Officials say they’re tightening security of the Florida prescription drug database, after the disclosure last week that names, prescription history and other personal information of 3,300 individuals were released to lawyers of six defendants in a prescription drug fraud sting.
Wednesday’s announcement by Department of Health officials regarding stricter security measures came the same day that the state attorney who released the records revealed details about how an investigation into a drug trafficking ring last month netted so many names of people apparently unrelated to the sting.
Department of Health officials said they are working with law enforcement and Attorney General Pam Bondi, to explore additional safety measures for the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. The safeguards will include limiting the number of people from agencies allowed to use the database, requiring all agency administrators to be notified when someone queries the program and cutting access to those who wrongfully disclose information.
The database first went into use in 2011, as a way to prevent drug-abusers from doctor shopping.
“The PDMP works daily to save the lives of those with prescription narcotic addiction and privacy is job one,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health John Armstrong. “The Department is taking steps forward to put additional safeguards in place to prevent any unauthorized use of information that is intended to save lives.”
Concerns about law enforcement agencies’ use of the database and distribution of records came to light after Daytona Beach attorney Michael Lambert discovered his name was among about 3,300 others whose drug history, doses, pharmacies and home addresses were released to five lawyers representing defendants in a drug sting in May.
Lambert sued State Attorney C.J. Larizza over the list of names and is challenging the constitutionality of the database, calling it an unconstitutional invasion of privacy that subjects individuals to unreasonable searches and seizures.
The list of names was part of a multi-county drug trafficking investigation by state, local and federal agents.
According to court documents filed by Larizza, Drug Enforcement Administration agent Sean Tucker and other investigators queried the database for the prescription drug history of four doctors and their pharmacies, along with six individuals accused of forging prescriptions for hydrocodone and other addictive narcotics.
The search netted 3,300 names and drug histories, including Lambert’s. Agents then asked the doctors to verify the data. The investigation identified 63 fictitious names and seven people whose identities had been stolen by the accused fraudsters, according to the court filings.
“Essentially, the trafficking ring was utilizing false identities and identity theft to procure and distribute narcotic prescription medications. The investigation revealed that thousands upon thousands of narcotic pills were being illegally distributed on the streets of our state,” Larizza wrote in his response.
State law requires that the information from the database remain confidential and makes it a felony to knowingly disseminate the records to unauthorized recipients.
Larizza’s office gave five of the six lawyers representing defendants in the drug cases disks containing the names. One of the lawyers recognized Lambert’s name and alerted him of the possible security breach. Lambert sued, asking Larizza to retrieve the disks and to notify all of the individuals whose names had been released through certified mail.
In Wednesday’s court filing, Larizza said none of the other four lawyers had viewed the data and that only Lambert had not returned the disk to the state attorney’s office.
But the case has raised questions about the security of the database and prompted concerns from some GOP lawmakers who said they want to hold hearings on the issue.
Lambert contends Larizza was wrong to release all of the records to the defense lawyers and asked the judge to block the law regarding the use of the database.
But Larizza argued that Lambert failed to make his case.
“There is sparse, if any, legal precedent providing guidance on what limitations should be placed on the release of discovery materials to the defense under these circumstances. Essentially, the Court must balance the privacy rights of the citizens against the due process rights of the defendants,” he wrote.
Lambert said he had no problem with investigators casting a broad net to identify potential prescription drug fraudsters. But, he said, prosecutors should have redacted the names of the individuals who were not accused.
“Those six people have been identified. I’m not one of those people. Nor were the other 3,300 people…Why does somebody need to know that I’m a legitimate patient lawfully prescribed medication from one of these doctors?” Lambert said.
Lambert said that the new security measures being considered by health officials won’t ensure that innocent patients’ data remains private.
The ACLU, which opposed the database from the beginning, filed a public records request regarding the release of the data but was told the database query is exempt from public records because it is part of an active investigation. ACLU lawyer Maria Kayanan, who requested the records, said she intends to fight for the records and is considering asking the DEA and the Justice Department to investigate.
“To me this is an admission that there have been no accountability standards and there still won’t be until these new rules are adopted and put in place. But at least the Department of Health is aware of the problems and has taken steps to begin addressing the sweeping violations of privacy that have occurred,” Kayanan said. “This is damage control. I think they’re trying to save a database that shouldn’t exist in the first place.”
The Lambert case does not yet have a judge. A circuit judge asked the Florida Supreme Court to assign a judge from outside Larizza’s 7th Circuit jurisdiction, which includes, Flagler, Putnam, St. John’s and Volusia counties.
Coral Gables police arrested convicted felon Mark Lodigensky in connection with a number of apartment burglaries in the city.
Lodigensky, 59, faces a series of charges, including numerous counts of burglary of an occupied dwelling, trespass, third-degree grand theft and criminal mischief. He was arrested on June 5.
In May, the police department released images of a man caught on surveillance video at an apartment complex in Coral Gables as he peered through the front glass doors. Residents from several high-rise complexes had complained of thefts since the new year, including a break-in in February at a building on Madeira Avenue that led to the loss of $10,000 in jewelry, a Rolex watch and $1,500 in damages to an apartment’s front door.
Police arrested Lodigensky, who has a criminal record dating to the late 1970s, including a series of break-ins in Fort Lauderdale and Miami-Dade in 1986, after receiving a tip. An individual said he called Crimestoppers when he recognized the man from an image that ran with a Miami Herald story in May on the apartment break-ins.
“I don’t know the guy, per se, but I’m good with faces,” the caller said Tuesday, asking that his identity be withheld.
Lodigensky was last released from prison in December. He is being held at Metro West Detention Center. His bond totals $250,000 on the Gables charges but, in addition, there is a federal marshall’s hold on his release and more charges are expected, said Gables police spokesman Dean Wellinghoff.
“This was a good case, a good arrest,” Wellinghoff said Wednesday.
The arrest of Jerry Frank Townsend on Sept. 5, 1979 ended the hunt for a brutal serial killer and rapist who had terrorized a predominantly African-American neighborhood in northwest Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
But it began an enduring miscarriage of justice.
Townsend spent 22 years of his life in prison until he was exonerated by DNA tests that did not exist when he was arrested. Eddie Lee Mosley remained free to continue to rape and kill until his 1987 arrest and confinement in a state hospital for the criminally insane.
The deaths of 10 women and children who were murdered after Townsend’s wrongful arrest have been linked to Mosley by DNA testing or other evidence.
Now, relatives of three of those victims are calling on longtime Broward State Attorney Mike Satz – who is up for re-election – to finally investigate the actions of police detectives whose testimony convicted Townsend.
“It matters a hell of a lot,” said Clarice Tukes, 72, whose 20-year-old daughter, Arnette, was raped and strangled five months after Townsend’s arrest. “My daughter would still be alive if they hadn’t arrested the wrong man.”
“I want this reopened,” said Jacquelyn D. Miller, the daughter of Geraldine Barfield, whose body was found in a field adjacent to the Immanuel Church of God in Christ near Sunland Park on Dec. 19, 1983. She was 35.
“I’ve carried this with me 28 years. I want Michael Satz to tell me why he allowed this to happen, why a killer was allowed to remain on the streets,” she said.
Compared to Jack the Ripper
Satz was in his first term as Broward’s top prosecutor when Townsend was arrested.
The case captured the public’s imagination: A black serial killer compared by police to Jack the Ripper. Townsend, they said, had admitted to wanting to “rid the world of prostitutes.”
The victims, however, were not prostitutes.
Townsend, a grown man with the mental capacity of a child, was led by detectives to confess to a string of rapes and murders he did not do. He was convicted of six murders and a rape in 1980 and sent to prison for life.
In 2009, eight years after DNA proved his innocence, the Broward Sheriff’s Office agreed to pay $2 million over five years to settle a civil rights lawsuit alleging that its detectives fabricated evidence, concealed exculpatory evidence, tampered with witnesses and coerced false confessions out of Townsend.
Miami, where city detectives were accused of similar wrongdoing against Townsend, paid $2.2 million to end another suit before trial in 2008. Taxpayers spent at least $1 million more to pay lawyers to defend the police.
Broward Bulldog reported in 2009 that transcripts of Townsend’s Broward trial and hearings contain disturbing evidence of crimes like perjury and the falsification of police reports by BSO detectives and other officers. Several relatives recently saw the story.
For example, BSO detectives testified that Townsend led them to the scene of four Broward murders, and provided them with details only the killer would have known.
But Townsend wasn’t the killer. So the detectives’ damning testimony takes on new meaning.
There is no statute of limitations on perjury in an official proceeding that relates to the prosecution of a capital felony. Whether the law could be enforced regarding original police testimony against Townsend is unclear because today’s statute is somewhat different than what was on the books in the 1980s.
Nevertheless, neither Satz, Broward’s state attorney since 1976, nor the Broward Sheriff’s Office has investigated the actions of the BSO detectives whose testimony sent Townsend to prison, Mark Schlein and Anthony Fantigrassi.
The settled lawsuit contended those detectives framed Townsend to advance their careers. Schlein has declined to discuss the case. Fantigrassi has said he never lied to convict Townsend.
Fantigrassi retired as head of BSO’s Criminal Investigations Unit in 2005. Schlein retired in 1993 as a lieutenant colonel, later worked for the state and is today an attorney in private practice in Tallahassee.
The lawsuit said Mosley is believed to be responsible for 41 rapes and 17 murders between 1973 and 1987, when he was declared incompetent to stand trial for the 1983 Christmas Eve rape-murder of Emma Cook, 54.
Victims and their families Katrenna Bentley, a hedge fund accountant, was 11 years old the day her grandmother died. She still vividly recalls seeing her battered body on a slab at the Mizell Funeral Home.
“I remember her laying on the table and seeing skin under her nails and hair in her mouth. They said she fought back, bit him in the head,” Bentley said. DNA from that trace evidence was matched two decades later to Mosley.
Katrenna and her mother, Mary Bentley, Emma Cook’s daughter, both said they want the state to investigate the actions of the police who handled the Townsend case.
“Every Christmas I relive this and get a sick feeling in the bottom of my stomach,” said Mary Bentley, 61. “If they had investigated it properly from the beginning they could have caught Mosley earlier and he wouldn’t have ended up killing my mom or the other people. They should pay.”
“I would love to see that happen,” said Calvin Sapp, 68, a semi-retired construction worker and older brother of victim Geraldine Barfield. “It seems like very seldom that people of color get the type of justice that they give everybody else.”
The victims’ relatives are not alone in wanting an investigation.
Broward’s elected public defender, Howard Finkelstein, said, “The fact that these officers were allowed to lie and cheat to frame an innocent man, and then were allowed to go on with their lives as though they did nothing wrong and nothing happened is not only illegal, it’s a sin.”
Finkelstein said Townsend’s case is “the best example” of a local criminal justice system where authorities have for decades often ignored the crimes of police officers that plant evidence or commit perjury to make cases against suspects.
“That they turned a blind eye to such a heinous crime is the exact reason that most minorities in Broward feel they don’t get a fair shake – and they’re right,” said Finkelstein said.
Satz, who rarely talks to reporters, referred a request for comment to a subordinate who said prosecutors reviewed the Townsend case before the DNA tests were done and found insufficient evidence of perjury.
“In regards to the officers involved in that case, we know what it takes to charge someone with perjury,” said Assistant State Attorney Carolyn McCann. “People on the outside don’t know about the elements of the crime. They just think that if it smells bad and looks bad it’s a crime. In a perfect world, that would work. But we have to follow the law and can’t just harass people.”
Broward prosecutors, however, have made little effort to actually make such a case. Asked if her office ever confronted Fantigrassi or Schlein about their graphic testimony at Townsend’s trial, McCann said, “Not that I’m aware of.”
A study released in May by the National Registry of Exonerations showed that Broward accounted for nine of Florida’s 32 exonerations since 1989 – more than twice as many as any other county in the state. Most of those exonerated defendants were black.
Townsend, who lived in Hallandale Beach at the time of his arrest, is one of two Broward men cleared of murders now attributed to Mosley. Frank Lee Smith spent 14 years on Death Row for raping and killing 8-year-old Shandra Whitehead in her bed in 1985. He died of cancer on Jan.30, 2000, less than a year before DNA tests identified Mosley as the girl’s killer.
Three weeks before Townsend’s 1979 arrest, Fort Lauderdale police Det. Doug Evans identified Mosley – known around his northwest area neighborhood as “The Rape Man” – as the prime suspect in the rape-murders in his jurisdiction. Evans based his case on witness testimony and physical evidence, but the BSO detectives blew him off.
Evans later helped catch Mosley and free Townsend. Before his death in January 2011, Evans told the Broward Bulldog that he was disappointed authorities had never investigated police misconduct that had caused Townsend’s wrongful arrest and conviction.
Evans’ friend and colleague, ex-Fort Lauderdale Det. Roy Brown, said, “Doug always pushed for an investigation, always wanted one, but it’s been a hard rock. They let it sleep, they let it lay and they moved on and there’s no justice and nobody is held accountable for it. You’ve got to want to pursue them.
“The public should have a right to know this stuff: A serial killer running around killing people and nobody cared,” said Brown.
Clarice Tukes, whose daughter Arnette was murdered not long after Townsend’s arrest, was Doug Evans’ cousin.
“They knew who it was that did it. They knew Townsend didn’t do it, Mosley did. Doug told the whole family he did it. He said he didn’t know why they won’t take his word. That hurts,” said Tukes.
Her grandson, Dominick Richardson, was 3 years old when his mother died. He’s grown now, with three children of his own. His daughter Arnette is named in his mother’s honor, Tukes said.
Posted on May 2nd, 2013 No comments
POMPANO BEACH — A would-be robber shot to death by his intended victim this week was a Miami man with a lengthy criminal history, the Broward Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday.
A resident of Conch Key Villas in Pompano Beach had arrived home just before 5:15 a.m. Tuesday when he encountered Osner Louis, 29, near his garage, the Sheriff’s Office said. The gun went off during a struggle, killing Louis, the agency said.
Louis had been arrested dozens of times since 1999, and served several prison stints, including in 2007 for aggravated assault, state records show. Prior cases in which he pleaded guilty or was convicted included grand theft in 2003, larceny and battery in 2001 and cocaine possession in 2000.
In a telephone interview, Nathan May, 29, told the Sun Sentinel he was the resident involved in Tuesday’s shooting. May called the shooting self-defense.
Posted on May 1st, 2013 No comments
Authorities in Central Florida suspect three Broward County men of being part of an infamous “felony lane gang,” one or more groups of South Floridians who travel far from home to commit car burglaries, bank fraud and identity thefts.
Ench Smith, 33, and Guercy Smith, 26, both of Pompano Beach, and Traver Paul, 19, of Fort Lauderdale, are among the latest suspects accused of such schemes across Florida and the rest of the country.
The trio was more than 220 miles north of Broward on Tuesday, when police in Casselberry arrested them each on charges of burglary, criminal mischief and petty theft. Patrons at an LA Fitness in Casselberry, northeast of Orlando, reported their vehicles were burglarized, and police said they caught the suspects as they drove away.
The men were in a rental car, and their actions were similar to those committed by other suspected felony lane gang members, Casselberry Police Capt. David Del Rosso said. Police said they are not sure if the men are members of an elaborate crime ring or merely a group of petty criminals who adopted the scheme for a quick and easy score.
“It could be something they learned to do in jail, or they are a spinoff of other groups,” Del Rosso said. “Bottom line is they were doing the same type of crimes associated with a felony lane gang.”
Even though “felony lane gang” suggests one group, it actually is more than one ring of thieves carrying out such crimes, officials said. While gang cells may not be working together, their schemes usually take on similar patterns.
In most cases, those arrested have South Florida addresses and travel in rental cars. They target cars parked at state parks, day care centers, gyms, supermarkets and cemeteries. Their loot usually includes wallets or purses containing credit and debit cards and checkbooks.
The thieves later drive to the victims’ banks to cash stolen checks, often wearing wigs and sunglasses for disguises. They often use the farthest drive-through teller lanes to avoid surveillance cameras. Thus the term “felony lane.”
In Broward, Ench Smith has primarily dealt with traffic offenses. His short prior criminal history excludes any arrests consistent with being part of a large-scale organized crime group, records show.
His alleged accomplices have a more serious criminal history, records show.
Since 2008, Guercy Smith has pleaded no-contest and been sentenced to probation on several charges, including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and drug possession, state records show.
Paul was most recently arrested in Miami-Dade County on March 22 on charges of fleeing police and reckless driving. He is awaiting trial in that case. Since 2008, he has pleaded no-contest and been sentenced to probation on several offenses, including firing a gun into an occupied dwelling and battery.
Authorities say those involved in felony lane-type crimes have distinct roles, and the crimes often are aimed at stealing victims’ identities. Some act as organizers and recruit other members, some conduct robberies to obtain identification documents, and others go to banks to cash fraudulent checks.
In recent months, federal officials say they have made some progress in cracking down on felony lane suspects from South Florida.
In December, a grand jury in Pennsylvania returned a four-count indictment, charging 10 people with conspiracy to commit fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. With the exception of a Texas woman, all the alleged group members reportedly were from Broward.
In that case, federal officials said group members committed crimes in Pennsylvania from August to October 2012. During that time, they allegedly broke into numerous vehicles and stole the identities of more than 100 people.
The “smash and grabs” occurred at about 25 state parks and recreation centers in and around the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Heidi Havens, a spokeswoman for federal prosecutors in Pennsylvania, said the cases are expected to go to trial next month.
Run to support marathon victims free and open to public.
Members of the Baptist Health Brickell Run Club will be holding a silent run Tuesday night as a gesture of support for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.
Runners will gather at 7 p.m. at the Fortune International Parking Lot at 1300 Brickell Avenue for the 3.5 mile run, which is free and open to the public.
Baptist Health will be providing bottles of water for all the runners, who are encouraged to wear white or past running event shirts. Special Boston Marathon mock bibs are also being made for runners to wear.
The club holds the event every Tuesday and generally gets between 300-400 runners, but are expected as many as 1,000 in light of Monday’s tragedy in Boston, event organizer Frankie Ruiz said.
Ruiz, who is also a co-founder of the Miami Marathon, said he was shocked by the bombings in Boston, which killed three and injured several others.
“I never would have thought it would happen at the finish line of a race like this,” Ruiz said Tuesday. “That race means a lot so to see the tragedy take place in that scenario, it’s a bit tougher to swallow.”
Ruiz said he knew many runners competing Monday through the Miami event, which is an official qualifier or the Boston Marathon.
“For many people, to make it to Boston is a dream come true, it gives a purpose to their running,” he said. “I guess you can call it the holy grail of running, one of the most competitive ones.”
He said organizers of the Miami Marathon have always had security measures in place for the event, and have had discussions about the type of incident that happened in Boston, but may refine and adjust their security plans in the wake of the tragedy.
No matter what, Ruiz said, the sport will continue to prosper.
“Running itself is just going to be that much stronger,” Ruiz said. “A tragedy like this, people are just going to stand up to it.
“This doesn’t stop us, we’re gonna keep doing what we do.”
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A Miami woman was found guilty on Monday in a Miami courtroom for a tax refund scam that enabled her to receive thousands of dollars in fraudulent refunds from the government.
Prosecutor said 30-year old Natoya Mashea Handy used stolen identities of past or current inmates to submit phony federal tax returns.
Handy was found with 15 social security numbers, names, and dates of birth belonging to people who were incarcerated in the state of Florida. Prosecutor said she used 17 stolen social security numbers to file fraudulent taxes for the 2011 tax year. Each of the tax returns received hundreds of dollars in a refund, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
She was convicted of one count of access device fraud and five counts of aggravated identity theft.
Handy’s sentence is scheduled for June 24.
On the same summer day that an Indiana scalper sold a $1,000 pair of counterfeit Miami Heat playoff tickets to a Coral Springs man, he was arrested at AmericanAirlines Arena for selling fake $600 tickets to undercover Miami-Dade detectives, authorities say. Tony McKibben, 44, extradited from the Hoosier State, was in Broward County court Monday morning to answer to the resulting grand theft charge.
Posted on April 15th, 2013 No comments
More than 200 hackers have assembled in the dark conference rooms of the Fontainebleau Miami Beach with one goal in mind: attacking vulnerabilities.
Okay, it’s true that most of those attending the two-day Infiltrate Security Conference are defense contractors from various governments around the world. But unlike larger hacker conventions, such as Defcon or Black Hat, Infiltrate offers a single track for those who are focused on the offensive side of security issues, such as discovering vulnerabilities and exploiting networks and computers.
In the world of cyber security, going on the offensive is a $100 million market, said conference organizer Dave Aitel, CEO of Miami Beach-based security company Immunity Inc.
Aitel worked as a computer scientist with the NSA when he was 18 years old before he moved on to work as a consultant at @stake and then in 2002 formed his own software security company.
He created the conference, which ends Friday, three years ago as a way to bring white-hat, grey-hat and black-hat hackers together in an anonymous setting to discuss techniques to go on the offensive when being attacked by malicious hackers.
“A lot of these people are meeting up with old friends — some of whom have never met face-to-face,” he said.
Speakers at the conference spoke on issues ranging from hacking the NextGen Air Traffic Control system, why businesses should hack their attackers, and a talk from a local convicted felon who served two years in prison and was fined $171.5 million for his role in a $700 million Miami identity theft ring.
Stephen Watt, the man convicted in the theft ring, was expected to give his first public talk since his conviction on Friday. Watt created a program that was used by another Miami man, Albert Gonzalez, to steal millions of credit cards from TJ Maxx.
“You want to know all the sides of the story,” Aitel said. “And you can balance that with other speakers.”
For instance, Aitel brought on Chris Eagle, a senior lecturer of computer science at the Naval Postgraduate School who has interests in computer network operations, malware analysis and anti-reverse engineering techniques.
Each presenter at the conference had to go through a technical review board to make sure the information presented is both interesting and novel, Aitel said.
“We often talk to them on the phone and discuss their paper more in depth to see if they are in fact deep in the field or dancing around the subject,” he said.
The conference also holds formal training for attendees to discuss web hacking, unethical hacking and a master class focused on modern exploit development.
Posted on March 18th, 2013 No comments
Malinsky Bazile, a young Miami police officer, pocketed about $140,000 over the past two years — but not in salary for his patrol duties, authorities say.
While on duty, Bazile ran the names of more than 1,000 people in the state driver’s license database, according to a criminal complaint. Then he took their personal information and filed bogus federal income-tax returns, all to score stolen refunds.
Bazile and fellow officer Vital Frederick, separately accused of tapping into the same database, were both arrested Thursday in the first-ever federal prosecution of identity theft and tax-refund fraud involving South Florida law enforcement.
Bazile, 28, of Miramar, and Frederick, 26, of North Miami, who both joined the force in 2008, were arrested by Miami police internal affairs detectives and FBI agents. The officers had their first appearances in Miami federal court Thursday, with bond hearings and arraignments set for next week.
In an unrelated prosecution, federal agents also arrested a state corrections officer Thursday on the same offenses.
The Miami cop arrests were but the latest in a string of city officer take-downs, part of a joint corruption investigation into the department. The main focus: several officers accused of providing protection for a sports-gambling ring or a check-cashing store, both in Liberty City.
Frederick was also charged with extortion in connection with the check-cashing store racket.
But the allegations of police involvement in the growing wave of ID- and tax-refund fraud prompted strong reaction — and disappointment — from others in law enforcement.
“The perpetrators of this type of [tax] fraud have been as diverse as the victims they prey upon,” said Miami U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer. “To date, we have prosecuted Social Security office employees, hospital employees, clinic workers, former NFL players, gang members and violent criminals, to name a few. Today, we sadly add law enforcement to the list of thieves.”
Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa could not be reached for comment.
Bazile and Frederick are among 11 Miami police officers relieved of duty in recent months who face criminal charges or the loss of their jobs in connection with the corruption investigation, which focused on the North District station in Liberty City.
In the unrelated case, Bernard Beliard, 27, of Miami, a state corrections officer since 2005, was arrested and accused of illegally tapping into an inmate database at the South Florida Reception Center in South Miami-Dade County, authorities say. He was fired Thursday.
All three law officers were charged in separate criminal complaints filed by prosecutors Robin Waugh and Michael Berger.
In the past year, including Thursday’s cases, the U.S. attorney’s office has charged about 130 defendants accused of an estimated $140 million in tax-refund fraud. Convictions have resulted in increasingly higher sentences: On Thursday, Jonathan Torres-Bonilla, 36, of Hollywood, convicted of fleecing $117,000 in tax refunds from the federal government, was slapped with 16 years in prison — the stiffest penalty so far in a South Florida ID-theft, tax-fraud case.
The U.S. government loses billions of dollars a year to refund schemes affecting millions of American taxpayers, according to the Treasury Department. South Florida is considered among the capitals of this type of fraud.
The joint FBI-Miami police corruption investigation was launched a year ago when the Liberty City sports gambling ring was broken up.
Last month, Miami officer Nathaniel Dauphin pleaded guilty to an extortion charge for providing protection for the illegal betting business.
Dauphin, 41, admitted he received between $4,000 and $5,000 from the owner of the illegal business from November 2010 until March of last year. Unbeknownst to him, Miami-Dade police detectives had the place under surveillance, witnessing Dauphin as he took money from the owner of the Player’s Choice, 6301 NW Sixth Ave., a barber shop that fronted for the illicit sports-betting business.
Investigators flipped Dauphin, who wore a wire and targeted other city cops, including Harold James, 29, an eight-year police veteran who resigned in November. He pleaded guilty last month to two extortion charges for protecting the Liberty City check-cashing business.
Also ensnared in that probe: Frederick.
But among the latest corruption cases, Bazile’s stands out for its sheer size, authorities say.
According to a criminal complaint, FBI and Miami police internal affairs detectives installed a tracking device on Bazile’s work-issued laptop in the past year after they uncovered that he had run more than 1,000 “suspicious” searches of people’s names in the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles database.
Investigators found that Bazile supplied some of those names, with dates of birth and Social Security numbers, to his step-brother Jean Baptiste Charles, to submit false tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service. Charles pleaded guilty last month and faces sentencing in April.
Investigators soon discovered that Bazile also obtained personal information for hundreds of women with the same last names, such as Rogers, Gonzalez, Martinez, Lopez and Sanders, who were between 57 and 61, according to the criminal complaint.
Bazile filed nearly identical tax returns — with fabricated income information — in their names, claiming that each had earned unemployment compensation of $6,500, the complaint said. He sought refunds up to $1,700 each.
Investigators also obtained numerous ATM photos of Bazile last summer as he withdrew thousands of dollars on debit cards loaded with the refunds, which were issued by the IRS.
When investigators confronted Bazile in October, he signed a written confession, admitting he used the state database, withdrew money from the ATM machines on the debit cards, and made between $130,000 and $140,000 in 2011-2012 from the “scheme.”
Investigators searched his home and found more debit cards, as well as ledgers with hundreds of people’s personal data.
Acting FBI special agent in charge William J. Maddalena said police officers such as Bazile and his colleague, Frederick, “have a great responsibility and must be held to a higher standard.”
He added that the FBI’s Miami-area corruption task force was established in 2009 to “ensure these high standards of integrity are met and maintained.”