A Friend Indeed

Meet Camilo Padreda, dynamic businessman, faithful Republican, patron of law enforcement, convicted felon

"I am not a crook," Padreda begins, sounding vaguely Nixonian. He's sitting behind his desk, brows furrowed, registering a look of reproach, maybe hurt. "If you find somebody who say I take money or I am crook, then you come to me, tell me. I will call them a liar.

"There was one thing in my past, but it was long ago and it was not my fault. That was because of my daughter," he continues in an unsolicited burst of autobiography. "No, no, I'm not going to go into it." This is most likely a reference to the feds' agreement not to arrest his daughter if he pleaded guilty to fraud and cooperated in the Martinez trial. The daughter operated a company that installed lighting fixtures in the HUD-funded housing project he used to swindle the government.

"Did you know that Castro's police put a gun to my daughter's head?" Padreda asks, deflecting the subject slightly. "She was less than three years old. They asked where I was. I tell you I would do anything for my daughter. I would take care of my daughter forever and ever."

Friends, enemies, and acquaintances (top row, left to right): Former Gov. Bob Martinez, Al Cardenas, Jorge Valdes, Maurice Ferré, Sergio Pereira; (second row) Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez, President Ronald Reagan; (bottom row) Gov. Jeb Bush, FBI head Hector Pesquera, former Miami Police Chief Raul Martinez; (bottom right) Camilo Padreda
Friends, enemies, and acquaintances (top row, left to right): Former Gov. Bob Martinez, Al Cardenas, Jorge Valdes, Maurice Ferré, Sergio Pereira; (second row) Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez, President Ronald Reagan; (bottom row) Gov. Jeb Bush, FBI head Hector Pesquera, former Miami Police Chief Raul Martinez; (bottom right) Camilo Padreda
Two Padreda projects: The Airport Seven office building and the former Casa del Lago project
Photos by Steve Satterwhite
Two Padreda projects: The Airport Seven office building and the former Casa del Lago project

Among the clutter of his office, on a shelf behind him, is further testament to his civic interests. There he is in a photo with a smiling police Chief Martinez. And over there is a framed gold badge. In the middle of the bric-a-brac is a soft-focus black-and-white photo of a young man in a ribbon-bedecked jacket staring resolutely into the distance. That, he explains, is a picture of himself as a young policeman in Havana. "I have been in law enforcement all my life. Since I was 21. I was a first lieutenant in the police department in Cuba," he says with pride, adding that he was on the force from 1953 to 1959. At one point he worked for the Bureau for the Repression of Communist Activities, known by its Spanish acronym BRAC. "This was created by the CIA, the FBI," he declares with a sharp nod of his head.

Presumably this was why gun-toting Castro thugs threatened his family. Did he continue his association with the CIA after coming to this country in the Sixties? He smiles: "I always tell people I can't comment on that."

Regrettably Padreda stopped commenting altogether after this first interview, protesting that he is a humble man who does not want to be in the spotlight. "I'm not answering any more of your questions," he concluded. "I don't think you will be fair."

But his accomplishments speak for themselves. After arriving here, he promptly established himself in his new hometown, and by the Seventies his entrepreneurial spirit was paying dividends. He had become a successful Miami developer who specialized in low-income housing. He also assumed the presidency of the powerful Latin Builders Association. And he learned early that, in Miami, knowing the right people made doing business easier -- a lot easier.

It was during this period he partnered with politically savvy businessman Guillermo Hernandez Cartaya, a fellow Cuban and Bay of Pigs veteran who ran a worldwide network of investment banks called, collectively, the World Finance Corporation (WFC). Hernandez Cartaya was a perfect fit for Padreda's construction enterprises. His banks loaned the money needed to build large housing projects, which were then insured by HUD.

In the mid-Seventies, WFC somehow attracted the attention of the Dade County Police Department's Organized Crime Bureau (OCB) and later, the U.S. Attorney's Office, which launched a wide-ranging investigation into Hernandez Cartaya's business practices. Padreda, because of his association with Hernandez Cartaya, came into the feds' sights as well.

New Times obtained a Justice Department file that included a copy of an investigative background report produced by Dade's OCB detailing the WFC investigation. The report was meant to orient investigators from other agencies involved in the case. "The following report is only an attempt to bring together and possibly show a relationship of the many separate facts, concerning the possible ties between illicit narcotic trafficking, terrorist activities.... This information may stem from a multitude of sources, such as many confidential informants, street talk, federal law enforcement, and local agencies throughout areas of the United States." (Today Hernandez Cartaya, who lives in Miami, denies allegations that he or WFC did anything illegal.)

At the time, investigators suspected that Hernandez Cartaya was linked to the Central Intelligence Agency, which may have used the WFC banking network to move funds to anticommunist guerrillas and agency operatives in South America and Cuba. "Files of the Miami FBI office disclose that several persons suspected of being involved in terrorist activities are employed by WFC," the report states. "Perhaps the most prominent figure is Duney Perez Alamo, allegedly the building manager for WFC. Perez Alamo has expertise in guerrilla warfare and explosives, and self-admittedly was an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency in the mid-1960s." (Hernandez Cartaya acknowledges that his company employed Perez Alamo. "He worked security for us," he says. "I had nothing to do with hiring him." As for the alleged CIA link: "I don't recall any of that. There is no direct connection to the CIA.")

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