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CRESPOGRAM REPORT

JUNE 12, 2012

THIS IS WHAT CORRUPTION LOOKS LIKE
IN MIAMI, EVERY GAMING AND AMUSEMENT MACHINE IS UNLICENSED AND THEREFORE OPERATING ILLEGALLY

The City of Miami is millions of dollars in debt.  It’s been in debt for years. Actions that would in years past have been considered questionable or downright illegal are now routinely considered and/or approved by the 5 Dwarfs on the Miami City Commission because they allegedly represent a way to generate desperately needed money for the city’s General Revenue Fund.


Yet during the last two years, the City of Miami has failed to collect anywhere from $1.5 to $2 million dollars of BTR’s (Business Tax Receipts, or Occupational Licenses) from the thousands of maquinitas, pinball and video arcade machines that collectively rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars on a weekly basis in convenience stores, bodegas, juke joints, laundromats and cafeterias all over the city.


Never once, since the day that the City Commission fired Chief Miguel Exposito, has any member of the City Commission uttered a single word that indicated that he or she had the least amount of interest in why the City allows these machines to operate illegally within the city limits, or why the Regalado administration has not made any effort to enforce the BTR Ordinance that would require non-maquinita machine owners to purchase a BTR for each of their machines. 


When it comes to understanding what public corruption looks like, there is no better example than what has been going in Miami with the maquinita machines since Tomas Regalado became Mayor.


STEP I: THE CREATION OF THE ORDINANCE THAT BECAME UNENFORCEABLE


On October 16, 2010, the Miami City Commission by a vote of 4-1, (Commissioner Frank Carollo voted No,) the Commission voted to create a new classification of BTR’s intended to regulate all video gaming machines.


At the First Reading of the Ordinance on September 16th, Barnaby Mim, parroting the ridiculous claim that these machines had nothing to do with gambling, defined the kinds of machines that would be included in the ordinance:


            “This ordinance has nothing to do with gambling.

            This ordinance does not allow gambling. It does

            not legalize gambling. This ordinance is meant to

            regulate amusement machines. Those machines

            do include the types of machines that are used

            for gambling purposes and they also include

            Pac-Man and Skee Ball and Pinball and all the

            other types of amusement machines that are

            used throughout the City that are not used for

            gambling purposes.”


It’s the most stupid kind of political double-speak to claim that the ordinance didn’t have anything to do with gambling, yet it included “types of machines that are used for gambling purposes,” and it  is this level of gobbly-gook that has come to reflect the Regalado administration’s level of public policy discourse.


While the intent of the ordinance was to raise money for the City, writer Kirk Nielsen in Ponder Magazine in September of 2011, wrote that the financial realities were something different.


            “It was creative municipal financing at its

            strangest. Police have estimated the average

            maquinita swallows $1,000 per week, or $52,000

            annually. So the estimated 1,500 maquinitas in

            Miami bring their owners $78 million per year. By

            issuing a $500 license for each machine, Regalado

            stood to generate just $750,000 in new revenue.

            Enough for about two fire department executive

            salaries plus benefits.”


Not a bad deal, right?  Pay approximately 1% of your gross for a dinky city license that legalizes your otherwise illegal gambling machines, and then laugh all the way to the bank. If you were a maquinita owner how much would you be willing to give a politician who could arrange such a deal for you?


Several weeks after the ordinance passed, Chief Miguel Exposito, who had a career long antipathy to these machines, ordered his now famous Lucky 7 raid - objected to by Regalado - that seized about 400 maquinita machines, and started the feud between them and led to Exposito being fired by the City Commission on September 10, 2011.


STEP II: THE DAY THE MAYOR AND HIS CRONIES ALLOWED THE MAQUINITA OWNERS TO TAKE OUT THE CHIEF OF POLICE


To this day, very few people understand what really happened last September when in the middle of the City Manager’s presentation to the City Commission at the Special Hearing for why the Chief should be fired, in waltzed attorney Al Milan, claiming that he had been contacted to represent the City Manager for the remainder of  the hearing.


The words amazing and astounding don’t even come close to describing Milan’s appearance, or all that followed.


Instead of directing the City Attorney to vacate her seat so Milan could sit next to City Manager Johnny “The Doormat” Martinez, and provide him with whatever legal advice he required, the City Commission engaged in a couple hours of largely irrelevant debate attempting to out do each other in fatuous nonsense  before then Commission Chairman Willie Gort, essentially removed the City Manager from the equation and allowed Al Milan to take the floor and prosecute the case against the Chief himself.


The responsibility of prosecuting the case against the Chief was the responsibility of the City Manager - the legally authorized representative of the citizens of the city - and the notion that midway through his presentation - albeit an embarrassingly inept and and incompetent presentation at that - he was replaced by a private attorney representing the maquinita owners was perhaps the single most amazing act of legal sleight-of-hand I’ve ever seen in my life, and that includes anything I ever saw in a movie.


The only analogy that comes even close to the decision allowing Milan to take over the hearing like he did would have been to allow an Olympic swimmer, wearing flippers, to jump in the water in the middle of a high school swimming meet and replace the last place swimmer because he wasn’t doing good.


What made it all the more astounding was that Milan had a very public history of representing the owners of the maquinita machines, both in and outside of the courtroom, and yet, not one single Commissioner had either the smarts, or the courage to just come out and say, “This is crazy!  How can this guy represent the citizens of the City of Miami when he’s the mouthpiece for the maquinita owners?”


As I revealed in a piece I wrote after the hearing, using a portion of the Hearing’s video, Milan made no secret that the interests of HIS clients - the maquinita owners - were the same as the City Manager.  They both wanted Exposito gone, and as if by magic, when Martinez demonstrated that he was not up to the task, Milan had been called in from the bullpen to carry out all of their wishes.


Here is that portion of the video tape of the hearing.

Of ALL of the really smart lawyers in Miami that owe the city favors, the fact that it was Al Milan who showed up at City Hall, was for me like living in mythical Gotham City, seeing the signal for Batman flash across the sky, and watching The Joker’s attorney drive up in response.


Let me emphasis a couple critical points from the clip above.  Milan very clearly and succinctly spells out who he represents, what their interests are, and the fact that he cleared it with them before he showed up at City Hall that afternoon.


When he says at the end of his statement that: 


            “Whether my representation of one client would

            be be adverse to the interests of another or vice

            versa, and I have taken all of the appropriate legal

            steps that I’m aware of to insure that I have no

            conflict, and I have gone beyond and sought wavier

            of any conflict from any client who thought that

            representing the manager in that capacity would

            represent a position adverse to their interests.”


He was, in effect, letting everyone know that the maquinita owners were on board with his appearance, and that he had their blessing.


At the time however, because most people in the audience, including the news media, either didn’t understand the players or weren’t paying close attention to what Milan was saying because of all the back and forth between him and the Commissioners, this caim went right over most of their heads.


It didn’t go over the heads of several of the Commissioners though. Willie Gort, as the Chairman, understood exactly what he was doing when he allowed Milan to become not just the City Manager’s legal advisor, but the City Manager’s replacement. Willie might have played dumb that day, but he wasn’t dumb enough to do anything but what he was told to do, and that was to let Milan take over the show.


To be honest however, given the makeup of the Commission and the various alliances and the back room winks and nods that go on between these folks, Donald Duck could have come in to replace Johnny Martinez, and the vote would have still been 3-2 in favor of firing Exposito.


Milan was brought in more to put some legal hocus-pocus and fairy dust on the proceedings than because there was any doubt of the outcome. What Commissioners Gort, Suarez and Spence-Jones needed to be protected against was the embarrassment of trying to explain their vote had Johnny Martinez continued with his incompetent and embarrassing presentation.


At the end of the day, the firing of Exposito made the Mayor, his cronies and the maquinita owners happy, which was really what the whole deal was about anyhow.


STEP III: REPLACING EXPOSITO WITH MANNY OROSA


The next step in the process towards allowing the maquinitas to flourish within the city limits was the charade of conducting a “National Search” for  fired Chief Exposito.


Like everything else in Miami, the search was just a smoke screen to let emotions cool down before Manny Orosa could be appointed permanent Chief.


The only requirement that Orosa needed in order to insure his becoming Chief of Police was a willingness to blindly obey whatever orders Regalado gave him, starting with the appointment of former Commander Ricardo Roque - who Exposito had been trying to demote - to Assistant Chief of Police, to allow his “Godson,” Luis Cabrera to prance around in the police uniform of the Deputy Chief of Police whenever he wanted, and to make a handful of other appointments that would pacify a couple of the Commissioners.


He’s delivered on all of those demands, and then some.


I wrote my first story about Manny Orosa on September 7th, the day after he assumed the position of interim Chief.  In that story I chronicled Manny’s involvement in the Leonardo Mercardo murder case, how he had cut a “use immunity” deal with the US Attorney’s office to become a government witness, and how back in the 80’s he had been the subject of an IA investigation regarding allegations that he had been on the payroll of a Bolita Kingpin named Valdez.


Orosa took me to task about the Valdez claim, especially about his having illegally destroyed the IA file, claiming rightfully as it turned out, that he had destroyed the documents according to the legal requirements established by the City Clerk.


However, neither he, nor anyone else in the department seems to be able to explain why Orosa’s IA Profile no longer includes this investigation as part of his permanent record as required by law, and because of that, the apology that Orosa asks me for every time I run into him won’t be forthcoming.


Worse, Orosa claimed that the investigation had been closed as “Inconclusive,” which is not the same thing as his being found innocent or the claims not being not based on facts.


In most major police departments, Orosa’s record would have excluded him from any serious consideration for the position of Chief, but in Regaladoland, he was from the beginning, the odds on favorite to come out on top of any selection process conducted by “The Doormat,” City Manager Johnny Martinez.


Even with the deal cooked in advance, Martinez couldn’t handle that simple procedure without controversy.


The decision making Orosa the Chief was only minutes old when out of left field, Juan Coro, owner of La Esquisito restaurant in Little Havana sent out an email blasting the process that led to the selection and calling it nothing more than “a circus.”


Coro is a well known and respected business owner - and not known to be a political agitator - who had been asked by Commissioner Frank Carollo to be his representative on the civilian panel to oversee the selection committee.


Coro, like several others on that committee felt from the beginning that they had been hoodwinked into being patsies by not allowing them to ask questions of the finalists, and as Coro revealed to me, by going so far as to not even providing them with the names of the 5 finalists that were chosen by the selection committee.  He found out who the 5 were by reading about it in El Nuevo Herald


The most startling news that Coro told me is that of the 4 individuals chosen by the City Manager to select the 5 finalists from the 10 semi-finalists, 2 of those panelists never showed up.


To quote Bob Dylan, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” and it was obvious to all but the most obtuse that from the very beginning the wind out of City Hall would blow Manny Orosa into the office of the Chief of Police where he would sooner be caught drinking Pina Coladas in a hot tub with Luis Cabrera, than to order another set of Lucky 7 raids against maquinita machines.


STEP IV:  EXPERT WITNESS?  WHAT EXPERT WITNESS? WE DON’T NEED NO STINK’EN EXPERT WITNESSES HERE


My colleague Mike Hatami, at The Straw Buyer, has written a number of excellent stories recently about the maquinitas and about a report commissioned by D. Robert Sertell, of Casino Horizons Corporation. 


Sertell is a nationally recognized expert on gaming machines that was hired by the Miami City Attorney’s Office in June 2011.  Those stories in chronological order can be found HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE,  and HERE.


In order to complete his investigation, Sertell was provided access to video gaming machines seized in the Lucky 7 raids and housed in a warehouse close to the Miami River and 12th Avenue.


His conclusions, detailed in his report, which can be read HERE, was that not only were the maquinitas gambling machines under any definition of that term, but more importantly, the algorithms and controls on the machines were out and out intended to cheat the customer: ( I would strongly encourage you to at least scroll through the report to appreciate just how crooked they are.)


Here is one of a number of salient quotes from his report:


            “As the string of icons spins in front of the player,

            the pressing of the skill stop button causes the last

            Icon to morph, or change into a different symbol

            than the one which is supposed to be displayed.  

            This morphing permits the machine's computer to

            defeat any attempt at skill, and to deliver an outcome

            that was chosen in advance by the computer.  Not

            only is this machine designed and manufactured

            specifically for the purpose of gambling; it is also

            designed to cheat the customer.”


You would think that such a report would have been heaven sent to the City Attorney’s Office and George Wysong, the Assistant City Attorney representing the Police Department in the civil cases where the maquinita owners are trying to get these machine back.


You would be wrong.  After commissioning the study last year, Julie Bru, the nitwit City Attorney obviously had second thoughts - or was instructed to have second thoughts - and refused to pay Sertell in order to obtain a copy of this report, so that Wysong could use it as part of his case last month against the return of these machines.


As Mike Hatami reported after attending the hearing before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Diane Ward, Wysong, had he had the report at the hearing might have been able to convince Judge Ward then to end the lawsuit by the maquinita owners when the judge pressed the City for some evidence - other than his citing some court cases - that established that these machines were illegal.


Because he couldn’t, the case has been continued while the owners have an opportunity to bring in their own experts to claim that they are not.


Here is what Mike wrote about asking Wysong whether the City would now consider paying Sertell to obtain a copy of the report from him:


            “The funniest part of this whole encounter?  I asked

            City of Miami attorney George Wysong whether or

            not the city was going to pay the expert now for his

            report to which he responded..."why when I can

            download it from your website for free?"


STEP V: IT’S MIAMI, BITCHES!


The pervasiveness of the maquinita machines in the City of Miami is a testament to both the insolence of His Ignorance, Tomas Regalado, in continuing to claim that he opposes them, while at the same time frequenting establishments where they are openly on display, and the failure - or refusal - by the 5 Dwarfs on the Miami City Commission, or the Miami Police Department to do anything about them.


The photograph below, taken by Mike Hatami last month, show 3 maquinitas at a cafeteria in the lobby of the office building at 330 SW 27th Avenue. This office building houses the Latin radio station La Poderosa, 670 AM.


Raquel Regalado, hosts a daily radio show at this station, and her Daddy, the Mayor, averages at least one appearance a week on this show.

Hundreds of video gaming machines, referred to locally as Maquinitas, sit in a Miami Police storage warehouse, waiting a court decision as to whether they can be returned to their owners.

It obviously doesn’t concern the Mayor that he frequents an establishment in his city that openly houses illegal and unlicensed gaming machines on the premises, but then again, as El Nuevo Herald reported last year, when the ordinance that was supposed to regulate these machines was being crafted, Regalado invited Orlando Cordoves,(sometimes identified as Cordobes,) to be a part of the working group that crafted the ordinance.


Cordoves, as I wrote about last year in my series Placido Diaz/SLUMLORD, was once indicted by a Federal Grand Jury as part of the Battle Organization - otherwise referred to as the CORPORATION and/or the Cuban Mafia - and was described in the terms below before he was un-indicted, and his name was blanked out of the indictment.


            “(Blank) was a member of the CORPORATION, a

            “Jefe” and boss in charge of multiple Divisions in

            the CORPORATION who was also responsible for

            identifying new illegal gambling locations and for

            recruiting entry level personnel to start up new

            gambling operations for the CORPORATION.”


Cordoves took offense and sued Chief Exposito and former MPD Major Al Alvarez for talking about his alleged connections to the CORPORATION on the Latin TV show, “La Mano Limpa.” last year.  The case was dismissed earlier this year.


Cordoves has also been identified in court papers as being the owner of some of the maquinita machines that are currently in the possession of the Miami Police Department.

Three unlicensed maquinitas at the cafeteria at 330 SW 27th Avenue, frequented by Tomas and Raquel Regalado.

Illegal gaming machines of one kind or another have long been a staple of American life, starting with the 1891 precursor to the slot machine that used 5 playing cards created in New York City, to the first pinball machines, and throughout the ensuing years to all the various versions of electronic gaming machines in use today.


The corrupting influence, in big cities and small, followed every advancement in technology, and as new groups of immigrants arrived on our shores they soon took over a piece of the action as they made their way up the political ladder.


One of the earliest examples of Cuban involvement through the Cuban Mafia occurred in city of West New York, where Joe Battle  Sr. gained a foothold in the numbers racket, and where Joe Grana Sr., followed him by running a crew that wound up being convicted of engaging in the largest police corruption case in New York state history. The centerpiece of that case involved 200 illegal video gaming machines being operated in that small town.


For comparison, the photo at the top of this story shows more than 200 machines in the Miami Police Department’s warehouse, yet, going back at least 10 years, neither the Miami-Dade State Attorney or the US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida has pursued the kinds of investigation that would lead to criminal charges being filed against anyone associated with the maquinitas in Miami-Dade County.


Why? 


THIS IS WHAT HAS COME TO PASS AS A RESULT OF REGALADO’S SCHEMING ON BEHALF OF THE MAQUINUTA OWNERS


There are a number of results that have come about from Tomas Regalado’s scheming to supposedly license the maquinitas for the public good.  None of the results have turned out good, or in the public’s interest.


  1. 1. Since October 1, 2010, NOT a single gaming or amusement machine operating in an establishment within the city limits has  been licensed.


  1. 2. As a result of this failure, the claim made by the Regalado and others that the main purposes of the Ordinance passed on October 16, 2010, was to raise at least $750,000 a year in much needed revenue by licensing these machines has NOT occurred.  In addition, because non-gambling machines were included in the ordinance as a way to shield the maquinitas, they too have gotten a free pass over the last 20 months.


  1. 3.The other claim that the ordinance would be a way to know where the machines were, as a way to keep track of them has also NOT come to pass.  The only 3 machines whose location we know for sure are in the lobby of the building that houses the radio station where Raquel and Tomas Regalado spin their lies and fantasies on a weekly basis to the little abuelitas in the nursing homes in Little Havana.


  1. 4. The 5 Dwarfs on the Miami City Commission, while happy to plaster electronic LED billboards on any and every building they can, claiming that this is the only way they have to make money for the City, have NOT, since the passage of the Ordinance, raised so much as a peep to question why the city doesn’t license ANY amusement machines, and more importantly, why the city hasn’t collected so much as one thin dime in the last 20 months from a pinball, Pac Man or video arcade machines scattered throughout the city.


  1. 5. Had it not been for the anonymous donor who paid for the Sertell Report, and for Mike Hatami’s managing to get his hands on it and publishing it, you can absolutely bet that the City Attorney of Miami - the nitwit Julie Bru - would have never taken the steps required to have that document become available for use in the cases now being argued over the return of these machines.  In fact, the failure to have already obtained a copy of the report can be seen as a pretty clear cut example of stacking the deck in favor of the maquinita owners, and provides just one more glaring example of why Julie Bru needs to be fired. Of course, she won’t, because public corruption is so much easier to carry off when you have the city’s top lawyer in your pocket running interference.


  1. 6. The Sertell Report specials out in detail just how rigged these maquinita machines really are, and that if they were found in any licensed casino in the country, they would be unplugged and the casino fined for allowing them to be on the premises.


In the City of Miami it’s obvious that the Mayor, the City Commission, the Chief of Police and both the State Attorney and US Attorney must either be in bed with the owners of these machines, or they must be the biggest, dumb fucks in Florida.


After all the years of failing to criminally go after any of these maquinita owners, no responsible or reputable public official entrusted with protecting the public can claim with a straight face  to be concerned with protecting the public - especially the poor and uneducated people who are most targeted - against these “one armed bandits.”


It really is Miami, Bitches! folks, and the people entrusted to look out for your best interests have sold you down the river!

http://alturl.com/xtrsnhttp://alturl.com/xtrsnshapeimage_11_link_0

PAGE LINK - COPY AND PASTE

Copy the link below, and it will be a permanent link to this page that you can post on Facebook, or anywhere else.

Courtesy, Mike Hatami

Courtesy, Mike Hatami

It’s always good to have input from the community when writing an ordinance, and better yet, from someone so knowledgeable on the subject and with a financial interest to boot.


STEP VI:  IMPACT ON THE COMMUNITY


There are a lot of reasons why the City of Miami has become one of the poorest - if not the poorest - city in America. One of those reasons is the $75 - $100 million dollars a year that the maquinita machines syphon out of the city a quarter or dollar a spin.


That kind of money is not only significant as a loss to the economic impact that it would provide to the local economy, but it’s also the kind of money that often provides unlimited financing for public corruption.


What set off Mike Hatami to start writing about the maquinitas last month was a series of photos he took of a couple guys working on a maquinita machine in full view of a Miami Police car.


Corrupting cops, and getting them to turn their heads is often the first step in the slide to even worse corruption in cities where illegal gaming machines are allowed to flourish.