A somber and remorseful former vice mayor Armando Oliveros Jr offered Community Newspapers an exclusive interview recently to say he is back from serving nearly seven years in federal prison for money laundering and 99 percent certain he will very soon announce his candidacy for commissioner in February’s election.
“I made a huge mistake and I paid the price. I can blame it on ego and selfishness but ultimately I was entirely to blame. They say to err is human and to forgive is divine. Well I certainly did err. Now let’s see how many divine people are out there ready to forgive,” said Oliveros.
An attorney at the time of his arrest in 2000, Oliveros was targeted by an FBI Political Corruption Unit and videotaped receiving money “to clean” from a former client. Oliveros immediately resigned from office and there was no connection ever made between the charge and his public service. “I cannot say I regret my decision to fight the case. They said if I wore a wire it would make everything go away since it was apparently aimed at targeting local politicians but I refused. What is the point of abusing the system to hurt other people and get myself off? No, I did my time.”
“Prison is a microcosm of society. When I was there I had roommates that were kids from the projects peddling drugs and breaking into homes. I had a lot more respect for them coming from an environment where those were the only survival skills they knew verses the Enron andWorldCom educated inmates who stole millions of dollars from their own employees and clients,” said Oliveros.
Because he was an attorney and politician Oliveros believes the prosecution went after him with guns loaded. “I was sentenced more harshly than second degree murderers and rapists but it is over and my family and I have turned the page.”
Oliveros does appear to have been embraced by family and friends since his return home. His 28 year old son Armando III is about to graduate from law school and solidly behind his dad’s return to office as is his 23 year old daughter Stephani. Oliveros’ wife Iliette said “I am very proud of his determination to go back to doing what he loves and what he is extremely qualified to do; serve the community. Regardless of the possible attacks on his character because of past mistakes, he is resolved and determined to move forward and learn from the past. These are qualities we can all admire.”
Oliveros said old supporters and friends have inundated him with phone calls to throw his hat in the ring this election season. He says that although he was interested he was worried about a possible backlash on his family. However the depth of support and faith in him offered by so many gave him the confidence to proceed and put his ideas forth.
“I see stagnation right now at City Hall. A few boisterous cliques are being catered to and that is about it. People like to look at South Miami as a small town and sure we have that going for us but we are also a young and growing city in need of greater diversity and practical decision making that will benefit the majority and not just a few loud citizens.”
“The African American community is not being heard and not voting. This is a critical historic part of South Miami that needs representation and service and not receiving it. When I was in office I walked the neighborhoods and I intend to do that again if elected. I especially want to work toward getting all of our youth invested back in the community.”
Oliveros got his start in community building in the early 90’s while coaching basketball for Gulliver when his kids were in school. He then went on to serve on area boards like Parks and Recreation, Planning, and Environmental Review. Eventually his declared passion for being involved in positive changes in the community brought him into office where he served as commissioner in 1997. He was re-elected as vice mayor from 1998 to 1999 before his resignation.
“I was a part of one of the best board of commissioners we have ever had. When we would go up to Tallahassee for Dade Days we came back with funding. We may not have always agreed but we worked together as respectful colleagues to get the most done for the community. This is the kind of leadership South Miami is now sorely missing.”
University of Miami undergraduate alumnus and Nova University Law School graduate Oliveros currently works in real estate. He suggests his passion today is tempered by patience. “The worst thing about the time I was away was the impotence you feel in not being able to help your family when all you can do is talk on the phone for five minutes. I feel transformed in that I grew up through this experience and my passion is now managed by patience and a vision for the future. I hope the community will allow me another chance to serve and prove myself as I continue to heal.”