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The Miami Herald reports South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard is accusing Orlando Martinez de Castro, South Miami’s Police Chief, of violating Florida laws governing authorization for expenditures of forfeiture funds. Mayor Stoddard’s blog goes a bit further:

“Three years ago when Orlando Martinez de Castro was gunning for Bobby Richardson’s job as South Miami Chief of Police, he told us to look at Chief Richardson’s use of the State Forfeiture Fund.  So, a few months back, when we saw that Chief Martinez de Castro’s department had improperly used the State Forfeiture Fund to purchase tags and titles from his wife’s auto tag company, I looked into Chief Martinez de Castro’s own record with the State Forfeiture Fund.  Not a pretty picture.  In fact, it’s a morass of misdemeanors.  Conviction on any one of them will cost the Chief his job.  The former city manager appears to have been complicit, having personally authorized several of these transactions.  In addition, the Chief directed staff to assist his family’s businesses.

Laws governing the use of State Forfeiture Funds

Chapter 932.7055-5.a  Florida Statutes allows police to seize money and property that are used in narcotics crimes and to use those assets to support programs to reduce illegal drug use, and to provide a police department with equipment or new expertise for special investigations not currently available.  The law specifically forbids using forfeited funds for normal operating expenses of a police department.  These conditions are reinforced by a Florida Attorney General opinion. This distinction was put in place by the State Legislature to protect the rights of citizens by eliminating incentive for police commanders to confiscate citizen’s personal property to operate their departments.
The following conditions must be met before State Contraband Forfeiture funds can be expended:
1. The proposed use must meet the requirements of F.S. 932.7055 and the Attorney General’s opinion.
2. The Chief of police must write a letter certifying that the requested use meets the conditions for legitimate use under the statute.
3.  The elected body of the municipality must approve the use of forfeiture funds for the specific expenditure.

Chief Martinez de Castro’s use and misuse of State Forfeiture Funds

Of 33 purchase requisitions charged to the State Forfeiture Fund account during the tenure of Chief Orlando Martinez de Castro, the Chief personally certified 32.  Of those, 20 met the statutory requirements for legitimate use.  The remaining 12 of those charges appear not to comply with the use requirements of F.S. 932.7055-5.a.  Those 12 requisitions were for normal operating expenses of the Police Department, which are strictly forbidden under the statute and the Florida Attorney General’s written opinion.
For not a single purchase of 33 charges against the State Forfeiture account did Chief Martinez de Castro write a letter certifying that the use met requirements of F.S. 932.7055-5.a.
For 15 of the 33 expenditures, Chief Martinez de Castro obtained City Commission approval before authorizing the expenditure as required under F.S. 932.7055. However, Chief Orlando Martinez de Castro personally certified 17 requisitions which had no Commission approval, constituting 17 separate violations of F.S. 837.012 Perjury when not in an official proceeding.
Here’s what the fine print in the certification box reads:
Note: as per F.S. 92.52 an affirmation is equivalent to an oath for the purposes of state perjury statutes.I go through all the improper requisitions in detail below, but here’s an example of one such requisition.
[click here for full sized].  Chief OMC improperly certifies a requisition against the State Forfeiture Fund to pay $1,587 for the September Dade Chief’s dinner, a fine event I’m told, but not allowable under F.S. 932.7055.  The request was never brought before the Commission, so the expenditure was not authorized through resolution.  However, the Manager signed the form anyway to authorize payment from the State Forfeiture Fund.  By my count, that’s three violations of State statutes over paying for a meal.

On another requisition, Chief Orlando Martinez de Castro got his subordinate, Major Ana Baixauli, to certify the requisition in his place, even though only the Chief of Police is authorized by statute to certify a purchase against state forfeiture funds.  According to HR records, the Chief was in town at the time.  That was the only one of 33 requisitions against the SFF that the Chief did not personally certify.  By inducing a subordinate to certify requisitions that did not comply with F.S. 932.7055 in violation F.S. 837.012, Chief Martinez de Castro violated F.S. 777.04 Attempts, solicitation, and conspiracy.
Chief Orlando Martinez de Castro directed his staff to engage his wife’s expert services in obtaining automobile titles and tags for 3 forfeiture vehicles.  Staff complied and sent the Chief a memo (attached) stating the intention to purchase titles through his wife’s tag agency, Airways Auto Tag Agency.  Two weeks later, while the Chief was in town, the memo was initialed by Major Ana Baixauli, who then signed off on the requisition, charging purchases against the State Forfeiture Fund.   The Chief requested an accounting of all Forfeiture Fund purchases – the Airways charge was #2 on the list.  However the Chief wrote a summary, which the Manager forwarded to the Commission, that omitted only the Airways charge.  Deliberately leaving out information is a violation of the South Miami City Charter – Citizen’s Bill of Rights, Truth in Government.
Directing his staff to use a company belonging to his wife is a violation of:
Note that willful violation of Ordinance Sec. 8A-1 calls for immediate forfeiture of one’s position.
Why misuse of state forfeiture funds is a big deal
In none of these cases above were State Forfeiture moneys stolen or used for personal expenses, however, they were often improperly used to fund normal operating expenses of the department such as the Dade Chief’s banquet for $1,587.  These uses are explicitly banned by Florida statutes because they encourage the police leadership to step outside boundaries of the law and confiscate more possessions of citizens than they would otherwise.  Indeed, we have reason to believe this risk is real in the South Miami Police Department. A whistle-blower in the police department has alleged illegal confiscation of flat screen televisions from private citizens and placement of those TVs into the offices of the police command staff.  I’m looking into it.  Second, Chief Martinez de Castro has been drafting an ordinance to significantly expand the department’s powers of confiscation and forfeiture.  Thus the improper and unauthorized use of State Forfeiture moneys not only violates Florida Statutes, but poses a real threat to the private property rights of citizens in South Miami.
If anyone is obligated to follow the letter of the law, it the Chief of Police.  We citizens receive a ticket when we fail to produce a driver’s license or Proof of Auto Insurance.  For sure, we citizens would be prosecuted for making a false statement under oath, and we citizens are prosecuted for diverting money on our tax returns.  No one can be above the law, ESPECIALLY THE POLICE CHIEF.” Excerpted from Philip Stoddard, “My efforts to clean up city government”, Accessed at http://mayorstoddard.blogspot.com/2012/11/my-efforts-to-clean-up-city-government.html, 18 Dec. 2012.
The entire blog is recommended to anyone who cares about governance and accountability.


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1 Response » to “South Miami Mayor Details Local Police Chief’s “Morass of Misdemeanors””

  1. JACOB RUSSELL says:

    I believe each and every officer who mis uses forfiture funds should not be bound by petty misdemeanors but any public official who misuses forfiture funds. Should have all there private property, money vehicles and land seized wives included. I and my kids had to struggle lose weight from lack of money to eat. And I went threw it so any chief police or city manager or regular cop who chosses to steel monies or call themselves being above the law should be treated as a crook on the street. Go and seize all there possessions and force them to higher an attorney to prove there inoccence. That’s what I had to do and my money wasn’t dirty and my case was dismissed but for 90 days I lost almost every thing. So why should you not go out to those crooked public officials and seize all there possessions. In my opinion. Those public officials who misused the forfiture fund has done what we call. Participated in ORGANIZED CRIME go seize all there stuff tennis shoes dishes seize it all. Then again what court house or police dept doesn’t practice ORGANIZED CRIME. Forfiture funds should be for our kids to try and better the streets so kids won’t get into the drugs and stuff. But no these people are paying there bills and buying Christmas gifts etc. It’s called robbery any way u look at it robbery and ORGANIZED CRIME punish them don’t fire them or reprimand them seize there possessions and add all there things to the forfiture fund. That’ll do it trust me make an example and stop treating the police as if they themselves are congress

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