The Case Against Kaplan

Q: Did you ever enter into a written or oral agreement with [Kaplan's wife] Janitza Kaplan for her to be employed by Topaz or by Caribbean or any other company you were affiliated with?

A: No.

Bradbury noted that sometimes Janitza Kaplan helped her husband around the office, but he never considered her to be one of his employees. That, however, did not stop the county commissioner from informing the mortgage company that his wife was on the payroll of another Bradbury company, International Telecom Group.

Q: One more form here, similar form, exactly the same type of form, Request for Verification.... This one states that Janitza Kaplan was a research analyst with International Telecom Group. And her date of employment was February of 1991. Her current gross pay was $62,000. That she had an increase in pay in February '94 of $5000. Next increase scheduled for February of 1995. Again you have already indicated she did not really work for your company, had no salary or base pay with your company?

A: No.

Bradbury also told investigators that in 1994 he loaned Kaplan $40,000 to use as a down payment on the house. According to sources familiar with the case, when Kaplan was asked on the application form whether he had borrowed any money for the down payment, he stated he had not. Bradbury recalled that initially he didn't want to loan Kaplan the money.

Q: You refused to give him the money?
A: I originally told him I didn't want to give him the money.
Q: What happened subsequent to that?

A: His wife called me and she was pretty upset and had a conversation with me, stressed on me how nice it would be if I could do that.

Q: Did she threaten you in any way?
A: No.
Q: Beg you?

A: No, it was just a phone call of desperation, frustration. Can you help my husband out?

Q: So based on that you decided to forward the $40,000 for the house?
A: Yes. I wired it to him because I was in California.
Q: Was there ever any question this was a loan and not a payment or nonrefundable payment to Mr. Kaplan?

A: It was a loan.
...
Q: Why did you decide to give it to him?

A: Because he had backed himself into a corner, already surrendered his current residence and was in the process of becoming a homeless person.

Sources familiar with the investigation say that prosecutors also have taken statements from officials at Margaretten Mortgage, who testified that had the company been told the truth about Kaplan's financial situation -- his lack of a salary, the fact that his wife wasn't employed by Bradbury, that the down payment was borrowed money -- the company would never have approved his loan application.

Kaplan stopped working for Bradbury in 1996, according to Brad Bargman, Caribbean's vice president. Centorino asked Bargman to evaluate Kaplan's tenure with the company.

Q: Do you have an opinion about whether he was [loaned] more than what he earned during the time he was with Caribbean?

A: Oh yes, definitely.
Q: What is that opinion?
A: His loans far exceeded his commission.
...

Q: What was the reason why Mr. Kaplan ultimately was terminated by the company?

A: None of the deals were happening and it just -- Mark finally had enough.
...
Q: The bottom line, you didn't think he was a very good employee or person to be associated with the company?

A: Bad businessman, I would say.

Given the substantial evidence implicating Kaplan -- most of it collected nearly a year ago -- it is difficult to understand why Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and her staff still have not decided whether to charge him with mortgage fraud and providing false information on his financial disclosure forms. (Prosecutor Joe Centorino refused comment last week.)

For months rumors have been circulating that Rundle's office has been trying to negotiate a deal with Kaplan by which he would agree to resign from office in exchange for no criminal charges being filed. The gossip has prompted jockeying among people who would like to replace him, either as a gubernatorial appointee or via one of Dade County's trademark quickie elections. Kaplan has repeatedly denied that he will resign, but that little scrap of paper next to my computer makes me wonder.

Kaplan knows that even if he were convicted, his chances of doing jail time would be slim. His real worry is the damage a conviction might do to his future as a lawyer, and whether he would face disbarment.

"I don't think he is a crook," Brad Bargman said during his sworn statement to prosecutors. "He is a very nice guy, real stupid, he got himself in a lot of trouble. He is an honest person, Bruce Kaplan."

Honest, huh?

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