Friday, May 17, 2013

Friday morning news and notes

1.  The former Hialeah mayor and his wife have been indicted on tax evasion charges.  Via Jay Weaver:

In 2010, while peeling back the layers of Hialeah’s “shadow banking’’ industry, federal prosecutors pressed the city’s mayor about allegations that he had collected exorbitant cash interest payments on more than $1 million in loans he made to friends and acquaintances.
Julio Robaina’s answer? Not true.
On Thursday, Robaina’s words came back to haunt him, when a federal grand jury indicted him and his wife on charges of conspiring to evade income taxes, making loans at sky-high interest rates, failing to report secret cash payments — and lying to federal authorities.
He made the statements at issue in August 2010, while preparing an unsuccessful run to become Miami-Dade County mayor.
Robaina, 47, and his wife Raiza Villacis Robaina, 39, who operated two loan companies, are accused of receiving the undisclosed cash payments as interest on the personal loans they made to friends, including convicted Ponzi schemer Luis Felipe Perez. The loans were doled out as part of an informal banking system operating below the radar in Hialeah.
The indictment alleges the couple tried “to enrich themselves by concealing, disguising and failing to report the true and correct amount of their income to the Internal Revenue Service.”
Husband and wife, scheduled to surrender to authorities and have their initial court appearance Friday, proclaimed their innocence through Julio Robaina’s defense attorney.


2.  The defendants in the B-Girl case who went to trial and lost got whacked; the judge went above the guidelines for each of them according to the Herald.  Jay Weaver is all over the courts today:

A South Beach nightclub operator was sentenced Thursday to 12 years in prison for directing a bunch of “bar girls” to seduce and swindle customers at a string of Russian-style lounges.
Albert Takhalov was convicted in December along with two other businessmen of fleecing hundreds of thousands of dollars from dozens of male patrons by racking up bogus bills for champagne, vodka and caviar on their credit cards at seven private Miami Beach clubs.
Takhalov, 31, cried as he apologized to U.S. District Judge Robert Scola, saying he made a “great mistake” but “had no intention of breaking the law.” Other tearful family members asked for leniency, to no avail.
Scola, who found that Takhalov committed perjury on the witness stand at his trial, expressed no sympathy for the defendant, saying “he doesn’t have a right to lie.”

3.  Paula McMahon covers the big takedown in the staged accident case:

The vehicle collisions looked like typical South Florida accidents with motorists and passengers reporting they needed treatment from chiropractors and massage therapists.
But investigators said the crashes were carefully staged by willing participants who were trained how to defraud the insurance system to make money for themselves and a highly organized group of medical professionals, clinic owners and recruiters.
Investigators announced charges Thursday against 33 people they said were involved in staging accidents for insurance fraud — the latest hit in a three-year investigation that identified about $20 million in fraudulently obtained payouts from insurers.
"If you get upset about your car insurance premiums going up, this crime is one of the reasons why," said William J. Maddalena, the assistant special agent in charge of FBI Miami. "Every time an insurance payout is made for a staged accident in Florida, we all feel the pain in the pocketbook."
Operation Sledgehammer, a state and federal investigation, has led to charges being filed against a total of 92 defendants from Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Those already convicted have been ordered to pay more than $5 million in restitution to insurance companies so far, prosecutors said.
The operation got its code name when undercover investigators saw suspects using a sledgehammer to make vehicles look like they'd been in an accident.
The fraud involved a "massive," complicated, highly organized scheme that investigators said included everyone from clinic owners and medical staff who provided fraudulent diagnoses and prescribed fake treatment, to office workers who billed for the services, and recruiters who found accident "victims" and trained them to stage collisions on the streets and highways of South Florida.

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