Watchdog Report Vol.14 No.20 September 29, 2013 Est.05.05.00 – I go when you cannot – M-D County IG Issue

CONTENTS

Argus Report: Clock is ticking for federal shutdown Tuesday, U.S. House putting down a marker, but who will blink first?

Florida: Supreme Court Justice Lewis takes road trip to Grove to speak with M-D Justice Association, strong advocate for mental health issues and children, had $3.3 million net worth through Apr. 2012 — 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: All-important M-DC IG post has 13 finalists; former IG Mazzella says seasoned “FBI or IRS SAC,” would likely have experience to take on the job that also oversees $4.3 billion public schools district as well

Miami-Dade Public Schools: Supt. Carvalho will be asked to brief M-DC IG Selection Committee on relationship of office at District, any problems, or observations

Public Health Trust: CEO Migoya used county IG as resource when he took over in May 2010, understands the role of watchdog office

City of Miami: Mayor Regalado says Miami getting “more homeless families,” who “have been evicted,” after no job for a couple of months

City of Miami Beach: Mayoral candidate rumble at Tuesday breakfast, Beach voters should attend and meet the candidates running up to Nov. 5 elections

City of Miami Gardens: Healthcare Forum Hosted by Senator Oscar Braynon

City of Coral Gables: Gables Commission passes $151.9 million budget for next year, “third year in a row,” millage rate drops while also making capital expenditure investments, says Mayor Cason

Village of Key Biscayne: PUBLIC WORKS AND WASTE MANAGEMENT DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCES CLOSURE OF THE RICKENBACKER CAUSEWAY CUSTOMER SERVICE OFFICE AND PARKING FACILITY

>>> Other stories around Florida

Broward County: Residents can review they’re county commissioners financial disclosure forms on line

Ft. Lauderdale: Jury Convicts Defendant in $25 Million Fraud Scheme

Margate: Margate City Commissioner Convicted of Federal Bribery Charges

Miramar: Two Florida Residents Plead Guilty to Defrauding and Threatening Spanish-Speaking Consumers

Oakland Park: Gov. Scott taps Nina Di Pietro and Joy A. Tootle to the Board of Medicine.

Palm Beach County: — Residents can review they’re top County Officials financial disclosure forms on line at http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/results.cfm

Monroe County: Florida Keys Marine Life Dealers Plead Guilty to Illegal Trafficking of Marine Life — to read all Monroe County constitutional officers’ financial disclosure forms go to http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/results.cfm Community Events: Good Government Initiative and panel to discuss public corruption – FIU/ Chapman honor’s Ibargüen — Green Apple is a global movement to put all children in schools where they have clean and healthy air to breathe, where energy and resources are — TedX Miami event at Arsht Center

Editorials:  – 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: Organization is fighting corruption in Florida, DOJ says between 2000-2010; 781 officials have been arrested in the state, #1 in the nation

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

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

>>> If you wish to be deleted, just e-mail me with that message and you are free to e-mail this on to friends.

>>> The Watchdog Report publisher would like to thank the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation www.knightfoundation.org for funding by the Knight Foundation with technical support from the Knight Center for International Media http://knight.miami.edu within the University of Miami’s School of Communication www.miami.edu to maintain my webpage. The Watchdog Report webpage is free, has no ads, pops-up and is just the news in a mainstream reporting manner.

>>> Red Alert To All: If you think it is important to have an alternative mainstream news service, I hope you will consider becoming a financial supporter for I do have to live and pay my rent. I also want to thank again all those people and organizations that have supported me and I have been honored by that trust and support of my efforts over the past almost 14 years trying to keep the community, state, nation and world informed of the political and governmental happenings in South Florida. How to support and contribute to the WDR is at the bottom of the report. Thank You

>>> I was on www.wlrn/topicalcurrents on Sept. 17 and to listen to the show go to http://wlrn.org/post/watchdog-report-dade-county-budget-hardball

ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street

>>> Clock is ticking for federal shutdown Tuesday, U.S. House putting down a marker, but who will blink first?

With the looming budget crisis on Oct. 1, which has become a political game of chicken between President Barack Obama and the GOP controlled U. S. House of Representatives who are sticking by their guns and want to see deficit cuts and the defunding of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). The political stage is set for the possibility of the federal government being shut down and only key operations such as the military and other essential operations will continue but the hundreds of thousands of civilian contractors that work in federal government will be told to stay home said one source. The upcoming budget battle has been going on for months with no resolution and Obama last week in a speech made his case again, the House came up with another scenario and while the U.S. Senate, controlled by Democrats passed fiscal budget legislation, it is in the House where Obama’s plan is getting little traction with lawmakers. http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/09/28/20732222-shutdown-odds-spike-as-gop-unveils-new-funding-bill?lite&ocid=msnhp&pos=1 >>> Below is an edited version of the president’s speech Thursday that excludes his remarks about foreign policy that was included in the original speech.

>>> White House press release: “Now, America’s security and leadership don’t just depend on our military strength, or our alliances, or our diplomacy.  First and foremost, America’s strength depends on a strong economy where our middle class is growing and everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead.  So let me say a few words about the situation that’s developed over the past few weeks on Capitol Hill.

Here at home, the United States Congress has two pressing responsibilities:  pass a budget on time, and pay our bills on time.

If Congress chooses not to pass a budget by Monday — the end of the fiscal year — they will shut down the government, along with many vital services that the American people depend on.  The good news is, within the past couple of hours, the United States Senate — Democrats and Republicans — acted responsibly by voting to keep our government open and delivering the services the American people expect.  Now it’s up to Republicans in the House of Representatives to do the same.  I say that because obviously Democrats have a great interest in making sure that these vital services continue to help the American people.

So far, the Republicans in the House of Representatives have refused to move forward.  And here’s the thing — unlike the last time they threatened this course of action, this debate isn’t really about deficits.  In fact, our deficits are falling at the fastest pace that they have in 60 years.  By the end of this year, we will have cut our deficits by more than half since I took office.  So that’s not what this is about.  And in fact, if you’ve been following the discussion, the Republicans in the House don’t even make a pretense that that’s what this is about. Instead, the House Republicans are so concerned with appeasing the tea party that they’ve threatened a government shutdown or worse unless I gut or repeal the Affordable Care Act. I said this yesterday; let me repeat it:  That’s not going to happen.  More than 100 million Americans currently, already have new benefits and protections under the law.  On Tuesday, about 40 million more Americans will be able to finally buy quality, affordable health care, just like anybody else.  Those marketplaces will be open for business on Tuesday no matter what — even if there’s a government shutdown.  That’s a done deal.

As I’ve said before, if Republicans have specific ideas on how to genuinely improve the law, rather than gut it, rather than delay it, rather than repeal it, I’m happy to work with them on that through the normal democratic processes.  But that will not happen under the threat of a shutdown. So over the next three days, House Republicans will have to decide whether to join the Senate and keep the government open, or shut it down just because they can’t get their way on an issue that has nothing to do with the deficit.

I realize that a lot of what’s taking place right now is political grandstanding.  But this grandstanding has real effects on real people.  If the government shuts down on Tuesday, military personnel — including those risking their lives overseas for us right now — will not get paid on time.  Federal loans for rural communities, small business owners, families buying a home will be frozen.  I’m already starting to get letters from people worried that this will have an impact on them directly.  Critical research into life-saving discoveries will be immediately halted.

The federal government has a large role across the country and touches the lives of millions of people, and those people will be harmed.  And even the threat of a shutdown already is probably having a dampening effect on our economy; we saw that the last time these kinds of shenanigans were happening up on Capitol Hill. So to any Republican in Congress who is currently watching, I’d encourage you to think about who you’re hurting. There are probably young people in your office right now who came here to work for you, without much pay, because they believed that public service was noble.  You’re preparing to send them home without a paycheck.  You’ve got families with kids back in your districts who serve their country in the federal government, and now they might have to plan how they’re going to get by if you shut the government down.

Past shutdowns have disrupted the economy, and this shutdown would as well.  It would throw a wrench into the gears of our economy at a time when those gears have gained some traction.  And that’s why many Republican senators and many Republican governors have urged Republicans to knock it off, pass a budget, and move on.  Let’s get this done. This brings me to Congress’s second responsibility.  Once they vote to keep the government open, they also have to vote within the next couple of weeks to allow the Treasury to pay the bills for the money that Congress has already spent.  I want to repeat:  Raising the debt ceiling is simply authorizing the Treasury to pay for what Congress has already authorized.

Failure to meet this responsibility would be far more dangerous than a government shutdown.  It would effectively be an economic shutdown, with impacts not just here, but around the world.  We don’t fully understand what might happen, the dangers involved, because no Congress has ever actually threatened default.  But we know it would have a profound destabilizing effect on the entire economy — on the world economy, because America is the bedrock of world investment.  The dollar is the reserve currency.  The debt that is issued by the Treasury is the foundation for our capital markets.  That’s why you don’t fool with it.

Now, some Republicans have suggested that unless I agree to an even longer list of demands — not just gutting the health care law, but cutting taxes for millionaires, or rolling back rules on big banks and polluters, or other pet projects that they’d like to see and they’ve been trying to get passed over the last couple of years — that they would push the button, throw America into default for the first time in history and risk throwing us back into a recession. Now, I am willing to work with anybody who wants to have a serious conversation about our fiscal future.  I’ve demonstrated that by putting forward serious reforms to tax and entitlement programs that would bring down our long-term deficits.  I have said in the past, and I will continue to say, that I’m willing to make a whole bunch of tough decisions — ones that may not be entirely welcomed by my own party.

But we’re not going to do this under the threat of blowing up the entire economy.  I will not negotiate over Congress’s responsibility to pay the bills that have already been racked up.  Voting for the Treasury to pay America’s bills is not a concession to me.  That’s not doing me a favor.  That’s simply carrying out the solemn responsibilities that come with holding office up there.  I don’t know how I can be more clear about this.  Nobody gets to threaten the full faith and credit of the United States just to extract political concessions.  No one gets to hurt our economy and millions of innocent people just because there are a couple of laws that you do not like.

It has not been done in the past; we’re not going to start doing it now.  I’m not going to start setting a precedent not just for me, but for future Presidents where one chamber in Congress can basically say each time there needs to be a vote to make sure Treasury pays its bills, we’re not going to sign it unless our particular hobbyhorse gets advanced. Imagine if you had a Republican President and a Democratic Speaker, and the Democratic Speaker said, well, we’re not going to pass a debt ceiling unless we raise corporate taxes by 40 percent; or unless we pass background checks on guns; or whatever other list of agenda items Democrats were interested in.  Does anybody actually think that we would be hearing from Republicans that that was acceptable behavior?

That’s not how our constitutional system is designed.  We are not going to do it.  The American people have worked too hard to recover from a bunch of crises — several of them now over the last couple of years inflicted by some of the same folks in Congress that we’re talking about now — to see extremists in Congress cause another crisis. And keep in mind, by the way, this whole thing has to do with keeping the government open for a few months.  The continuing resolution — the bill that’s designed to avert a government shutdown — basically just funds the government for another couple months so we could be doing this all over again.  I’m sure the American people are thrilled about that. And that’s why we’ve got to break this cycle.  My message to Congress is this:  Do not shut down the government.  Do not shut down the economy.  Pass a budget on time.  Pay our bills on time.  Refocus on the everyday concerns of the American people.

There will be differences between Democrats and Republicans.  We can have all kinds of conversations about how to resolve those differences.  There will be areas where we can work together.  There will be areas where we disagree.  But do not threaten to burn the house down simply because you haven’t gotten 100 percent of your way.  That’s not how our democracy is supposed to work. Every day that this goes on is another day that we’re not focused on doing what we need to be focused on, which is rebuilding this great country of ours so that our middle class is growing and everybody has got opportunity if they’re willing to work hard. That’s what I’m focused on.  That’s what Congress should be focused on as well. Thank you very much, everybody.

>> Press release: Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) on Thursday blasted President Obama for refusing to negotiate with Republicans on the issue of raising the debt ceiling.

“The American people sent us to Washington to work together for our great nation, and it is unacceptable for one side to refuse to negotiate,” Ros-Lehtinen said on the House floor. “Where’s the president in all of this? The bully pulpit can just as equally be used for constructive leadership as it can be used for political showmanship.” Ros-Lehtinen was reacting to Obama’s recent comment that he would not negotiate with House Republicans on the debt ceiling. That prompted House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to reply, “Well I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t work that way.”

As the House and Senate looked increasingly unsure about how to handle the spending bill or the debt ceiling, Ros-Lehtinen called on all sides to work together to find some way to keep the government open after Sept. 30. “It’s time for all parties to work together in a genuine, bipartisan and adult manner to avoid a government shutdown,” she said. “A shutdown is not some abstract exercise. It has real consequences for our communities and our families.”

>>> Press release: Zogby’s Report Card: President has done a ‘lousy job’ selling Obamacare

Pollster John Zogby reports in our weekly White House report card that President Obama is sliding because he has done a poor job explaining Obamacare to the public, though he looks good compared to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. “Sen. Ted Cruz stood for over 21 hours this week to make a point, and by week’s end the point has been lost and only President Obama remains standing. Senator Cruz even managed to alienate most of his fellow Republican caucus in the Senate. Tough talk about a possible government shutdown remains but for now it is idle chatter.

Please click on the link below to view this week’s grade:
http://zogbyanalytics.com/news/336-zogby-s-report-card-president-has-done-a-lousy-job-selling-obamacare

>>> U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer Announces Hiring Grants for Law Enforcement and School Safety Officers ~ Funds Will Hire School Resource Officers and Critical Law Enforcement Positions

Press release: United States Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), today announced funding awards for the Southern District of Florida.  The Southern District of Florida has been awarded grants totaling $8,118,029 to the following Police Departments and/or their respective municipalities for the hiring of police officers: Ft. Pierce Police Department, Hendry County Sheriff’s Department, Key West Police Department, City of Lauderdale Lakes, Metropolitan Dade County, Miami Gardens Police Department, City of Miami, Miami-Dade County Public Schools Police Department, the City of Opa-Locka, St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, and the City of West Palm Beach.

U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Keeping our children safe when they go to school is of critical importance and I am pleased to join the Attorney General and the COPS Office in announcing these grants which will help provide our communities with the resources needed to accomplish this vital mission.” “In the wake of past tragedies, it’s clear that we need to be willing to take all possible steps to ensure that our kids are safe when they go to school,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “These critical investments represent the Justice Department’s latest effort to strengthen key law enforcement capabilities, and to provide communities with the resources they need to protect our young people. Especially in a time of increased challenges and limited budgets, our top priority must always be the safety and well-being of our children.”

Overall the COPS Office funded awards to 263 cities and counties, aimed at creating 937 law enforcement positions. More than $125 million will be awarded nationally, including nearly $45 million to fund 356 new school resource officer positions. “The COPS Office is pleased to assist local law enforcement agencies throughout the country address their most critical public safety issues,” said Joshua Ederheimer, Acting Director of the COPS Office. “Funding from this year’s program will allow many cities and counties to apply new sworn personnel to issues related to violent crime, property crime, and school safety.”

The COPS Hiring Program offers grants to state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to hire or rehire community policing officers. The program provides the salary and benefits for officer and deputy hires for three years. Grantees for the 2013 hiring program were selected based on their fiscal needs, local crime rates, and their community policing plans. There was an additional focus this year on agencies requesting assistance in developing school safety programs that would include the hiring of a school resource officer. School resource officer positions funded by the COPS Office are sworn law enforcement positions that work within a school district or facility, interacting directly with school administrators and students.

The COPS Office is a federal agency responsible for advancing community policing nationwide.  Since 1995, COPS has awarded over $14 billion to advance community policing, including grants awarded to more than 13,000 state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to fund the hiring and redeployment of approximately 125,000 officers and provide a variety of knowledge resource products including publications, training, and technical assistance. For the entire list of grantees and additional information about the 2013 COPS Hiring Program, visit the COPS website at www.cops.usdoj.gov.

>>> Medical Clinic Owners and Patient Recruiters Charged in Miami for Role in $8 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme

Several patient recruiters, including two medical clinic owners, have been arrested in connection with a health care fraud scheme involving defunct home health care company Flores Home Health Care Inc. (Flores Home Health). 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; Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Steinbach of the FBI’s Miami Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Christopher Dennis of the HHS Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Office of Investigations Miami Office made the announcement…

From approximately October 2009 through approximately June 2012, Flores Home Health was paid approximately $8 million by Medicare for allegedly fraudulent claims for home health services. The case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.  This case is being prosecuted by A. Brendan Stewart of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. Since their inception in March 2007, Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,500 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $5 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are 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. An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.  A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted. 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.

>>> El Nuevo Herald editor Garcia says sayonara, one of the top investigative reporters, and he will be missed

Manny Garcia, the editor of El Nuevo Herald said sayonara to the daily Spanish paper and is leaving the Miami Herald Media Company after 23 years of being an award winning investigative reporter and in senior editor positions. Garcia in the late 1990s was an investigative force out in the field ranging from The Wheel of Fortune series concerning the concessions and construction costs at Miami International Airport (MIA), or detailing widespread voter fraud in a1997 Miami mayoral race, to suspect land deals at the Miami-Dade Schools Board. Garcia along with investigative reporter Tom Dubocq and others were as close to the Calvary as the community could come after governments at a variety of levels were seeing elected leaders being charged and going to jail, and Garcia and his historical knowledge of the community will be missed.

Further, when the Watchdog Report had a weekly featured news column for four years with The Miami Herald www.miamiherald.com . Garcia was one of my editors over the years, and he had a sharp eye for seeing what the essence of the story was about in the final editing process. He is going to another paper in Florida and the Watchdog Report gives him a Tip of the Hat for a job well done and he was a public force for good and someone to be reckoned with, and he will be missed after his many years with the paper.

FLORIDA

>>> Supreme Court Justice Lewis takes road trip to Grove to speak with M-D Justice Association, strong advocate for mental health issues and children, had $3.3 million net worth through Apr. 2012

Florida Supreme Court Justice R. Fred Lewis was in Coconut Grove on Friday speaking to the Miami-Dade Justice Association and the jurist gave a thoughtful yet rousing speech to the attorneys attending the event. Lewis in a discussion with the Watchdog Report after the lunch said when I asked about the funding for the courts around the state, after years of legislative funding cuts. He said it has gotten a little better, he is happy with his own compensation of $155,000 but he was concerned that there was a gap in salaries with judicial staff workers, versus those working in the legislature.  In addition, he believed these judicial state employees should be paid more in parity to the legislative staffers. And when it came to the courts overall funding, he philosophically said it could be more, but it also could be worse, he considered.

Lewis, a University of Miami Law School graduate was tapped to the bench in 1998 by then Gov. Lawton Chiles has been a proponent of mitigating mental health issues and the judicial system, is also a strong supporter of early childhood development issues and he was one of the three Justices up for a retention vote this past November. The seasoned jurist with the other Supreme Court Justices Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince got caught in a partisan cross fire that tried to politicize the Court, because of some rulings that some political figures disagreed with, and both sides used money to make they’re point. However, Lewis prevailed and he was retained when he got 67 percent of the statewide vote to keep him on the seven-member Florida Supreme Court, and Quince and Pariente were retained as well when they both got 68 percent of the vote.

What do we know about his finances?

Lewis through Apr. 2012 had a net worth of $3.3 million and he listed $300,000 in household goods. His total assets are $3.41 million, his liabilities are $105,000, and his income for the year was $155,800. For more on Judge Lewis got to http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/justices/lewis.shtml

Lewis

>>> Child Readiness maven Lawrence pumps up crowd and need for quality early development programs since “85 % of child’s brain developed” by three years old

David Lawrence Jr., one of the leading advocates in Florida for early childhood readiness and the critical nature of the child’s life development in the first early years of growth was the featured speaker at an event Friday. Further, he was the point of the spear for the creation of The Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade back in 2002.  When Miami-Dade County voters approved the organization’s creation that included an ability to levy a .5 mill in property taxes and the Trust currently has a around $103 million budget, and he was the featured speaker at the Coconut Grove Chamber Luncheon at the Ritz-Carleton. Lawrence a newspaperman for 35 years in his prior life, retired as the Miami Herald’s Publisher back in 1999 and he then took up this crusade for the children of the state and for future generations to come.

Lawrence believes the greatest threat to Florida and the nation is to have a population that is not educated and healthy, and he has been sounding the alarm that it is in the front end of life that society gets the biggest return on its education buck. He noted that “30 percent of kids start way behind,” and that “teachers in Kindergarten can tell who will make it in the world,” and that is why getting robust childhood development programs early are so important, especially since “85 percent of brain growth occurs by age three,” yet subsequently, 40 percent of third graders cannot read at level,” he said.

Moreover, when it comes to the Miami-Dade Public Schools District and its roughly 350,000 students, Lawrence said Supt. Alberto Carvalho has done a great job, but Carvalho would also say we “have a long way to go.” In addition, when it comes to the availability of high quality early childcare, where “two-thirds of women work outside of homes.” He said when it comes to daycare for many of the working mothers it is more often no more than “warehousing and storage,” of the kids.  Lawrence called on the attendees to get involved, mentor young people and to vote, for while many people may feel powerless. They are powerless if they are not participating as an electorate and he asked people to be informed about educational issues around the Florida for in today’s world in many cases. Public education has become “triage” where the less intellectually developed student ultimately is left behind and will never fully fulfill they’re potential, and this lack of educational performance is a threat to nation’s security. Where Americans have to compete with countries like Korea and Iceland that have a chidhood education obsessed population, and these countries higher student grades and achievements reflect that early education attention.

>>> 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

>>> All important M-DC IG post has 13 finalists, former IG Mazzella says seasoned FBI or IRS SAC would likely have experience to take on the job that also oversees $4.3 billion public schools district as well

Christopher Mazzella, the first Miami-Dade County Inspector General (IG) told the IG General Selection Committee Wednesday that the office is a critical component in the fight to reduce waste, fraud, abuse, malfeasance and public corruption since “some ten percent” in government funding is thought to be wasted that way. Mazzella, a former FBI Special Agent and attorney started the office in 1998 after County Commissioners by ordinance created the IG after multiple scandals rocked county hall back then and had a County Commissioner James Burke going to prison, and Miami International Airport (MIA) being a gold mine for connected insiders at county hall.

The office was the idea of now state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R- Miami a county commissioner at the time, and he was the point of the spear in this effort, along with other commissioners to create this new oversight office. However, the commission failed to extend this IG’s oversight to the county’s 34 municipalities. The cities in the county were excluded at the time because the Miami-Dade League of Cities representatives argued to county commissioners there was no corruption in the municipalities, (Something history has shown was clearly not the case), and corruption was only occurring at the County and the Commission bought into that politically charged argument at the time, Mazzella said.

Mazzella told the Committee chaired by Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle that the job had a different perspective from when he was with the Bureau. He noted at the federal agency you are “looking in” but in this case, “you are looking out.” And you need to know the lobbyist, the politicians involved and a host of other things he said. While also managing a large office made up of special agent investigators, auditors, staff attorneys and others. He noted the office through his tenure has tried to correct a problem as well as bringing the issues to light, which may also include criminal prosecution. He said the tone of the office in the early days was set when his first hire, a “secretary,” was arrested for stealing and while the office is now engrained into the government structure. There was a time early on when he sat at his desk and wondered at the magnitude of the job, and the tens of thousands on people involved in county government, and its many enterprises and departments, that included MIA, PortMiami, Water and Sewer, Transit, Public Housing, Elections and Jackson Health System, to name just a few of the entities under the IG watch. An oversight responsibility that includes how any of the now $6.3 billion in county money is spent from general revenues or capital monies, to the $2.9 billion GOB passed by county voters in 2004 for some 400 capital projects around Dade.

Mazzella, who retired in the spring, said the search committee should look for someone with a ability to come to a community and learn how it operates, the key players and suggested someone like a federal “Special-Agent-in-Charge,” of a past federal field office like with the FBI, IRS, or other big federal agency would have the capacity to take on the daunting job, fraught with local politics, and watching over a County government with such a large annual budget, along with a IG Interlocal agreement to provide oversight to the $4.3 billion public schools district.

And whoever takes on this task Mazzella said is going to find there needs to be a “lot of oversight,” of the thousands of county contracts, especially the “long term contracts” because that is “a battlefield well known,” said the veteran IG. In addition, he believed the next IG should have three qualities besides an impeccable reputation and strong sense of ethics. He suggested they be “arrogant,” (able to stick by the conclusions despite possible personally being sued “by bullies”), “elegant,” (“deliver a message, and to make an audit part of the solution), and to be “smart,” with a cool temperament he thought after his years in the office he told the Selection Committee. And not being a publicity hound was one further attribution in the IG that would assist them in the job.

What about Deputy Mayor Alina Hudak?

The IG Committee will also be speaking with Deputy Mayor Alina Hudak, who has had a role in almost every major department of the county over the decades and she will be asked about her experiences with the IG office. She was the interim county manager after Manager George Burgess resigned after then Mayor Carlos Alvarez was recalled by county voters back in April of 2011 and her input could be very valuable to the committee, that is trying to get a real feel for the office and how it interacts with the labyrinth that is county government. And she now is a deputy mayor in the Carlos Gimenez administration.


Gimenez

Hudak

Mazzella

>>> Who are the 13 finalists?

The thirteen IG applicants to be interviewed are Thomas Raferty, Joseph DeMarco, Mary Cagle, and Michael Murawski, on Oct. 4, and Christopher Clark, Teresa Gulotta Powers, Timothy Donavan, Donald Oswald and Neftai Carrasquillo are scheduled on Oct. 7 and Richard Lober, Jody Weis, Carter Olson and James Wright will be interviewed on Oct. 16.

>>> The most recent Miami-Dade County IG, Sept. 25 memo on the investigation of certain county contracts and charges associated with the work being performed. >>> http://www.miamidadeig.org/Reports2013/PTPconcreteFINAL%20IG11.15.pdf

>>> And to review all the Miami-Dade County Commissioners financial disclosure forms for the year go to http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/results.cfm?org_id=214439&suborg_id=233972&Mode=By_SubOrg >>> Past budget hearing on Sept.19 and to see the meeting go to Watch the second budget hearing

>>> GMCVB press release: January – August 2013 – DEMAND FOR TRAVEL TO GREATER MIAMI & THE BEACHES REMAINS STRONG JANUARY – AUGUST 2013 RANKING #4 IN REVENUE PER AVAILABLE ROOM (REVPAR), #4 IN AVERAGE DAILY ROOM RATE (ADR) AND #4 IN HOTEL ROOM OCCUPANCY AMONG THE TOP 25 U.S. MARKETS

Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR)
Market Rate % Change vs. 2012
1. New York $199.66 6.6%
2. Oahu Island $178.56 14.6%
3. San Francisco $151.09 11.8%
4. Miami $144.60 +11.4%
5. Boston $117.23 2.9%
Average Daily Room Rate (ADR)
Market Rate % Change vs. 2012
1. New York $238.18 4.0%
2. Oahu Island $209.53 15.2%
3. San Francisco $181.78 8.6%
4. Miami $181.69 +8.9%
5. Boston $159.64 2.0%
Average Daily Occupancy
Market % Occupancy % Change vs. 2012
1. Oahu Island 85.2% -0.6%
2. New York 83.8% 2.5%
3. San Francisco 83.1% 3.0%
4. Miami 79.6% +2.3%
5. Los Angeles 78.4% 1.8%

MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS

>>> Supt. Carvalho will be asked to brief M-DC IG Selection Committee on relationship of office at District, any problems, or observations

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho is going to be asked to speak to the Miami-Dade County Inspector General Selection Committee in the future, since the County’s IG also provides that oversight to the nation’s fourth largest school district, that recently got a $1.2 billion bond, passed by county voters in November and the money is expected to be spent over the next six to seven years. The public schools district in 2008 signed an Interlocal agreement giving the county’s IG this responsibility, the contract was renewed this year, and there are about seven people assigned by the IG’s office to handle the school district with a $4.3 billion budget.

Historically, Carvalho has not had any problem with the IG office but that was not the case with past superintendents when the District hired their own IG, former FBI SAC Herbert Cousins. However, after a few years, he was let go and the county IG office picked up the baton, and the office is charged with rooting out waste, fraud, abuse and public corruption. And to read the IG’s most recent annual report on the public schools district go to http://www.miamidadeig.org/MDCPS2013/SBAnnualReportFY12.13.pdf

PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST

>>> CEO Migoya used county IG as resource when he took over in May 2010, understands the role of Watchdog office

Carlos Migoya, the CEO and President of Jackson Health System (JHS) took a road trip on Wednesday and spoke in front of the Miami-Dade County’s Inspector General Search Committee headed up by Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and he told the body that he welcomed the role of the IG and worked well with then IG Christopher Mazzella, who is now retired and the committee is searching for his replacement. Migoya said when he took over in May of 2010 that he worked with the IG’s office at JHS on a host of past contracts and how to fine tune them and get the maximum benefit to the struggling health trust that had lost hundreds of millions in past years, while giving well over $600 million in charity and uncompensated care.

Further, JHS kicks in money to help fund the IG staff that at the beginning did not have an office on the sprawling campus until around 2003. When thanks to the Watchdog Report stories at the time, a few PHT trustees and the Miami-Dade County Commission Chair Barbara Carey-Shuler. The IG got its new digs on site, and the PHT board meetings for the first time were to be televised. In addition, at the time, the Watchdog Report asked Carey-Shuler about the issue and the holdup and she said. “Yeah, why should we [the county commission] have all the fun, the Trust needs to have an IG office and the meetings should be televised,” she told me back then and both happened.

>>> CEO Migoya going for the big bucks in effort to raise funds to promote passage of $830 million bond to update hospital infrastructure sorely needed

JHS President Carlos Migoya last week sent out a email blast on his personal account asking contributions to the PAC created to facilitate the passage of a needed $830 million GOB for a host of upgrades and renovations at the ageing Jackson Health System anchor hospital and its two satellite facilities in north and south Dade. The fundraising event includes a host of top drawer people in the community will be held on Star Island at the home of Stuart Miller, and the initial donation requested for attendees is $2,500. Though he notes the organization will accept any amount in the effort to get the message out leading up to the countywide vote on Nov. 5, expected to be a low turnout election that also has around four municipal elections including in Miami, Miami Beach and Homestead if a runoff is necessary holding elections. >>> Here is the blast email sent on Migoya’s private email account.

>>> Dear Friends, if you haven’t seen or heard from me lately, it’s because my team and I have been putting so much time and energy into transforming Jackson. One of our critical strategies is to give Jackson the world-class facilities that will finally measure up to its world-class medical care. Voters in Miami-Dade will have a chance on Nov. 5 to jump-start that process by approving an $830 million bond program. It will allow us to renovate our emergency rooms, operating rooms and patient rooms. It will let us build a cutting-edge new rehabilitation hospital, an off-campus children’s outpatient facility and up to a dozen urgent-care clinics across our neighborhoods. It will purchase the latest medical equipment and computer technology. Most importantly, it will empower a reinvigorated Jackson to thrive in tomorrow’s healthcare environment.

Getting our message out requires the serious commitment of people who love this community – that includes you. I hope you’ll join Stuart Miller and I at a special event at 6 p.m. on October 9th in Stuart’s home on Star Island. This will be a chance to talk in person about our vision for Jackson, our strategy for getting there and the importance of our success. This is important for everyone who relies on Jackson, whether for routine care or best-in-class specialists.

I hope you will RSVP to join us by contacting Brian Goldmeier at brian.goldmeier@gmail.com. For security reasons, all guests must be pre-registered, so please contact Brian today. There’s still time to join the host committee for the event, too. For more information or to contribute online, please visit the campaign’s website: Citizens for a Healthy Miami-Dade, at: http://www.healthymiamidade.com/ We only have five weeks left to change the future of healthcare in South Florida. This is about our community, our Jackson and our future, wrote Migoya.

CITY OF MIAMI

>>> Mayor Regalado says Miami getting more homeless families, who “have been evicted,” after no job for a couple of months

Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado coming off the final city budget hearing Thursday night attended the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust Board meeting Friday morning and told members of the 22 member board that while there was a up tick in the homeless people numbers in Downtown Miami, this is “something we should not be ashamed of [because of the tough economic times] and there are more homeless on the streets,” he said. “These times are difficult for families” and the “City is picking up more homeless families,” every day and these are not “chronic” homeless, “but families who have been evicted” from their homes or rental property. He said for many people “You just need to be unemployed for two months and you are homeless.” He also noted there has been a rise in incidents where homeless people attacked public servants, or the homeless themselves were assaulted, and that is of concern, and will eventually hit the media and become another area of residents concerns, said the mayor up for reelection in November.

In the past, the Homeless Trust along with the city have increased resources and the number of beds for the homeless in the downtown core, and that act was supposed to quell some of the criticism of the Trust by the Miami Downtown Development Authority (DDA) that has been critical of the Trust and the number of homeless on the downtown streets. But the Trust started in the early 1990s when over 8,000 people were living on Miami’s streets and shanty structures dotted the city’s urban core and parks has totally changed that pattern. And the August two day homeless census count found countywide there were only 848 people living on the street, and within the Miami city limits that number was 582 people on the streets during this last count, and roughly “520 [of these] homeless” are in the “downtown,” said Trust Chair Ron Book.

Book said he and Trust staff know the chronic homeless are a “tough population,” and without the Homeless Trust’s efforts there would be now “1,500” people living on the street, or under the underpasses, and along with other trustees. He believed it was important for the trust to create a media package that had correct numbers and future Trust plans to dispel some leaders and residents concerns about what the Trust is doing and what it has achieved over the years in reducing the homeless population countywide. He also noted that new funding for the downtown core was finite, and that after this new funding, that “was the end of it.” In addition, The Trust chair said as far as the criticism from the DDA and from its chair Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who has been very critical of the Trust’s methods. And the Trust’s desire to have the homeless go through a continuum of care trying to keep them permanently off the streets, versus giving them a room for the night and then letting them out the next day back to the street, that Sarnoff is suggesting. Book wanted “to see the impact” of this new funding first on the homeless population and he believed the past negotiations “were done in good faith,” with the DDA and the organization’s continued carping was why he was so annoyed with the continued “DDA criticism.”

Moreover, Book thought the new funding for some 132 new beds that were “100 percent [dedicated] to the city of Miami,” and was a “disproportionate” share of the Trust funding would be enough because any further funding would have to come from cuts in some other homeless programs around the county he said in the future. Moreover, while many critics believe that there “is $13 million” in the Trust reserves. In fact, there is only “$7 million in restricted reserves,” said Trust staff. And with continued federal sequestration cuts looming after October, the U.S. HUD funding for the homeless, around $29 million now to the Trust, will be further cut in the millions, and why any new spending levels will demand “we have to cut” other program funding. And Book bristled when he hears a “lot of people talk about the morality and humanity,” of addressing the homeless problem which he and the large board are acutely aware of, and what the issues are and how important it is for all residents in Miami-Dade. Further, Book said he had spoken “in ad nauseam,” with DDA members, Sarnoff, and his staff over the past months on the matter, and thought there had been some resolution to the matter. Because he said he was not prepared to “drive a truck through the [Homeless Trust 5-year plan] we have,” he said. A plan that wants to end homelessness countywide in the years ahead.

Regalado

>>> Two Miami-area residents were indicted in connection with their alleged participation in a $190 million Medicare fraud scheme.

Press release: 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; Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Steinbach of the FBI’s Miami Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Christopher B. Dennis of the HHS Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Office of Investigations Miami Office made the announcement after the indictment was unsealed.  Mayelin Santoyo, 28, and Jose Martin Olivares, 36, were each charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and to receive illegal health care kickbacks, and two counts of receiving health care kickbacks.  Each charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison upon conviction.

According to the indictment, the scheme that Santoyo and Olivares allegedly participated in lasted from approximately February 2006 to October 2010.  The scheme was orchestrated by the owners and operators of American Therapeutic Corporation (ATC) and its management company, Medlink Professional Management Group Inc. (Medlink).  ATC and Medlink were Florida corporations headquartered in Miami. ATC operated purported partial hospitalization programs (PHPs), a form of intensive treatment for severe mental illness, in seven different locations throughout South Florida and Orlando.  Both corporations have been defunct since their owners were arrested in October 2010…

The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. The case is being investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.  The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Anne P. McNamara and Robert A. Zink of the Fraud Section. >>> Since their inception in March 2007, Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,500 defendants who collectively have falsely billed the Medicare program for more than $5 billion.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are 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.

CITY OF MIAMI GARDENS

>>> Healthcare Forum Hosted by Senator Oscar Braynon

Miami Gardens – Determined to connect residents of his district with affordable insurance options under the new federal health care law, state Senator Oscar Braynon (D-Miami Gardens) will be hosting a Healthcare Forum on October 3. The event will include participants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Florida Association of Community Health Centers, Families USA, the Epilepsy Foundation Enroll America, Planned Parenthood and SEIU 1199 to help residents learn more about the new health care law and the Health Insurance Marketplace. Several local community health center representatives will also be on hand to set up appointments for individuals who want to enroll. The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held on Thursday, October 3, 2013, from 5:30pm until 7:30 pm at the Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Complex, 3000 NW 199th Street, in Miami Gardens.

CITY OF MIAMI BEACH

>>> Mayoral candidate rumble at Tuesday breakfast, Beach voters should attend and meet the candidates running up to Nov. 5 election

There is a mayoral debate on Tuesday morning and residents should consider attending the event and to hear for themselves what the candidates stand for and where they want to take the tony Beach in the years ahead. Over the last year, the Miami Beach Commission has been a sitcom when it comes to decorum and name-calling, multiple arrests of city employees, and with the big issue the redevelopment of the Miami Beach Convention Center, which has now been put on hold by a local court. Whomever, is the mayor following Mayor Matti Herrera Bower, now running for a commission seat again. They will have their hands full and the electorate needs to get informed about these candidates with the election looming Nov. 5.

>>> Press release: Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club Candidates Debates, 2013 Election City of Miami Beach Meeting Time: 8:30 AM Meeting Place: David’s One, corner of Collins Ave. and 11th Street > For more go to http://mbtmbc.com/

Candidates Oct. 1 Mayor: Michael Gongora, Raphael Herman, David P. Hundley, Philip Levine and Steve Berke.

CITY OF CORAL GABLES

>>> Gables Commission passes $151.9 million budget for next year, “third year in a row” millage rate drops while also making capital expenditure investments

The Mayor and Coral Gables Commissioners on Tuesday passed a $151.9 million budget for 2013-2014 and that is down from the previous year’s $180.7 million budget but that one included $30.3 million in capital expenditures that are not in this new budget. The Watchdog Report contacted Mayor Jim Cason and the commissioners asking for any comment on the budget and Cason responded. “For the third year in a row we have lowered our millage rate, while increasing our spending on needed capital improvement projects, and maintaining our outstanding police, fire and garbage services.  We have the third lowest millage rate of full-service cities in Miami Dade.  Only three citizens appeared at the first budget hearing, all praising aspects of the budget.  Our second hearing had only one resident speaking, to praise investments set for Kings Bay landscaping, wrote Cason reelected this past April. To read the budget go to http://coralgables.com/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=11109

VILLAGE OF KEY BISCAYNE

>>> PUBLIC WORKS AND WASTE MANAGEMENT DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCES CLOSURE OF THE RICKENBACKER CAUSEWAY CUSTOMER SERVICE OFFICE AND PARKING FACILITY

Press release: In preparation for demolition and construction work on the West Bridge of the Rickenbacker Causeway, the toll plaza customer service office and parking facility will close on Wednesday, October 2, 2013 until completion of the work on the West Bridge. Motorists and cyclists will no longer be able to access the toll plaza parking lot from either direction, as this area will be used for equipment staging associated with the West Bridge rehabilitation project.

All toll plaza business will be conducted at the new Rickenbacker Causeway Customer Service Center which will be housed in the Causeway Maintenance Facility located on Arthur Lamb Jr. Road (also known as Sewer Beach Road).  The facility sits directly across the street from the Miami Seaquarium.   The Customer Service Center will be open Monday through Friday from

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. except County-observed holidays. For more information on the Customer Service Center, please contact PWWM’s Causeways Division at 305-854-2468, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

>>> OTHER STORIES AROUND FLORIDA

BROWARD COUNTY

>>> Residents can review they’re county commissioners financial disclosure forms on line

Residents of Broward County can now review they’re county commissioners financial disclosure forms on line and to see the inner financial workings of these elected officials go to  http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/results.cfm

>>> 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.

CITY OF FT. LAUDERDALE

>>> Jury Convicts Defendant in $25 Million Fraud Scheme
Press release: Defendant Claimed to be a Fortune Teller and Spiritual Adviser

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Michael J. De Palma, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, (IRS-CI), Frank Adderly, Chief, Fort Lauderdale Police Department, and Paula Reid, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, Miami Field Office, announce that a Fort Lauderdale federal jury found Rose Marks, 62, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida and New York, New York, guilty of all counts charged in connection with a $25 million fraud scheme.

More specifically, after a month-long trial, the jury convicted Rose Marks of all 14 counts in an indictment which charged conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud (18 U.S.C. ‘ 1349), mail fraud (18 U.S.C. ‘ 1341), wire fraud (18 U.S.C. ‘ 1343), conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering (18 U.S.C. ‘ 1956 and 1957), and filing false income tax returns (26 U.S.C. ‘ 7206). At sentencing, the defendant faces a maximum statutory term of 20 years in prison for each of the mail, wire fraud and conspiracy counts, 10 years for the money laundering counts and three years in prison for each of the tax counts, as well as mandatory restitution and possible fines… Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI, the Fort Lauderdale Police Department and U.S. Secret Service. This case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Roger Stefin and Laurence Bardfeld. 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 MARGATE

>>> Margate City Commissioner Convicted of Federal Bribery Charges

Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announce that David McLean, 50, a suspended City Commissioner for the city of Margate and board member on the Margate Community Redevelopment Agency (MCRA) Board was convicted by a Ft. Lauderdale federal jury on September 24, 2013, of federal bribery charges. McLean was convicted on counts two and three of a three-count indictment charging him with bribery in a program receiving federal funds, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 666. McLean was acquitted of the charges in Count one.

According to the allegations in the indictment and the evidence presented at trial, on November 2, 2012, McLean accepted $3,000 in cash in exchange for his influence in connection with a $25,000 MCRA construction grant (Count 2). And on January 30, 2013, McLean accepted another $2,000 in cash in exchange for his influence in connection with the $25,000 MCRA construction grant. The defendant faces a maximum statutory term of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and restitution as to each of the two counts. Sentencing is scheduled for December 6, 2013, before U.S. District Judge James Cohn in Ft. Lauderdale. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Karadbil. 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 MIRAMAR

>>> Two Florida Residents Plead Guilty to Defrauding and Threatening Spanish-Speaking Consumers

Press release: Two individuals charged with running a telemarketing operation that defrauded Spanish-speaking consumers pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, the Department of Justice and U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) announced.  Daniel Carrasco, 54, and Federico Martin Gioja, 45, both of Miramar, Fla., pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Miami to charges alleging they owned and operated Florida companies that used a telemarketing sales room in Argentina to consistently lie to consumers about products they would receive and to threaten consequences of failure to pay for shipments.

Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, stated:  “Fraud, of any kind, is unacceptable.  Fraud by threat and intimidation is particularly troublesome because it targets the perceived, but oftentimes real, vulnerabilities of those preyed upon.  In this case, the defendants targeted Spanish-speaking consumers and falsely threatened them with arrest and deportation when the consumers refused delivery for products they had not ordered.  Such tactics are intolerable.  Together with the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, Consumer Protection Branch, we stand united to stem such fraud.”

“The Department of Justice is committed to protecting consumers from fraud,” said Stuart F. Delery, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division.  “As these guilty pleas demonstrate, we will be particularly vigilant towards schemes that target specific populations, and we will not be deterred by those who seek to evade detection by changing the name of their fraudulent companies.”

Carrasco’s and Gioja’s telemarketers promoted products such as vitamins, lotions and English-language training products.  They also promised buyers would receive valuable gifts such as expensive watches and perfumes, gift cards and medical assistance and insurance.  However, the companies frequently did not deliver products ordered by consumers.  Since the companies did not have many of the products they promised to send to consumers, consumers received other products instead.  Then, after consumers refused delivery of the companies’ shipments, the Argentinian phone room telemarketers called and falsely threatened consumers with arrest, deportation or fines on their gas and electric bills. As part of their guilty pleas, Carrasco and Gioja admitted they routinely changed the names of the companies under which they did business to evade consumer complaints, regulators and law enforcement.  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 incorporated new companies and started the same illegal practices again.

Also in pleading guilty, Carrasco and Gioja admitted their telemarketers falsely represented to consumers that they were affiliated with Spanish-language television networks. The alleged fraud first came to light when the Spanish language network Univision informed the USPIS they believed a company was involved in a fraud scheme in which it misrepresented its affiliation with the network.  Subsequently, the Postal Inspection Service investigated the case, submitted the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint and arrested the defendants. “The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is committed to unraveling operations that scheme to defraud innocent people,” said Ronald Verrochio, U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge in Miami.  “Our postal inspectors aggressively investigate mail fraud scams such as this one, with a concerted effort to protect consumers.”

Carrasco and Gioja originally were charged by criminal complaint and arrested on June 26, 2013.  Both defendants were later indicted on July 25, 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 and obtained a preliminary injunction barring further lies to consumers and freezing the assets of Carrasco, Gioja, Tasso and companies under their control. 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 was prosecuted by Assistant Director Richard Goldberg with the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Abraham of the Southern District of Florida. 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.

OAKLAND PARK

>>> Gov. Scott taps Nina Di Pietro and Joy A. Tootle to the Board of Medicine.

Press release: Di Pietro, 32, of Oakland Park, is an attorney with the Florida Litigation Law Firm. Previously, she worked for the Kreiss Law Firm and the Broward County Public Defender’s Office. Di Pietro received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and her law degree from Nova Southeastern University. She succeeds Donald Mullins and is appointed for a term beginning September 23, 2013, and ending October 31, 2016.

Tootle, 41, of Gainesville, is an adjunct professor with the Kaplan University, School of Legal Studies. Previously, she served as an assistant general counsel and executive director with the Department of Health, and an assistant attorney general with the Attorney General’s Office. Tootle received her bachelor’s and law degree from Florida State University. She succeeds Bradley Levine and is appointed for a term beginning September 23, 2013, and ending October 31, 2016. >>> The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

MONROE COUNTY

>>> Florida Keys Marine Life Dealers Plead Guilty to Illegal Trafficking of Marine Life

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, announce that Eric P. Pedersen, 51, of Grassy Key, Florida, and Serdar Ercan, 42, formerly of Grassy Key, entered guilty pleas in Key West today for conspiring to harvest, transport, and sell marine living resources knowing the marine life were taken, possessed, transported, sold, and intended to be sold in violation of the laws and regulations of the State of Florida, contrary to the federal Lacey Act, Title 16, United States Code, Sections 3372(a)(2)(A), and 3373(d)(1) and (2), all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. Pedersen and Ercan each face a possible sentence of up to five years in prison, a period of supervised release of up to three years, and a criminal fine of up to $250,000 in the case. United States District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez set sentencing for the two defendants for December 4, 2013 in Key West, beginning at 10:00 a.m.

According to the Indictment and Joint Factual Statements submitted to the Court, the defendants confessed that during the period extending from October 2010 through approximately February 2011, they engaged in a conspiracy to harvest and transport Live Rock and attached invertebrates, specifically Ricordia florida, sea fans (Gorgonia species), bonnethead sharks (Sphyma tiburo), lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris), and nurse sharks (Ginglymostoma cirratum), wildlife from the Florida Keys to buyers throughout the United States and foreign countries. Their activities were conducted without the required licenses and permits mandated by Florida law, and in some instances exceeded permissible bag limits on some of the species of marine life.

According to statements in the record, the harvesting activity occurred within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, other federal Wildlife Refuges, and State waters. Pursuant to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Protection Act and the National Marine Sanctuary Act, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration issued final regulations in January 1997 to govern the conduct of activities within the sanctuary.  Title 15, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 922.163(a) (2) prohibits the removal of, injury to, or possession of coral or live rock. Section 922.163(a)(2)(I) prohibits moving, removing, taking, harvesting, damaging, disturbing, breaking, cutting, or otherwise injuring any living or dead coral or coral formation, or attempting any of these activities. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement.  Mr. Ferrer also extended his thanks to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission who assisted in the case. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas Watts-FitzGerald and Antonia Barnes.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.

>>> And to read all the other Monroe County constitutional officers’ financial disclosure forms go to http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/results.cfm

COMMUNITY EVENTS

The Chapman Leadership Honors

Recognizing the 2013 Transcendent Leader Alberto Ibargüen
President and CEO, The Knight Foundation, October 3, 2013
6:30 p.m. Graham Center Ballrooms, Modesto A. Maidique Campus Florida International University — To Register to attend visit: go.fiu.edu/ChapmanHonors Or contact the Center for Leadership at 305.348.5323

>>>  The Good Government Initiative at the University of Miami Invites you to a A Special Community Conversation – Public Corruption — When Will It Stop? Thursday, October 17, 2013, Northern Trust, 700 Brickell Ave, Miami, FL 33131 -11:30 a.m. Registration, 12 noon Lunch 12:30 p.m. Conversation. In light of recent events in Miami-Dade County, join us as we discuss public corruption and the roles of the enforcing agencies. With Wifredo Ferrer,  U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida;  Joseph Centorino, Executive Director, Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust; Michael Putney, Senior Political Reporter, WPLG TV; and Howard Rosen, Deputy Chief, Public Corruption Unit, State Attorney’s Office.  Moderated by Katy Sorenson, President and CEO, The Good Government Initiative. >>> Ticket Prices: $35 Individual Ticket, $30 GGI Member* $50 GGI Contributor (Individual Ticket + $15 donation) $500 Table of 10 (Sponsor Table) $20 Concerned Citizen *made a donation of at least $100 this year Register Now!  Don’t wait — space is limited! Your payment via PayPal in advance is your confirmation to attend the event. Please click on “register now” button above for registration and payment through PayPal (no account necessary to use PayPal). To pay by check please send to: 1320 South Dixie Highway, Suite 911,  Coral Gables, FL 33146 no later than Wednesday, Oct. 9th.

>>> 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!

LETTERS

>>> Organization fighting public corruption in Florida, 781-busted officials from 2000- 2010 DOJ study finds, #1 in nation

In case you missed it, the New York Times called Florida “a Hothouse for Corruption” following arrests of three of our state’s mayors on corruption-related charges in one month. (read more) While our state policymakers passed several historic ethics reform measures earlier this year, more government transparency and accountability steps are needed for Florida to reduce corruption risk. Read proposed anti-corruption solutions from Integrity Florida including continuing meaningful ethics reform, eliminating cronyism, open budgets, open contracts and open data here. Florida is making great strides in making vendor contracts and procurement records more open.  Click here to watch video of Integrity Florida testimony this week about open contracts before the Florida House starting at 41:27.

Integrity Florida also testified about ethics reform results and recommended next steps this week before the ethics committees of the Florida Senate and Florida House.  Watch our testimony before the House starting at 32:34 here  and our Senate testimony starting at 32:55 here. We are encouraged by the bipartisan commitments from our state lawmakers who plan to pursue additional legislation for the 2014 session based on our research to advance the vision of making government in Florida the most open, ethical, responsive and accountable in the world. Contact Us: Integrity Florida | (850) 321-0432 | dan@integrityfl.org | IntegrityFlorida.org  Integrity Florida is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute and government watchdog whose mission is to promote integrity in government and expose public corruption.

>>> 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

>>> Watchdog Report supporters – $2,000 a year

BADIA SPICES    www.badiaspices.com

RONALD HALL

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY www.miamidade.gov

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

>>> Watchdog Report supporters – $1,000 a year

AKERMAN SENTERFITT   www.akerman.com

BERKOWITZ POLLACK BRANT Advisors and Accountants www.bpbcpa.com

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

Daniel A. Ricker

Publisher & Editor

Watchdog Report www.watchdogreport.net

Est. 05.05.00

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 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.

General subscriber’s names will not be published in the Report. To subscribe to the Watchdog Report please use the form below as a subscription invoice.

********************************************************************

Watchdog Report Supporters Invoice-Form

NOTE: Invoice is for Yearly supporter/sponsorship Rates: Thank you.

Supporting Sponsors $5,000

Sustaining Sponsors $2,000

Corporate Sponsors $1,000 (All levels above will be listed in the report with web-site link if desired)

Large Business Supporters $500

Small Business Supporters $250

Individual Supporter $150

Student Supporter $ 75

Any amount $

Name & Address

Please make checks payable to: Daniel A. Ricker

Send to: 3109 Grand Avenue, #125

Miami, FL 33133 To contact the Publisher please e-mail watchdogreport1@earthlink.net


 
 
 

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