By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
The public record does not make clear when suspicions of misdeeds involving Coffey first arose, although they developed during the spring, while the insurance-fraud investigators and state prosecutors in Dade were pursuing Timor.
By early June the Dade officials had begun inspecting records relating to Coffey and Timor's joint account at Coconut Grove Bank. The account's existence had become a matter of public record in 1993, during Timor's divorce proceedings, when Ricardo Ferreira petitioned the court to issue a subpoena for the bank records, claiming that someone had anonymously sent him a copy of a bank statement showing both names, Timor's home address, and a $60,000 balance. The soon-to-be ex-husband wanted to determine whether the account should be tallied along with Timor's other assets.
In response to the subpoena, Coffey, who was then still in private practice, filed a motion to prevent Ferreira's access to the records, arguing that the funds in the account never belonged to Timor and asserting that they were used for purposes unrelated to her. It was at this point that both Timor and Coffey filed separate sworn affidavits stating that Timor had no financial interest in the account. In his affidavit, Coffey explained that he added Timor to the account so that, as a trusted and dedicated employee, she would be able "to handle various transactions." Both affidavits stated that Timor made virtually all the deposits but never made any withdrawals or transfers.
"Needless to say," Coffey's sworn statement reads, "none of the money in that account was hers for any purpose. . . . It is essentially a matter of public record that virtually every dollar of my savings, which included in their entirety the funds from the subject account, were expended in an effort to pursue a career in public service."
Timor echoed this claim in her affidavit: "None of the money in that account was ever mine, nor did I receive any interest from those funds."
But bank records subpoenaed this year by Dade investigators told a different story, and raised the possibility that Coffey and Timor had perjured themselves. In October 1991, Coffey withdrew $27,981.70 from the account and converted it to a cashier's check, which Timor used to close the sale of a $160,000 house in Coral Gables. The records also indicate that within weeks of the withdrawal, Timor made two deposits to the Coconut Grove Bank account, totaling $21,008.96. (These were proceeds from the sale of her previous residence.)
And even though Timor and Coffey swore she never withdrew money from the account, the records show that Timor made a $6005 withdrawal, which she converted to a cashier's check made payable to her mother, Gaude Timor.
On the morning of August 16, in a conference room at the Dade State Attorney's Office, Coffey was questioned under oath about the transactions. In attendance were Hill and three members of his investigative team. Coffey was represented by Miami attorney Benedict Kuehne (who three months previously had called State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle to lobby about the Timor case) and Fort Lauderdale attorney Edward Kay. Also present was the U.S. attorney's wife Joni.
During the questioning, Coffey seemed to contradict the assertions he had made in the affidavit back in 1993. He explained to Polk County Assistant State Attorney Cass Castillo that he opened the account in anticipation of a possible political campaign, then withdrew the $28,000 as a "loan" to Timor, anticipating that Timor would repay the loan after selling her other house. While the paralegal did return $21,000 to the account, Coffey admitted that she hadn't fully paid him back.
As for the $6005 withdrawal, Coffey said, he was "virtually certain" he had accompanied Timor to the bank when she executed the transaction, which, rather than being a withdrawal to further his campaign, was a loan to Gaude Timor. (Coffey said Gaude Timor had asked for the money to help pay for construction expenses for a house she was building, and that she repaid the loan.) "I was the principal and I told the bank how to fill out the cashier's check and clearly it was my loan to Gaude, it was my loan. I was doing the transaction," Coffey told Castillo.
To which the prosecutor responded, "It appears somewhat inconsistent for the purpose of putting Susanna on the account to begin with for you to accompany her to the bank to lend her mother the money when she was authorized to withdraw without you being present."
Coffey attempted a further clarification: "I don't think she wanted to go down by herself and be responsible in her mind for lending the mother money."
Even Robert Burlington was questioned about the joint account during his interview with Polk prosecutors. "Do you think it is a 'mistress account'?" Cass Castillo asked Burlington.
"No. Not a mistress account," Burlington responded.
(Oddly, Coffey was never questioned about why the joint account had Timor's home address on it; he told New Times this past May that her home served as an informal headquarters during the initial phases of his Senate campaign. Nancy Calderone, Timor's friend and Coffey's secretary at the time of the campaign, told fraud investigators the campaign never operated out of Timor's home.)