Sometimes karma is a bitch, and so it was on Tuesday morning when federal prosecutors in Boston announced a major bust of very rich and famous folks, who wanted to make sure that their children got the best that money could buy, even to the point of bribing college officials to ease the way for little Johnny or Judy to get in the right college, and in some cases just a college.
Just cause you're rich doesn't mean you're smart, and some of these kids were obviously dumber than a rock, which means that mommy and daddy weren't anywhere close to being rocket scientists.
Among those indicted was a guy named Robert Zangrillo, who surprise of surprises is the majority partner in a corporation named MCD Dragon, LLc, who it turns out holds a 35% majority partnership in the latest land hustle going in in Miami's Little Haiti District.
MIAMI IS DESERVEDLY KNOWN AS A SUNNY PLACE FOR SHADY CHARACTERS WHO OFTEN SHOW UP LOOKING FOR FAVORS FROM THE MORONS ON THE CITY COMMISSION, NONE OF WHOM EVER MET A SCAMMER OR SCHEMER THEY WOULDN'T EMBRACE WITH OPEN ARMS IF THE PRICE WAS RIGHT. THAT'S WHY I'M WILLING TO BET THAT COMMISSIONER KEON HARDEMON FELT RIGHT AT HOME WHEN HE NEGOTIATED "HIS" COMMUNITY BENEFITS AGREEMENT WITH THE MAGIC CITY FOLKS, BECAUSE WHEN YOU HAVE UNCLES LIKE ROY, BILLY AND ALLEN HARDEMON, DEALING WITH A GUY LIKE ROBERT ZANGRILLO COULD BE LIKE FINDING A NEW COUSIN
The project goes by the name Magic City Innovation District - Little Haiti, and the brouhaha that took place at the last Commission meeting when Commissioner Keon 'Just call Me The Black Savior' Hardemon, along with Neisen Kasdin, the attorney for the project tried to pull a fast one by conveniently failing to submit the changes to the latest version of the project's Community Development Agreement in advance of the meeting, so that Hardemon could make a self-serving, highly dubious presentation without anyone having had an opportunity to actually read the changes to this agreement, prompted Commission Chairman Ken "Sellout" Russell, to invoke the seldom used 5 Day Rule which effectively stopped the flim-flam hustle by Hardemon and Kasdin in it's tracks.
As the meeting adjourned after midnight, the gnashing of teeth, and threats of payback echoed through the Chambers like like the wailing of gangsters who discovered the box that supposedly contained the money, contained a bag of dog shit.
It was so bad that Joe "Big Mouth" Carollo has introduced new language for the ordinances that Russell used in an effort that no one else gets to do what he did again, and Hardemon got the item put on Thursday's agenda, even though land use items fall under the PZ Calendar which are heard on the last Commission meeting of the month.
Money talks and bullshit walks, and with a project that's been estimated to be worth as much as a BILLION AND A HALF DOLLARS to the developers, they weren't going to let any pipsqueak city commissioner, or silly rules slow down their train.
And then of course, Robert Zangrillo up and got himself indicted on Tuesday morning. To read the portion of the federal complaint that details what prosecutors allege Zangrillo did, chick HERE.
If you want to learn more about Zangrillo and his Miami Beach lifestyle, go over to Miami New Times and check out Jerry Iannelli's story on this guy.
In the meantime, besides loving wiretaps you also gotta love judges who have the balls to say what they think.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER FLOCK TOGETHER
It's bad enough to find out that one of two guys who owns a 35% share of this Magic City Innovation District deal just got charged with bribery, but this is Miami, and when you got one possible crook looking for some action from the Miami City Commission, the odds are that lurking somewhere close by is another possible crook also looking to line up at the trough for a taste.
In this case that other guy turns out to be Robert Zangrillo's partner in MCD Dragon LLc, Neil Kadisha.
His claim to sleaze-ball status can be found in a 2007 civil court case in Los Angeles, where Kadisha was found to be guilty of looting a trust fund of a window and her children.
It took 4 years for the case to make its way through the LA court system, and when it was finally over the judge, Henry W. Shatford, "wrote a blistering 190-page decision" that included this observation:
"Kadisha was no more than a common thief in his
monumental takings of (their) money for his own
use and benefit."
It's too bad that Honore de Balzac isn't around today to witness the times we're living in because as the guy who came up with the quote, "Behind every great fortune lies a great crime," he'd probably run out of words before he ran out of examples of bad behavior,.
The one thing that Miami has repeatedly shown over the years is that no matter how corrupt, devious and/or duplicitous the developers are who show up at City Hall looking for a rub and tug from the City Commissioners, none of them ever get embarrassed by questions about their behavior, so don't expect any principled objection to either of these guys become major landlords in Miami.
As always, you can't make this shit up, but you can read all about this case in the January 27, 2007 edition of the LA Times.
COMMISSIONER KEON HARDEMON FIGURED OUT EARLY ON THAT PLAYING THE RACE CARD WAS LIKE TAKING CANDY FROM A BABY
I don't have the space in this story to do justice to how Keon Hardemon has used race as a vehicle to cut private deals that supposedly were intended to benefit the folks in his District, but seems instead to have continued a practice of District 5 Commissioners of doing things so as to benefit family and a handful of cronies while screwing everyone else, but, given how Hardemon lost control and started hollering at folks in the Chambers and decrying the use of the 5 Day Rule at the last meeting I should point out that on his very first go around at using the race card to extort money from a developer - and I don't think that extort is too strong a word - one of the weapons that he invoked as a way to stop the project being discussed was by referencing the 5 Day Rule.
The date was June 12, 2014, the project was David Berkowitz's Skyrise project, and the issue was a discussion about a lack of minority benefits.
After invoking the threat of the 5 Day Rule, and some hemming and hawing, Berkowitz agreed to go to Hardemon's office for a private negotiation session that resulted in a $350,000 donation to the Liberty City Revitalization Trust - which at the time included his Uncle Roy Hardemon as a board member.
Here is the portion of the discussion where Hardemon referenced his ability to invoke the 5 Day Rule. You can read the entire 63 pages of discussion on this item HERE.
NUMBER 37 - MARCH 13, 2019
Support The Crespogram
In this case, Hardemon's claim was not that the documents had not been provided, but rather that what was contained in the documents that were provided did not include information he wanted to see in them, which goes against his arguments at the last meeting that Russell was unfairly using the 5 day Rule because the revised agreement plan should be considered as an amendment, and not a new document, even though new pages had been added, and other sections had been stricken and rewritten.
Over a year and a half later, after a convoluted process that included most of the Liberty City Revitalization Trust Board resigning after allegations that the fix was in, one restaurant got $317,000 of the $350,000 donation. You can read the Miami Herald story HERE, and you can watch the video of the actual board meeting after the replacement board members were appointed and the decision was made HERE.
THE GAME IS THREE-CARD-MONTI AND THE GOAL OF SNOOKERING THE SUCKERS IS ALWAY PREDICATED ON MISDIRECTION
Among the revelations at the last meeting in February on this development proposal was that the Friday before the Commission meeting, Commission Chairman Ken "Sellout" Russell just happened to visit the offices of Ackerman LLC, where Neisen Kasdin is not only the Managing Partner, but the attorney representing the Magic City Innovation District partners.
The Commissioner gave no explanation of why he would have been making a "house call" to an attorney who was coming before the commission the following week, but he did, and here is how that meeting was described by both Neisen Kasdin and Russell.
Regardless of his sudden discovery of the courage to invoke the 5 day Rule, I found it very troubling that Russell needed prompting by Kasdin to acknowledge that they had met privately days before, and that the terms in the revised agreement had supposedly been described to him, even if the document was not provided.
That he did not make this information the very first words that came out of his mouth when he objected to this proposal being introduced the way that it was are just another indication to me that Russell, as they used to say in cowboy movies, "speaks with forked tongue."
I also see the refusal by Neisen Kasdin to make this revised document available until it was handed out as he began his presentation to the commission a sign that the changed language, and especially the language in the previous version of the agreement that would have included affordable housing within the boundaries of the project as an indication that he and Commissioner Hardemon both knew would be extremely unpalatable to the folks in Little Haiti.
I also believe, based on how all of this was handled that part of the private deal worked out between the developers, Kasdin and Hardemon required Hardemon to be the pitchman to get this revised agreement past a First Reading, and that in doing so, Hardemon consciously and willingly engaged in a nasty piece of duplicity that had as it's conclusion, the goal of fucking over the residents of District 5, and especially those folks living in Little Haiti. To see the latest revised agreement, click HERE.
KEON HARDEMON'S COMMUNITY BENEFITS CONTRIBUTITION CAMPAIGN FINANCE DONATION
Below are the 3 pages - I've combined them into 1 document - of the Community benefits deal that Hardemon claims credit for negotiating. I have highlighted several portions that merit a closer inspection.
Before I do, I think it's important from this point on to understand that Keon Hardemon is planning on vacating his District 5 City Commission seat to run for the District 3 County Commission seat currently held by Audrey Edmonson, and that EVERYTHING that Hardemon does between now and the election day has to be seen through the prism of that future campaign.
I would expect that there are other people who have been spending time looking at the entire revised agreement, and quite frankly I haven't, in no small part because I've been too busy working on other stories, but the very first thing that struck me as strange was Section 2 (iv), that excludes a portion of the project from the community benefits plan.
I would hope that at the meeting this issue is raised, if only for an explanation.
The two items that did catch my attention, and to which I want to respond to are Sections 3 (ii) (iii).
During Hardemon's presentation at the last commission meeting he discussed the meetings that were held between him, and a group called the Concerned Leaders Of Little Haiti, with the developers to come up with the $31 million revised agreement to benefit the folks in Little Haiti.
The first problem with these claims is that Hardemon's office calendars for 2018 thru January 17, 2019, do not show any meetings between either hardemon and the Magic City folks, or with any group calling itself the Concerned Leaders Of Little Haiti.
One reason for that is that in a search of the corporate files of the Florida Secretary of State, there is no such group registered. Nor have I been able to gather any list of who might be a part of any such group.
What does seem to have happened is some sort of ad hoc group of folks in Little Haiti, either encouraged by, or part of a loosely connected group of folks who share an interest in what happens in Little Haiti got together, and then, as these groups often do, some folks went one way, and others went another way, and that a politician like Hardemon seized on the ones that supported his way became the group that he supported.
And that's how this unidentified group of folks managed not only to become identified as the group who would identify or select the expenditure of $6 million dollars.
Now, I'm sure that all of the folks are committed to the betterment of Little Haiti, but I'm also sure that come election time for the County Commission seat that is being vacated by Audrey Edmonson, that most, if not all of these same folks will be passionate supporters of Keon Hardemon's campaign, because as it's often said, "Money talks and bullshit walks."
And then of course, as the history of Miami has shown time and time again, giving a handful of insiders the opportunity to spend millions of dollars without really strong oversight and supervision will more often then not led to outright abuse. For reference, I would refer you to the history of the Liberty City Revitalization Trust.
The last issue I want to focus on is the ability of the developers, once they've donated the money to the Little Haiti Community Revitalization Trust to go back and ask them for some of that money.
That's an opportunity that cannot turn out well.
It's up to the folks in Little Haiti to show up and fight for their community, and to understand that when you got scammers and schemers like Robert Zangrillo and Neil Kadisha knocking at the door, and a politician like Keon Hardemon opening the door, you better bring your A Game, because these guys will screw you every which way but loose at every opportunity.
It's Miami, Bitches!