A long-time aide. A few thousand dollars' worth of dubious insurance receipts. A cauldron of allegations. U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey has been . . . scalded

Other financial transactions between Coffey and the Timors also came under investigative scrutiny. Most involved the attorney's personal bank account (as opposed to any business or campaign accounts), including:

* A check for $2000 to Susanna Timor dated August 5, 1991, which Coffey characterized as a "loan" when prosecutors asked him about it. Bank records indicate that the check boosted Timor's personal bank account to a level necessary for her to secure a home loan. (She signed a contract to buy a house about a month later.)

* A check for $4000 to Susanna Timor also dated August 5, 1991, which Coffey, under oath, said was compensation for work Timor contributed to a book he had written about mortgage foreclosure.

* A $5000 check to Susanna Timor dated July 28, 1992. Coffey's explanation to Polk County prosecutors: "Might have simply been a loan." While Coffey couldn't remember whether Timor had repaid the loan, he thought it might have been for a pool she had built in her back yard.

* A $3000 check written to Susanna Timor on October 20, 1992 A Timor's birthday. Coffey told prosecutors the money was a birthday gift.

* A check made out to Gaude Timor for $2000 on November 2, 1992. "I assume some kind of loan for something," Coffey explained to Castillo in his sworn statement. "It may A I made a previous loan to Gaude and she may have had A again, I am speculating A she may have some kind of brief cash shortage and I wrote a check." Coffey added that he didn't think Gaude Timor repaid him. (In an earlier interview, Gaude Timor told prosecutors the money was not a loan and may have been a down payment for some printing work.)

While Hill's team quizzed Coffey about the financial transactions, they ignored another realm of inquiry that had attracted the attention of insurance-fraud investigators and State Attorney's Office officials back in Miami: Coffey's expenditures during his 1992 State Senate bid.

Campaign records and printing invoices indicate that from July to December 1992 Coffey paid more than $31,000 to Gaude Printing, the company owned by Timor's mother, in return for an assortment of products that included signs, flyers, stationery, and bumper stickers. Gaude Timor told prosecutors she contracted out "the big jobs and the things done by silk-screen" to a printer named Mario Rodriguez. She paid him $6300, a fraction of Coffey's total printing expenditures. Coffey's campaign also paid five other printers a total of at least $11,000, to bring the total of the campaign printing costs to more than $42,000. (By comparison, Coffey's opponent, Republican Alberto Gutman, spent more than $60,000 for printing.)

While investigators never questioned Coffey about these issues, the U.S. attorney told New Times this past May, "[Gaude Timor] did an awful lot of work for us. It's all documented and I'd be happy to make all campaign records open for any appropriate inquiry." Explaining Polk County prosecutors' reasoning for not quizzing Coffey about the campaign monies, Assistant State Attorney Chip Thullbery says, "The governor's office did not engage us to go on a fishing expedition. There have been no complaints made about specific wrongdoing in that campaign. In the absence of someone coming forward, we didn't feel it was appropriate to go fishing."

But the investigative records indicate that the Dade team expected their Polk counterparts to scrutinize the flow of campaign money to the Timors, among other matters. A June 28 memo sent by the insurance fraud investigators to Hill's team detailed "seven separate, but related inquiries stemming from Susanna Timor's hurricane claim investigation." One of those inquiries: Coffey's Senate campaign.

Thullbery won't comment about why his team didn't pursue that line of inquiry.

During the summer and early fall, another investigative body was giving the Coffey-Timor relationship a hard look: the Public Integrity Section at U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

Even though neither state campaign violations nor state court perjury charges would fall under federal jurisdiction, the Justice Department reviewed the investigative files. According to a source familiar with the case, the federal officials were most interested in the fact that Timor owed Coffey money when he hired her to work at the U.S. Attorney's Office. At the very least, that arrangement presented an appearance of a conflict of interest: Coffey was providing Timor employment so she could earn money to pay him back.

This past month, Public Integrity Section chief Lee Radek informed Dade Assistant State Attorney Mary Cagle that he'd closed his investigation. "Based on a thorough evaluation of the available materials," he wrote, "we have concluded that there is no basis for a federal criminal investigation into these allegations." Department of Justice officials refuse to comment on their inquiry.

After many months of investigation involving thousands of pages of documentation -- and untold hours of backroom politicking -- a $3847 case of insurance fraud that had been fomented into a multipronged investigation resulted in a handful of simple charges and an enormous mound of paper.

"This is not the crime of the century," remarks one person familiar with the various investigations and frustrated with their outcome. "But there are still just a lot of questions here."

The way the fraud investigators figure it, Susanna Timor was deft with her pen and her Liquid Paper, albeit not quite deft enough. The arrest warrant accuses the paralegal of submitting seven fraudulent receipts and estimates to State Farm, seeking reimbursement for damages Hurricane Andrew caused to her former residence at 836 Alberca St., Coral Gables. Among the charges, Timor is accused of:

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