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
LA COVACHA ($11,144)
La Covacha is a restaurant/nightclub that is located at the 10700 block of NW 25th Street in Miami, FL. La Covacha is owned by Aurelio Rodriguez. According to Elba Morales, she met Mr. Rodriguez several years earlier. Elba Morales stated that at the time that monies were being dispersed from the "Neighbors of District 12" bank account, she decided to approach Mr. Rodriguez and ask him if he would cash a check from the account and return the currency to her. Mr. Rodriguez had been asked to do the same thing the previous year with a campaign check after Miriam Alonso had been re-elected to her commission seat, and he had done so.
Once again, Mr. Rodriguez agreed to cash checks and return the currency to Elba Morales. Ms. Morales stated that she provided Mr. Rodriguez with three checks from the "Neighbors of District 12" bank account, which she wrote in the name of his business, La Covacha. These checks, which totaled $11,144, were deposited into La Covacha's business account on February 3, 2000. Mr. Rodriguez stated that over a period of time, he returned the $11,144 to Elba Morales in U.S. currency. On each occasion, Ms. Morales stated that she would drive to the Alonso residence and turn the currency over to either Miriam or Leonel Alonso.
Ms. Morales further advised that since there was not an anti-recall effort, the services of La Covacha were never needed, and the business never provided any food products for any anti-recall effort. La Covacha did, however, provide meals for several events at local elderly centers during late 1999. Ms. Morales and Mr. Rodriguez have both verified that La Covacha donated the meals for these events, and Ms. Morales stated that Miriam Alonso had knowledge of the fact that the meals were donated. As evidence of this fact, your affiants have obtained from Commissioner Alonso's office a letter dated November 30, 1999, signed by Commissioner Miriam Alonso on County Commission stationery, thanking La Covacha for its generosity in providing the food.
In November 2001, a subpoena was served on One Stop Enterprises requesting records for services and payments showing business transacted between One Stop Enterprises and "Neighbors of District 12." Elba Morales stated that sometime during the summer of 2001, she and Miriam and Leonel Alonso learned of the inquiry and ongoing criminal investigation into the expenditures from the "Neighbors of District 12" bank account. Since Ms. Morales and the Alonsos knew that the vast majority of the monies from the account had not been expended on actual anti-recall related activities, the three, according to Elba Morales, then embarked in an effort to determine how to make all of the illegitimate expenditures appear as if they were legitimate. According to Elba Morales, Miriam Alonso instructed her to obtain receipts from different businesses and individuals that could then be used to account for and justify the monies disbursed from the account.
Morales said that Alonso instructed her to seek out numerous receipts that they then turned over to Morales's attorney, Steven Chaykin, who in turn gave them to investigators on March 20, 2002, as a response to the subpoena to One Stop Enterprises. Investigators were able to find discrepancies with purported transactions involving such companies as Jensen's Liquors, A Corporate Impression, The Voice Publishing, Caballero Flowers, La Covacha, and Gus Exposito, the former chairman of the Country Club of Miami Community Council and a principal in a roofing business who also owns several car washes. Exposito has prior convictions for possessing counterfeit money and mail fraud.
AGUSTIN "GUS" EXPOSITOA review of the records provided by One Stop Enterprises revealed a handwritten invoice that appeared to have been written by Gus Exposito. The invoice states that Exposito had been reimbursed $3000 by Elba Morales for distribution of flyers for the Miriam Alonso anti-recall effort in November 1999. Elba Morales stated that in February or March 2002, after the subpoena had been issued to One Stop Enterprises and Elba Morales and Leonel and Miriam Alonso were engaged in an active effort to obtain receipts to attempt to make all of the illegitimate expenditures appear as if they were legitimate, Leonel Alonso suggested that Gus Exposito could be asked to justify such an expense.
Elba Morales told your affiants that Mr. Alonso advised her that she should ask Mr. Exposito for a bogus $3000 receipt that would help justify some of the checks issued from the "Neighbors of District 12" account. Elba Morales stated that Leonel Alonso believed that this was a believable amount for work that could have actually been performed by Exposito. Mr. Exposito, when initially questioned under oath in this investigation, stated that he had in fact performed services and incurred expenses in connection with the purported anti-recall campaign that were reimbursed to him by the $3000 check. He later recanted this testimony, and has become a cooperating witness.
Mr. Exposito stated that Miriam or Leonel Alonso contacted him and asked him to stop by their residence. When Mr. Exposito arrived at the Alonso residence, he was met by Leonel Alonso and Elba Morales. The three had a brief conversation at the garage area of the residence before Elba Morales asked to speak to him in his vehicle. When he and Ms. Morales entered his truck, Ms. Morales advised Mr. Exposito that some receipts were missing. She further advised Mr. Exposito that receipts were needed to account for printing and other work done on the anti-recall effort, and she asked him for such receipts. Mr. Exposito agreed to do this and advised that he would attempt to obtain printing receipts. Approximately two days later, Elba Morales contacted Mr. Exposito and asked him to stop by Miriam Alonso's district office, where she asked him to write out the receipt for reimbursement of the $3000. Mr. Exposito stated that he wrote out the receipt and handed it over to Elba Morales. Ms. Morales provided the receipt to Attorney Steve Chaykin, who handed it over to investigators in response to the subpoena to One Stop Enterprises.