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
It begins chronologically, with Caride describing how, in 1996, he joined Aircraft Service International Group (ASIG), the company that manages the fuel farm's operations. He began as an operator and rose quickly through the ranks, largely because other employees were lazy and unqualified. By 1999 ASIG had promoted him to the position of fuel facility manager.
After the promotion, Caride said he "found evidence of fuel theft, such as open valves from the fuel tanks and the large filter vessels that had been drained." He claimed he tried to foil the thefts by removing unnecessary valves. As a result, he said, an employee named Maurice Williams told Caride he was upsetting people. That sentiment was echoed by Roberto Finale, vice president of Waldron Enterprises, a company that did maintenance work at the fuel farm, who allegedly told Caride that fuel theft was a tradition and "a lot of people feed their families" from it. When Caride decided to follow tradition, he claimed that other subcontractors gave him cash bribes to look the other way as fuel was stolen by the truckload. From there he accepted money to approve new contracts, renew existing ones, and assist in fraudulent-billing schemes. Caride said he bought a pickup truck with one $20,000 cash payment. In all, he told investigators, he pocketed more than $230,000.
Caride said Williams told him he wanted to introduce someone who could help him. That's how Caride ended up having lunch with Antonio Junior at a Bennigans restaurant on NW 42nd Avenue near the airport. "Antonio Junior told Caride that ASIG needed his help and influence to get the fuel farm management contract a few years back." Junior wanted to offer his help again, according to Caride, allegedly explaining that "I have go-betweens with lobbyists and politicians." And when Caride said he was new to this stuff, Junior allegedly replied, "You're a babe in the woods, you need all the help you can get."
Caride said Junior told him that "in exchange for his help he wanted in at the tank farm." Caride thought about it and said he wasn't happy with the current security company. Junior allegedly responded, "We can do that for you, I have had some training in that area." Shortly after that, Caride said, he approached his ASIG supervisor, John McGhee, about hiring Junior's company, Diversified Management International, to handle security at the fuel farm. "McGhee resisted but Caride said he reminded him that they needed 10 percent minority participation. McGhee agreed."
At some point after DMI's no-bid contract was approved, Junior invited Caride to lunch "in order to meet somebody." They arranged to dine at Piccadilly Square restaurant in the Miami Design District, downstairs from Junior's office. After being seated in a corner booth, Caride asked Junior who they were going to meet. "Antonio Junior told him it was Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler." The commissioner showed up fresh from a commission meeting "and she was commenting on Commissioner Katy Sorenson. Barbara Carey-Shuler stated that Sorenson was Merrett Stierheim's girl all the way and that there was a clique." After introductions were made, she remarked that Junior had told her about Caride's intention to help minority businesses.
Junior reveled in showing off his connection to Carey-Shuler, according to Caride. In one episode he described, he and Junior were watching a county commission meeting on television in Junior's office when Junior told Caride: "Watch this." Then he called Carey-Shuler's office and told an assistant to deliver a note telling the commissioner to call him. Caride watched as an aide passed the note to Carey-Shuler on the commission dais. She promptly left the meeting and called Junior. "After the phone call, Caride asked Antonio Junior why he didn't work as a registered lobbyist. Antonio Junior stated, öToo much scrutiny, I make out alright and I could get more but I'm happy with what I got.'"
Rapidly, Caride said, he found himself swept into a world of politically connected businessmen; he even attended their private parties, like one he recounted at the Miami Beach home of Evens Thermilus, who owned the contracting company T.L.M.C. (Thermilus was also arrested in the fuel-farm case, has pleaded guilty, flipped, and is the lead witness in an unrelated political corruption case -- the upcoming trial of former Miami City Commissioner Art Teele.)
Also attending the backyard barbecue at Thermilus's home were Art Teele and Barbara Carey-Shuler, who Caride said gave him a hug when she saw him there. "Caride said that during the party he was pulled into a private meeting with Evens Thermilus and Antonio Junior. Antonio Junior stated, öWe can all make a lot of money at the airport.' Antonio Junior asked Caride if he could start Evens Thermilus with some jobs at the fuel farm."
Caride explained it would not be easy. Miami-Dade Aviation Department project manager Patricia Nichols, who signed off on all payments, might object. "Antonio Junior promised Caride a lot of cash if he could work things out. Caride told Antonio Junior that he was interested in getting the ASIG contract renewed so that he could keep his job. Caride told Junior that the cash was secondary to keeping his job with ASIG. Antonio Junior told him not to worry because he could have Barbara Carey-Shuler renew the contract. Antonio Junior insisted that Caride get some cash too." (Carey-Shuler denies being asked to renew the contract, adding that, at the time, only the airport director had the authority to approve the contract.)