Federal corrections officer in Miami accepted money for bribes, feds say

A federal corrections officer has been charged after accepting bribes from South Florida prisoners, prosecutors said Friday.

Victor DeJesus, 47, was arrested and charged with bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery.

A 14-count indictment filed in Miami federal court alleges DeJesus accepted money in exchange for providing contraband to inmates at the Federal Correctional Institution.

According to the indictment, prisoners and those acting on their behalf supplied DeJesus with bribe payments from at least as early as December 2018 through September 2019.

DeJesus is alleged to have deposited the money into his personal bank account.

In exchange for the bribe payments, the indictment alleges, DeJesus brought prohibited items into the prison. The indictment goes on to say DeJesus had inmate co-conspirators distribute the contraband.

The Federal Correctional Institution in Miami is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

DeJesus was scheduled to appear before a U.S. magistrate Friday afternoon.

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October 11, 2019 at 11:33AM

Taxpayers could pay millions in legal fees for ex-Miami Lakes mayor acquitted of bribery

Former Miami Lakes mayor Michael Pizzi, acquitted in a federal corruption case five years ago, may get taxpayers to pay his legal bills after all.

A Miami appeals court on Wednesday overturned a judge’s decision to quash Pizzi’s lawsuit against the town seeking at least $2.5 million to pay his defense attorneys’ bills.

The Third District Court of Appeals was careful to say it wasn’t ruling on the “ultimate merit, or lack of merit” of Pizzi’s claim that he deserves a full reimbursement. But the court said Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Mavel Ruiz was legally wrong to throw out the lawsuit in 2018.

The court found that Miami Lakes’ own policies supported Pizzi’s initial claim that the town was on the hook — although it had the right to question the “reasonableness of the fees amount sought.”

Pizzi on Wednesday called the decision a “home run” and said Miami Lakes needs to pay his lawyers before the bills escalate as he continues his legal battle against the town. He’s also seeking an addition $1 million to pay for the appeals.

“It’s time for the town to bring this to a conclusion and pay my legal fees,” Pizzi said.

Miami Lakes Town Attorney Raul Gastesi said in a statement that the town was “disappointed” in the decision but remained confident it would prevail.

So what happens now? Judge Ruiz will now have to hold more hearings, and potentially delve into the nitty-gritty of the legal bills — and the details of the FBI’s failed case against the politician.

“Mr. Pizzi must still prove that his inexplicable actions and extremely poor judgment were for a public purpose and serving the citizens of the Town of Miami Lakes,” Gastesi said, adding: “Mr. Pizzi was merely acting for his own personal gain.”

The FBI arrested Pizzi in August 2013 and accused him of accepting more than $6,000 in bribes, some of it in a paper bag delivered at the Billiard Club, his favorite watering hole in a strip mall in Miami Lakes. Undercover agents purportedly paid him the money in exchange for his mayoral support for a grants program, a sham one concocted as part of the sting.

The following year, a federal jury acquitted Pizzi. He was represented by high-profile defense lawers Ed Shohat and Ben Kuehne.

After a lengthy and costly court battle with the town and then-Gov. Rick Scott, he was reinstated as mayor of Miami Lakes. Voters, however, did not re-elect him in 2016. He has been fighting to have the city pick up his legal tab ever since.

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October 2, 2019 at 02:06PM

Irish Citizen Gets Prison For Trafficking Rhino Cup From Miami

MIAMI, FL — A second Irish citizen pleaded guilty Tuesday to his role in trafficking a drink cup fashioned out of an endangered rhinoceros horn from Miami International Airport to the United Kingdom by way of Atlanta.

Richard Sheridan, 50, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez to 14 months in a federal prison followed by two years of supervised release.

Michael Hegarty, 40, previously pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 1-1/2 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release.

“For our critically endangered wildlife, every case that serves to deter their illegal poaching and trafficking in their artifacts is important to the global effort to preserve these iconic specimens for our children and the generations to come,” U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan said in Miami.

Federal prosecutors said Sheridan and Hegarty traveled from London to Miami where they were joined by a Miami resident to attend an auction in Rockingham, North Carolina back in 2012.

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October 2, 2019 at 04:56PM

MMA fighter turns witness in sordid kidnap and murder tied to ex-Presidente supermarket exec

For aspiring mixed martial arts fighter Ariel “The Panther” Gandulla, his involvement in a sensational murder case started at a Kendall gym in the spring of 2011.

While training, he heard some gym associates talking about a “job” offered by Manuel Marin, a wealthy fight fan who owned South Florida Presidente supermarkets. Within days, Gandulla said, he’d been unwittingly roped into helping kidnap Marin’s romantic rival — who wound up murdered in an isolated West Miami-Dade field, his genitals lit ablaze, his throat slit.

Gandulla’s firsthand account of the kidnapping, revealed publicly for the first time in a sworn statement released on Tuesday, has now become key evidence against the others charged in the gruesome death of Camilo Salazar in June 2011. Two of the men, Roberto Isaac and Alexis Vila Perdomo, start trial on Oct. 15 in a murder case with a distinct Miami flavor.

The star witness insists he never witnessed the actual murder and only participated in the kidnapping, a claim prosecutors believe is corroborated by cellphone records that show he was not on the scene where Salazar was tortured and killed.

Still, Gandulla’s testimony significantly strengthens what had been a largely circumstantial case — built on exhaustive cellphone records — against Marin, Isaac and Vila Perdomo, a former Cuban Olympic bronze medalist boxer.

The State Attorney’s Office released the sworn statement of Gandulla less than a week after he voluntarily returned to Miami from years on the run in Vancouver, Canada, pleaded guilty and agreed to spend 36 months in prison in exchange for his testimony. Gandulla is a former professional MMA fighter who wound up with an 8-9 record.

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October 3, 2019 at 02:14AM

Miami Police officer accused of crossing the line during DUI arrest

(WSVN) – A Miami Police detective sworn to enforce the law is caught on tape trying to be above the law. Just one station has the dramatic police bodycam videos showing what happened after the detective was pulled over for a suspected DUI. 7’s Kevin Ozebek investigates.

An off-duty City of Miami Police detective in handcuffs, and hoping to catch a break from the law.

Miami Police Detective Danny Hebra: “Sarge, please.”

MCSO deputy: “This is not fun for me, either.”

Danny Hebra: “I know. It’s [expletive] up.”

Monroe County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Miami Police Detective Danny Hebra in July on DUI charges.

MCSO deputy: “You know we have a job to do, right?” (takes Hebra’s badge from belt holder)

Danny Hebra: “No, no. Sarge, sarge.”

MCSO deputy: “Come on, just relax.”

It all began with a 911 call.

Yancy Bartlett (in 911 call): “There’s this guy in a black Tahoe. He’s, like, really drunk, driving over the curbs and everything.”

Yancy Bartlett made that call after he says he saw Hebra park his car in a Key Largo shopping plaza.

Yancy Bartlett: “I was watching him walk there, and he was just like wobbling everywhere, so I figured that he was probably drinking. As he went into the liquor store, I called 911 and told them what was going on.”

Bartlett says Detective Hebra then left the store and sat in his car.

Yancy Bartlett: “He took a bottle, I guess, of vodka and threw the bottle out the window, right onto the ground, and then drove off.”

Moments later, a Monroe County Sheriff’s deputy spotted the Tahoe and followed, watching as Hebra drifted into the bike lane.

After he turned onto a side street into the wrong lane, he pulled him over.

MCSO deputy: “Would you happen to have your registration with you at all?”

Danny Hebra: “Ehh.” (holds his chest)

Hebra seemed to have trouble speaking and told the deputy that he was nervous.

Danny Hebra: “I usually don’t get stopped, so, whew.”

Instead of handing over his registration. he gave his City of Miami Police ID.

Danny Hebra: “Being a police officer, that’s my registration.”

A second deputy arrived and gets filled in on what’s happening.

MCSO deputy: “He does have a firearm on him. When I made contact with him, his eyes are bloodshot. I could smell alcohol coming from the car, and speech is slurred.”

Danny Hebra was ordered to leave his gun in the car and then reluctantly agreed to a roadside sobriety test.

Danny Hebra: “You want to do this?”

MCSO deputy: “I can tell you, from police officer to police officer, Danny, this does not make me feel very comfortable.”

He did start the test, but soon wanted to make a phone call. The police report notes the contact he called was labeled “Sergeant.” In the call, Hebra said he’s “doing roadsides” and asked, “Do I do them?”

Once off the phone, he told the deputy he no longer wanted to continue the test, but he did continue begging to be let off the hook.

Danny Hebra: “There’s nothing you can do? Really?”

MCSO deputy: “I can’t.”

Danny Hebra: “Really? Really?”

MCSO deputy: “Really. If I let you go right now, Danny, you understand I’ll lose my job?”

Danny Hebra: “You won’t.”

MCSO deputy: “One hundred percent.”

The deputies cuffed Hebra and led him into a cruiser. They collected his wallet, police badge and his loaded gun.

MCSO deputy: “Jesus Christ.”

On the way to the police station, Hebra appeared to pass out. Later at the Sheriff’s Office, he refused to take a breathalyzer test and again tried to berate a deputy.

Danny Hebra: “How do you [expletive] arrest an officer? How do you do that?”

MCSO deputy: “We’re not above the law, sir. You know that, right?”

7News sifted through Detective Hebra’s personnel file. In his 12-year career at Miami Police, he has never been given one reprimand.

Danny Hebra: “Sarge, Sarge. Never been stopped before.”

Danny Hebra: “Sarge, I’m going to lose my [expletive] job. Lose it.”

Detective Hebra still has a job, but has been told to stay home while Miami Police conduct an internal investigation.

CONTACT 7INVESTIGATES:
305-627-CLUE
954-921-CLUE
clue@wsvn.com

Copyright 2019 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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September 30, 2019 at 12:16AM

Ex-MMA Fighter Pleads Guilty Over 2011 Miami-Dade Murder

A former MMA fighter accused in the 2011 killing of a man linked to one of the former co-owners of Presidente Supermarkets has submitted a guilty plea and agreed to testify against others, according to prosecutors.

In a statement released Friday, Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said Ariel Gandulla’s guilty plea and willingness to testify will “add important evidentiary pieces to our efforts to bring Camilo Salazar’s alleged killers to justice.”

Gandulla will testify against Manuel Marin, Roberto Isaac and Alexis Vila-Perdomo.

Gandulla, 51, was booked into the Miami-Dade jail Tuesday night to face charges of second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit second-degree murder and kidnapping, jail records showed.

Ex-MMA Fighter Wanted in 2011 Murder in Miami-Dade Captured: Cops

(Published Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019)

Gandulla is one of four suspects in the June 2011 killing of Salazar, 43, the alleged lover of the wife of former Presidente co-owner Marin.

Salazar’s body was found on a dirt road in the Florida Everglades in northwest Miami-Dade on June 1, 2011. He was bound, beaten, tortured, had his throat slashed and his body was partially burned, according to a police report.

Marin was taken into custody in Spain last year after years on the run and is facing trial in Miami on the same charges Gandulla faces. Also accused in the plot is another former mixed martial artist, Vila-Perdomo, and fight trainer and promoter Isaac. Vila-Perdomo and Isaac remain in custody in Miami-Dade.

Ariel Gandulla Appears in Bond Court

[MI] Ariel Gandulla Appears in Bond Court

Ariel Gandulla appears in MIami-Dade bond court on Sept. 25, 2019.

(Published Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019)

Marin’s son, Yaddiel Marin, was arrested last year after he was accused of helping his father while he was on the run, authorities said. Yaddiel Marin owns and operates many of the supermarkets once operated by his father.

Presidente has been one of the fastest-growing Hispanic grocery chains in the country.

“The June 1, 2011 torture and murder of 43-year-old Camilo Salazar should not be lost within the notoriety of the alleged perpetrators and the lurid details of the crime,” Fernandez Rundle wrote. “Wealth, infidelity, rage, conspiracy and murder, all a part of this prosecution, are usually seen as the stuff of Hollywood movies and tabloid headlines. Too often lost in such cases are the basic humanity of the victim, the pain of the victim’s family, and the deep commitment … to ensure that justice is properly served.”

Supermarket Mogul Suspected in Murder Arrested

[MI] Supermarket Mogul Suspected in Murder Arrested

One of the former co-owners of Presidente Supermarkets who was wanted in the 2011 killing of his wife’s lover in Miami-Dade has been taken into custody in Spain. NBC 6’s Ari Odzer reports.

(Published Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018)

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September 27, 2019 at 05:12PM

‘OxyMonster’ drug dealer who came to US for beard contest sent to prison for 20 years

A Frenchman who was arrested when he arrived in the U.S. for a world beard-growing championship was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison for online drug trafficking using the alias “OxyMonster.” The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge Robert Scola on 36-year-old Gal Vallerius. He pleaded…

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‘OxyMonster’ came to US for beard contest; now pleading guilty to drug charges in South Florida

A Frenchman arrested when he arrived in the United States for a world beard-growing championship will plead guilty in federal court on drug charges. The Miami Herald reported that Gal Vallerius is charged with drug conspiracy and money laundering in South Florida federal court. Investigators say…

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