Most classic Western movies follow a similar plot. Picture a town overrun by desperados. The noon train arrives and off steps someone hell bent on bringing law and order. You know that by the closing credits that the bad guys will be in jail or resting in Boot Hill. There’s a new sheriff in town.
I’m not talking about the election in 2024 that will see the Miami-Dade County Police Department see the election of a County Sheriff. I’m talking about the South Florida Anti-Corruption Task Force.
Corruption and politics have always been linked, but in South Florida they’re joined at the hips.
In just the last few years, Biscayne Park Police Chief Raimundo Atesiano plead guilty to having his officers arrest random black teenagers in order to close open burglary cases in order to juice the City’s crime statistics and three City of Miami cops, Kelvin Harris, James Archibald, and Schonton Harris, were sentenced to lengthy prison terms for protecting cocaine dealers. Miami-Dade County has seen an Easter Parade of local officials, indicted and convicted or arrested with the entry of guilty pleas, including: North Miami Beach Mayor George Vallejo; Miami City Commissioners Miller Dawkins and Humberto Hernandez; Miami City Managers Cesar Odio and Howard Gary; Dade County Commissioner James; Port Manager Carmen Lunetta; Pedro Reboredo; and Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne, just to name a few.
The University of Illinois in Chicago issued its 11th Anti-Corruption Report earlier this year. It found that the area surrounding Chicago saw the most convictions for federal public corruption charges in the period between 1976 and 2017 with 1,731. The Southern District of Florida saw 1,165 during that same period, only outdone by Los Angeles and Manhattan. Our reputation as a cesspool of corruption is well earned.
The FBI has launched its own Miami Anti-Corruption task Force, but it’s focused on fraud in the South Florida real estate market which is tied to Central and South America. In a March press release the FBI said its task force would focus on “foreign bribery, kleptocracy, and international antitrust matters.” The FBI task force will be investigating criminal acts that occur outside U.S. borders, but which have a component taking place in America, typically launderimng the proceeds of foreign corruption and graft through local real estate markets.
The South Florida Anti-Corruption Task Force is a home-grown effort of private citizens, not a government agency. It is headed by local attorney Rick Yabor, who has handled a number of high-profile cases, including uncovering a network of absentee ballot brokers, or “boloteros”, operating throughout South Florida.
Yabor is joined by private investigator Joe Carrillo, who has been dubbed “Miami’s Most Notorious Private Eye” in the media. Carrillo has solved some of South Florida’s most challenging cases. He caught Reynaldo Rapalo, dubbed the “Shenandoah Rapist”, for a series of sexual assaults that left the City of Miami Police baffled. In 2012, Carrillo uncovered a mail-in ballot racket tied to several local politicians and law enforcement officials.
Plus, Carrillo runs the Bringing Them Home Project, a pro bono effort that tracks down and recovers runaways and missing children, often rescuing them from sex traffickers. To date, Carrillo has rescued hundreds of children. Other investigators, attorneys, and concerned citizens are working with and backing the South Florida Anti-Corruption Task Force.
“I’ve taken a lot of corruption matters to the State Attorney’s Office over the years,” Carrillo told me, “but they’ve never seemed too interested. And the County’s Ethics Commission is just a useless appendage to the SAO.”
Once word of the task force got out, calls and tips starting coming in. “We’re already pursuing leads on several elected officials,” Yabor confided.
Once the information is vetted, investigated, and verified, it will be turned over to law enforcement agencies that have shown enthusiasm for prosecuting crooked officials.
South Florida may be an area rife with corruption, but those on the take should know it’s almost high noon and there’s a new sheriff in town.
If you would like to leave a tip about corruption in South Florida, the South Florida Anti-Corruption Task Force wants to hear from you. Call them at (305) 760-2277.