Watchdog Report Vol.15 No.5 June 15, 2014 EST.05.05.00 – I go when you cannot – Celebrating 15 YEARS
Argus Report: PAST WDR Jul.1, 2009: Former Asst. State Atty. Centorino says no law for “felony stupid,” but Dolan says, paper’s job to “write about things that are stupid,” when public dollars involved
Florida: Gov. Scott vetoes $165 million in $77.7 billion budget, quite a contrast from his first year budget vetoes — 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:– Is conflict developing over 2.9 billion GOB funds going to other commission districts? – New Frost Science Museum pulls the plug on construction manager company; will $275 million project need more county money like Arsht Center in 2004?
Miami-Dade County Public School: Any big changes in the finance department? CFO Richard Hines says sayonara after masterful job of getting school’s reserves up from $5 million back in 2008, dealing with district bond payments not for”the faint of heart”
Public Health Trust: TITLE RESOLUTION APPOINTING TWO (2) VOTING TRUSTEES TO THE PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST BOARD OF TRUSTEES FOR THE 2014-2016 TERM, BCC will vote on candidates Jun.17 at commission meeting
City of Miami: Seaplanes taking off in Biscayne Bay again could begin by “summer 2016,” says Mayor Regalado
Village of Coconut Grove: International Drug Money Laundering Conviction
City of Miami Beach: Miami Beach Physician Sentenced in Medicare Fraud Scheme
>>> Other stories around Florida
Broward County: Broward County Resident Sentenced in Treasury Check Cashing and Stolen Identity Scheme
Palm Beach County: Ringleader of Identity Theft Ring Sentenced to 121 Months in Prison
— Residents can review they’re top County Officials financial disclosure forms on line at http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/results.cfmo
Glades County: Governor Rick Scott announced the appointment of Crystal Drake as a County Commissioner of Glades County.
Sarasota County: : Governor Rick Scott taps Bridget Ziegler as a School Board Member of Sarasota County.
Alachua County: Governor Rick Scott names Alachua County Judge David P. Kreider to the Eighth Circuit Court.
Monroe County: PAST WDR MAY 2007: Small but colorful county has its share of colorful and erstwhile political leaders, but with only 85,000 residents not a big player. – To read all Monroe County constitutional officers’ financial disclosure forms go to http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/results.cfm
Community Events: Florida League of Women Voters reminds voters’ primary elections only 100 days away
Editorials: County Commissioners missing a real opportunity to drill into upcoming budget, more commissioners need to attend these extensive budget department hearings being given by county budget staff in Mayor Gimenez’s administration– 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
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.)
>>> 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 pops-up and is just the news in a mainstream reporting manner.
>>> May you and your family have a Happy and reflective Father’s Day and while I am not a father. My Dad Arthur J. Ricker, M.D. made me the man I am today and it is on days like today I feel his spirit of fair play and the dignity of all people, and I think of him often.
ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Streets
>>> PAST WDR Jul.1, 2009: Asst. State Atty. Centorino says there is no law for “felony stupid,” but Herald reporter Dolan says, paper’s job to “write about things that are stupid,” when public dollars involved.
A local ethics commission conference held at the University of Miami Oct. 16 was well attended and panelists raised a number of important ethical, conflict of interest, and the role of the media questions. The event called Ethics and the Media Conference was hosted by the Miami-Dade County Ethics and Public Trust Commission and the University of Miami’s School of Communication and around 170 people attended the almost all day affair. In one session, a panel discussed the appearance of impropriety, news coverage of politicians. The panelists included former county Commissioner Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, Assistant State Attorney (Now director of the ethics commission) Joe Centorino, Jack Dolan, an investigative reporter for The Miami Herald www.miamiherald.com ,Jan Jacobowitz, the director of ethics and professional responsibility at the UM law school, and the discussion was moderated by ethics commission Director Robert Meyers.
Centorino, who heads up the public corruption unit at the state attorney’s office, said that many things that might look bad, or may be boneheaded may not be illegal and there is no law called “felony stupid or misdemeanor stupid,” he told the 77 people attending. He noted elected leaders are called “Honorable like judges” and “one hopes such people that occupy” elected office believe they have a responsibility, “owe something to the public, and cannot detract from that public respect,” he thought. The attorney noted he was speaking for himself, not the state attorney’s office headed up by Katherine Fernandez Rundle and when it comes to media coverage “it is a double edge sword.” He also said the press sometimes “makes a mountain out of a mole hill,” though admitted he “supported the First Amendment and the media for the most part.”
Diaz de la Portilla, the first Cuban American to chair the Miami-Dade County commission in the 1990s and a state senate candidate in 2010 is trying to capture his brother’s current seat in the state body in 2010. He said he has been a politician and lawyer, the “two classes of people the public does not like,” though joked, “Now it is bankers,” feeling the public’s wrath. He noted even “the appearance of impropriety” can be a problem and elected leaders should realize they “borrow these positions” and leaders must remain “humble, they serve at the pleasure of voters while making sure they trust you.” The former commissioner elected at the tender age of 30 said when he first began “I was an idealist” and wanted to do “great and noble things” and it was important to “elect better people” to public office. He believed when it came to conflicts of interest, a “lot of this is common sense” and one should not “give the impression or reality” of a possible conflict without at least “explaining your decision.”
Dolan said part of the general circulation paper’s job is write about “things that are stupid,” especially when it comes to how public money is being spent during these tough budget times. The veteran investigative reporter that has also covered Iraq said “h… yes” when it came to shining a light on salaries and raises recently given by County Mayor Carlos Alvarez. Dolan said “politicians and bureaucrats don’t like the newspaper” but “the role we fill is crucial.” He also discussed an up-coming story concerning the banking of $5 million of discretionary funds by county commissioners that could allow “some 50 jobs” to have stayed in county government, he said.
Jacobowitz, referencing a recent Republican Congressman yelling “liar” at President Barack Obama during a Joint Session of Congress speech discussed what the consequences should be for such an act. She also discussed the issue of when to pull the out of line trigger asking “when does it come to conduct unbecoming” that in many cases might be subjective.
>>> PAST WDR: What about Gov. Crist’s call for a public corruption Grand Jury?
Around South Florida, the issue of ethics, conflict of interest and public corruption is on the front burner with the recent arrests of multiple public officials in Broward that has caused Gov. Charlie Crist to ask the Florida Supreme Court to convene a statewide Grand Jury to examine why so many officials are falling by the wayside. The governor when he announced this request said he is blown away with how many officials he has suspended and removed from office. He noted “over 30 people” have been removed since he took office Jan. 2007 and it is running at almost one a month. Florida over a decade had over 800 officials removed from office and it was the highest number in the nation for the same period. Further, while Medicare and Medicaid and mortgage fraud in South Florida has suddenly gotten a lot of national media attention. The Watchdog Report since 2002 has written extensively over the years about this raging problem that resulted in $1.1 billion in Medicare Fraud during a 13-month period about two-years ago. I asked then U.S. Attorney R. Alex Acosta about the volume of this type of fraud and he admitted we are “the graduate school for fraud” where people perfect their scams.
>>> New Miami Herald Publisher Villoch is bullish on new high tech Doral newsroom, bringing news to readers in a variety of formats
Miami Herald Publisher Alexandra Villoch Wednesday, in an upbeat speech to the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon, she told attendees that while the newspaper industry has gone through significant changes. At the Miami Herald she is being upbeat with readership on the uptick and she is bullish on the paper’s new building in the City of Doral that is a state of the art modern newsroom. Further, the paper prints a host of high-end magazines and The New York Times for that paper’s local readers and the large paper’s presses are being kept very busy, she said. The publishing executive noted the newsroom has over 200 reporters, photographers and editors and the paper will continue to cover and investigate and fulfill its historic journalistic role of South Florida and The Americas. Editor’s note: Somehow I lost my notes on her talk, but I believe I covered her comments fairly accurately, but it was written from memory.
And since the paper has won 20 Pulitzer Prizes, check out these photos shot by photographer Pat Farrell’s who won a Pulitzer documenting the devastation and horror of the Haitian earthquake a few years ago http://www.miamiherald.com/projects/2014/documenting-the-world
She also noted the paper has more local news firepower since El Neuvo Herald is part of the reporting team. A website on the company states there are about 800 employees and the paper was first founded in 1903 and the net readership with the webpage included is roughly 526,859 and while the paper over the years has been reviled in county hall, its investigative stories have made the community a better place and long live The Miamian Herald for it plays a key role informing the community of South Florida. And its rich demographic fabric of peoples from around the world.
>>> National profile of the publisher in The Tribune papers Jan. 2003 & UNCCH 2004 media study that cites Watchdog Report having 100,000 readers weekly
To read a national story run in the Tribune papers on my life and how this all began done by Orlando Sentinel featured reporter Maya Bell go to: To read the section’s large 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 >>> And to read a University of North Carolina Chapel Hill study on the media in the Southeast United States that mentions the Watchdog Report with 100,000 readers weekly, done back in 2004 and to read the Southern Media Study go to: 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 … – – Cached.
>>> 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, twice in The Miami Herald, and the Orlando Sentinel which ran as a nationwide story on me in the Tribune papers on Jan. 2003 and UNC Chapel Hill naming 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 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.
>>> See what was said about the Watchdog Report in the Miami New Times 2003 — Best of Miami — BEST CITIZEN — Daniel A. Ricker
Three years ago, we said Ricker was our Best Gadfly. Given his dedication and perseverance, this new honor, Best Citizen, is well deserved. Ricker goes to 2,500 mind-melting meetings annually, from the Public Health Trust’s purchasing subcommittee to the Efficiency and Competition Commission to the Alliance for Human Services’ nominating council to the school board’s audit committee. Sometimes he’s the only public observer. Object: to be the Public Citizen for all those out there who can’t attend, and to connect and serve as an information bridge among the special-interest-dominated Miami-Dade governmental institutions that seem so problematic and indifferent to the democratic process.
This month his e-mail newsletter, The Watchdog Report, celebrates its (15th) anniversary. In a former life, Ricker made a handsome living as an international salesman of heart pacemakers. As the hard-working publisher of Watchdog Report, though, — his weekly compendium of meeting summaries, analysis, interviews, and commentary has become essential reading for anyone involved in public affairs. What his written work may lack in polish, it more than makes up for in comprehensiveness. So raise a toast to the man whose official slogan says it all: “A community education resource — I go when you cannot!
>>>> Gov. Scott vetoes $165 million in $77.7 billion budget, quite a contrast from his first year budget vetoes
Gov. Rick Scott vetoed some local bills in the state’s $77.7 billion budget but on the plus side given this is an election year, Miami-Dade made out fairly well in the scheme of things, but the governor now up for reelection in November needed to throw some red meat projects to the ashes to appease his Tea Party supporters who helped put him in the governor’s mansion in 2010 at the height of the political movement that swept in U. S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. Scott signed a $77 billion state budget but he vetoed $1.65 million in legislative approved projects and that number is considerable less than in his first year of office and he wanted to show the state’s voters cuts in government programs were still on the chopping block , but with a tough reelection likely against former Gov. Charlie Crist in the wings and Scott raising up to $100 million for his campaign to the Crist campaign working to raise some serious cash itself and Crist is the current Democratic Party front runner so far in raising money, but Crist who took a hit in local polls after he said he would go to Cuba has another issues to deal with, a new book out by former Florida Republican Chair Jim Greer, now in prison, and to read a review go to http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2014-06-10/news/os-jim-greer-book-florida-republican-20140610_1_jim-greer-charlie-crist-george-lemieux and for more on Scott’s vetoes go to http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/e043399584e34de8817240afa8b034fb/FL–Florida-Budget
And with only 100 days until the August primary the battle and attack ads against Crist will get more intense and may even include a few run by Democratic Party challenger former state Sen. Nan Rich, D- Weston who is trailing Crist in statewide polls. But is pushing her own candidacy. http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/04/30/4088964/crist-leads-gov-scott-by-10-points.html
>>>> Are local gambling interests helping fund judicial race of former state legislator Diaz de la Portilla running to be on the bench?
Some familiar political faces are running to be a Local Circuit Court Judge and former state representative and school board member Renier Diaz de la Portilla is running against Veronica Diaz, a former City of Miami Attorney – here are her campaign reports :http://election.dos.state.fl.us/cgi-bin/TreSel.exe and she has $19,915 in her political war chest for the county wide race for judicial seat 70 and her opponent Diaz e la Portilla has $42,551 for his countywide campaign. To see who has contributed to the candidate go to http://election.dos.state.fl.us/cgi-bin/TreFin.exe
Diaz de la Portilla
Anything unusual in who has contributed?
For the first time in a long time contributions from gambling interests are flowing into a judicial race and Resort World Omni and Resort World Miami have all contributed $1, 0000. to the campaign and the Haggard Law Firm kicked in $1,0000. The former school board member has worked as a contract lobbyist for Jackson Health System and he comes from a politically connected family that includes two brothers going to the state Senate over the years, but critics question his legal experience since he has also been prominent lobbyist and most of the time he has been involved with the political process and not practicing law legal critics observe. However, judicial races are many times determined by candidates name recognition and his family’s name is well known in the political landscape.
>>> 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.
>>>> Is conflict developing over 2.9 billion GOB funds going to other commission districts
Ramifications of redistricting of the 13 commission districts in 2012 are rippling through the county’s 2.9 billion GOB program passed by county voters in 2004 . The problem is some approved projects in one District are now in another commissioner’s and Commissioner Javier Souto bristled because of the ramifications and the money he considered solely for his district use. However, the discussion on the matter got heated and the problem will likely raise its head on the dais in the future.
>>> Finance Committee Chair Bovo wishes more commissioners would attend budget hearings with the clock ticking running up to the public budget hearings in Sept. and Mayor Gimenez is facing a $200 million hole in the upcoming budget that must be filled. And Bovo and Commissioner Juan Zapata had extensive discussssions on how Convention and Development Tourist (CDT) taxes are used and how these monies get allocated and will ultimately be paying for the debt on the new Florida Marlins Stadium that after financing could cost around $2.3 billion with the bulk of the bond payments in the later years and why Zapata does not want to drop this fiscal nightmare on future commissioners and wants a better plan in place of how these CDT funds are spent and future obligations for the funds, and could also be used for such projects as Baylink, a proposed mass transit project from Miami to Miami Beach.
County Commissioner Estephan Bovo has been holding budget hearings for months since he is chair of the Finance Committee and there is a $200 million gap in next year’s budget that begins Oct. 1 and the lack of funding has segments of the community in a uproar when it comes to cuts in the library District, or the animal Services budgets and in cultural programs.
Bovo is going through all the 25 county department budgets and he wished his other 12 commissioners attended the meetings so they could give they’re input early to the administration of Mayor Carlos Gimenez what the body’s budget priorities are and what other commissioners think, he said Monday.
Further, when it comes to the new Miami Science Museum being constructed in Museum Park and its management contractor being dismissed recently. No one was talking at Miami-Dade County about the new wrinkle in the project that got a $275 million slug of public GOP money from the county and the Watchdog Report asked County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Cultural Affairs Director Michael Spring and both said they were aware of some issues, but “no more money” was coming from the county they both suggested, since the County has a $200 million budget hole to plug and when it comes to finding spare money as in many past years, “there is no more magic,” in the county’s budget since some $4 billion has been cut out of the county budget since around 2008, said one long time experienced budget expert at the county. And the reason the Watchdog Report is so interested in what is going on over at the Frost Museum and if there will be a need for money to finish the impressive, but complex facility, it is because there is now no more money and while the Museum has raised some $80 million on its own. It is unknown if the organization can fill in any fiscal gap. And here is the Museum’s website that talks about a new management company being selected and Spring told the Watchdog Report that the “project will not become a PACT II ,” he assured me last week. http://www.frostscience.org/blog/ http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/05/16/4121231/new-contractor-named-for-frost.html http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/24/miami-science-museum-breaks-ground_n_1298730.html
>>>> Commissioner Suarez weighs in on MLS soccer stadium for Beckham in Old Orange Bowl area in Little Havana, but some suggest area is spiritually tainted
Commissioner Xavier Suarez has jumped into the battle of where a new MLS stadium funded by David Beckham should go now that the FEC site next to the AAAA arena is dead in the water at the city of Miami, that owns the slip and has given it a thumbs down after park advocates and residents in condominiums were in a uproar. Suarez in his petition believes the stadium should be located near the old Orange Bowl site and an effort should be to get the University of Miami to consider plying there again. He believes it would stimulate the local area and would probable make e sense to voters who have to approve the facilities. However, Beckham has said he wants a signature site and his representatives have said in the past the proximity of the controversial Marlins Stadium taints thee site with the community and it I unknown I the Beckham investment team ill buy into this new location. and Suarez is a frequent critic of County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and it is unknown if this is a way for the former municipal mayor to get more involved with the discussions with MLS and also allowing him to upgrade his public persona on this controversial community conversation on a possible basis of running against Gimenez in 2016 for mayor. Below is the petition unedited from Suarez that came in this week.
Please consider signing this online petition, and passing along to your contacts.
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/562/748/048/support-beckham-soccer-stadium-at-former-orange-bowl-site-and-bring-um-football-back-home/ SUPPORT BECKHAM SOCCER STADIUM AT FORMER ORANGE BOWL SITE, AND BRING UM FOOTBALL BACK HOME! There’s a heated debate underway in our community about the location of a potential soccer stadium for David Beckham’s new team. It’s an important discussion with many points of view, but one clear choice is emerging. By selecting the former site of the Orange Bowl, our community can accomplish many things at once, including the creation of a place where futbol and football can live side-by-side! We believe in the following principles:
We DO want professional soccer in Miami and believe David Beckham will make a great owner for our community. We should roll out the red carpet for this global icon, just not at the expense of other key constituencies.
We’re a community of Canes fans, with tremendous pride in our football team. That said, we’re tired of driving an hour to catch a game and miss the days when we could root for the home team in the heart of our community. University of Miami has expressed interest in the potential to play home games on the very land it built an iconic history of success. We believe in fiscal restraint, and this site would save the taxpayers up to $125 million in impact fees due to already-existing infrastructure, parking, water and power base. We envision a booming entertainment central combining two beautiful stadiums, symbiotically connected and attracting amazing performances from across the globe.
Please sign this petition to encourage Beckham to choose the former Orange Bowl site, support something that finally makes sense, and bring a winner back to our community.
Thank you in advance for your support,”
Xavier L. Suarez
Miami-Dade County Commissioner
What about Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez?
The County Commissioner’s son Francis has also entered the fray and he was interviewed about where the new soccer stadium should go, and is offended that the FEC site is no longer in play and to listen to his comments go toThis Week on Issues – 6/13 & 6/15 Friday, June 13 @ 7:30 PM Sunday, June 15 @ 12:00 PM – Interview with City of Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez:One thing officials seem to agree on is wanting a soccer stadium in Miami, but exactly where in Miami is a different story. The second proposed site at the FEC boat slip “is off the table”, according to City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado. Commissioner Francis Suarez joins us on the program to discuss why he feels offended by this decision. Guest: Francis Suarez, City of Miami Commission, District 4
>>>> Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust will have three member search committee looking for new CEO after Fernandez says sayonara and goes to academia
A three member selection committee will be convened to review applicants to replace the retiring Director of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust Hilda Fernandez who is going to a academic position but has played a key role in the Trust over the years and getting a suitable replacement is seen as critical to maintain the success of the Trust that for years has been a national model an free of any major scandals with the public money.
|GMCVB Press release: TOP STORY – RECORD MIAMI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT ARRIVALS FOR APRIL 2014|
|International passenger arrivals for the month of April 2014 at Miami International Airport (MIA) increased by 6.6% and domestic passenger arrivals increased by 6.3%. Total passenger arrivals at Miami International Airport (MIA) increased by 6.4% in the month of April 2014.|
|Record MIA Passenger Arrivals|
|April 2014||April 2013||% Change vs. 2013|
|April 2014||April 2013||% Change vs. 2013|
|April 2014||April 2013||% Change vs. 2013|
PAST WDR: It has happened, the Patricia and Phillip Frost $275 million new museum of Science at Museum Park in Bicentennial Park has run into trouble http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/05/16/4121231/new-contractor-named-for-frost.html and the Watchdog Report has been concerned about this type of possibility of problems. Since the first public dollars allocated in a countywide bond were allocated to the project, and includes some $165 million of this public bond money, and another $100 million of the GOB was dedicated to the new Perez Art Museum nearby to the science museum and that opened on time and within budget.
However, the public and press was not able to attend the Science Museum’s board meeting’s to get a heads up on any issues that might be developing early on, and that includes the County’s Inspector General being barred from the proceedings. And even worse was Mayor Carlos Gimenez only learned last week that there were some problems with the construction company’s management with the facility half complete. Gillian Thomas the Museum CEO has always been the public face of the project, and it is concerning that these difficulties did not come to light earlier.
Since a significant amount of public money is involved and Gimenez needs to get on top of this issue, for it has the making of not only being delayed, but perhaps forcing the need for more public funds. Something requested at past internal budget meetings and had Thomas always seeking more public funds and she always assured people at the meeting that everything was going well back then. However, it is now clear that was not the case and the community and County may end up holding the fiscal bag since the facility must be completed to avoid another large hole, similar to what happened with the Arsht Center back in 2004, where the County and City of Miami pumped a couple of hundred million dollars more into the project to complete the $472 million twin hall Arts Center.
Further, Gillian gets prickly when she is challenged in anyway and when she first came to the museum around 2003. She attended a county commission meeting and in a presentation essentially demanded the County Commissioners approve a separate bond request for the organization, which commissioners balked at and suggested any funding be included in the $2.9 billion GOB that was being discussed by the body and when voters passed that issuance back in 2004.
The Science Museum got the new financing that it wanted to build this new facility, but much of it since then has been on a wing and a prayer concerning what was going on over there at the construction site. Gillian says it was a difficult decision but the sudden nature of the issue should give County Commissioners pause and what was surprising is at the County’s Cultural Affairs Council over the past years which I cover fairly often. None of these construction problems were ever brought up and the Watchdog Report was surprised at this Miami Herald story for there had not been a hint of such a major issue with the management construction company, Suffolk Construction in the public media domain prior to this story.
Further, the Company Suffolk Construction, is widely respected and while a number of is also building the new Juvenile Justice Courthouse next door to county hall and that project, while having some change order issues is going better, and it remains to be seen what the final cost will be to complete the Science Museum. And readers should stay tuned and see how this construction issue finally pans out.
>>> Former Miami-Dade Department of Public Works Employee Pleads Guilty to Accepting $150,000 in Bribes from Contractor
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), announce that Garfield Perry, 67, of North Miami Beach, pled guilty to a one-count information charging him with conspiring to accept bribes in connection with programs receiving federal funds and to commit extortion, all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. Sentencing is scheduled for July 29, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga.
According to the stipulated statement of facts executed by the parties, from at least 2002 through 2009, Perry was the Roadway Lighting Coordinator for the Department of Public Works in Miami-Dade County. In this capacity, Perry was responsible for, among other things, overseeing the maintenance of more than 22,000 street lights in the county’s roadway system. The information charges that from 2006 through October 2009, Perry accepted bribe payments from a Manufacturer’s Representative totaling approximately $150,000. Perry regularly directed the Manufacturer’s Representative to make the bribe payments by paying down debts owed by Perry, including payments on two home mortgages, one car loan, two home insurance policies, two car insurance policies, and eight credit cards. Perry accepted as bribe payments from the Manufacturer’s Representative, cruise vacations, domestic and international airline tickets, payments for hotels and theatre tickets. Perry regularly directed the Manufacturer’s Representative to make bribe payments by issuing checks payable to third parties, and, after the checks were cashed, determined the manner in which the proceeds were to be split. Perry falsely certified to Miami-Dade County that he was not engaged in any outside employment and did not receive any gratuities. In return for the bribe payments, Perry helped to ensure that lighting products used in Public Works’ projects were represented by the Manufacturer’s Representative. At sentencing, Perry faces a possible maximum statutory sentence of up to five years in prison. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and IRS-CI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey N. Kaplan. 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.
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
>>>> Any big changes in the finance department? CFO Richard Hines says sayonara after masterful job of getting school’s reserves up from $5 million back in 2008
Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools District took a victory lap at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Goals Conference this Monday and it was a year ago at this conference last year that he announced his intended push for a $1.2 billion GOB to update and bring technology to the fourth largest district in the nation. He noted that “some 140,000 interactive” white boards are being installed in all of the district’s 400 schools and said “it is something big,” for everyone in the community. “and is so Miami,” said William D.Talbert,III, the CEO of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau at the Goals Conference. Carvalho also told the Watchdog Report he was doing a “Massive administrative restructuring,” and the school board approved his plan that should save $5 million on Wednesday. http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/06/11/4172218/carvalho-miami-dade-schools-restructuring.html#
>>>> Any big changes in the finance department? CFO Hines says sayonara after masterful job of getting school’s reserves up from $5 million back in 2008
Judith Marte is taking over retiring Chief Financial Officer Richard Hines, P.h.D. in the CFO pressure cooker job and Hines since his return in 2008 has been a magician in getting the district back on strong footing that back in 2008 had the district with only $5 million in reserves an given the $4.2 billion budget could have been wiped out in a rounding area, but Hines handled the pressure well along with Carvalho and a number of bonds were restructured under his tenure trying to reduce district bond payments and the amounts owed on the bonds “are not for the feint” of heart Hines has said in the past and the Watchdog Report gives him a Tip Of The Hat for a job well done in a very tough fiscal environment and he will be missed.
PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST
>>>>Upcoming BCC legislation: TITLE RESOLUTION APPOINTING TWO (2) VOTING TRUSTEES TO THE PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST BOARD OF TRUSTEES FOR THE 2014-2016 TERM, Board will vote on candidates Jun.17 at BCC commission meeting.
BODY,WHEREAS, in accordance with Section 25A-3(d) of the Code of Miami-Dade County, the Public Health Trust Nominating Council convened for the purpose of determining its recommendation of nominees to be submitted to the Board of County Commissioners for appointment as voting trustees to the Public Health Trust Board of Trustees; and WHEREAS, there are a total of two (2) vacancies, to wit: a vacancy created by the May 31, 2014 expiration of the term of incumbent Trustee, Irene Lipof; and a vacancy created by the resignation of former Trustee Stephen S. Nuell; and WHEREAS, Section 25A-3(d) further provides that the Nominating Council shall submit to the Commission a list of nominees containing a total number of names equal to the number of vacancies plus the names of two (2) additional nominees and that the Commission shall select and appoint the voting trustees from that list; and
WHEREAS, as reflected in the attached memorandum and, additionally, in the Nominating Council’s order of preference, the list of nominees is: (1) PETER L. BERMONT; (2) IRENE LIPOF; (3) RALPH G. PATINO; and (4) DANIEL A. KAVANAUGH. NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA, that this Board hereby appoints as voting trustees to the Board of Trustees of the Public Health Trust the following two (2) persons from the list of nominees submitted by the Public Health Trust Nominating Council: ___________________________________ and ______________________________. Each Trustee hereby appointed shall have a term expiring on May 31, 2016.
PAST WDR on new PHT applicants: The candidates all interviewed well and they all said they could be independent in they’re votes and the candidates selected will have a “learning curve,” said Lipof a current PHT board member and all of them committed to the some 30 hours of time that is necessary to serve on the board. Joe Ariola noted in the interviews that this is a volunteer post and he asked “what is your motivation because it is a “tough job” where “no one thanks you,” for your service, “but if anything goes wrong,” the appointment “kicks you in the butt,” the PHT board’s vice chairman observed. And being a PHT trustee means you are in the public eye and given the critical juncture the Jackson Health System is at now that voters approved an $830 million bond for major infrastructure improvements and while another oversight board to watch over this new money is going to be created. The PHT board is where the real work and decisions are made and these applicants all bring the anticipated skills, and lack of conflict of interests and temperament that is expected to be needed in the coming years. The question of having enough time to effectively serve on the JHS PHT Is of important because in the past, some applicants have said it was not a problem, but then their attendance was spotty and this is a big time high profile position and you are a public figure since you essentially represent the County Commission and fall under the watchful eye of the county’s Inspector General’s Office. The Public Health Trust Nominating Council chose four candidates for the two slots open on the seven member PHT board. And the selected candidates that must be approved by the county commission by a vote sometime in June.
CITY OF MIAMI
>>> Seaplanes taking off in Biscayne Bay again could begin by “summer 2016,” says Mayor Regalado
At the Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority (MSEA) meeting Friday afternoon, the board members voted to approve a deal hammered out by the city administration that will begin the flying of sea planes from a Watson Island seaplane base. ThePlanes used to fly from Watson Island like in the days of Pappy Chalks in 1917 prior to a crash Dec. 2005 in Biscayne Bay and the old company tanked and the new organization has been negotiating with the city and Mayor Tomas Regalado for months on the matter after FAA approval had been granted for the seaplane’s operations. The new final agreement with this new company will be vetted by three members of the MESA board that are attorneys, and the contract will be voted on again. But for the moment seaplanes could be coming back to Miami and the flying seaplanes were an iconic part of the Bay prior to the crash and the expected rent revenues range from around $200,000. But The idea of getting the sea planes flying again after the Caulks Crash has been a hot topic but has not occurred because of extensive litigation between the city and the old seaplane’s former owner but the courts have finally settled the dispute and staff said some $2,00000000. would be coming to the city’s MESA budget>>> For more on the old Chaulks international airlines go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chalk%27s_International_Airlines
>>>> Miami Press release: City of Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority Unanimously Approves World Class International Seaplane Facility on Watson Island
What happened at the city Commisssion meeting Thursday?
Miami Commissioner Frank Carollo continued to ague that if a deal with the city is dormant for over four years, yet approved by the city’s voters. The city should have the option to review these past deals like the one with Flagstone on Watson Island that while approved by voter in 2001 has yet to materialize, yet the value of the prime waterfront site has skyrocketed and critics believe the city could receive even more revenues if the deal was updated and included the current real estate market many believe.
However, Carollo has run into resistance on the commissssion for variety of reasons and Commissioner Francis Suarez says he is just hesitant to put such an item to the voters and have it part of the Miami “Charter” something he considers sacred and Suarez thought maybe an commission ordinance might fulfill the same result he suggested.
What did Chair Gort say about a possible Charter Review Committee?
Commission Chair Wilfred Gort also saw the merit of a charter review committee perhaps in the future and Suarez may end up taking the lead in that review and a thorough review of the City’s Charter is well over due since so many of them in the past had political undertones and possible political payback like back in the late 1990s when Gort chaired the last Charter Review that resulted in a potential new election of the then current Mayor Joe Carollo. That Gort told the media “was not a coup” on the commission’s part.
>>>> Former City of Miami Police Sergeant Pleads Guilty to Criminal Contempt
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Manuel Orosa, Chief, City of Miami Police Department (MPD), announce that former City of Miami Police Sergeant Raul Iglesias, 41, Miami, pled guilty to one count of criminal contempt for violating a United States District Court protective order in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 401(3). In 2010, the FBI and City of Miami Police Department Internal Affairs Unit initiated an investigation of Iglesias after receiving an anonymous letter that indicated Iglesias was stealing money and drugs from his arrests. At the time, Iglesias was assigned to the Crime Suppression Unit (CSU) which targeted neighborhoods plagued with narcotics trafficking and violent crime. It was later discovered that CSU detectives in Iglesias’ unit wrote the anonymous letter. On July 19, 2012, a federal grand jury returned a nine-count indictment against Iglesias, charging him with conspiracy, violation of civil rights, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, obstruction of justice, and making false statements. As part of the discovery in that case, the government turned over to the defense a number of consensual recordings made by cooperating CSU detectives with Iglesias. In order to protect the cooperating CSU detectives and other witnesses from intimidation and harassment, the government moved for a protective order to prevent the dissemination of the discovery materials outside of the defense team which was later granted by the Court. Following trial, a federal jury found Iglesias guilty on eight of the nine counts in the indictment. Iglesias was later sentenced to 48 months in prison, and was ordered to surrender to the Federal Bureau of Prison on April 26, 2013, to commence serving his sentence. However, on April 24, 2013, less than two days before he was required to surrender to begin serving his sentence, Iglesias posted protected audio recordings of the undercover conversations made by cooperating CSU detectives on YouTube and LEOAFFAIRS, an internet message board which catered to law enforcement. Both the YouTube and LEOAFFAIRS postings were titled “Miami Mice” and were posted by Iglesias using the screen name of “Chivas Regal.” After the protected undercover recordings became public, various unknown individuals using fictitious screen names posted threatening or derogatory comments against the cooperating CSU detectives on the LEOAFFAIRS message board. The CSU detectives also found derogatory notes on their vehicles and in their mail boxes at work, and officers stopped responding to their calls to provide backup. Sentencing is scheduled for September 5, 2014, at 10:30 a.m., before U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro. At sentencing, Iglesias faces life in prison and fines of up to $250,000. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI, MPD and the Miami Area Corruption Task Force. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Selmore.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.
VILLAGE OF COCONUT
>>>>International Drug Money Laundering Conviction
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), announce that Alvaro López Tardón, 39, of Miami Beach and Madrid, Spain, was convicted on 14 counts of conspiracy to launder narcotics proceeds and money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1956 and 1957. Sentencing is scheduled for August 19, 2014, before U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard. At sentencing, Tardón faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on the conspiracy to commit money laundering count and ten years in prison on each substantive money laundering count, followed by three years of supervised release.
Tardón was the head of an international narcotics trafficking and money laundering syndicate which distributed over 7,500 kilograms of South American cocaine in Madrid and laundered over $15,000,000 in narcotics proceeds in Miami by buying high-end real estate, luxury, exotic automobiles and other high-end items. The proceeds were smuggled into Miami by couriers through Miami International Airport, wire transferred to South Florida by co-conspirators via MoneyGram and Western Union, wire transferred to third parties internationally on behalf of Tardón, and wire transferred directly to Tardón and his co-conspirators in Miami through Tardón’s exotic car dealership and other companies controlled by him located in Madrid, Spain.
Following the guilty verdicts, the jury found that a significant portion of the defendant’s assets should be forfeited. Those assets involved real estate and cars. The real estate purchased by Tardón included condominium units in Miami Beach and Coconut Grove areas of Miami. The exotic automobiles included a Bugatti Veyron and Ferrari Enzo, each worth over $1 million, a Mercedes-Benz Maybach 57S, two Mercedes-Benz G55, a Rolls Royce Ghost, and a Land Rover Range Rover. The government also seized three bank accounts.
The seven-week trial included the introduction of over 36,000 pages of financial and corporate documents from Spain and the United States. The trial also included testimony from six members of the Spanish National Police, a member of the Spanish national wiretapping agency (SITEL), and the Spanish taxing authority (Agencia Estatal de la Administración Tributaria).
The investigation and prosecution of Tardón was the result of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to identify, investigate and prosecute high level narcotics traffickers and money launderers.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “This case demonstrates that we will work vigorously with our local, federal, and international partners to bring to justice those who traffic in narcotics as well as those who launder drug proceeds. Our efforts transcend international borders and we are grateful for the cooperation of our domestic and foreign partners who worked together to ensure the success of this case.”
“In the world of drug trafficking, Alvaro Lopez Tardon is a bona fide kingpin,” said George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge FBI Miami. “His multi-million dollar cocaine enterprise spanned the globe from South America to Spain to Miami. Thus bringing him to justice required immense cooperation. As such, the FBI praises the assistance and investigative efforts of the Spanish National Police and our partners in the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.”
Jose A. Gonzalez, IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge stated, “Today’s guilty verdict against the head of a major international narcotics trafficking and money laundering organization represents an important victory for all of us. By following the money trail, we were able to disrupt and dismantle Tardon’s drug trafficking organization and elaborate money laundering scheme and seize a significant portion of his ill-gotten gains. IRS-CI is proud to work alongside its law enforcement partners to bring criminals to justice.”
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI, IRS-CI and members of the South Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (HIDTA) for their extraordinary work in this multi-agency multi-jurisdictional investigation. Mr. Ferrer also thanked Customs and Boarder Protection, Tactical Analytical Unit, Drug Enforcement Administration, Miami Police Department and Monroe County Sherriff’s Office. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tony Gonzalez and Cristina Maxwell. 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..
>>> County press release: SW 27 Avenue from Tigertail Avenue to SW 28 Terrace; Project No. 20120032: Work includes, but is not limited to, reconstructing the existing two-lane road with raised landscaped medians, on-street parking, bike lanes, sidewalks, curb and gutter, storm drainage system, signalization, traffic calming circle, pavement markings and signage, decorative lighting and demolition of a building encroaching into the right-of-way. The work of this project also includes, but is not limited to, furnishing and installing ductile iron water mains along SW 27 Avenue between Tigertail Avenue and Coconut Avenue, City of Miami, Florida. Construction is anticipated to be completed by June 30, 2015. Mainline Closure: Motorists are advised to expect delays, seek alternate routes or follow the maintenance of traffic (MOT) signs or detour route.
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH
>>>> Miami Beach Physician Sentenced in Medicare Fraud Scheme
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Ryan P. Lynch, Acting Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, Miami Field Division, announce that Christopher Gregory Wayne, 54, an osteopathic physician residing in Miami Beach, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr. to 70 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. In addition, Judge Scola entered a $1.6 million forfeiture money judgment against Wayne and ordered the forfeiture of his Miami Beach residence and a 2002 Mercedes Benz. Christopher Gregory Wayne was also ordered to pay restitution to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the amount of $1,649,042, the amount of loss suffered by the Medicare program.
Wayne previously pled guilty to a criminal information that charges him with health care fraud and conspiracy to violate the narcotics laws of the United States. In his plea, Wayne admitted to executing a scheme to defraud the Medicare program and attempting to cause a loss in excess of $2,500,000 to Medicare. Wayne also admitted that he conspired with others to knowingly and intentionally prescribe Schedule II controlled substances, such as oxycodone, outside the scope of professional medical practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose, knowing that controlled substances would be distributed illegally.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of HHS-OIG, FBI and DEA. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Eric Morales, Brent Tantillo and Evelyn B. Sheehan. 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.
>>>PAST WDR: The City of Miami Beach is rolling out a new App to make finding and paying for a parking lot easier in a municipality known to be a parking nightmare and the city is launching the feature on Monday and below is the press release on the matter.
Miami Beach Parking Made Simple & Easy Launch of New Apps to Find & Pay for Parking from Your Phone (ParkMobile and ParkMe Miami Beach on iPhone and Android Devices) You can find an on-street or off-street parking space and pay for it all from an iPhone or Android cell phone. As an introductory to the new service, ParkMobile user fees will be waived between May 12 – 25, 2014. Registered Miami Beach residents receive 43 percent discount on metered parking in South Beach ($1.00 instead of $1.75 an hour). Registration begins Monday, May 12. The ParkMobile app is also linked to the live parking locator app, ParkMe Miami Beach, which provides live information on municipal parking availabilities throughout the city. ParkMobile ambassadors will be available throughout the week, following the launch, at various on- and off-street parking lots. Both apps (ParkMobile and ParkMe Miami Beach) are free to download on iPhone and Android.
>>> OTHER STORIES AROUND FLORIDA
>>>> Broward Resident Pleads Guilty in $4 Million Ponzi Scheme
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Eric I. Bustillo, Director of Miami Regional Office of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), announce that Jenny Coplan, 55, of Lauderhill, pled guilty for her role in an investment fraud scheme. Sentencing for Coplan is scheduled for August 29, 2013 at 9:30 a.m.
Coplan pled guilty to one count of wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, Untied States Code, Section 1343. At sentencing, the defendant faces a maximum term of 22 years in prison.
According to the plea documents, Coplan was the president of Immigration General Services, LLC (IGS) and solicited investors for purported investments in federal bail and immigration bonds. Coplan promised investors interest rates on their investments that exceeded 60% a year.
According to the plea documents, to induce investors to invest money with IGS, Coplan made material oral misrepresentations, which included, among others, promises that the investments were insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Company, that the investments were secure and had little risk, and that Coplan had the experience and licenses to invest in these bonds. Further, to induce investors to invest money with IGS and to keep their investment with IGS, Coplan made material written misrepresentations to investors, including, among others, providing investors fraudulent and fictitious financial statements and fraudulent and fictitious e-mails from the bond corporation in which investors were purportedly investing.
According to the plea documents, induced by Coplan’s misrepresentations, investors invested approximately $4 million with Coplan by wiring money, writing checks, or providing cash to Coplan. Rather than investing the money in the bonds as promised, Coplan used the monies from new investors to pay old investors and used the money for her personal use and benefit.
Mr. Ferrer thanked the FBI and the SEC for their work on this case. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael N. Berger. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. 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.
>>>> Broward County Resident Sentenced in Treasury Check Cashing and Stolen Identity Scheme
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Paula Reid, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, Miami Field Office, and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announce that Regina James, 39, of Fort Lauderdale, was sentenced for her participation in a check cashing and stolen identity scheme. James was sentenced to 66 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay restitution of $650,617.00.
Regina James previously pled guilty in three cases. In one case, she pled guilty to one count of theft of public money, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641, and one count of aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A(a)(1). In the second case, she pled guilty to conspiracy to steal, receive, and retain money and things of value of the United States and to forge endorsements on and cash treasury checks, receipt and retention of things of value of the United States, and aggravated identity theft. In the third case, she pled guilty to identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028(a)(7).
According to court documents, Wilson and Kate Lau owned a check cashing store called American Quick Cash (AQC). The Laus were cashing fraudulent tax refund checks arising out of fraudulent tax refund filings containing stolen identities. James was one of the seven “middle men” who brought the fraudulently obtained U.S. Treasury checks to AQC. James also brought fake Florida driver’s licenses in the names of the individuals on the checks that she cashed at AQC. James was charged 15% to cash the fraudulent checks, but Lau subsequently increased the fee to 50%. James received the stolen checks from another person and gave 40% of the amount of the check to that individual, and kept 10% for herself.
From January 2010 through June 2011, the total amount of U.S. Treasury checks cashed by James at AQC is approximately $650,617. The number of victims involved is greater than 50, but fewer than 250.
On July 20, 2012, Wilson Lau, 75, and his wife, Kate Yuee Lau, 54, formerly of Coral Springs, were sentenced before U.S. District Judge Robert Scola. Wilson Lau was sentenced to 84 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Kate Yuee Lau was sentenced to 24 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.
In a separate investigation, James and co-defendants, Ronald Walker, 36, of Fort Lauderdale, Aaron Taylor, 30, of Lauderhill, and James Burch, 36, of Coral Springs, sold $75,108.79 in fraudulently obtained tax refund checks and 609 people’s identifying information. On May 30, 2014, Walker was sentenced to 94 months in prison. On May 16, 2014, Taylor was sentenced to 54 months in prison and Burch was sentenced to 36 months in prison. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI, the Secret Service, and the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alicia E. Shick and Marc Osborne. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
>>>> Press release: Gov. Scott announced the appointment of Elyse Claprood to the Children’s Services Council of Broward County. Claprood, 49, of North Lauderdale, is the program coordinator of the regional perinatal intensive care center for Broward Health. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning June 11, 2014, and ending January 31, 2015.
>>> 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.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
>>> Ringleader of Identity Theft Ring Sentenced to 121 Months in Prison
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), and Ric Bradshaw, Sheriff, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, announce that Jennifer Robinson, 36, of West Palm Beach, was sentenced for her participation in a wide-ranging identity theft scheme. Robinson was sentenced to 121 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. A restitution hearing is scheduled for July 25, 2014 at 11:00 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra in West Palm Beach.
Robinson previously pled guilty to all counts in a superseding indictment, which included one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349, twelve counts of wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343, eleven counts of stealing government monies, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641, twelve counts of aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A, and one count of unauthorized access device fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1029(a)(2).
The scheme involved, in part, stealing the identities of patients at a medical facility in central Florida. Those identities were then used to file fraudulent federal income tax returns in the patients’ names seeking fraudulent refunds, and obtaining fraudulent credit cards which were then used to make fraudulent purchases.
Co-conspirators Elton Baker, 29, Eltonya Wiley, 40, both of Center Hill, and Kawana Brown, 35, of West Palm Beach, previously pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and three counts of wire fraud. Elton Baker and Wiley also pled guilty to one count of aggravated identity theft, and Brown pled guilty to two counts of aggravated identity theft. Sentencing for all of the remaining defendants is scheduled for June 13, 2014.
Co-defendants Antoinette Simmons, 40, of Ocoee, and Josh Brown, 25 of Riverdale, Georgia, were sentenced to probation for their roles in the thefts.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Carlton. 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.
>> And to read all the Palm Beach elected leader’s financial disclosure reports go to http://public.ethics.state.fl.us/results.cfm
>>> Press release:Gov. Rick Scott announced the appointment of Crystal Drake as a County Commissioner of Glades County.
Drake, 55, of Moore Haven, is a teacher with the Glades County School District. She is appointed to fill a vacancy created by the passing of Dennis Griffin, for a term beginning June 11, 2014, and ending November 11, 2014.
>>>> Press release: Governor Rick Scott taps Bridget Ziegler as a School Board Member of Sarasota County.
Ziegler, 31, of Sarasota, is a Commercial Agent and Account Executive at Al Purmort Insurance. She is appointed to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Carol Todd for a term beginning June 6, 2014, and ending November 11, 2014.
>>>Press release: Governor Rick Scott names Alachua County Judge David P. Kreider to the Eighth Circuit Court.
Kreider, 47, of Gainesville, has been an Alachua County Judge since 2010. While on the county court bench, Judge Kreider has served in the civil and criminal divisions, and was Chairman of the Alachua County Canvassing Board from 2010 to 2014. Prior to being appointed to the county bench, Judge Kreider spent most of his legal career serving as a prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office, where he rose to the level of Division Chief of the Bradford, Levy, and Gilchrist County. He previously practiced insurance defense with Dell Graham, P.A. Kreider received his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Florida. He fills a vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Ysleta W. McDonald.
Governor Rick Scott said, “During his time on the Alachua County Court bench, Judge Kreider has served Florida families with distinction. I am confident that he will make a great addition to the Eighth Judicial Circuit bench.”
>>> PAST WDR MAY 2007: Small but colorful county has its share of colorful and erstwhile political leaders, but with only 85,000 residents not a big player
What can you say about a county with a tourist tag line of the Conch Republic and also includes the eclectic city of Key West? The Watchdog Report would never have reported on anything that went on in the small county with 85,000 residents but they came to my attention because of their lack of taking care of the Homeless population there and not providing a shelter for their domestic violence victims. Since then the elected leaders have moved to resolve some of their social issues rather than to just send them to the larger county to the north Miami-Dade for these services. And to review her financial disclosure form go to
>>> Elected leaders financial disclosures on line at , www.ethics.state.fl.us
>>>> As part of its ongoing efforts to get out the vote, the League of Women Voters of Florida wants to remind Florida voters that Sunday, May 18 marks 100 days until Florida’s August 26 primary election. Many important local races are decided at the primary level, where turnout is traditionally light and votes cast can weigh more heavily in deciding outcomes. This makes voting during the primary an issue of utmost importance.
“There will be something for everyone on the August ballot”, says Deirdre Macnab, League of Women Voters of Florida President. “Even voters registered as independents can cast a vote in local non-partisan races as well as an array of judicial races at the county and circuit levels. In many ways, your vote in the primary can have a greater impact than in November.” Most Supervisors will post sample ballots on their websites in early July. Candidate qualifying ends in late June.
The League urges all Florida residents to register to vote by the July 28 deadline. For information on how to register and step by step instructions for registration, visit the League’s website at www.BeReadyToVote.org. If you are already registered, make sure to check your voter status and get ready!
Florida makes voting easy and convenient by offering three different ways to vote: by mail, early, and on Election Day. Early voting will be available for the August primary. The League would like to remind voters who will be unable to vote on-site that any registered Florida voter can request an absentee ballot by contacting their local Supervisor of Elections. It is also important to check that your voting information, including your address and signature, are up-to-date. “Early summer is the perfect time to get your voting house in order,” said Charley Williams, LWVF Voter Services Chair. “Call your local Supervisor of Elections office and make sure your voter file is accurate. This is particularly important if you have moved recently or if you haven’t voted in past elections. With one call, you can cover details for both the August and November elections, then relax!”
IMPORTANT DATES TO REMEMBER: Primary election: Tuesday, August 26
Deadline to register to vote: Monday, July 28 Absentee Ballots will be mailed: Between July 22 and 29
>>> The Margulies Collection will be closed for the summer and will reopen in the fall.
>>>> Miami-Dade County Commissioners are missing a real opportunity to drill into the upcoming budget, more commissioners need to attend these extensive budget department hearings being given by county budget staff in Mayor Gimenez’s administration
County Commissioners are missing a real opportunity when It comes to giving they’re input on the new upcoming county budget that will be approved by the commission after public hearings in September and begins Oct.1 and staff is spending long hours explaining the evolving budget and in some cases at the Finance Committee meetings. However, There is nothing like being there and this is one of those times as many of the seats on the dais are empty and Commissioner Estephan Bovo is trying to put some real informational meat on the county’s upcoming proposed budget that wants to reduce police and corrections cost by some $30 million, through further employee concessions yet the county’s property tax base is generating some $60 million more in advalorium revenue for the year.
Bovo is holding these hearings so that the budget hearings are more than just a up or down vote usually on a “union” issue, the commissioner said last week and he is right for this is big money and it behooves elected leaders to be informed of the issues and one advantage would be shorter public budget hearings that tend to drone on for hours and county commissioners should start attending these hearings for the public fiscal meter is running when it comes to the cost of having staff there and the more informed county commissioners are the better this large government will be run and where its $4.3 billion in revenues are going and being spent. Something every taxpayer is demanding in these tough economic times where every tax dollar is precious.
>>> 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)
WILLIAM HUGGETT, Seamen Attorney (Deceased)
LINDA E. RICKER (Deceased)
JOHN S. and JAMES L. KNIGHT FOUNDATION www.knightfoundation.org
THE HONORABLE STANLEY G. TATE
>>> Watchdog Report supporters – $2,000 a year
BADIA SPICES www.badiaspices.com
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
JEFFREY L. BERKOWITZ TRUST
LINDA MURPHY: Gave a new laptop in Oct. 2001 to keep me going.
WILLIAM PALMER www.shutts.com
Rbb PUBLIC RELATIONS www.rbbpr.com
ROYAL MEDIA PARTNERS www.royalmp.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
CHAPMAN PARTNERSHIP FOR HOMELESS www.chapmanpartnership.org
FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY www.fiu.edu
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
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY HOMELESS TRUST: www.miamidade.gov/homeless/
MIAMI-DADE COLLEGE www.mdc.edu
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY INSPECTOR GENERAL www.miamidade.gov/ig
MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS BOARD www.dadeschools.net
MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS SUPT. http://superintendent.dadeschools.net/
MIAMI DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY www.miamidda.com
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 14th 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 800 reports and Extra’s have been sent since May 5, 2000 and over two million words have been written on our community’s governments and events. The report is an original work based on information gathered at public meetings, interviews and from documents in the public domain.
I welcome letters via e-mail, fax, or snail mail. Letters may be edited for length or clarity and must refer to material published in the Watchdog Report. Please see address and contact information. Please send any additions and corrections by e-mail, fax or snail mail. All corrections will be published in the next Watchdog Report. If you or your organization would like to publish the contents of this newsletter, please contact me. Please send your request to firstname.lastname@example.org
Daniel A. Ricker
Publisher & Editor
Watchdog Report www.watchdogreport.net
Copyright © of original material, 2014, Daniel A. Ricker
>>> The Watchdog Report are now available to television stations web pages, and all the newspapers and other media in South Florida if the publishers have an interest to run part or all of the stories. Further, in 2000, I used to have some paper’s running the report in the Spanish press, that option is available again, and publishers should contact me. The news content will not be free, but you can pick and chose the stories of interest, edit them if necessary but you must still keep the general story intact. If you are a news outlet and would like to learn more about, the Watchdog Report and this offer contact me at email@example.com for further information. >>> Here is what past newspapers have written about the Watchdog Report publisher including a survey and regional study done by the U. North Carolina at Chapel Hill on the media in the southeast United States.
>>> The Miami Herald and Orlando Sentinel & Sun-Sentinel articles on the Watchdog Report publisher over the years. >>> Published on September 9, 1999, Page 1EA, Miami Herald, The (FL) CITIZEN ADVOCATE’ KEEPS TABS ON POLITICIANS >>> Published on January 3, 2000, Page 1B, Miami Herald, The (FL) MIAMI-DADE WATCHDOG WILL BE MISSED >>> >>> To read the full section large two page front page story, but without the photos and smart box graphics, go to: `I Go When You Cannot’ – Sun Sentinel 20 Jan 2003 … Sometimes Dan Ricker lives in the dark so others may live in the light. … to his weekly Watchdog Report have finally mailed their checks. … http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2003-01-20/news/0301190341_1_ricker-school-board-president-miami-s-first-cuban-american >>>Watchdog Report publisher named ‘Best Citizen’ 2003 by the Miami New Times —The publisher would like to thank the weekly alternative paper Miami New Times for bestowing their 2003 Best of Miami, ‘Best Citizen’ award to me and I am honored. Thank you. To read the full story go to http://www.miaminewtimes.com/issues/2003-05-15/citylife2.html/1/index.html
From the spring of 2003: U. North Carolina, Chapel Hill: Southeast U.S. Media Report lists Watchdog Report publisher as leading Florida commentator >>> Selected excerpts from the report on Florida’s media sources. Those who do read the newspaper in Florida have a bevy of options for state government and political coverage. The dominant newspapers in the state are Knight-Ridder’s The Miami Herald (Acquired by The McClatchy Company in 2006) and the Poynter Institute’s St. Petersburg Times. Both papers endorsed Gore in 2000 but split on the 2002 gubernatorial race, with the Herald endorsing Republican incumbent Jeb Bush and the Times backing Democratic challenger Bill McBride. Daniel Ricker of The Miami Herald also writes an influential column as well as an email newsletter called the Watchdog Report that goes out to more than 100,000 subscribers. FEBRUARY 2004 – Florida: Columnists in Abundance –ERIC GAUTSCHI, graduate student, School of Journalism & Mass Communication, UNC-Chapel Hill – D) LEADING COMMENTATORS – Resource Commentator Organization Type Web site –Steve Bousquet St. Petersburg Times Column www.sptimes.com/columns/bousquet.shtml -“First Friday” WPBT TV (Miami) TV Show www.channel2.org/firstfriday/issues.html –Lucy Morgan St. Petersburg Times Column www.sptimes.com/columns/morgan.shtml –Daniel Ricker Miami Herald/Watchdog Report Newsletter >>> Readers who would like to read the complete University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Southeast United States Media Report go to view the complete report or download all the data used in this study. >>> Watchdog Report Editor’s note to the NCU/CH study: The subscriber number referenced is incorrect and applies to readership.