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CRESPOGRAM REPORT

APRIL 25, 2012

WHAT A FRIEND THEY HAVE IN KATHY
HOW THE REGALADOS WALKED AWAY FROM CRIMINAL PROSECUTION

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If there was anything even remotely resembling justice, neither Tomas or Raquel Regalado would be holding public office today. 


Both of them should have been charged with at least one, and possibly two misdemeanor criminal counts related to their actions in handling the campaign’s financial accounting and reporting during Regalados campaign for Mayor of Miami.


But they weren’t.  Instead, the Regalados were allowed to avoid criminal prosecution and were allowed to get off by paying civil penalties of  $5000 each for a case which really did involve a “willful disregard for the law.”


The process by which they were given a free pass reveals one of the ways that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle’s office deals with high profile, politically connected cases involving individuals who Fernandez-Rundle either wants to protect, or who she does political favors for, expecting no doubt some sort of quid pro quo in return.


In this case, there is no question that Katherine Fernandez-Rundle’s intention was to shield the Regalados from any threat of criminal prosecution.


The story that follows is based on information discovered in the investigative reports that became available after the case was closed: reports that were collected and provided to the public ONLY by the Crespo-Gram Report.


Other than one story that originally appeared in El Nuevo Herald before the FDLE made their records available, no other news organization has attempted to obtain or publish any kind of story that included information other than what was in the press release issued by the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission.


Yet, in spite of not knowing, or obviously not bothering to learn about the facts of the case, the Miami Herald was quick to publish an editorial attempting to minimize the Regalados actions, focusing heavily on trying to excuse what happened by indirectly referencing a series of personal and family problems, including the death of her mother in February of 2008 and the discovery that her husband was having an affair that lead to a divorce later that year that Raquel Regalado interjected as an excuse during her deposition as to why she supposedly didn’t focus on her responsibilities as campaign treasurer. (See pages 17-22 of her deposition.)


Here’s how the Miami Herald’s editorial defended the decision not to charge the Regalados with criminal violations:


            “In light of the family’s situation, the commission’s

            decision to fine the pair without criminal charges

            was appropriate.”


Really!?!  How does one’s “family’s situation” ever justify a free pass on being charged with a crime?


Think of all the other political crooks in Miami-Dade County that would love to have the Miami Herald absolve them of responsibility for their sleazy, unprincipled or crooked behavior by claiming that their “family’s situation” was responsible for their misdeeds?


It is this kind of mindless, ignorant drivel that is selectively pedaled on the news and editorial pages of the Miami Herald that raises questions as to whether the leadership of the Miami Herald have cow shit for brains, or worse, are openly acting as enablers in foisting these corrupt public officials on an ill-informed and abused public.  


The Regalados engaged in a willful pattern of misbehavior that in hindsight they attempted to claim was caused by their “family situation,” while at the same time attempting to place as much of the blame as possible on two underlings: Armando Rodriquez, a city employee who was rewarded with better city jobs after demonstrating his incompetence, and Jose Oscar Gonzalez, the husband of Regalados deceased wife’s sister, both of whom were entrusted with much of the actual accounting work for the campaign.


This was all a calculated ploy by the Regalados to deflect attention from the fact that one was stupid, and the other was a moron, and that together they conspired to hoodwink the public over the real financial activities associated with Tomas Regalados campaign for Mayor.


Consider that the “family situation” problems that Raquel Regalado described in her deposition as distracting her from her responsibilities as campaign treasurer occurred in 2008, while the most serious campaign violations took place at the end of 2009 and the first few months of 2010.


I do not wish to appear heartless or deny her the grief and pain that she faced with the death of her mother and the other dramas that year, including confirmation of her daughter’s autism and finding out she was married to a louse; but to attempt to justify the illegal acts that she engaged in almost a year and a half after most of these events occurred is taking real advantage of people gullibility.


YOU DON’T NEED TO STEAL MONEY TO COMMIT A CRIMINAL ACT


Even in the best managed political campaigns there are instances where shit happens. It’s just part of the process, and no one should be subjected to a lot of grief when these issues are discovered, because stupid shit sometimes just happens.


At the same time, there is a big difference between goofy math errors, and a demonstrable effort to create a Final Financial Campaign Report based on completely fake numbers.


When you discover that kind of behavior, it warrants criminal prosecution, because the issue is not whether any of the unaccounted for money was stolen or misused, but rather the issue is one of fundamental truthfulness in accounting for the money that you received and spent to get elected.


Contrary to what the Regalados, Joe Centorino, the Miami Herald or anyone else who supports their version of the events would have you believe, the criminal penalties associated with the campaign violations the Regalados were accused of violating DID NOT have as a prerequisite a requirement that the money collected by the campaign had to be stolen or misused before they could be charged with criminal infractions.


Here is the what the Regalados did, and why it went beyond any simple issues of math errors or sloppy bookkeeping.


THE PHONY FINAL FINANCIAL REPORT


On February 3, 2010, Tomas Regalado and his daughter submitted an unsigned Final Campaign Report with the Miami City Clerk that said that the campaign had collected $808,789.00, and had spent $657,330.92.


On March 15, 2010, after being notified of these errors by the City Clerk - the total contributions and expenditures didn’t match and the report was unsigned -  a 2nd, signed Final Campaign Report was filed that increased the expenditures to $848,234.99, and to balance the numbers they claimed that they had collected $848,234.99 in contributions.


When the investigation into Regalados campaign was opened in 2011, and the Ethic’s Commission’s Auditor got through conducting her audit, she came up with total contributions of $876,669.99 and total expenditures of $874.587.99. 


The $2082 difference is money that the Regalado claimed that they had kept in the campaign account to cover any potential IRS problems they thought might have from another bookkeeping error.


The difference between the Regalados first Final Campaign Report with mismatched contribution and expenditure totals, and the 2nd Final Campaign Report with entirely different contribution and expenditure totals, followed by the final audited totals generated by the Ethic’s Commission’s auditor pointed to only one conclusion: The Regalados had made up the numbers in the second final report as a way to try and make the numbers add up, and the problem go away.


On page 32, of the FDLE’s Investigative Reports, here is the way that this conclusion of dummy numbers was reached in a meeting held between Joseph Centorino, Executive Director of the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission, Howard Rosen, Assistant State’s Attorney, FDLE Special Agent William Saladrigas and Christine Seymour, Chief Auditor for the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission on October 27, 2011.


        “COE Director Centorino and ASA Rosen, after being

        briefed on Ms. Seymour's findings and reviewing the

        charted violations, agreed that charge number four was

        the most egregious, in that the City Clerk had alerted the

        Regalado campaign to the fact that there were problems

        with the report. Instead of vetting the issues raised by

        the Clerk and correcting the problem(s), the Regalado

        campaign seemingly plugged an arbitrary number into

        the contributions column designed to force a balance

        with the expenditure column and submitted the report

        in apparent willful disregard for the rule of law.”


The difference between seeking civil and criminal penalties in a case like this is when defendants exhibit an “apparant willful disregard for the rule of law.”


It’s one thing to have done sloppy math, but an entirely different thing to not have done any math at all.


HOW THE REGALADO’S GOT THEIR FREE PASS TO GO PAST JAIL


The FDLE Investigative Report goes on to describe what happened after the above discussion took place.


        “At approximately 3 p.m., Mr. Jose Quinon arrived at

        the meeting and was briefed on Ms. Seymour's findings

        and the opinions of Director Centorino and ASA Rosen.

        Mr. Quinon was informed that, while it was possible to

        work out the majority of the allegations with civil penalties,

        item number four would likely result in a criminal charge

        unless the Regalados were able to present evidence

        that would be somehow dispositive of the facts as

        presented. In light of the imminent statute of limitations

        issue that would affect several of the violations under

        Chapter 106, Mr. Quinon agreed to a waiver of the

        statute of limitation on the applicable charges to allow

        him to meet with his clients and discuss the various

        options. All parties agreed that any filing decision

        would be deferred, contingent on the waiver, to allow

        Mr. Quinon to meet with his clients.”


Sounds serious, right!


Jose Quinon, the Regalados defense attorney is informed that his clients face possible criminal charges, but in order to be fair, this group will let the Regalados argue their case as to why they shouldn’t be criminally charged, as long as the Regalados agree to sign a wavier because there were only 8 days left before the statute of limitations expired.


At that point, given the time constraints, a deadline on agreeing to the waiver should have been imposed.  But no such time limit was imposed by Howard Rosen or Joe Centorino.


Instead of demanding that waivers be signed and delivered within 48 or 72 hours, and that the Regalados come in and give their side of the story BEFORE the statute of limitations ran out, which is the way the State Attorney’s Office would have behaved if they had even an iota of interest in charging the Regalados with a criminal count for this violation, NO TIME LIMIT WAS SET, and Jose Quinon, being the smart lawyer that he is, took complete advantage of that failure to wait until after 5:00 PM, on November 2, 2011, to send Joe Centorino an email telling him that the originals of the signed waivers were in his office.

Notice that Jose Quinon cites “non-criminal violations” in the subject line of his email. He did that because the statute of limitations for the Regalados being charged with criminal violations effectively expired at 5:00 PM that afternoon.


The Regalados didn’t get around to showing up for depositions until January 4, 2012.


THAT’S HOW how the Regalados got a free pass from their friend Katherine Fernandez-Rundle! By not demanding that the waivers be executed in a timely fashion, Howard Rosen and Joe Centorino purposely allowed the statute of limitations on any criminal charges against the Regalados to run out!


HOW KATHERINE FERNANDEZ-RUNDLE TREATS HER NON-FRIENDS


The prosecution of political corruption cases by the Miami-Dade State’s Attorney’s office has always been very selective. With Fernandez-Rundle, it’s always been about going after her enemies and the enemies of her friends, and always protecting her friends and the friends of her  friends.


Here’s an example of how Katherine Fernandez-Rundle and Joe Centorino dealt with an enemy of one of Fernandez-Rundle’s friends back in the 90’s.


His name was Bruce Kaplan, and he was just another in the long line of sleaze bags that have been members of the Miami-Dade County Commission.


His crime wasn’t that he was a sleaze bag, because if that was a criteria for going after all the crooked politicians on Miami-Dade County Commission they’d have to hold their meetings in the visiting room of the State Penitentiary.


No, his crime was he was that he was feuding with then Golden Boy, County Mayor Alex Penales.


The year was 1998, and Kaplan had been investigated for lying on his annual financial disclosure forms. 


Sound familiar? That’s the same charge that I filed an ethics  complaint against Tomas Regalado for failing to account for his assets in his 2009 and 2010 annual financial disclosure forms.


Only instead of getting a slap on the wrist like Regalado got, Fernandez-Rundle and Centorino went after Kaplan to force him out of office. The case is detailed in a Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel story, that ended this way:


        “Assistant State Attorney Joe Centorino said his office

        looked at a number of possible charges against Kaplan,

        including allegedly falsifying his mortgage application.

        But the State Attorney's office focused on Kaplan's

        phony financial disclosure forms because they were

        linked to his public office.


        Kaplan agreed to leave office and never seek re-election

        because he did not want to face possibly harsher penalties,

         Centorino said.


        ``He didn't want to fight a felony charge,'' Centorino said.

        ``He didn't want to do any jail time.''


I love it when guys like Centorino get all butch and start talking about “jail time,” especially since long before I came along, Joe Centorino had already earned the label of “Let ‘em go Joe,” for his treatment of high profile politicians accused of  public corruption.


For Kaplan it was all about resign or risk going to jail. For Regalado on the other hand, it was a $1000 fine and a requirement that he file an amended financial report


The month following the Regalado agreement to pay the $1000 fine, when the Herald did their editorial about the campaign charges, they referenced Centorino’s continued sensitivities for Regalados well-being by writing, “According to Joe Centorino, executive director of the ethics commission, the Regalados faulty bookkeeping was tied to personal issues.”


Poor folks by the thousands go to prison from Miami-Dade County every year, and you never hear anyone from the Miami Herald or the State Attorney’s Office commiserate over any of their “personal issues.” 


It’s only politicians and the rich and powerful in Miami that get the benefit of solicitous concern for their “personal issues,” before they are slapped gently on the wrist and let go.


Yes, it’s true that Centorino was the one quoted in the FDLE Report as describing the Regalados actions as an “apparent willful disregard for the rule of law,” but given what transpired, that’s like saying, “Looks like a crime to me, somebody needs to do something about it,” and then walking away.


As the Executive Director of the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission, Centorino had it in his power to require that the Regalados sign the waivers within 48-72 hours.


He didn’t, because when push came to shove, he did what he had always done as the Head of the State Attorney’s Public Corruption Unit:  He became Katherine Fernandez-Rundle’s butt boy.


AFTER ALL THAT’S TRANSPIRED, THE Regalados FILED ANOTHER PHONY FINAL FINANCIAL REPORT


From the very beginning, when the Regalados case was transferred to the Ethic’s Commission, the fix was in.  You would think therefore, that the Regalados might have shown some appreciation and repay the favor of skating out of harms way by at least complying with the measly requirement of submitting one last Final Campaign Report that made sense.


After getting a free pass from criminal prosecution, the Regalados were required to do two things.  Pay a total of $10,000 in fines and file one last Final Financial Report.


You guessed it, on April 4, 2012, they filed their 3rd Final Financial Report and it’s as fucked up and bogus as the first two reports they filed.


You can’t make this shit up.


In the report they submitted they included another $37,131,66 in contributions and new expenditures of $2,797.95 - that finally removed all of the money from the bank account, including the $2092 that had been kept to deal with the possible IRS problem.


This new report now showed a total of $853,194.99 in Contributions and $851,032.95 in Expenditures.


Ignoring the $2000 + difference between the contributions and expenditures which has to do with the IRS money, there’s still, based on the Ethic’s Commission’s Audit of the campaign accounts, a total of $23,475.00 missing in Contributions and Expenditures between the Regalados latest $853,194.99 number, and the Auditor’s total of $876.669.99.


He’s the Mayor of Miami, and she’s a lawyer and a member of the Miami-Dade School Board. Together they are not as smart as a 5th grader flunking math, and they are a team that have demonstrated that they’re not to be trusted to tell the truth.


But none of that matters because they’re friends of Kathy, and the Miami Herald thinks that they deserved a break. In the end, the thing to remember is that in the world of real politics, stupid politicians who lie and cheat will always be beholden to their protectors.


It’s Miami, Bitches!

THIS IS THE FIRST OF A SEVERAL PART SERIES ON THE  BEHIND-THE-SCENES ACTIONS AND REVELATIONS OF POSSIBLE CRIMINAL ACTIVITY THAT WERE EITHER IGNORED, AND/OR SWEPT UNDER THE RUG DURING THE INVESTIGATION OF TOMAS Regalados MAYORAL CAMPAIGN.