Monday, June 6, 2016

News from the State Attorney's Office


The 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 hurricanes.
Over 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.
I 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 communication strategy.
Another 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 on them.
That 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 fraud!
I 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 difficult times.
History 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 on top.

Meritorious Service Presentation Held

State 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.

The 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

State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle was selected to be the Keynote Speaker at the 2016 PTA Awards and Recognition Ceremony.
With  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.

"It 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
As 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.
A 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.
Between 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.
"Every 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."
Miami-Dade 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 program."  
The 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 Profile
 Judge Rodney Smith, 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida
Judge 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 school."
As 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."
At 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.
During 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 Smith.
"It was an eye-opening experience. I realized I could be someone who helped people in some way and it changed my life."
A 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.
Judge 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."
"As 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."
In 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."
"I 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."
Judge 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."
There 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."
In 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.
"As 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."
Judge 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."
"I 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."

Courthouse Highlights
Hand and GavelDivision Chief (DC) Natalie Moore and Assistant State Attorney (ASA) Laura Cruz got a guilty verdict before Judge Ruiz in a complicated Manslaughter case.
ASA 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.  
ASAs William Volet and Etta Akoni secured a guilty verdict on charges of Robbery with a Firearm and Dealing in Stolen Property before Judge Milian.
ASAs 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.
Don't Allow the Public's Trust to be Jeopardized.

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Grand Jury Reports
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Our Community Outreach Events
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June 4 - Community Meeting with Church Leaders and Ministerial Alliance, Greater St. Paul AME Church, 3680 Thomas Avenue, Miami, FL, 33133, 8:00AM - 11:00AM

June  4 - Micah 6 8 Live Community Event, St. Peters Church, 17901 SW 107 Avenue, Perrine, FL, 33157, 10:00AM - 4:00PM

June 7 - Citizens Advisory Committee Meeting, Doral PD, 9101 NW 25 Street, 2nd Floor, Doral, FL, 33172 

June 9 - Coconut Grove Crime Watch, Greater St Paul AME Church, 3680 Thomas Avenue, Miami, FL, 33133, 6:30PM - 8:30PM

June 10 - Safe Summer Peace Run, Miami Northwestern High School, 1100 NW 71 Street, Miami, FL, 33150, 8:30AM - 2:00PM

June 11 - Family Day at the Park, Country Walk of Miami South Park, 6881 NW 179 Street, Miami, FL, 33015, 10:00AM - 1:00PM

June 18 - Father's Day Health & Civic Fair, Chinese Baptist Church of Miami, 595 SW 124 Avenue, Miami, FL, 33184, 11:00AM - 2:00PM

June 22- Sealing & Expungement Event, Community Health of South Florida, 10300 SW 216 Street, Cutler Bay, FL, 33190, 4:00PM - 7:00PM

June 25 - Gospel Show 2016, Belafonte Tacolcy Park, 6161 NW 9 Court, Miami, FL, 33127, 1:00PM - 4:00PM

May 4 - Citizens' Crime Watch of Miami Dade County, 1515 NW 79 Avenue, Doral, FL, 33126, 9:30AM - 12:00PM

May 6 - Law Day Miranda More Than Words, Hialeah Branch Courthouse, 11 E 6 Street, Hialeah, FL, 33010, 9:00AM - 1:00PM

May 7 - West District Health & Community Fair, Southridge Park, 11250 SW 192 Street, Miami, FL, 33157, 10:00AM - 2:00PM

May 12 - Coconut Grove Crime Watch, Greater St Paul AME Church, 3680 Thomas Avenue, Miami, FL, 33133, 6:30PM - 8:30PM

May 19- Sealing & Expungement Event, Bethel Apostolic Temple, 1855 NW 119 Street, Miami, FL, 33167, 4:00PM - 7:00PM

May 29 - Citizens' Advisory Committee Meeting, Hammocks Police District Station
10000 SW 142 Avenue, Miami, FL, 33186, 7:00PM - 8:30PM

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