STATE ATTORNEY’S OFFICE  NEWSLETTER – State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle

During this past week, several arrests were made and hundreds of animals were rescued after two raids were executed targeting illegal slaughterhouses operating in South Florida.

This successful initiative to combat such a vicious crime was a result of a tireless and unified effort between the Miami-Dade Police Department, the Animal Recovery Mission, and my office.

The illegal activities that occurred at these slaughterhouses, much of it captured on undercover video, showed how defenseless animals were being butchered for their meat while still alive.

These crimes are further troubling as studies have shown that in a large number of animal cruelty cases, the violence displayed is an indicator of other family violence issues such as domestic violence, child abuse or elder abuse. It is undeniably true that there seems to be a strong consensus that a clear-cut connection does exist between abuse aimed toward animals and violence aimed toward persons.

These arrests demonstrate my continued commitment to end animal cruelty in this community.

Such unnecessary brutality demeans not just the people who do it, but those who stand by and let it happen.

Arrests Made in Operation “Bogus Billing”

Francisco Pons, a former employee of the Miami-Dade County General Services Administration and two other individuals were arrested for their involvement in a scheme to defraud taxpayers of more than six million dollars.

The intricate scheme, which involved various modes of deception, included the creation of shell corporations to cover up over-billing with Pons getting kickbacks, and also the use of ghost employees to charge for additional work hours.

The wife and brother-in-law of Francisco Pons were also arrested for their participation in the costly scheme.

The trio now faces a slew of charges including Racketeering, Money Laundering and Organized Fraud.

The money was taken from taxpayers during a period when local government suffered under very difficult economic times,” commented State Attorney Fernandez Rundle. “Our children and elderly services couldn’t be fully funded or were cut back all the while these crooks lived a very lavish lifestyle.”

Grand Jury Report Released

The Miami-Dade County Grand Jury, who as part of their responsibilities investigates issues of public concern, released their most recent report last week on the issue of human trafficking and its local impact.

The report indicates that the Grand Jury thought human trafficking involved bringing persons from other countries under false pretenses to engage in forced labor or sexual exploitation. Instead, they were “shocked and appalled to discover that, in what we thought was our modern, enlightened society, slavery still exists right under our noses.”

Beyond detailing existing practices and concerns, the report makes recommendations such as having more full-time police officers dedicated to the cause and calls for having the Human Trafficking Task Force, Policy Institute and State Legislature work together to create a system of protection similar to that used to protect victims of domestic violence.

“The Grand Jury has addressed many important social matters in years past such as the state of public housing, the Dade County building code, mental health reform, and many other issues of great public concern,” commented State Attorney Fernandez Rundle. “The fact that they chose to examine the issue of human trafficking further validates the seriousness of the problem.”

To read the Grand Jury report in its entirety click here.

Courthouse Highlights

Assistant State Attorney (ASA) Karin Curtis and ASA Michael Filteau convicted a Habitual Offender before Judge Gordo of Shooting a Deadly Missile, Discharge of a Firearm from a Vehicle and Aggravated Assault with a Firearm.

ASA Barbara Govea from the Domestic Violence Unit and Division Chief (DC) Chiaka Ihekwaba successfully prosecuted a DUI Manslaughter case with other related charges.

DC Chiaka Ihekwaba and ASA Barbara Govea won a conviction for Manslaughter/Firearm Causing Death or Great Bodily Harm, two counts of Aggravated Battery/Firearm Causing Death or Great Bodily Harm, and Use of a Firearm in the Commission of a Felony.

ASAs Chris Pagan and Amanda Koons got a guilty verdict on a PRRP for Burglary of a Dwelling and Resisting w/o Violence.

ASAs Christina Rivera and Tina Gutjahr from the Career Criminal Unit convicted a PRRP/HVO before Judge Tunis of Burglary/Battery and Strong Arm Robbery.

ASAs Kristina Mills and Kyle Dull obtained a conviction on one count of Domestic Violence Battery.

Attorney Nicole Lydecker negotiated a settlement agreement to avoid further contempt hearings in a child support case and the non-custodial parent submitted a cashier’s check to the State Disbursement Unit in the amount of $36,000. After many years and lots of hard work, the custodial parent finally received the money she was owed.