powerful leader who we hold high for his courage, commitment and ardent dedication to his nation and his God. I think you’ll be amazed at this chronology of Lincoln’s rocky road to the White House.

1809 – Born in frontier Kentucky to uneducated parents who farmed for a subsistence living. 1816 - His family was forced out of their home and crossed the state line to Indiana.  Beginning at age eight, he had to work to help support the family. 1818 - His mother died when he was nine. His formal education consisted of less than one-year of schooling. 1830 – After moving to Illinois as a 20-year-old, he failed in business. 1832 - Ran for state legislature – he lost. 1832 - Lost his job as a goods trader – wanted to go to law school but couldn’t get in. 1833 - Borrowed some money from a friend to begin a business and by the end of the year he was bankrupt.  He spent the next 17 years of his life paying off his debt. 1833 - Ran for state legislature again – he won. 1834 - Was engaged to be married but his sweetheart died. 1835 - Suffered a total nervous breakdown; was confined in bed for six months. 1838 - Sought to become speaker of the state legislature – he was defeated. 1840 - Sought to become elector in presidential race – he was defeated. 1844 - Ran for Congress – he lost. 1846 - Ran for congress again- this time he won – went to Washington for his first term.  1848 - Ran for re-election to Congress – he lost. 1849 - Sought the job of land officer – he was rejected. 1854 - Ran for Senate of the United States – he lost.

1856 - Sought the Vice Presidential nomination at his party’s national convention – he got fewer than 100 votes. 1858 - Ran for US Senate again – he lost. 1860 - Elected President of the United States after a bitter campaign during which he was accused of all matters of moral failure and lambasted for physical deformities. 1865 – After leading the nation through a grueling Civil War and saved the Union from dissolution, he was assassinated at age 56.

“The path was worn and slippery.  One foot gave from under me, knocking the other aside, but I recovered and said to myself….’Tis just a temporary slip, not a full fall…..The sense of obligation to continue on is present in all of us. A duty to strive is the duty of us all. I feel a call to that duty” - Abraham Lincoln quoted after losing a second race for U.S. Senate. As we look at the many challenges we face…personal, family, community, national and crises around the world…it’s important to understand the lessons learned from great leaders who have made the choice to rise above the mundane and approach the future with powerful optimism and bountiful passion. Who can deny that our problems can be solved if we bring ourselves to the game fully prepared to fight for causes we care about and exert our best effort to achieve worthy goals? My advocacy travels have taught me that every one of us has the potential for making a real difference…if the will to overcome odds is greater that the temptation to quit.

Jack Levine

>>> Reader on Beach Commissioner Wolfson letter last week — Whoa… reminds me of the line “the lady doth protest too much”…

>>> LIFETIME FOUNDING MEMBERS & INITIAL SPONSORS IN 2000

ANGEL ESPINOSA – (Deceased) owner COCONUT GROVE DRY CLEANER’S

HUGH CULVERHOUSE, Jr

FLORIDA POWER & LIGHT www.fpl.com .

THE MIAMI HERALD     www.miamiherald.com (2000-2008)

ARTHUR HERTZ

WILLIAM HUGGETT, Seamen Attorney (Deceased)

ALFRED NOVAK

LINDA E. RICKER (Deceased)

JOHN S. and JAMES L. KNIGHT FOUNDATION  www.knightfoundation.org

THE HONORABLE STANLEY G. TATE

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BADIA SPICES    www.badiaspices.com

RONALD HALL

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY www.miamidade.gov

UNITED WAY OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY www.unitedwaymiamidade.org

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AKERMAN SENTERFITT   www.akerman.com

BERKOWITZ POLLACK BRANT Advisors and Accountants www.bpbcpa.com

RON BOOK

LINDA MURPHY: Gave a new laptop in Oct. 2001 to keep me going.

WILLIAM PALMER www.shutts.com

SHUBIN & BASS     www.shubinbass.com

WILLIAMSOM AUTOMOTIVE GROUP http://williamsonautomotivegroup.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

GREATER 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 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

MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS 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 GOOD GOVERNMENT INITIATIVE http://goodgov.net/

THE MIAMI-DADE COUNTY LEAGUE OF CITIES www.mdclc.org

THE MIAMI FOUNDATION  www.miamifoundation.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.

LETTER POLICY

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 watchdogreport1@earthlink.net

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>>> 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 watchdogreport1@earthlink.net for further information.  >>> Here is what past newspapers have written about the Watchdog Report publisher including a survey and regional study done by the U. North Carolina at Chapel Hill on the media in the southeast United States.

>>> The Miami Herald and Orlando Sentinel & Sun-Sentinel articles on the Watchdog Report publisher over the years. >>> Published on September 9, 1999, Page 1EA, Miami Herald, The (FL) CITIZEN ADVOCATE’ KEEPS TABS ON POLITICIANS >>> Published on January 3, 2000, Page 1B, Miami Herald, The (FL) MIAMI-DADE WATCHDOG WILL BE MISSED >>> >>> To read the full section large two page front page story, but without the photos and smart box graphics, go to: `I Go When You Cannot’ – Sun Sentinel 20 Jan 2003 … Sometimes Dan Ricker lives in the dark so others may live in the light. … to his weekly Watchdog Report have finally mailed their checks. … http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2003-01-20/news/0301190341_1_ricker-school-board-president-miami-s-first-cuban-american >>>Watchdog Report publisher named ‘Best Citizen’ 2003 by the Miami New Times  –The publisher would like to thank the weekly alternative paper Miami New Times for bestowing their 2003 Best of Miami, ‘Best Citizen’ award to me and I am honored.  Thank you. To read the full story go to http://www.miaminewtimes.com/issues/2003-05-15/citylife2.html/1/index.html

From the spring of 2003:  U. North Carolina, Chapel Hill:  Southeast U.S. Media Report lists Watchdog Report publisher as leading Florida commentator >>> Selected excerpts from the report on Florida’s media sources. Those who do read the newspaper in Florida have a bevy of options for state government and political coverage. The dominant newspapers in the state are Knight-Ridder’s The Miami Herald (Acquired by The McClatchy Company in 2006) and the Poynter Institute’s St. Petersburg Times. Both papers endorsed Gore in 2000 but split on the 2002 gubernatorial race, with the Herald endorsing Republican incumbent Jeb Bush and the Times backing Democratic challenger Bill McBride. Daniel Ricker of The Miami Herald also writes an influential column as well as an email newsletter called the Watchdog Report that goes out to more than 100,000 subscribers. FEBRUARY 2004 – Florida: Columnists in Abundance –ERIC GAUTSCHI, graduate student, School of Journalism & Mass Communication, UNC-Chapel Hill – D) LEADING COMMENTATORS – Resource Commentator Organization Type Web site –Steve Bousquet St. Petersburg Times Column www.sptimes.com/columns/bousquet.shtml -“First Friday” WPBT TV (Miami) TV Show www.channel2.org/firstfriday/issues.html –Lucy Morgan St. Petersburg Times Column www.sptimes.com/columns/morgan.shtml –Daniel Ricker Miami Herald/Watchdog Report Newsletter >>> Readers who would like to read the complete University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Southeast United States Media Report go to view the complete report or download all the data used in this study. >>> Watchdog Report Editor’s note to the NCU/CH study: The subscriber number referenced is incorrect and applies to readership.

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