Crime and Misdemeanor

Humberto Aguilar was a fugitive, then spent years in jail. But now he has a real story to tell.

By many accounts, he was good at his job with Suited for Success. Burney Burke, a job developer at the Homeless Assistance Center on North Miami Avenue, says Aguilar — who was paid $45,000 per year — helped clients score telemarketing gigs and jobs at Macy's and News Café. "The clients really enjoyed him," says Burke. "When he started coming over here, it was a big success and the service got to a lot more clients."

Jacobson gave him rave reviews too: "His performance in this position has been outstanding. He has inspired clients to make changes in their lives...," she said in a recent recommendation letter.

But Aguilar says he could no longer ignore what he considered questionable spending at Suited for Success. The problem, he says, was related to Jacobson, the $78,000-per-year executive director. He dug up a May 21 e-mail from Pamela Anselmo, a Fort Lauderdale attorney and board member, to Jacobson. It asked for repayment of $6,020.07 Jacobson owed the organization: "My hope had been for you to address this quickly and efficiently once it was pointed out to you so that we could keep this as low-profile as possible and we could simply announce only the corrective action ... rather than ruminating over the misappropriation of funds."

Humberto Aguilar was a sinner, but now has no patience for peccadillos. He's also an ex-smoker who preaches the dangers of inhaling
Courtesy of Humberto Aguilar
Humberto Aguilar was a sinner, but now has no patience for peccadillos. He's also an ex-smoker who preaches the dangers of inhaling
Aguilar suited for success
Aguilar suited for success

The "misappropriation," he soon learned, was documented on an April spreadsheet prepared by Jean Cole, the nonprofit's accountant. It indicated that Jacobson spent money on her own dental work and auto repairs, among other things. An e-mail from Cole also shows Aguilar owed the agency $490, which he says was a paycheck advance to cover medical bills.

In early July, Aguilar says, he confronted Jacobson. "I told her: 'I want to really change things around here.'... She was basically using the company as an ATM." After that meeting, she gave him a raise, to $50,000. Then, Aguilar contends, "Two days later she said, 'I'm going to have to let you go because you're trying to blackmail me.'" (On August 27 he received a letter from the state denying unemployment benefits because he was fired for "false representation of the employer" and "misconduct.")

Jacobson declined to comment. Cole, who has left Suited for Success, couldn't be reached. Anselmo, the group's former president, did not dispute the contents of the e-mail when it was read to her. She added, "everything's under control," and said she has faith in Jacobson and the program.

Aguilar, who lives in a $575 efficiency apartment, is fighting back. He has contacted Suited for Success board members, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Children's Trust, and the U.S. Attorney's Office to warn them of the alleged malfeasance. The Miami coordinator for the Knight Foundation, Lorenzo Lebrija, says his agency is looking into Aguilar's questions and performing a regularly scheduled audit. So far, Lebrija adds, Suited for Success has met its goals: "It's a really good program."

What exactly happened between Jacobson and Aguilar is unclear, but on August 15 the U.S. Attorney's Office sent Aguilar a letter saying the case had been referred to the FBI.

Aguilar understands that some people might see his involvement as simply the actions of a disgruntled former employee. Though the amount he accuses Jacobson of mishandling pales in comparison to the millions of dollars he laundered in the past, Aguilar calls himself a "born-again criminal" with a newfound low tolerance for misdeeds. "It's my fault I went to prison; it's nobody else's. But the system works. There is justice.... In life, nothing is ever given to you; you have to really fight for it.

"Either that," he says, stopping to laugh, "or I am insane."

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