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CRESPOGRAM REPORT

APRIL 30, 2012

RAQUEL  AND MARITZA
FAILING TO ACCOUNT FOR $305,592.00 SPENT IN CAMPAIGN MEDIA BUYS LEADS TO DISCOVERY OF POSSIBLE CRIMES THAT WERE COMMITTED AND IGNORED

When we last left the Regalados, they were tap dancing out of the State Attorney’s Offices, giddy with the knowledge that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle had come through to make sure that they did not get hammered with any pesky criminal charges that would have resulted in them being removed from office by the Governor.


Their appearance for depositions at her offices in January of this year was seen as little more than a formality that had to be gotten through in order to put the whole issue behind them.


This explains why Raquel Regalado, when it came her turn to answer questions was happy to sound like a misunderstood rocket scientist until she was asked a direct question about how much money Creative Ideas Advertising, the company run by Maritza Gutierrez, the wife of Armando “The Whopper” Gutierrez, made from the $305,592.00 that she got from the Regalado campaign to handle their media buys.


Here is the question and answer that opened the door to what I now allege was the single biggest criminal activity associated with the Regalado campaign. ( See deposition, (Page 39.)


        Auditor Seymour:  So how much of the $300,000

        would you say Creative ideas made off of...

       

        Witness/Regalado:  Media buy wise....

   

        P.A. Quinon: Commission...

   

        Witness/Regalado: Commission right, commission,

        I don’t know I would have to look at the invoices

        um you know...


If the Regalados ever decide to do a Coat Of Arms, their motto should definitely be, “I don’t know.”


THE QUESTIONS THAT RAQUEL AND MARITZA DIDN’T  WANT TO ANSWER


In October of last year, as the effort was underway to finalize the Regalado’s campaign finances investigation, Christina Seymour, the Ethic’s Commission Auditor, tried to obtain the accounting records, copies of checks and most importantly a copy of the contract/professional services agreement between Maritza Gutierrez, her company Creative Ideas Advertising and the Regalado campaign before the statute of limitations ran out.


Instead of receiving any of this information, she received a CD with a mishmash of invoices that I obtained as part of a public records request.  The documents on that CD can be viewed HERE.


After reviewing those documents, Seymour wrote to the Regalado’s lawyer, Jose Qunion, and included a copy of a letter to Maritza Gutierrez, raising a number of  questions.

From: Seymour, Christina (COE)

Sent: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 4:15 PM

To: Jose M. Quiñon

Cc: Saladrigas, William "Bill"; Centorino, Joseph (COE); Howard Rosen

Subject: Additional Request for Documentation - Creative Advertising Inc.

Importance: High


Jose,


I have reviewed all the documents from "Creative Ideas Advertising" that was copied onto the CD ROM you provided to me on Friday, October 14, 2011.


After thoroughly reviewing all of the invoice documents in detail, I was able to account for $305,592 of payments issued by the 2009 Regalado campaign for media buys and consulting services provided by "Creative Ideas Advertising."   I noted that the campaign focused the majority of its advertising dollars on the Spanish and English speaking demographic.


As I originally documented in a sample of campaign expenses, there was a $15,000 check issued to "Creative Ideas Advertising, " which the campaign's internal check request memo documented the purpose of the $15,000 as being for "Haitian Radio."   Due to the fact that I have not found any invoices for Haitian radio, print ads, television spots, etc., I am kindly asking for your assistance in providing supporting documentation for this 2009 Tomas Regalado campaign expense.  The campaign check # 1221 is dated October 14, 2009 and is made payable to "Creative Ideas Advertising" in the amount of $15,000.   There is no notation as to the purpose of this expense on the face of check #1221 either.


Please advise if you would like me to fax to you the documentation that I have in my possession, if it would help the 2009 Regalado campaign in identifying the media buys associated with this $15,000 expenditure.  At this point, time is of the essence as I nearing the completion of my review of the 2009 Regalado campaign records.


Thank you once again for your prompt assistance with our review.


Kind regards,


Christina Seymour, CPA


Auditor, Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics


(305) 350-0611 (o)

__________________________________________________


Dear Ms. Maritza Gutierrez:


We are reviewing the campaign expenses of Mayor Tomas Regalado 2009 campaign records.  A review of a sample of campaign expenses showed that "Creative Ideas Advertising Inc." was paid at least $293,218 from this campaign account.  The following table below lists a sample of the payments received by your company from this campaign account:


    Check Date       Purpose per check:      Amount


1. 10/14/09            Haitian Radio               $ 15,000.00


2. 10/15/09            Advertising                   $ 49,452.26


3. 10/19/09            Consulting Fees           $ 39,705.00


4. 10/19/09             Consulting Fees          $ 24,971.00


5. 10/19/09                                                 $ 39,705.00


6. 10/21/09            Consulting Fees           $ 102,300.00


7.10/22/09             Consulting Fees           $ 2.050.00


8. 11/18/09             Balance                        $ 1,500.00


9. 11/18/09             Radio schedule            $ 5,040.00


10. 11/28/09                                                $ 6,320.00


11. 10/27/09           Channel 6                    $    875.00


12. 10/28/09                                                $ 6,300.00


TOTAL PAID                                            $293,218.26


As the table above illustrates, Creative Advertising, Inc. received approximately 35% of the total $848,235 campaign expenditures of the 2009 Regalado mayoral campaign.


We are therefore requesting from you, the vendor  "Creative Ideas Advertising Inc.," to please provide the following internal accounting records and supporting documentation related to the payments your company received from the 2009 Tomas Regalado mayoral campaign account:


1.    A copy of the contract / Professional Service Agreement between "Creative Ideas Advertising Inc." and the 2009 Tomas Regalado election campaign that states the scope of services your company was hired to provide to this campaign.  If there is no written contract, please provide a memorandum that indicates the scope of services your company provided to the 2009 Tomas Regalado campaign.


2.    Copies of any and all invoices "Creative Ideas Advertising Inc." issued to the 2009 Tomas Regalado election campaign for payment of goods and/or services provided to the campaign by "Creative Ideas Advertising Inc.".  Please provide a detailed account of the radio spots / airtime purchased on behalf of the 2009 Regalado campaign.


Please provide the above requested documentation to our office within the next five (5) business days, or by Wednesday, October 12, 2011.


Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter.


Christina M. Seymour, C.P.A.


Auditor for the Commission on Ethics


Christina "Tina" Seymour, CPA

Auditor,Commission on Ethics

Miami-Dade County

(305) 350-0611


Miami-Dade County is a public entity subject to Chapter 119 of the Florida statues concerning public records. Email messages are covered under such laws and thus subject to disclosure. All email sent and received is captured by our server and kept as a public record.

Neither documents or answers were forthcoming, and when the statute of limitations ran out, so it seemed did the opportunity to force either the Regalados or Maritza Gutierrez to comply with the request for the information that would have revealed what she actually did with the money, and more importantly, how much she pocketed.


THIS IS HOW YOU SCREW THE POOCH


When it comes to looting campaign funds I doubt that anyone will top the antics of Congressman David Rivera, as revealed in series of recent Miami Herald stories that chronicled how Rivera lived off of his campaign finances for almost 10 years.


For lessor crooks however, one of the time honored ways to skim money from campaign accounts has always been through the consultants  and companies that handle the media buys.


Anytime that you have hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions of dollars in larger state-wide campaigns being spent for advertising, the opportunity is rife for skimming, and given the amount of money, and the lack of paperwork detailing how Gutierrez went through the $305,592.00 she received, it would be natural for investigators to focus on Maritza Gutierrez’s activities, and demand some answers. 


Now, I’m not saying that any skimming of campaign money occurred as a result of these activities, but then again, neither she, nor the Regalado’s ever provided the kind of evidence that would rule out that allegation.


At the same time though, the record reveals that the Regalados did commit one criminal misdemeanor by failing to submit a Form DE 14-A, that prompted a discussion at the October 27th meeting 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 that, I described in my previous story on how the Regalado’s were allowed to evade criminal penalties. 


Here is the portion of the FDLE’s Report, that covered the discussion of the failure to file the DE 14-A Form. (Page 31-32.)


           Florida Statute § 106.021 (3)(c) currently allow

        candidates to make indirect expenditures for

        communications media placement via a third

        party intermediary, such as a media consultant.

        Further to comply with this portion of the election

        law, a candidate who is procuring both media related

        consulting services and mass media political

        advertisements, is required to file a Form DE14-A,

        Itemized Distributions, and show a detailed breakdown

        of the campaign dollars allocated for communications

        media placement and also the portion of the campaign

        expense that represents the consultant's fees. The

        campaign must disclose that at least 80% of the

        campaign payment to the media consultant was

        directly related to the media buys on behalf of that

        candidate. {See Florida Statute § 106.07(4)(a) 13}

        Based on the COE Auditor's review, the 2009

        Regalado campaign paid the media consultant,

        "Creative Ideas Advertising," as a third party

        intermediary for the purchase of radio and television

        advertisements in furtherance of the candidacy of

        Tomas Regalado. The COE Auditor reviewed

        $305,592 (or 36% of its $848,235 total campaign

        expenditures) in payments issued by the 2009

        Regalado campaign for media buys and consulting

        services provided by Creative Ideas Advertising.

        The majority of its advertising dollars were spent

        on media ads focused on the Spanish and English

        speaking demographic. However, the campaign did

        not file the required Form DE14-A, Itemized Distributions,

        to show a detailed breakdown of how the campaign

        dollars were allocated for communications media

        placement versus the portion of the campaign

        expense that represented the consultant's fee,

        in violation of Florida Statute § 106.07(5). [First

        Degree Misdemeanor]”


SHE LOVED TOMAS, SHE REALLY LOVED HIM


In her deposition that took place a little over two months after this discussion, Raquel Regalado, went to some length in denying that the campaign had paid Maritza Gutierrez any consulting fees, and also made the surprising revelation that Gutierrez was so committed to the Regalado’s campaign that she often waived her 10% markup on advertising buys. Here’s that portion of the admission from Regalado’s deposition, page 36:


        “Witness: ...But the media buys the way that Maritza

        did it for and a lot of times she waived um she waived

        sort of the company’s take on it you know, so there are

        some where you know she received a 10% because

        she was the one that placed the media buy but for the

        most part she just waived it and put it back into our

        media budget because we had a media budget and

        couldn’t go outside of what you know we wanted to

        spend.”


Putting aside the fact that the Regalado campaign was awash with so much money at the end that they not only engaged in saturation byuying of TV advertising, but also in order to drain the bank account after the election they ended up it giving money away and spending it on things like $12,791.35 in Christmas Cards, why would Maritza Gutierrez, who does what she does to make money, wave her ad buy commissions, along with agreeing NOT to take any consulting fees?


The answer to that question is what everyone at the time was focused on, but its not really the question that they should have been focusing on. But, before we get to tHat question and the answer, consider this.


MARITZA’S GOT A HISTORY OF REFUSING TO PROVIDE PAPERWORK


Maritza Gutierrez is no stranger to the accusations that she refuses to provide paperwork to justify the money she claims is owed her.  Maybe it’s just the sense of entitlement that some folks get when they find themselves inside the deal flow.


In any event, take the instance the time when she was hired by the Miami CRA in 2007 to promote an event at the Lyric Theater, and then demanded that the CRA pay her $20,000, without submitting any work orders.


The story is chronicled in an October 27, 2010, Miami New Times piece that was prompted by a memo that I published about CRA Chairman Marc Sarnoff wanting then CRA Executive Director James Villacorta to fire one of his employees for not processing the payment to Gutierrez fast enough.


In the end, after a lot of resistance to Gutierrez being paid any money, the City Commission authorized that she be paid $9,800.


“THE WHOPPER” CASHS IN ON REGALADO’S VICTORY


Maritza Gutierrez’s real claim to fame is that she’s married to the ubiquitous Armando “The Whopper” Gutierrez, the long-time Cuban political fixer and lobbyist whose own claim to fame was being the spokesman for the Miami Family of Elian Gonzalez.


In the months after Regalado was elected Mayor, Gutierrez became an almost constant fixture at his side.  Wherever Regalado went, Gutierrez was next to him, often being chauffeured around town in an SUV by a Major in the Miami Police Department, as revealed in this photo that I took at the site of the Women In White protest on SW 8th Street organized by Gloria Estefan.

In 2011, Gutierrez, who was rumored to be involved in the shenanigans in Hialeah involving former Mayor Julio Robaina and and the loansharking and Ponzi schemer Luis Felipe Perez, suddenly disappeared from Regalado’s side, but not before being part of the ringside party at Don King’s “Tribute To Freedom Boxing “Extravaganza at the AAA Arena.

Gutierrez now supposedly holds court at Cuban Crafters, and has been rumored to be part of Katherine-Fernandez-Rundle’s brain trust as she tries to hold off a challenge by Roderick Vareen in the upcoming Democratic primary.


NOW WE CONCLUDE WITH THE QUESTION THAT NOBODY BOTHERED TO ASK AT THE BEGINNING


The most amazing revelation that I discovered in this tale of Maritza Gutierrez’s refusal to provide any documentation as to how she spent the Regalado’s campaign money, was that no one bothered to realize or ask this question:  If, as Raquel Regalado testified under oath, Maritza Gutierrez gave back her commissions to the campaign, didn’t all that money represent a financial contribution to the campaign?


If it did, and there’s really no alternative explanation for how those monies could be accounted for in campaign finance reports, and if the total amount of these give-backs exceeded $1000 - or $500 for her and $500 for her company which is the amount she was legally entitled to donate - then why didn’t the rocket scientists Howard Rosen and Joe Centorino pick up on that? 


Here’s what Florida Statute 106.08 says about people who repeatedly violate the provisions of giving more money in contributions than the law allows:


        “(b)Any person who knowingly and willfully makes

        or accepts two or more contributions in violation of

        subsection (1) or subsection (5) commits a felony

        of the third degree, punishable as provided in s.

        775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. If any corporation,

        partnership, or other business entity or any political

        party, affiliated party committee, political committee,

        committee of continuous existence, or electioneering

        communications organization is convicted of knowingly

        and willfully violating any provision punishable under

        this paragraph, it shall be fined not less than $10,000

        and not more than $50,000. If it is a domestic entity,

        it may be ordered dissolved by a court of competent

        jurisdiction; if it is a foreign or nonresident business

        entity, its right to do business in this state may be

        forfeited. Any officer, partner, agent, attorney, or

        other representative of a corporation, partnership,

        or other business entity, or of a political committee,

        committee of continuous existence, political party,

        affiliated party committee, or electioneering comm-

        unications organization, or organization exempt from

        taxation under s. 527 or s. 501(c)(4) of the Internal

        Revenue Code, who aids, abets, advises, or participates

        in a violation of any provision punishable under this

        paragraph commits a felony of the third degree,

        punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083,

        or s. 775.084.”


Given that Raquel Regalado claimed in her sworn deposition that Maritza Gutierrez was for the most part waiving her fees and putting the money “back into our media budget because we had a media budget and couldn’t go outside of what you know we wanted to spend.,” this then represents an acknowledgement that Gutierrez contributed thousands, and perhaps as much as $10,000 or more in illegal campaign contributions to the Regalado campaign through this process.


That would support my claim, based on the above language in the statute, that Raquel Regalado and Maritza Gutierrez’s engaged in actions that qualified as third degree felonies.


While I revealed last week that Howard Rosen and Joe Centorino through their actions allowed the expiration of the statute of limitations on criminal charges to run out,  they none the less still had the waiver on non-criminal violations in their hands that they could have used to force Gutierrez to come clean on how much money she collected, and how much she allegedly gave back to the campaign.


Given the amount of money involved, these illegal donations without question represent the largest dollar amount of illegal contributions made to the Regalado campaign by anyone, and the failure to include any of these violations as part of the Ethics Commission final settlement rests squarely on the shoulders of Joe Centorino.


In fact, this is such an evident cluster-fuck that you really have to question Centorino’s intelligence and judgement in either not catching this, or worse, understanding exactly where this line of questioning would lead, and sweeping it under the rug as a way to provide political cover for everyone involved. 


The law is very clear that the Regalado campaign was required to return to Maritza Gutierrez every penny of her contributions above and beyond the legal amount she was entitled to give the campaign.


In order to do that, Maritza Gutierrez still needs to come clean and divulge how much money she collected in commissions, how much she gave back to the campaign, and how much money she took in “consulting fees.”


Even though Joe Centorino tried to give Raquel Regalado and Maritza Gutierrez a reach around, the law says that campaign accounts can’t be closed, and in turn, the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission can’t close it’s case or issue a Final Order until all of that is done because in order to do any of these things the Regalado campaign needs to file a Final Financial Report that actually accounts for ALL of the contributions and expenditures.


So far, they haven’t fared too well with the first 3 versions they’ve submitted.


And there are people who actually think that I’m too harsh on ‘Dear Old Joe’ and the unethical Ethics Commission.


Welcome to Miami, Bitches!


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