|Is there a perp walk in Pepe's future?|
Is the Florida Department of Law Enforcement getting ready to present Miami-Dade commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz with a pair of shiny silver bracelets?
A check of visitors to my blog today shows that someone from the FDLE in Tallahassee landed on Random Pixels after Googling "Pepe Diaz Miami-Dade County Commissioner."
While it's still early, it's safe to say that Diaz showed up on the FDLE's early warning system after someone at the agency read the excellent piece last November by Miami Herald reporters Matthew Haggman and Martha Brannigan on Diaz's ethically suspect employment by a contractor that does business with the county.
Herald oolumnist Jackie Bueno Sousa called Diaz an "expert" when it comes to skirting ethics rules.
And if the FDLE is investigating Diaz, it wouldn't be the first time that the commish has been targeted by law enforcement.
In 2007 the Herald reported:
When Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jose " Pepe " Diaz championed a zoning change for land owned by developers Sergio Pino and Armando Codina -- without disclosing that he'd flown with Pino on his private jet to Cancún -- he may have violated the federal law at the heart of the case against famed Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff.In 2008, the Herald's John Dorschner reported:
Andrew C. Lourie -- the federal prosecutor who oversaw the investigation that sent Abramoff and U.S. Rep. Robert Ney to prison last year -- is now in South Florida running the Diaz investigation. Interviews with lawyers familiar with the case, and subpoenas sent out by Lourie, suggest he is again pursuing an "honest services fraud" investigation.
Under the federal statute, prosecutors don't have to prove a direct bribe -- that is, a gift for a specific favor. Instead, they only have to demonstrate "a scheme or artifice to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services" from a public official.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose " Pepe " Diaz received $20,000 in 2004 from what federal prosecutors describe as a shell company used to conceal fraudulent proceeds from a hospital kickback scheme -- a payment the commissioner says was a legitimate bonus.In Jan. 2009, Carlos and Jorge De Céspedes - whom Diaz described as "successful businessmen and philanthropists who always gave back to this community" - were sentenced to 9 years in for defrauding a South Florida hospital. According to the Herald, "U.S. District Judge Patricia A. Seitz said the brothers had been "two-faced for too long" in bilking Kendall Regional Medical Center out of $5 million in a fraud that lasted 14 years."
The company, Kaufman Medical Products, was cited in a document filed in federal court Tuesday about healthcare fraud charges against Carlos and Jorge de Céspedes, owners of bankrupt Doral medical-supply firm Pharmed.
Diaz listed on his 2004 public disclosure form that he had received $19,795 from Kaufman. Diaz said Wednesday the money was a bonus for work performed for the de Céspedes brothers' venture capital firm, Astri Group.
In an e-mailed statement, Diaz said: "I, like most Miami-Dade county residents, have known Carlos and Jorge De Céspedes to be successful businessmen and philanthropists who always gave back to this community.... In 2004, I received a bonus in the amount of $19,795 as compensation for my work with the Astri Group. I accepted and properly disclosed the bonus as income. It was the business decision of my employers to pay me through this company (Kaufman) and I had no reason to question that decision."
If I were you "Pepe," I'd be calling my attorney. Now might be an excellent time to schedule that lunch with him that you've been putting off for so long!