2011 ReleasesED GRIFFITH Public Information Officer
The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office is dedicated to providing accurate information to the public and media. If you are a member of the working media and would like an interview with the State Attorney, or you need information on a case, would like to talk to a specific assistant state attorney or are looking for an expert in a certain area of prosecution, please contact our public information officers Ed Griffith or Terry Chavez.
PHONE: 305-547-0535TERRY CHAVEZ Hispanic Media Relations Public Information Officer
Below you'll find recent news releases issued by this office.
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Miami (December 29, 2011) - Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announces that Clerk of the Courts criminal division employee Godfrey Mead was arrested today for his role in demanding payment to get a case onto the criminal court calendar. An 11 year employee of the Clerk of the Courts, Mead made to initial offer to get a woman’s traffic ticket situation clarified by placing it on the court calendar for $250 while in the hallway in front of courtroom 6-5 at the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building, the criminal courthouse. There is actually no charge for this type of action. When asked the reason for giving him money, Mead said, “It’s for my friends.”
Godfrey Mead provided a written statement regarding the allegations. Within the context of his statement he provided the following statement: “Told somebody to give me money to put back on the calendar to get their cases taken [care] of by a Judge” “I have accept money no more than a hundred no asking willfully.”
Godfrey Mead is charged with 1 count of Unlawful Compensation or Reward for Official Behavior, a Second Degree Felony.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION - Click here to download preview warrant
Contact: Chavez 305-547-088512/20/2011
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle partners with
Cuban American Bar Association (CABA) for Annual Toy Drive
Miami (December 20, 2011) - State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle partnered with members of the Cuban American Bar Association (CABA) to collect and distribute hundreds of toys to needy children and families of the Miami-Dade County community.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office set up collection boxes in the lobbies of their different office sites located throughout the county to gather toys for families living at the Chapman Partnership (formerly Community Partnership for Homeless) as well as for children victims of the State Attorney’s Office and Kristi House, and community agencies Easter Seals, Centro Mater, Voices for Children, and Abriendo Puertas.
One of the recipients of the gifts, a 26 year old mother who has been at the Chapman facility for thirty days stated:
"It feels good that people can bring toys. I am a parent of a 4 year old and without a job. This will show my child that Santa has not forgotten us. I am thankful to the State Attorney's Office for doing this.
Added State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle:
Contact: Ed Griffith 305-547-053512/7/2011
21 Arrested in Operation Cardiac Arrest
Ringleaders, Private Bus Operators & ALF Employees Charged
Miami (December 7, 2011) - On Wednesday afternoon, December 7, 2011, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and the Miami-Dade Police Department will hold a joint press conference at the Office of the State Attorney to announce the charging of 21 individuals, including the 3 ringleaders, involved a major certification scam that was putting "at risk" residents in ALFs and passengers in various modes of private transportation.
The press conference will be held at 2:00 p.m. in room 418-S. The Office of the State Attorney is in the E. R. Graham building located at 1350 NW 12th Avenue, Miami. Please arrive early enough to obtain security clearance through the building's security review process.
Contact: Terry Chavez 305-547-088512/2/2011
Cutler Bay Women Arrested in Fraudulent Rental Scam
Miami (December 2, 2011) - Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announces the formal charging of Johanna Beltran, a resident of Cutler Bay, in a grand theft case involving fraudulent residential rental schemes.
As a result of a joint investigation coordinated by the Miami-Dade Police Department and the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office Mortgage Fraud Unit, a real estate fraud scheme being perpetrated by Beltran was uncovered.
The investigation revealed that Beltran systematically identified unoccupied residential properties and claimed these properties were available for rent by placing a "FOR RENT" sign in the front yard or in nearby areas bearing her contact information. Police and prosecutors allege that Beltran then deceived potential renters by making them believe she was acting on behalf of the homeowners. Unbeknownst to potential tenants and the real homeowners, Beltran did not own, nor was she authorized to rent or access, these properties. Beltran accepted several thousands of dollars in "rent" from persons who later discovered Beltran had no authority to rent the properties.
Beltran was originally arrested and charged in May and June of 2010 for similar offenses and was allowed to bond out on her charges. However, Beltran continued to engage in similar criminal activities that resulted in additional charges being levied against her in January, February, and July of this year.
As a result, Beltran is currently being held without bond in the Miami-Dade County Jail charged with:
Contact: Terry Chavez 305-547-088511/29/2011
Statement from Katherine Fernandez Rundle Regarding the Sentence
Imposed in the Coral Gables High School Stabbing Case
Miami (November 29, 2011)
"There is nothing to celebrate today. The sentencing today of Andy Rodriguez is a double tragedy.
Contact: Terry Chavez 305-547-088511/28/2011
Miami (November 28, 2011) - The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office announces that their Child Support Enforcement Office, currently located at 100 S. Biscayne Boulevard, is moving to a new location effective Tuesday, December 13, 2011.
The new location is in the Overtown Transit Village, South Tower, located at 601 N.W. 1st Court, 12th Floor, Miami, Florida 33136. The telephone number will remain the same: 305-530-2600.
To effectuate the move, the Child Support Enforcement Office will be closed on Friday, December 9, 2011, and Monday, December 12, 2011. However, the Call Center will remain open during those days.
Additionally, the Central Depository counter will be open for child support payments on Friday, December 9th, at 370 SE 1st Street, Room 200, and at the new location in the Overtown Transit Village starting Monday, December 12th.
The new Child Support Enforcement Office location is easily accessible by Metrorail at the “Historic Overtown/Lyric Theatre” Station, and by Metro Mover at the “Arenas/State Plaza” Station.
All court and administrative hearings will be held at the new location on the 2nd floor commencing Tuesday, December 13, 2011.For further information, please call 305-530-2600.
Contact: Terry Chavez 305-547-088511/19/2011
ILLEGAL SLAUGHTERHOUSE RAIDED – OPERATOR ARRESTED
Brutal Animal Cruelty, Potential Pollution and Health Safety Issues Uncovered
Miami (November 19, 2011) -In a coordinated, multi-agency effort, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and the Hialeah Police Department have undertaken an action that has led to the arrest of Rudesindo “Rudy” Acosta, the prime operator of an illegal slaughterhouse located on the fringes of the City of Hialeah. Also involved in the overall operation is the Miami-Dade County Department of Permitting, Environment and Regulatory Affairs which oversees the overall environmental health of the County and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement which provided investigative support for the operation.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and the Hialeah Police Department became aware of several farms operating within the City of Hialeah that were illegally slaughtering animals, and were doing so in a cruel and inhumane manner which resulted in acute pain and suffering the animals in violation of the Florida Humane Slaughter Act. Undercover video was taken of some of the witnessed incidents which included the repeated beating of the animals with sledgehammers and stabbing with knives.
Additionally, the unsanitary conditions of the illegal slaughterhouse allowed blood and other animal fluids to consistently seep into the ground, potentially endangering the water quality of the City of Hialeah.
Acosta is charged with:
Contact: Terry Chavez 305-547-088510/17/2011
Statement from Katherine Fernandez Rundle Regarding the
Department of Justice Investigation
Miami (October 21, 2011) - "I understand that the Justice Department has announced that it has opened an investigation into allegations of potential violations of Federal civil rights laws.
As you are probably aware, it will focus on whether or not there have been violations of Federal civil laws. The investigations that are conducted by the attorneys in my office only focus on whether or not there have been violations of State criminal laws.
However, because of the partnership we have with the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida, we routinely provide them with copies of the close-out memos on our police shooting cases in order for them to determine whether any Federal laws have been violated.
When I spoke to the US Attorney last night, I offered our assistance or expertise should they need it.
My office is always ready, willing, and able to assist."
Contact: Terry Chavez 305-547-088510/21/2011
Cigarette and Alcohol Tax Fraud Case Busted
Miami (October 21, 2011) -As a result of a joint investigation by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, two women were arrested this morning on charges of Prohibition on Sale or Distribution of Untaxed Cigarettes, Cigarette Tax Evasion, and Sale or Distribution of Non-Paid Taxed Alcohol.
The investigation uncovered that Gesila Pierre-Louis and Marie Pierre, both of Miami, were illegally selling cigarettes and alcohol meant for export or duty free sales from their homes.
Cigarettes and alcohol that are manufactured for the purpose of export or duty-free sales are exempt from paying Florida taxes. It is estimated that the illegal sales of untaxed cigarettes and alcohol intended for export or duty-free sales cost the State of Florida thousands of dollars in revenue daily. The cigarette and alcohol manufacturers also lose a significant amount of revenue as a result of these illegal sales and the resulting forfeitures. Today’s seizure netted over 450 cartons of untaxed cigarettes, over 380 bottles of various brands of liquor, and $3,500 in cash.
“In these difficult economic times, when the State of Florida is searching for adequate funding, having individuals like these cheat the people of our state only adds to the financial troubles Florida is being forced to address. Every resident of the State of Florida is a victim of these tax cheats”, commented Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. “I’m extremely proud of the agent from the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco and my Organized Crime Unit for stopping these illegal activities.”The case is currently pending and being prosecuted by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office Organized Crime Unit. If convicted, each defendant faces significant state prison time for the charged offenses.
Contact: Terry Chavez 305-547-088510/19/2011
Univeristy of Miami School of Law's Center for Ethics and Public Service selects Katherine Fernandez Rundle for the William M. Hoveler Award
Miami (October 19, 2011) The University of Miami School of Law's Center for Ethics and Public Service has selected Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle as the recipient of the 10th Annual William M. Hoeveler Award, a prestigious honor that celebrates ethics, leadership, and public service in the legal profession.
The Hoeveler Award was created to honor United States District Court Judge William M. Hoeveler, for his lifetime achievements as a lawyer who demonstrated outstanding ethics and dedication to public service.
For these achievements, he was the first recipient of the award. Other recipients include Daniel S. Pearson, Walter H. Beckham, Jr., Judge Rosemary Barkett, Janet Reno, Judge Peter Fay, Judge Mario Goderich, and Judge Donald L. Graham. "It is truly an honor for me to receive this special award", commented State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. "Judge Hoeveler has always inspired so many of us in the legal profession. My passion for this community, like his, is what drives me to find ways of making our community better. I am humbled to join so many of my esteemed colleagues who have previously shared this award."
State Attorney Fernandez Rundle will receive the award during a reception and ceremony on Tuesday, November 1st, 2011 at 6:00 pm in the Alma Jennings Foundation Student Lounge located at 1311 Miller Drive on the University's Coral Gables campus.
Contact: Terry Chavez 305-547-08859/7/2011
Arrest Warrant Issued for former Jaskson Memorial Hospital Audit Manager in "GHOST EMPLOYEES" Payroll Scam
- Two Accomplices Arrested for their Roles in the Thefts
Miami (September 7, 2011) - Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and the Miami-Dade Police Department's Public Corruption Investigations Bureau (PCIB) announce the arrests of two individuals for their roles as "ghost employees" in a payroll scam that bilked Jackson Memorial Hospital (JMH) out of more than $83,000 in the course of eight months. An arrest warrant has been issued for a third subject, former JMH Audit Manager Tiffany Gordon-Smith and the mastermind behind the scam, who is expected to surrender to authorities this week.
Janet Lockwood and Kenneth Mitchell were arrested this morning, each charged with Organized Scheme to Defraud and Unlawful Compensation. The arrest warrant for Gordon-Smith charges her with Organized Scheme to Defraud, Unlawful Compensation, and Official Misconduct by a Public Servant.
The investigation into this crime began after a JMH Audit Department supervisor contacted Miami-Dade Police after discovering irregularities in payroll overbilling. Evidence gathered provided a clear picture of the "ghost employee" scam that was used as a tool to put hospital cash into the pockets of the former auditor Tiffany Gordon-Smith, and ghost employees Janet Lockwood and Kenneth Mitchell.
In her position, Gordon-Smith oversaw the administration of a temporary services contract with "All Medical Personnel, Inc.". Part of her responsibility included the initial authorization of the temporary employees' time sheets. A review of e-mails showed that Tiffany Gordon strongly advocated employing Kenneth Mitchell and Janet Lockwood even though they did not meet the minimum qualifications for the positions they were being placed in.
Payroll records examined revealed that these two temporary employees received unusually large paychecks for the time period from August 8, 2008 to April 24, 2010. JMH was billed $34,323.55 for work supposedly performed by Janet Lockwood during a four month period in 2009. However, her personnel records from the U.S. Department of the Navy, wherein Lockwood had enlisted as a reservist, confirmed that she was actually attending navy boot camps located in Lake Shore, Michigan and in Great Lakes, Illinois, during that same time period.
JMH was billed $49,301.23 for work supposedly performed by Kenneth Mitchell from August 21, 2009 to February 5, 2010. Yet according to sworn statements taken during the investigation, Mitchell would rarely report to work and when he did report; it was usually not for a full day. The monies were received by Mitchell via direct deposit into his Dade County Federal Credit Union bank account, and those records revealed that more than $22,000 was withdrawn from his account. Further evidence revealed that with the exception of $400.00 per pay period which these employees kept as payment for their role in the scheme, all of the withdrawn cash was provided to Tiffany Gordon-Smith.
"These were blatant thefts. One could only presume that Tiffany Gordon-Smith and her co-conspirators felt that they could just get away with it", commented State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. "Well the message today is you can't get away with it and you won't get away with it. We are all concerned about how every dollar is being spent at Jackson Memorial Hospital and we will be looking hard to see if any more of those needed funds are being stolen."
Contact: Ed Griffith 305-547-08859/2/2011
Death of 22 month old Dominicue Andrews
Miami (September 2, 2011) - The family of 22 month old Dominicue Andrews has expressed concern that there may be witnesses in the community who may have additional information and evidence regarding the death of this young child. However, since witnesses with new or additional evidence cannot be located, there is presently a shortage of sufficient evidence which would allow the criminal charging of any other person.
We are reaching out to the public for anyone who has information regarding this incident or regarding the actions or behavior of others who might be responsible for the circumstances that led to the death of this child to please come forward and contact the Miami Dade Police Department Homicide Bureau at 305-471-2400 or Assistant State Attorney Abbe Rifkin at 305-547-0100.
Contact: Ed Griffith 305-547-08858/25/2011
Former County Building Code Compliance Office Employee gets 15 Years for License Scam
Miami (August, 25 2011) - Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announces that Lazaro Joel Herrera the former fugitive ringleader of a group of Miami-Dade County Building Code Compliance Office employees who had been enriching themselves by fraudulently issuing County Contractors Licenses, pled guilty to the outstanding criminal charges today. As the result of his plea, Lazaro Joel Herrera will serve 15 years in state prison. Herrera, who had previously fled to Colombia after the arrests of his 2 co-defendants, was the computer ringleader of this criminal group. By using Miami-Dade equipment to print legitimate county licenses for individuals who were either unable to take the building competency exams or were unwilling to follow the exam process, Mr. Herrera undermined Miami-Dade County's attempt to insure the qualifications and skills of our community's building trades professionals.
The scheme began to unravel On or about March 17, 2006, when Miami-Dade County Building Code Compliance Office Director Herminio Gonzalez (BCCO) contacted the Miami-Dade Police Department, Intergovernmental Bureau (IGB), and reported that he had uncovered the internal criminal conspiracy to sell contractor's licenses from Miami-Dade County. To attest to the profitability of this scheme, when police presented the search warrant at one defendant's home, a shoebox with more than $63,000 in cash was seized.
Lazaro Joel Herrera , the former Building Code Compliance Office's Network Administrator was originally charged with: Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act--- First Degree Felony; Conspiracy to violate the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act --- First Degree Felony; Scheme to Defraud--- a First Degree Felony; Knowingly and Willfully Accessing a Computer, Computer System, or Computer Network without Authorization, for the purpose of Executing a Scheme to Defraud --- Second Degree Felony (82 Counts); Official Misconduct--- Third Degree Felony (82 Counts); Grand Theft--- Third Degree Felony (82 Counts) & Unlawful Compensation--- Second Degree Felony (3 Counts).
"This strong sentence is a notice to all the residents of our community that the fight against public corruption continues every day, at every level of our local government," said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. "We can never tolerate the actions of those who wish to reach into the pockets of the taxpaying public."
ADDITIONAL DETAILS - PDF of Lazaro Herrera Plea Agreement
Contact: Ed Griffith 305-547-08858/25/2011
Former DCF Employee Arrested in Welfare Scam
- Stole $1.3 Million during DCF Employment
Miami (August, 25 2011) - Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announces that as a result of a 2 year joint investigation undertaken by the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office and Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater's Division of Public Assistance Fraud, former Department of Children and Families (DCF) employee Meera Khan has been arrested and charged with a lengthy list of crimes including: Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO); Conspiracy to Commit RICO; Public Assistance Fraud Trafficking; Official Misconduct; Unlawful Compensation; Criminal Use of Personal Identification; Grand Theft and Petit Theft.
Meera Khan was employed with DCF as an eligibility caseworker/processor in Miami for almost 9 years until she resigned her position. During that time, she created benefits cases using the identities and personal information of numerous individuals with whom she had been acquainted without their permission, which allowed her to use foods stamps for her personal benefit. Additionally, she would work with some unscrupulous businesses to convert food stamps into cash which she and the businesses would pocket. Additionally, Meera Khan would collect "insurance premiums", "processing fees", "application fees", "renewal fees" or "filing fees" for the processing and receipt of State of Florida Medicaid program benefits. The total loss to the people of Florida is estimated to be $1.3 million dollars.
"When any public employee, particularly someone working with the needy, uses their position to enrich themselves, the people of Florida have a right to be frustrated and enraged," said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. "We can never tolerate fraud and theft by anyone, particularly by trusted public employees upon whom our community depends. Such thefts are the ultimate acts of betrayal. I'm very proud of the hard investigative work done by the Division of Public Assistance Fraud and my State Attorney's Office staff which has now brought Meera Khan to justice."
"The fraud in Florida's Medicaid and Public Assistance programs is costing honest Floridians as much as $2 billion annually. Cracking down on fraudsters like the one arrested today is key to stopping the bleeding of our state's budget," said Florida's Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater. "The partnership between my Division of Public Assistance Fraud and State Attorney Fernandez Rundle's office led to today's arrest, and we will continue to work together to bring criminals who scam the system to justice."
Contact: Ed Griffith 305-547-08858/25/2011
State Attorney Announes Dropping of Criminal Charges Against Michelle Spence-Jones
- Changes in Testimony & Evidence Ends Prosecution
Miami (August, 23 2011) State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle today announces that the pending felony grand theft charge against Michelle Spence-Jones has been "nolle prossed", which means that the prosecution of the case has now ended.
As articulated in the close out memo, explaining these actions, "The Office of the State of Attorney believed at the time of the arrest of Michelle Spence-Jones that a crime had been committed when the $50,000 in grants [from public funds through] MMAP were diverted from their intended recipients to Karym Ventures, Inc. We still believe so today. It is the State's responsibility to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in court that the defendant, Michelle Spence-Jones, committed the crime of grand theft in the second degree. However, based upon circumstances which have occurred since the time of arrest, and which were beyond our control, we are presently unable to meet the burden of proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt."
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle commented,
"I continue to have the same faith in the basis for filing this case as I had when it was filed. Unfortunately, as happens on occasion in the Criminal Justice system, circumstances developed during the pendency of the case that resulted in this decision. As can happen in any prosecution, evidence and testimony sometimes changes over time. That is what happened here. As a prosecutor, I am duty bound to follow the legal and ethical dictates of my profession and cannot continue to prosecute a case where the evidence needed to convict is no longer available."
CLOSE OUT CASE MEMO - Link to PDF
Contact: Terry Chavez 305-547-08858/18/2011
Trio Arrested in Mortgage Fraud Scam
Miami (August, 18 2011) Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced the arrests today of three individuals who posing as realtors were offering to sell homes that were not for sale.
The Miami-Dade Police Department's Mortgage Fraud Task Force and the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office Mortgage Fraud Unit coordinated an investigation into a real estate fraud scheme perpetrated by Jorge Benavidez, 27, of Miami Lakes, Jose L. Paz, 40, of Palmetto Bay, and Frank Cabrera, 39, of Miami. All three subjects engaged in a conspiracy to defraud four victims out of approximately $300,000.
According to Mortgage Fraud Detective Gloria Averhoff and Assistant State Attorney Erick Cruz, Benavidez, Paz and Cabrera portrayed themselves as licensed realtors and offered to act as such in real estate purchase transactions. The defendants offered to sell to unsuspecting buyers houses which were not for sale. On each occasion, they would offer to show to the victims a vacant house and inform the victim of the cost of the house. The trio informed the buyers that the houses were in foreclosure and that they would negotiate a short sale.
Short sales require large amounts of money to be held in escrow to complete the purchased transaction. The victims were presented with a bogus real estate contract that included the essential elements of the deal. At that time, they would ask the buyers to provide a down payment or deposit that would be held in escrow by a corporation called DF&J Investments. "DFJ" are the initials of Benavidez' girlfriend - Damarys Fleites-Jure.
Once the funds were deposited into the account, the victims were told that there was a delay in the closing or that they needed additional documentation. As time passed and the excuses ran out, the trio would change their phone numbers and avoid communication with the victims. Detective Averhoff and prosecutor Cruz traced the funds deposited into the bank accounts and verified the testimony of the victims. Based on their joint investigation, it was determined that other individuals were victimized in the same manner but have not come forward.
"Mortgage fraud is one of the causes of America's present economic crisis", commented State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. "The days are gone when criminals felt no fear in trying to pull these types of real estate and mortgage frauds. I am proud that my Mortgage Fraud Unit, in partnership with the Miami-Dade Police Department's Mortgage Fraud Task Force, has been able to make a solid criminal case against this trio of criminals pulling such scams. Real estate thieves should beware – we will bring you to justice."
"Andy Rodriguez' guilty verdict cannot restore life to Juan Carlos Rivera. I feel this verdict will help bring a sense of closure to a family victimized by a teenager's sense of jealousy.
The Fall Term A.D. 2010 of the Miami-Dade County Grand Jury ended its term of service today with the release of a report entitled "Nubia's Legacy: Confronting A Bias Of Trust And Complacency In Florida's Child Welfare System".
This afternoon, Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives Dean Cannon, House Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera, State Representatives and members of the Dade Legislative Delegation Cynthia Stafford, Jeanette Nunez, Frank Artiles, Carlos Trujillo, Richard Steinberg, and Jose “Felix” Diaz visited the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and congratulated attorneys and staff for all of their efforts in fighting crime.
"James "Whitey" Bulger's criminal activities have been marked by the corpses his killers and associates have left behind in car trunks and alleyways. After a 16 year delay, I will be working to ensure that a Miami Jury has the opportunity to look him in the eyes and determine his fate just as we did with his associate, ex-FBI agent John J. Connolly, Jr."
"Today, 3 year old Lazaro Figueroa received the highest respect from our criminal justice system for his agonizingly short life and death at the hands of his mother, Ana Maria Cardona when Judge Reemberto Diaz imposed the death sentence.
The Florida Association of Women Lawyers (FAWL) has selected Miami Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle for their prestigious Mattie Belle Davis Award for 2011.
The award is bestowed annually in memory of the late Honorable Judge Mattie Belle Davis, a founding member of FAWL at its inception in 1951, and who remained active in FAWL until her death fifty-three years later.
It is presented to a Miami-Dade FAWL member and woman in the legal profession who exemplifies the ideals of professional achievement, perseverance and dedication that were demonstrated by the late Judge Davis.
State Attorney Fernandez Rundle will receive the award at FAWL's 31st annual installation of the 2011-12 Officers and Board of Directors luncheon on June 17th, 2011 at the Four Seasons Hotel on Brickell Avenue in Miami.
"It is truly an honor for me to receive this award," commented Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. "Judge Davis was a mentor to many of us and my passion for this community, like hers, is what drives me to continue in public service."
To provide all residents with advance warning of problems and scams after a hurricane, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle provides her video program titled " How To Avoid Becoming a Victim After The Storm " on the State Attorney's Office website www.miamisao.com.
The comprehensive and informative video offers information on contractor licensing, price gouging, insurance fraud and required building permits, as well as ways to protect oneself from criminal activity. The information is available in both English and Spanish and interested persons can access samples of documents mentioned in the video directly from the website. As with all hurricane advice, advance preparation always makes a person safer.
"Now that we are officially entering into another hurricane season, I invite the community to view my video presentation entitled "How to Avoid Becoming a Victim After The Storm" on my office website", commented State Attorney Fernandez Rundle. "As a resident of this great community, I know only too well the impact that a major hurricane can have on all of us. While we recognize the need to prepare for the possibility of a storm hitting our community, we must also be prepared to protect ourselves from the aftermath. It is my sincere hope that the contents of this informative program will help provide you with the guidance and knowledge needed to ensure that no individual becomes a victim as a result of a storm. I urge everyone to view this program as a part of their pre-hurricane planning."
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announces that her Voter Protection Task Force and Hotline were activated on Monday morning, May 9, 2011, in order to ensure that early voting and election day sites for the upcoming Special Election remain free of any impropriety or illegal activity.
"Law enforcement personnel will be available as needed to make sure that voting in our county is fair and that everyone's voice is heard. I have set up an election response team that will respond to any complaints about any possible voting irregularities", commented State Attorney Fernandez Rundle.
To assist in this endeavor, the election response team composed of investigators and civilian employees from the State Attorney's Office will respond as necessary to the various early voting locations during scheduled voting hours until May 22, 2011, and again on Election Day, May 24, 2011.
Anyone who suspects improper or irregular activities at voting sites is urged to call the Hotline at 305-547-3300.
The State Attorney's Office stands ready to act on every voter's behalf to preserve the integrity of our elections and every citizen's vote.
Sergio Montoya, 56, of Miami was convicted by a jury on two counts of Organized Scheme to Defraud and two counts of Filing False/Fraudulent Insurance Claims.
The investigation by DIF revealed that Montoya, who was also a massage therapist, had filed false insurance claims with State Farm and Infinity Select Insurance companies for fake injuries claimed as a result of a staged auto accident. The alleged (and uninjured) "victims" in one of the cars involved then sought "treatment" at Montoya's clinic, S & B Medical. Montoya submitted fraudulent bills for treatment that the clinic never provided.
Other individuals who were involved in the scam cooperated in the investigation and admitted their culpability prior to trial. All of the co-conspirators ultimately testified against Montoya during his trial.
"Even though insurance fraud is an almost invisible crime, it affects every single hard working American who drives an automobile. In these tough economic times, we are working diligently with law enforcement to identify, investigate and prosecute those health care workers who have become professional scammers in order to make some easy money. I'm very proud of my prosecutors and greatly appreciate the valuable work of DIF Detective Oscar Sigler who helped bring this criminal to justice," said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant State Attorneys Juliana Millon and Julie Meyer of the Insurance Fraud Unit of the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office in front of Judge Milton Hirsch. Sentencing is set for June 30, 2011.
Montoya faces up to 20 years in state prison for his crimes. He remains in jail on a $50,000 bond.
In essence, the investigation alleged that Berthram Samuel offered to provide private financing for individuals seeking to pursue a variety of business ventures. He would lure customers in by indicating that he specialized in financing big international projects using European and other capital sources. After collecting the initial fees, labeled a "good faith fee" or an "office expense" fee, Samuel would later indicate that the loan had been secured and then request additional monies, labeled as "deposits" or "a due diligence and closing fee". After providing payment, no loans were ever forthcoming.
"I'm very proud of the work done by the Office of Financial Regulation and Virginia Ferguson, my Economic Crimes Division prosecutor, who worked diligently to put this complex financial case together", stated Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. "In these hard times, for someone like Berthram Samuel to plot to steal people's dreams is both disheartening and reprehensible."
J. Thomas Cardwell, Commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation, stated: "We are committed to working with our partners, such as the State Attorney's Office, to protect Florida's consumers and promote economically sound and professional financial industries in Florida." remains in jail on a $50,000 bond.
St. Augustine, located in the northern part of Florida, is the oldest continuously occupied European-established city in the continental United States. It was founded in 1565 by the Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and was often a site of conflict as European nations competed with each other for control of the New World. In the 1960's, St. Augustine was on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led efforts to end segregation and secure equal rights for African Americans.
The secretarially-appointed members of the Commission, which was established by Congress as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009, will plan and carry out programs and activities to mark the 450th anniversary of St. Augustine's founding in the year 2015.
State Attorney Fernandez Rundle joins twelve other individuals from around the country who were selected by Secretary Salazar to work with the Department of the Interior to ensure that the story of St. Augustine and its Spanish ancestry is recognized and preserved.
Upon learning of the appointment, State Attorney Fernandez Rundle stated, "I am honored to have been appointed to this prestigious commission commemorating 450 years of St. Augustine's history. The foundation of what America is today started in this magnificent city. Celebrating the complete story of St. Augustine is to celebrate the many cultures that make this nation proud and strong."
Mortgage Broker Alan Weitz of Ft. Lauderdale was convicted of four counts of first degree grand theft and Daniel Scala, an insurance agent from Miami, was convicted of third degree grand theft.
Weitz, 59, Vice-President of Bal Bay Mortgage located in North Miami, recruited straw buyers who posed as purchasers of high-priced luxury condominium units in Miami-Dade County in order to obtain mortgage loans ranging between $500,000 and $730,000. Weitz prepared and submitted fraudulent loan applications for the straw buyers that falsely stated elevated incomes, employment, and assets for each of the purchasers. Three of the straw buyers pled guilty before trial and cooperated with the State Attorney’s Office in the case against Weitz.
Scala, 29, the fourth straw buyer, was tried alongside Weitz and convicted for his participation in the scheme.
“Too many people in this community, too many institutions, and too many homeowners have all been victimized by these types of sophisticated financial criminals. Mortgage fraud is one of the primary causes of America’s present economic crisis. I’m proud that my Mortgage Fraud Unit was able to bring these criminals to justice,” said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant State Attorney Stephen A. LeClair of the Mortgage Fraud Unit of the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office in front of Judge Darren Gayles. Sentencing for both defendants is set for June 9, 2011.
Weitz faces from 84 months in state prison up to a maximum of 120 years in prison, while Scala faces a maximum of 5 years state prison.
The press conference was be held at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at the Office of the State Attorney in room S-418 in the E. R. Graham building located at 1350 NW 12th Avenue, Miami. For all SAO press conferences arrive early enough to obtain security clearance through the building's security review process.
“Law enforcement personnel will be available as needed to make sure that voting in our county is fair and that everyone’s voice is heard. I have set up an election response team that will respond to any complaints about any possible voting irregularities”, commented State Attorney Fernandez Rundle.
The election response team composed of investigators and civilian employees from the State Attorney’s Office will respond as necessary to the various early voting locations during scheduled voting hours until March 13, 2011, to assist in this endeavor.
Our office will activate the Voter Protection Hotline Monday morning. Anyone who suspects improper or irregular activities at early voting sites is urged to call the Hotline at 305-547-3300.
The State Attorney’s Office stands ready to act on your behalf to preserve the integrity of our elections and every citizen’s vote.
Del Risco is charged with 3 counts of DUI Manslaughter and will be sentenced by the Court on April 28, 2011.
“This was a horrifying event that never had to occur. Del Risco had a prior DUI arrest and knew the consequences of his actions,” commented State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. “By asking the Judge to sentence him, Mr. Del Risco hopes to avoid spending the rest of his life in prison, a sentence that would be very appropriate in this case. Our hearts go out to Héctor and Miriam Serrano, who are forever imprisoned with the devastating loss of their children.”
The award was presented to the State Attorney during a luncheon held today at the Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. Unites States Courthouse located in downtown Miami. Also attending the event were local high school students who had submitted winning essays to the committee as well as educators, orators, judges and lawyers.
Several years ago, State Attorney Fernandez Rundle was featured in a Daily Business Review article in which her office was recognized for its success with diversity. The article, in part, stated “Law firm leaders need to realize that a truly diverse law firm can be achieved. One such law office exists in Miami…..the office handles some of the most important criminal and civil cases in south Florida. It is headed by a woman - Katherine Fernandez-Rundle. The Miami-Dade State Attorney has proven that recruiting minority lawyers is possible. And she does it without the benefit of six-figure starting salaries to woo them.”
“For justice to be truly representative of the people, it should best reflect all of the people of this community. I and my office seek aim to achieve that every day in our courtrooms and in our workplace”, commented State Attorney Fernandez Rundle. “I am humbled by this recognition”.
These dedicated officers spent their lives protecting all of us and sadly, they were cut down by a criminal with no respect for anyone. My condolences go out to the families of Officer Roger Castillo and Officer Amanda Haworth.
Their deaths are the sad result no one ever wished to see happen. Let us not forget that every police officer puts his or her life on the line every day for our safety.”
Newly elected Florida Congresswoman and former State Senator Frederica S. Wilson is the founder and executive director of the 5000 Role Models Project, a drop-out prevention program for minority boys "at risk" of dropping out of school and/or choosing a life of crime. The program operates in Miami-Dade County and Pinellas County Public School. Besides mentoring and guiding these young men, graduating seniors receive scholarships to the next level of education.
“I am very proud to once again be part of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence scholarship drive and Martin Luther King Day celebration,” commented State Attorney Fernandez Rundle. “The mentoring effort of this group has been extremely successful in providing much needed education and guidance for many of the youth in our community.”