BEFORE WE START


During the last 4 years, I have written 5 separate stories about how the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office has mishandled high-profile cases involving politicians and/or attorneys. Those cases were the attempt to bribe former Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito into taking a $400,000 payment to leave office; the decision to allow the clock to run out on the statute of limitations on Mayor Tomas Regalado and his daughter Raquel for his campaign finance violations; the failure to indict Congressman David Rivera after preparing a 51 count indictment; the refusal to prosecute Florida Bar attorney Tomas Kroeger for the alleged theft of a ring setting at a downtown jewelry store; and the attempt by Katherine Fernandez-Rundle personally to control the dismissal of charges against Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones so as to keep her from returning to her seat on the City Commission in time to take part in the Exposito hearing.


None of those stories comes close to the travesty that occurred several weeks ago when the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office announced that they had closed the criminal investigation on Miami City Commissioner Willie Gort for accepting free bus bench advertising signs during his campaign for reelection in 2011.


This story is so bad, that if, after you read it you agree that the State Attorney’s Office willfully ignored the evidence generated by the investigators for the Florida Department Of Law Enforcement (FDLE), I am asking that you contact the Governor of Florida and ask for a Special Prosecutor to be appointed to investigate the behavior of the prosecutors in this case.


All of the quotes, and all of the excerpts of documents used below were taken verbatim from the 85 pages of Investigative Reports prepared by FDLE agents Jeffrey Richard Pomerantz, Kristine N. Laraespada, Christina Mona Dindial, Victor A. Johnson, William Victor Saladrigas, Christine M. Casajuana-Smith, Steve Edward Rossbach and Magali Y. Bonilla, and from the State Attorney’s 4 page Close Out Report prepared by Assistant State Attorney Tim VanderGiesen, Division Chief, Public Corruption Unit(PCU) and Jose J. Arrojo, Chief Assistant State Attorney.


Copies of all of these documents are at the bottom of this story.


WILFREDO “WILLIE” GORT RUNS FOR REELECTION


PART I - THE BUS BENCH SIGNS


In 2011, Wilfredo “Willie” Gort ran for reelection as the City Commissioner for District 1, which encompasses portions of Little Havana, Little Santo Domingo and Allapattah.


To handle the purchase of billboard, TV and Radio advertising he hired Jorge L. de Cardenas, the owner of Decar Consultants in Coral Gables.  Cardenas had known Gort for “over 20 years,” and had worked on “all his campaigns.”


Cardenas contracted with Fuel Outdoors LLC for bus bench advertising.  Fuel Outdoors subsequently sold their bus bench advertising business to Van Wagner, but in 2011, they, like Van Wagner today, had the exclusive franchise for bus bench advertising in the City of Miami.  On April 7th, of this year I did a story about Van Wagner and the placement of bus bench signs.


Bus bench signs along with billboards, and especially the new LED billboards have been an issue for years, and I previously detailed how the members of the Miami City Commission and the Regalado administration ignored federal and state laws governing the placement of these signs, while at the same time receiving thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from these companies.


In 2011, Gort received $5000 from these companies, their owners or employees including $1000 from two Fuel Outdoor Advertising employees who were questioned in this case, and $2500 from Van Wagner Advertising and the Schaps family, who in November 2012 purchased and now operate the Fuel bus bench contract with the city.


In any event, former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo, who keeps track of political shenanigans by Miami city officials became suspicious of all the Gort bus bench signs that had popped in the the last couple months of his campaign and contacted  FDLE agent William Saladrigas.  Saladrigas on October 31, 2011 drove throughout District 1 and photographed and plotted 26 Gort campaign bus bench signs. (FDLE, Page 1-2) Carollo had originally counted 31, and you will learn further down that neither of those numbers were accurate.


Here is the May 7, 2012 statement taken from Jorge Cardenas regarding the purchase and contract provisions for the 10 bus bench ads that he purchased for the Gort campaign. (FDLE Pages 12-13)

CRESPOGRAM REPORT
JUNE 4, 2014
BARRED FROM NUMEROUS GOVERNMENTAL COMPUTER NETWORKS FOR TELLING THE TRUTH
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CONTACTCONTACT.html

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TWITTERhttps://twitter.com/crespogram
THE FAMILY & FRIENDS PLAN AT WORK
THE MIAMI-DADE STATE ATTORNEY’S OFFICE SHOULD BE INVESTIGATED FOR ENGAGING IN 
THIS TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE

OLD SITEORIGINAL_SITE.html

In addition to Cardenas’ reaction to the news that Gort got 26 signs - ”double the contract” - two other comments by Cardenas in this May  7th statement are important.


First, he was the one who was responsible for printing the actual signs that were then turned over to Fuel to install in the bus bench frames, and that on Fuel’s instructions he had printed a total of 15 signs, which prompted him to ask “How could Fuel Outdoor do this” (put up 26 signs) “if the poster was not printed...”


Secondly, Cardenas stated that he communicated his dealings with FUEL advertising to Gort.


On May 22nd, Willie Gort agreed to be interviewed by Assistant State Attorney VanderGiesen and FDLE Agent Pomerantz.


Here is the copy of that interview. (FDLE Page 14)

This invoice established that employees of Fuel Outdoor Advertising didn’t just stick “a few extra signs” into some unused Bus Bench advertising frames, but that they knowingly and willfully ordered a separate printing of 34 signs resulting in a total of 49 signs being printed, far exceeding the 10 + 5 signs that were the basis for the contract between Cardenas and FUEL Advertising.


As part of his interview, Prado claimed that, “It is common for customers to send extra signs, in case repairs are needed.  It is also common for political campaigns to send an even higher number of signs, because of the amount of vandalism seen.” (FDLE Pages 37 Last Paragraph )


While Miami is no stranger to campaign sign vandalism, the overwhelming majority of that is related to the theft or disfigurement of yard signs.  Bus signs are harder, if not impossible to vandalize because they are protected by sheets of Plexiglass.


I took a drive around a portion of District 1over the weekend to look for myself at these bus bench locations, and in addition to discovering that there appear to be less bus benches with an accompanying frame for a sign, I saw a number of them that were originally installed by Sarmiento Outdoor Advertising, which was the original holder of the contract with the City, and they all had Plexiglass covering their bus bench advertisements.

It should be noted that, during the course of this investigation, another investigation resulted that did not involve Commissioner Gort.  However, due to the intertwined nature of the two investigations and the uncertainty of how the second investigation would play out, it delayed the official closing of the bus bench investigation.”

You would never know from this footnote that in addition to the issue of a “few extra” signs, was how the Gort’s campaign received a handful of illegal campaign contributions, and the alleged activities of his campaign accountant to alter the books in order to hide some of these donations.


How the FDLE discovered that the Gort campaign had received an illegal contribution from Pastrana occurred when they questioned Sherrill W. Hudson about his two checks totaling $1000 that he gave to the Gort campaign.  (FDLE Page 49)


The discovery of the contributions led to an interview with Hudson.

On January 14, 2013, FDLE Agent Pomerantz and Assistant State Attorney Tim VanderGiesen, interviewed Iran Machado Prado, who worked for FUEL and supervised the placement of the Gort signs. (FDLE Pages 37-38)


Prior to the interview, FDLE agent Pomerantz was shown an invoice that revealed that FUEL Advertising had additional signs printed, and revealed that there had been more than the 31 signs that Joe Carollo originally counted.

On October 5th, Cardenas agreed to turn over his computer to the FDLE for “a Forensic analysis, in an attempt to retrieve evidence related to the Gort campaign. (FDLE 19, Paragraph 4)


On January 7, 2013, after having secured permission to search his AOL account as well Agent Pomerantz reviewed Cardenas’s data provided on a DVD and “found eleven emails that were of interest, regarding this investigation.” (FDLE 29, Paragraph 7)


Two of the eleven emails stand out.

The claim therefore that FUEL Advertising needed more signs in order to cover the damage caused by vandalism isn’t supported by the evidence of the sign frames themselves.


Moreover, regardless of any claims made made by Fuel Advertising in an attempt to justify the 240% increase in the number of signs that they had printed above the 10 + 5 in the contract, these claims did not absolve them of the responsibility to declare these additional signs as an in-kind contribution as required by Florida Statute 106.055.

106.055 Valuation of in-kind contributions.—Any person who makes an in-kind contribution shall, at the time of making such contribution, place a value on such contribution, which valuation shall be the fair market value of such contribution. Travel conveyed upon private aircraft shall be valued at the actual cost of per person commercial air travel for the same or a substantially similar route.

By rights, this made FUEL Advertising subject to prosecution for failing to comply with the law.


So to recap, Joe Carollo drives around Willie Gort’s District and counts 31 bus bench signs. Sometime later, FDLE Agent William Saladrigas follows up Carollo’s tip and drives around counting 26 bus bench signs. 


Then we have Willie Gort ‘s old friend, Jorge Cardenas, who he hired to handle his advertising, contracting with FUEL Advertising for 10 bus bench signs, and told to provide an extra 5 signs, for a total of 10+5.


Nine months later, FDLE Agent Pomerantz and Assistant State Attorney Tim VanderGiesen are shown an invoice from FUEL advertising that reveals that FUEL Advertising, ordered another 34 signs, on top of the 10 + 5 they asked Cardenas to provide.


These additional 34 signs makes one hell of a difference between “a few extra” (signs) “to make sure that, even if some are damaged, there are sufficient advertisements to cover the contract,” that FUEL’s General Manager, Pablo Cremaschi, claimed was the reason why the company always provided more signs for political clients, and the 10 +5 signs that Gort had paid for.


Even in a corrupt political culture like Miami’s no one can claim with a straight face that if you agree to put up 10 + 5 political signs, and instead put up at least 26 or maybe 31, or even 49 signs, that those additional signs can be considered “a few extra signs.”


We’ll return to the bus bench signs later on, but let us now look at another aspect of this investigation that Assistant State Attorney Tim VanderGiesen, the Division Chief, Public Corruption Unit decided was not worth pursuing or including as part of the Gort investigation’s Close Out Report.


PART II - ILLEGAL CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS


Just last month, former Goodwill CEO and President Dennis Pastrana plead guilting to reimbursing employees for making campaign contribution to local politicians. Among the local politicians who received these donations was Wilfredo “Willie” Gort.


The only reference that Willie Gort’s campaign had received illegal campaign contributions was this footnote in the State Attorney’s Office Close Out Report on page 4, that stated:

In addition to Hudson’s contributions, Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc, Shubin & Bass, PA, Bridget and Jacqueline Pallango, and Francisco Ernesto Herrera were discovered to have made over the limit contributions to Gort’s campaign.


The most interesting, if not intriguing contributors were Bridget and Jacqueline Pallango.

But wait, it gets better!


After interviewing the folks who had made these illegal contributions to Gort’s campaign, FDLE agents Jeffrey Pomerantz and Steve Rossbach met with Fausto Alvarez, Gort’s campaign accountant. (FDLE Pages 62-63)

On April 4th, FDLE agents Jeffrey Pomerantz and Steve Rossbach had the first of several meeting with Isis Alvarez - no relation to Fausto - that led on May 1st to a sworn interview at FDLE Regional Headquarters. (FDLE Pages 73-75)


You are encouraged to read the entire interview, but here are the salient parts from the 3 pages.

When an employee becomes so concerned about possible illegal activity that she starts making copies of documents on the expectation that she might need them to defend herself, you know that what was happening had to be pretty flagrant, yet there is not a single word about this, or anything else having to do with illegal campaign contributions in the State Attorney’s Close Out Report.


That was the last of the Investigative Reports, and on November 13, 2013, FDLE Agent Jeffrey Promerantz was notified by his supervisor that the case was closed. (FDLE Page 78)

After almost two years, hundreds of man hours and who knows how many thousands of dollars in salaries and expenses, the case was closed on the word of one FUEL Advertising employee who needed a translator to say:

“It is common for customers to send extra signs, in case repairs are needed. It is also common for political campaigns to send an even higher number of signs, because of the amount of vandalism seen.”

What neither one of them said, as I showed you above, is that before anyone could vandalize any sign inside a Bus Bench frame, they’d have to break the Plexiglass, or take apart the frame, which makes the basis for their claim that politicians are provided extra, and most importantly, free advertising because of rampant vandalism, suspect if not outright untruthful.

IN CONCLUSION

The FDLE estimated that the in-kind contribution that Willie Gort’s campaign received from these “few extra signs” was $18,000.00.

Let me repeat that:

 $18,000.00 IN FREE ADVERTISING

Last October I wrote a story comparing what I knew then about the Willie Gort case, and the case of former North Miami Beach Myron Rosner, who had also gotten a sweetheart deal for bus bench advertisements from another billboard company when he ran for reelection, and had also received illegal campaign contributions.  He was indicted on felony and misdemeanor charges and is currently awaiting trial.

Rosner was an outsider.  He wasn’t part of the largely Cuban dominated Family and Friends Plan that insures that unless a politician is clearly a psychopathic criminal - like Manny Moreno, the former Mayor  Sweetwater clearly revealed himself to be, or a guy like former Miami City Commissioner Angel Gonzalez who pisses someone off so that they turn on him, - the odds of him getting indicted by the Miami-Dade State Attorney when caught doing wrong are higher than the odds of the Kardashian’s sisters announcing tomorrow that they’re giving up reality TV and becoming nuns.  

In Miami-Dade County it’s accepted that only the occasional outsider too brazen or stupid to evade detection becomes a sacrificial lamb needed to create the illusion that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle is tough on public corruption.

If Fernandez-Rundle was really tough, we wouldn’t year in and year out have the on-going saga involving rampant Absentee Ballot fraud in this county.

If Fernandez-Rundle was really tough, we’d see politicians from Miami-Dade County, the City of Miami, the City of Miami Beach and the City of Coral Gables doing a Perp Walk along with the likes of the Mayor of North Miami, because there has certainly been enough evidence in recent years to slap some of these politicians with at least misdemeanor charges for their own campaign violations.

The record is clear that Willie Gort received $18,000.00 in free, unreported in-kind advertising from all the extra signs that FUEL provided him, which makes the claim about a “few extra signs,” worse than laughable.

His accountant, even if you only half believe his former employee, but also the copies of the actual checks and the campaign finance reports, appears to have cooked the books so as to let Willie Gort collect illegal campaign contributions, which again was ignored by the State Attorney.

Bridget Pallango, as soon as she realized that she was being questioned about giving Willie Gort an illegal campaign contribution clammed up because she claimed they had a “professional relationship.” What was that relationship?  I’ll bet a jury would have liked to hear that answer.

And lastly, what was on Willie Gort’s computer and in his email accounts that was so damaging that the attempt by the FDLE to get their hands on this information clearly seems to be the reason why the State Attorney’s Office decided at that point to close this case out.

Assistant State Attorney Tim VanderGiesen, Division Chief of the Public Corruption Unit, and Chief Assistant State Attorney Jose Arrojo - who  acts as Fernandez-Rundle’s sock puppet in all of these kinds of cases - abused the privilege of prosecutorial discretion, as evidenced by this tripe that VanderGiesen’s wrote as the reason for closing out this case.INTRO_PAGE.htmlshapeimage_15_link_0
A CRESPOGRAM EXCLUSIVE

IF YOU BELIEVE THAT THIS CASE AND THE ABOVE JUSTIFICATION FOR CLOSING OUT THIS CASE REPRESENTS REPRESENTS A TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE, THEN I ENCOURAGE YOU TO CALL THE OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR’S LEGAL COUNSEL AND ASK HIM TO ASK THE GOVERNOR TO APPOINT A SPECIAL PROSECUTOR TO COME TO MIAMI-DADE COUNTY AND INVESTIGATE THE MIAMI-DADE STATE ATTORNEY’S OFFICE.


KATHERINE FERNANDEZ-RUNDLE HAS CREATED A CULTURE OF CORRUPTION THAT NEEDS TO BE ROOTED OUT!


OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR’S GENERAL COUNSEL: 850.717.9310

And on the word of another FUEL Advertising employee who donated $500 to Gort’s campaign.

Below you will find both the FDLE Investigative Reports, and the Close Out Memo from the State Attorney’s Office.  I don’t want you to take my word, or the abbreviated portions of these documents that I included above to make a decision on whether Willie Gort accepted a lot more than “a few extra signs” from FUEL Advertising that constituted an unreported campaign contribution subject to prosecution, or that he received other illegal campaign contributions that involved his accountant allegedly cooking the books to shield.


Instead, I ask you to read BOTH reports, and if you agree with my conclusions, then I’m asking you to do the following: