ELECTIONS SYSTEM SETTLEMENT
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is praising a settlement reached over a lawsuit that sought to break up the nation’s largest electronic voting machine company, Elections Systems and Software. Last fall, ES&S acquired Premier Election Solutions, a division of Diebold Inc., for $5 million. The merger made ES&S the dominant electronic voting equipment provider in a majority of the counties in nine states, including Florida. The U.S. Department of Justice, along with the states, filed suit. The case centers on the fear that ES&S is monopolizing the industry. The settlement requires ES&S to divest itself of all hardware, software and other assets obtained in the merger. ES&S was awarded a contract to provide systems in Broward County during former Supervisor of Elections Miriam Oliphant’s administration. At the time, that contract was criticized because the ES&S systems printed paper receipts.
Mortgage and loan modification scam artists have caught the attention of Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum’s office. McCollum has been holding forums to help community members who were blindsided by these wolves in sheep’s clothing. McCollum’s office has assembled representatives from agencies such as Legal Services of Greater Miami, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Real Estate. These agencies will be on hand this weekend at a community forum called The Housing Crisis: Who to Trust and Where to Turn. Someone will be there to give you advice if you are facing foreclosure, if you need to verify which housing services are legitimate, or if you have been a victim of mortgage fraud. The forum takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 13 at Florida International University, Modesto A. Maidique Campus (South), MARC Building. 11200 SW Eighth St., Miami. To reserve a seat, call, toll-free, at 877-385-1621.
MORE HARD TIMES
Wall Street has been stabilized, but the overall economy continues on life support. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack released numbers this week showing that more Americans are relying on food stamps than ever before. Nearly 14 percent of the population, or one out of every eight people, is receiving food stamps. In Florida, eligible recipients must have incomes at 133 percent of the federal poverty level or lower, which is $28,668 annually for a family of four. Even then, the maximum benefit for a single person is only $200 per month, and $668 for a family of four. In February, the state distributed a record $350 million in food stamp benefits. The number of people on food stamps in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties has doubled since 2007.
Jackson Health System CEO Eneida Roldan is warning of nearly 4,500 jobs that may be eliminated due to a $229 million budget deficit. Jackson operates numerous hospitals and clinics in Miami-Dade County. It also operates training health care facilities, including the 60-bed University of Miami Hospital, for which it owes the university $52 million for this year. University of Miami medical school CEO William Donelan says Jackson is currently past due on $25 million of that amount. The situation is critical, and Jackson requires immediate intervention from state and federal authorities.
BUDGET DIRECTOR FIRED
The city of Miami is on the cusp of another financial collapse, and newly appointed City Manager Carlos Migoya is taking action. Michael Boudreaux, the city's budget director, was fired on Monday, March 8 for transferring money from capital project accounts that was supposed to pay for building improvements. Work on those projects kept going even though the money had been moved to the general fund to help balance city budgets. Boudreaux earned $190,000 a year. Miami is facing a $45 million budget deficit.
Palm Beach County
CARIBBEAN PONZI SCHEME
Three of four people accused of operating a $600,000 Ponzi scheme have been arrested. Boynton Beach police arrested Patricia Mohammed, 51, and James Clark Howard, 50, both of Parkland, as well a Hila Zlochover, 24, of Boynton Beach, on charges of grand theft and organized scheme to defraud on Monday, March 8. An arrest warrant has been issued for Lamothe Mildort, 27, of Boynton Beach. Mildort owns Midwest Holdings Capital. Authorities say at least 44 investors responded to ads that the group placed on Haitian radio station WHSR 980 AM. The ads claimed to return up to 200 percent on investments in gold and stocks, within one to 12 months. The investors never got a dime, only bounced checks.
ADVISORY BOARD VACANCIES
Broward County District 9 Commissioner Albert Jones is seeking interested parties to serve on numerous advisory boards. Jones is serving out the term of Josephus Eggelletion, who was removed from office in September 2009 after he was charged with money laundering. Eggelletion is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday, March 12. Some of the vacancies were left open by Eggelletion for years, and Jones is working to fill the void. For a list of the advisory board vacancies, call 954-357-7009.
UNEVEN SWAP, BIG SWINDLE
Hollywood police have announced the arrests of husband and wife Tyrone Javellana, 45, and Cynthia Franke, 48, both of Hollywood, on fraud charges on Monday, March 8. The couple is accused of bilking two wealthy sisters, Mary Teris, 95, and Josephina Troisi, 93, out of nearly $100,000. The elderly women reportedly do not have the mental capacity to handle their own affairs, and they handed over checks. The scheme was uncovered when one of the women’s sons noticed checks, some as large as $29,000, paid to the pair for “consulting.”
CASH FOR TRASH
Opa-locka Mayor Joseph L. Kelley has implemented an interesting program that pays non-profit organizations to help keep the city clean. His “Trash for Cash” program pays organizations $10 for each full bag of trash collected from designated and targeted areas in the city. The events take place on one Saturday each month. Groups interested in participating or seeking additional information on the program can call the mayor’s office at 305-953-2801.