­elgin_jones_web_13.jpgPalm Beach County

Elroy Phillips, who is serving a 30-year sentence in a federal prison on drug and other charges, has spent the last 10 years fighting his conviction. He may now go free after he exposed a corrupt police officer and apparently convinced prosecutors that the officer lied about buying cocaine from him. 

Phillips’ story is one that will some day become a movie.  Michael Ghent, now a former West Palm Beach police officer, is the one who was involved in the case. Working from his prison cell, Phillips has proven that Ghent was actually in a college classroom on the night he claimed Phillips made the drug purchase from him. He also uncovered Ghent’s own corrupt and criminal past, which was never revealed to prosecutors and jurors. U.S. District Court Judge Joan A. Lenard, who originally sentenced Phillips, must now decide his fate. As for Ghent, he should be prosecuted and never allowed to see the light of day for this setup of an innocent man.

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath sentenced polo magnate John Goodman to 16 years in prison. Goodman was convicted of DIU manslaughter last month. He was driving drunk when he ran a stop sign and crashed into Scott Wilson’s car. Wilson’s vehicle landed upside down and sank in a canal and he drowned. Goodman left the scene on foot and did not try to assist Wilson. Goodman, who has appealed the conviction, remains out on $7 million bond.

Zoe Savitsky, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, toured several Palm Beach County schools last week as part of an investigation into alleged abuses against immigrant students. Barbara Briggs, an attorney with Legal Aid Society, filed the complaint that alerted DOJ officials. They are reviewing how the school district handles discipline, suspensions and other policies related to immigrants. Schools Superintendent Wayne Gent has not commented on the matter.

Broward County

Percy Johnson, the Democrat Party political operative and former treasurer of the Broward County Democrat Party’s Council of Club Presidents, may be getting a reprieve of sorts. Prosecutors with the Broward State Attorney’s Office are set to charge Johnson with felony theft over his admitted and documented use of the organization’s funds for personal use. But some members of the organization are denying that they want Johnson prosecuted over the issue. Some of the funds in question have been repaid but there is division within the organization over how to handle the matter. It is now in the hands of State Attorney Michael Satz.

Steven Lippman, a former partner in convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein’s law firm, pleaded guilty in federal court to a single count of conspiracy. Lippman was accused of living off, and participating in, the $2.1 billion scheme operated by the now defunct Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler law firm. Lippman reportedly earned more than $600,000 a year, plus benefits. He also got a $9 million loan from the company. He is now cooperating with authorities and his testimony is expected to snag a number of “big fish” in the latest round of Rothstein-related indictments.

Miami-Dade County

City of Miami sanitation workers Robert Anderson, 29, and Lawrence Clarke, 51, have been arrested in connection with an ongoing trash bribery investigation. Police said the two were scheduled to pick up trash in the Roads neighborhood of the city, a service the city offers free charge. The men are accused of charging some residents to pick up their trash. One resident reported the scheme to City Commissioner Frank Corrollo, who alerted police. A meeting was arranged between the resident and sanitation workers, who accepted $250 in marked bills to perform the work. The transaction was recorded by police and the men were arrested, police said.

Nicolas Estrella, the founder of the Estrella insurance empire, is accused of collaborating with the captain of his 80-foot yacht to steal and then sink the vessel. Estrella’s yacht Star One was stolen in 2009 from the docks at Key Biscayne. Last week, state insurance fraud agents arrested Estrella’s former yacht captain Robert Figueredo and charged him with stealing Star One. They also are accusing him of sinking it off the coast of the Bahamas. Estrella filed a $3 million claim with Federal Insurance Company, which refused to pay up. Estrella then filed a breach of contract lawsuit. Estrella Insurance, which has more than 45 branches, mostly in South Florida, reported more than $145 million in revenue last year.

University of Miami President Donna Shalala announced that UM, which has more than 13,000 employees, is laying off more than 800 workers at its Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. According to documents filed with the state,  their last day will be July 1. The cutbacks are tied to a reduction in federal grants. Last year UM had $2.34 billion in operating revenue, $116 million of which came from federal grants.


Robert Landen, former parks director and a reserve sergeant with the Homestead Police Department, is suing the city for invasion of privacy and more. Landen was a 25-year city employee who was issued a cell phone. In 2009, as part of an investigation into then City Manager Mike Shehadeh, city officials had a private investigation firm retrieve emails, text messages and photographs transmitted over various employees’ city-issued cell phones. Landen was among them and the investigation uncovered sexually explicit text messages and jokes on his phone. The city suspended Landen in 2010. In his lawsuit, Landen alleges that then acting city manager Sergio Purrinos, who was later fired over unrelated issues, told him to resign or be fired. He also contends he was told that he could use the phone for personal use if he paid the taxes and that there was no city policy on the use of the cell phone. His lawsuit says he was unaware that his messages intended for personal use were being recorded by the city’s Information Technology Services Department.

Photo: Elgin Jones