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

I am extremely honored to announce that as part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, I was presented with the “Justice For All” award for my office’s efforts on behalf of Human Trafficking victims during the annual ceremony held to commemorate innocent victims of crime.

In addition to this recognition, Assistant State Attorneys Reid Rubin, Christine Zahralban, and Laura Adams, along with Victim Witness Counselors Idalma Gurruchaga and Diane Santana, and Senior Trial Coordinator Debbie Gromosaik, were honored for their tireless work and recent successful prosecutions of the remaining defendants who brutally raped and murdered Ana Maria Angel and tortured her boyfriend Nelson Portobanco in what became known as the South Beach Murder Case.

Furthermore, one of our office administrator’s, Sandra Lawrence, was also recognized during the event with the Florida Network Victim Witness Services Training Award.

The award presentation took place at the Coral Gables Country Club, whereat many local community leaders, law enforcement personnel, victim advocates and survivors gathered together to celebrate the 29th anniversary commemorating the federal Victims of Crime Act.

Victims of crime are always the primary concern in all of our cases, and my prosecutors and support staff are committed to work tirelessly to ensure that victims’ voices will never be silent.

This annual event is proof that our community is deeply indebted to every individual who works on behalf of victims and dedicate so many years of service to those who have fallen victim to crime.

21 Charged in Insurance Fraud Sting

As a result of a joint investigation between the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and the Florida Division of Financial Services, 21 individuals have been charged with various fraud-related crimes for their role in providing phantom medical related services at 4 area clinics.

The joint effort, dubbed “Operation No Med Services,” was initiated after 7 insurance companies paid out more than $400,000 in suspicious claims to supposed treatment and rehabilitation clinics that were nothing more than scam businesses.

The 21 arrests are part of an ongoing offensive against insurance fraud that is estimated to cost Americans at least $80 billion a year.

“Far too many people see insurance fraud as an invisible crime as there are no bodies to examine and few witnesses to tell the truth of what has happened,” commented State Attorney Fernandez Rundle. “Every new case should throw additional ripples of fear and concern through those who think they can get away with this crime. Scammers should keep looking over their shoulders because the law is coming after them.”

Justice for “Lola”

For the cruel stabbing death of a beloved Little Havana elderly woman, convicted killer Victor Guzman has been sentenced to death.

In December of 2000, authorities found the naked body of Severina “Lola” Fernandez brutally murdered. She had been stabbed 58 times inside the apartment Lola had lived in for the previous 28 years since arriving from Cuba in 1972.

Although crucial DNA evidence was left at the scene by the killer, it did not initially lead to an arrest. But the DNA recovered was entered into the state’s database.

Two years later, that same DNA turned up in the alleged rape of a 12-year-old girl in Miami Beach, but once again, a DNA link did not result.

In 2004, a positive match was made when Victor Guzman’s DNA was entered into the state database after he violated his probation in a case of lewd conduct involving a minor. He was arrested and stood trial in September of last year, wherein he was convicted by a jury after just over 2 hours of deliberation.

Courthouse Highlights

Assistant State Attorney (ASA) Amanda Koons and ASA Chris Pagan got a guilty verdict before Judge Miller on a Drug Trafficking case.

Recently retired Division Chief (DC) Carin Kahgan with an assist from DC Suzanne Von Paulus put on an evidentiary hearing in support of the State’s Motion to Enforce a Plea Contract before Judge Rebull. At the end of the hearing Judge Rebull found there was a violation of the plea agreement and sentenced the defendant to life in prison.

Sr. Trial Counsel David Gilbert and ASA Heloiza Correa successfully prosecuted a Homicide case before Judge Rebull.

ASA Kerri Crockett won a hard-fought trial before Judge Thomas and secured convictions on charges of Attempted Murder, Sexual Battery-Great Injury and Kidnapping.

DC Santiago Aroca and ASA Tina Gutjahr from the Career Criminal/Robbery Unit convicted a PRRP of two counts of Armed Robbery and two counts of Conspiracy To Commit Armed Robbery before Judge Rodriguez-Chomat.

ASA Meghan Wood and ASA Jordana Nahum obtained a guilty verdict on one count of Domestic Violence Injunction Violation before Judge Gladys Perez.