By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
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By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
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*Daoud says he did accept bribes, as charged, from two labor union locals, though the jury at his trial acquitted him on both charges.
In addition, Daoud now confesses to an array of misdeeds that were alleged by federal prosecutors in the course of pretrial or trial proceedings but for which he was never formally charged. Specifically, in a pretrial letter to Daoud's attorney, prosecutors listed a series of transactions that allegedly showed Daoud's "participation in a pattern of racketeering activity." Among those Daoud now admits are true:
*"The receipt by the defendant of monies from [former Miami Beach mayor] Harold Rosen in connection with Rosen's representation" of a local developer. Daoud says he received "about $7500" from Rosen, his one-time friend, after referring the developer to Rosen, who would act as a lobbyist regarding a vote that was coming before the city commission. Daoud says the $7500 was officially called a "referral fee" but was, in fact, a bribe in return for political influence. Rosen angrily denies that the payment was a bribe. "I remember the incident and it was a referral fee!" he declares.
*He received "about $6000" in cash from Ocean Drive property owner Leonard Pelullo, whose pioneering purchase and renovation of Art Deco hotels put him in frequent contact with city officials. "He paid me for overall favors," Daoud says of Pelullo, who owned the Cavalier, Cardozo, and Carlyle hotels, as well as the ill-fated Senator, whose demolition is credited with catalyzing the South Beach historic-preservation movement. Pelullo is now in prison after being convicted of federal fraud and racketeering charges.
Beyond that Daoud says he committed scores more crimes that were never uncovered by federal investigators. He says he lost count of the number of bribes he took while commissioner and mayor, or the number of people he shook down in exchange for favorable city decisions. How did he have so much influence over the direction of the commission if he was just one vote among seven? His grin is sinister, his lips pull tight over his teeth. "But you're the mayor," he says with a wink.
Orchestrating votes, he confides, was as easy as organizing a pick-up basketball game. To hell with the Sunshine Law, which prohibits elected officials from speaking with one another about an issue they may vote on unless they are gathered in a public forum. The law, he says, was a sham during his years in office and was violated frequently, both by him and others holding public office in Miami Beach.
Some of the malfeasance to which Daoud now confesses is not political corruption in the classic criminal sense of bribes or extortion. But if true, it does reveal the extent to which Daoud was willing to compromise the public trust for his private gain, and it portrays a man whose sense of morality was malleable, at the least. Daoud alleges that *Crescent Heights executive Russell Galbut promised to give him a job at the family law firm if Daoud managed to get him elected to the Zoning Board of Adjustment. "He told me, 'If I get on, you can join our law firm,'" Daoud recalls. Galbut, though, flatly denies the allegation. He says he introduced the then-commissioner to his cousin, Howard Galbut, who was the firm's senior partner at the time, but that he never made a deal with Daoud.
*He did little or no legitimate legal work for Galbut Galbut & Menin but used his position as an elected official to steer toward the firm companies that had matters before the city commission. Howard Galbut says he's not aware of any conflict of interest Daoud might have had on the commission, but acknowledges that Daoud did attract clients to the firm, which in and of itself is not illegal. Galbut says Daoud wasn't a particularly prolific associate. "The work he did do, I thought he did well," the attorney recalls. "He also didn't do much. He was mainly involved in public service."
*Daoud says he was among the many people who allegedly received money from former Medicare chieftain Miguel Recarey. In the early Eighties, Daoud contends, in an effort to obtain a health-care contract with the City of Miami Beach, Recarey's company, International Medical Centers (IMC), put the then-commissioner on an indirect retainer. IMC, he says, wrote a monthly check of $1000, which passed through two other hands and resulted in a payment of about $300. Daoud says he did no legal work for IMC but used his position as a commissioner "to lobby for them and apply political influence" to win the contract -- a clear conflict of interest. (Recarey, later charged with Medicare fraud, remains a fugitive in Spain.)
*He interfered in the investigation of an auto accident involving a former state official. In the early Eighties, returning from his first extramarital affair, Daoud says he happened across the accident on a Miami Beach street. While police officers milled about, Daoud says he secretly removed from the car three bottles of unmarked pills and a plastic bag full of an unidentified white powder, and later flushed them down a toilet at the hospital where the official was treated.