2016 hurricane season officially began early this week and National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasters are
predicting a near-normal hurricane season with the likelihood
of 10 to 16 named storms, including both tropical storms and
the years, our community has felt the devastating effects of this
potent combination of wind and rain, particularly its effect on our
homes and businesses.
encourage each of you to take the time to ready your homes
and gather provisions so you are prepared should we be challenged by
the effects of Mother Nature. For those of you going through
this for the first time, visit the Red Cross and National Hurricane
Center websites for information concerning preparing for storms. If
you rely on cell phones as your only means of communications, you
should be aware that cell towers may be unavailable for a period of
time after a storm. If that is the case, plan for an alternative
concern that we should always keep in mind is that scammers
see the hurricane season as a prime opportunity to descend on
traumatized homeowners by seeking to inflict even more emotional harm
is why we must maintain our defenses on high-alert as post-storm
fraud and scammers operate on a number of false promises that
guarantee quick and flawless home repairs. Don't become a victim of
invite you to view my "After the Storm" YouTube videos by
clicking here in
order to learn how to better educate and protect ourselves from these
heartless crooks that sadly prey on us during such
has shown that despite facing these potentially completely
demoralizing circumstances, our residents always seem to overcome
these challenges by demonstrating a great deal of resolve to come out
Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle presided at the quarterly
Meritorious Service Awards event where 47 members of the SAO family
with a combined 750 years of service to our community each received a
Certificate of Appreciation from the State Attorney.
State Attorney congratulated each of the employees and commended each
of them for their continued dedication and commitment to the victims
and families we serve. "We should be forever grateful for the
opportunity to make this community better and safer," commented
State Attorney Fernandez Rundle.
State Attorney Selected to
Deliver Keynote Speech
Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle was selected to be the Keynote
Speaker at the 2016 PTA Awards and Recognition Ceremony.
over 52,000 members, the Miami-Dade
County Council PTA /
PTSA also recognized and celebrated the State Attorney for all she
has done to keep our children safe by awarding her this year's
Miami-Dade PTA Partner in Advocacy Award.
is my sincere passion to do all I can for the children in our
community, and it is committed community partners such as Miami-Dade
County Public Schools and the Miami-Dade PTA/PTSA members that make
our work all the more meaningful and productive," commented
State Attorney Fernandez Rundle on receiving the honor.
County Employees Charged in
Scheme to Defraud
Source: Miami-Dade Corrections
a result of a joint investigation by the Miami-Dade State Attorney's
Office and the Miami-Dade County Office of the Inspector General
(OIG), two employees with Miami-Dade County's Community Action Agency
(CAA), an agency within the County's Community Action and Human
Services Department (CAHSD), were charged with using their positions
to fraudulently obtain funds intended to assist low-income
individuals with paying their energy bills.
criminal investigation was initiated after the OIG received an
anonymous complaint indicating that CAA employees Iraida Macias and
Earlene Finney were circumventing the application process of the Low
Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to personally obtain
monies originally intended to assist low-income individuals with
paying their energy bills. LIHEAP is a federally-funded program
administered locally by Miami-Dade County. Macias and Finney, as
LIHEAP eligibility interviewers whose job it was to determine if
applicants met the income level limitations necessary to receive
these financial benefits, were able to circumvent the oversight
safeguards to receive money to which they were not eligible.
June 10, 2010 and September 4, 2012, Iraida Macias' FPL account was
credited with approximately $4,100.78 in LIHEAP funding. Records
indicate that between 2010 and 2014, Earlene J. Finney, a supervisor
who approves LIHEAP funding applications, received approximately
$6,211.70 from the LIHEAP program.
theft by a governmental employee is a betrayal of the public trust.
It is particularly disappointing when workers charged with helping
the poor steal some of that money for themselves," noted State
Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. "With the filing of
criminal charges, I'm certain that these individuals now understand
that they have committed serious offenses just to put a few extra
dollars into their pockets."
County Inspector General Mary Cagle expressed her gratitude to those
who come forward with information: "The OIG truly appreciates
concerned citizens and well-intentioned County employees alerting us
to fraudulent activities taking place in our County programs. The
criminal acts committed by these County employees deprive those who
truly need the assistance of this worthwhile
SAO and OIG joint investigation was also assisted by the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services OIG, who administer LIHEAP at
the Federal level.
State Attorney's Office Alumni
Judge Rodney Smith,
11th Judicial Circuit of Florida
Rodney Smith is a true native son of our Miami-Dade community. He was
raised in Liberty City. "My grandparents came here from the
Bahamas. I am second generation to be born in the U.S. I am also the
first in my family to graduate from high school, college and law
a son of immigrants, he was always aware of the sacrifices made to
provide a better life for his family and he never took it for
granted. One of the highlights of his childhood was joining the Boy
Scouts when he was 10 years old. "I was so excited! We didn't
have money for uniforms but then a neighborhood boy dropped out and
his mom gave me his uniforms. I didn't care that they were
hand-me-downs. I was so happy to have them."
age 14, he became that troop's first Eagle Scout. Judge Smith
continues to be active in that organization. Since 1992 he has served
as a Boy Scout Troop Leader in Liberty City. He also served as the
Scout Outreach Chairman and Calusa District Chairman of the Boy
Scouts of America, which serves the Liberty City, Overtown, Little
Haiti, and Brownsville communities.
his time as a young Boy Scout, an Assistant State Attorney went and
spoke to the troop. "I couldn't believe that he looked like me!
He was African American and said that he was a lawyer but I didn't
believe him until he showed us his badge," commented Judge
was an eye-opening experience. I realized I could be someone who
helped people in some way and it changed my life."
few years later, Judge Smith was watching reports on the high profile
criminal prosecution of police officer William Lozano. He realized
that the prosecutor on the case, Don L. Horn, was the same prosecutor
who had spoken to his troop and left a lasting impression on Judge
Smith. That is when he knew then that he wanted to be a prosecutor.
Smith graduated cum laude from Florida A&M University and also is
a cum laude graduate of Michigan State University College of Law.
"I came home for Christmas break and had my interview at the
State Attorney's Office."
an Assistant State Attorney, Rodney Smith quickly developed a
reputation as always being prepared and never being surprised,"
said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. "Given the daily
challenges each ASA faces, this was a compliment of the highest order
bestowed by his peers. Judge Rodney Smith has carried that same
reputation, his personal trademark, with him into the courtroom upon
becoming a judge."
1998 he met State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. "She is a
pillar of the community and has always supported and believed in me.
That State Attorney trusts you to do the right thing and do what is
most appropriate in each case."
started at the SAO in 1999 and I was living at home in Liberty City.
I had no car for the first couple of years but I didn't tell anyone
because I was concerned that supervisors would feel they could not
assign me to the satellite courts as they did with the other ASAs. I
used public transportation and carried all of my boxes around on
Metrorail and Metro bus to go to the satellite courthouses."
Smith describes his first trial and the preparation leading up to the
trial as similar to "boot camp". He said "It helped me
learn how to structure an argument. There is no greater training
experience than being a prosecutor. It teaches you to not be afraid
to try cases and I didn't back down."
is, of course, that one case that has stayed with him and still
evokes emotion. "I had a case where a 16 year old had been
sexually abused by her stepfather since she was 11. Her mother
testified on the stepfather's behalf. You could tell that the mother
was scared even though she testified that her daughter was lying. The
stepfather tried to break her spirit at every step, even during
trial. There was a lot of pressure on our victim. We had an all-male
jury. She would have to share very graphic details of what he did to
her with total strangers. I told her 'You did nothing wrong. Just
tell your story.' The step father was found guilty. I was so proud of
her and the jury in that case."
2003, Judge Smith went into private practice because he knew that he
wanted to become a judge and that he needed experience on both sides.
In 2007, he became the Senior Assistant City Attorney for the City of
Miami Beach before being appointed to the County Court bench in
2008. He was elected in 2010 without any opposition. In 2012, he was
appointed to the Circuit Court bench and two years later he was
elected to serve another term. He also serves as an adjunct professor
at the University of Miami.
a judge you serve everybody and you need to be culturally diverse and
understand the different cultures in our community. It's like being
an umpire or referee. You are not there to cheer one side or the
other. You have to be a neutral party and everyone deserves a fair
opportunity to be heard."
Smith offers his advice to ASAs: "Do not marry a case. You
always do your best but when you lose just learn from it and put it
behind you. It is your obligation to do the right thing. Be ethical
and wear the white hat. Always remember that your goal is to dispense
justice. Resolve what can be resolved and take to trial what needs to
go to trial. And never stop believing in yourself."
am so thankful to the State Attorney for this recognition as an SAO
Alumnus. It is a huge honor just as it was an honor to be an
Assistant State Attorney."
Chief (DC) Natalie Moore and Assistant State Attorney (ASA) Laura
Cruz got a guilty verdict before Judge Ruiz in a complicated
Stephen LeClair got a guilty verdict in Judge Richard Hersch's
courtroom after a hard fought trial. ASA Leclair won convictions for
First Degree Exploitation of the Elderly and Second Degree Grand
Theft against the victim's nephew who schemed to steal the equity
from his aunt's home.
William Volet and Etta Akoni secured a guilty verdict on charges of
Robbery with a Firearm and Dealing in Stolen Property before Judge
Kathryn Olson and Terry Livianos, with the help of Ed Gutman and the
entire SAO Investigative Accounting Staff, obtained a
conviction in a case involving an 85 year old woman whose money
($800,000 worth) was being stolen by her caretaker for many
years. The defendant was convicted of Grand Theft, Theft of 50,000
> of an Elderly Person, Fraudulent Use of ID, Unlawful Use of
Two-Way Communications Device, and Money Laundering. The case was
heard before Judge Ward.