And in December, the Holy Trinity of South Floridian mega-thievery was completed when Scott Rothstein, the politically connected lawyer and part owner of the Versace mansion, was cuffed for allegedly raiding at least a billion dollars from his firm's investors. As the economy crashed around him, Rothstein had spent money like he had found a magical vaccine against recession, pouring millions into restaurants and real estate, donating to charity, and buying off — um, supporting the campaigns of — big-time Republican politicians such as John McCain and Gov. Charlie Crist.

Of course, when the fresh cash infusions that lubricated these alleged scams, and dozens of smaller replicas, dried up, the Ponzis ground to a halt like so many 1987 Chevy Novas alongside I-95. And with Madoff, Stanford, and Rothstein potentially facing a combined 625 years in prison, it looks like we're not done supporting the lifestyles of these crooked moneychangers just yet.

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Accused Ponzi schemer Allen Stanford (right). We're pretty sure he just picked the pocket of the guy on the left.
AFP PHOTO/Max Nash/Newscom
Accused Ponzi schemer Allen Stanford (right). We're pretty sure he just picked the pocket of the guy on the left.
Michelle Spence-Jones, the indicted commissioner who takes a suspendin' and keeps on commissionin'.
Al Diaz/Miami Herald/MCT/Newscom
Michelle Spence-Jones, the indicted commissioner who takes a suspendin' and keeps on commissionin'.

And every four-legged beast shall get its style cramped

It's a phenomenon that's well documented in the Bible: When the cosmic shit hits the fan, animals are the first to take it on the chin. Like the time Jesus possessed a herd of pigs with demons and forced them to stampede into the ocean. Think he first asked the pigs if that was a sacrifice they were cool with? And then there's the Good Book's account of the ominous rain of frogs that splattered all over a village. Plus the countless sheep sacrifices. There's enough animal abuse in the King James to make Michael Vick blush.

We're seeing something similar now: Those furry friends that didn't RSVP in time for a ride on the ark have had a dreadful 365 days. They've been beset by violent stalkers and litigation.

For decades, rednecks and guajiros deep in the weirdest parts of Northwest Miami-Dade have peddled in a horse meat black market. This year, apparently, the demand for the high-in-fiber flesh really took off — something like the South Beach Diet for the shit-kickin' set. Thieves broke into barns and brutally killed their four-legged victims. The going rate: $10 a pound. Before long, a reporter called a politician who called a police sergeant, and — voila — Miami-Dade detectives were dressing up like the cast of Deliverance to make undercover horse meat purchases. After a handful of arrests, you'll now have an easier time buying a California roll than a quality Barbaro flank in the sticks of Northwest Dade.

Meanwhile, housecats in South Miami-Dade were preyed on by some creep completing the first chapter of the The Idiot's Guide to Becoming a Cliché Serial Killer. Nineteen felines were eviscerated before cops nabbed 18-year-old Palmetto Senior High student Tyler Weinman in June after secretly planting a device on his car that tracked his whereabouts. He'll be tried in January. There was even a purported "copycat cat killer" in Lauderhill until cops discovered that dogs had slaughtered the felines.

And then there was the seemingly never-ending legal saga of Mr. Clucky. New Times first made the bicycle-riding rooster famous by putting his photo on our cover in 2007, and by this summer, we were sorry we had. In July, an overzealous code enforcer ticketed the cock's owner with an animal ordinance violation, and within moments, you couldn't swing a dead cat in SoBe without hitting an anchorman tripping over his own dolly grip to report on the breaking "Mr. Clucky Eviction!" courtroom drama. Blessedly, the outlaw poultry took mercy on us all and left of his own accord, leaving on vacation to his winter home in New Hampshire. We couldn't make this shit up if we tried.

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All ye holy leaders shall suddenly act like MTV spring breakers

When Moses first climbed down from the mountain holding his stone commandments, he encountered a crowd of alleged holy men partying like Ohio State spring breakers on Collins Avenue. Harlots, wine bongs, myrrh-huffing — these priests were going nuts. It enraged Charlton Heston so much he smashed the stone tablets over his knee.

Perhaps sensing the end is near, South Florida's religious leaders just gave up and punted their souls into the ocean this year. Yes, they finally left the little boys alone, but instead they passed 2009 chasing bikini-clad floozies and strippers around the beach like extras in a Lil Wayne video.

Jesus forgives. And if you're blandly handsome in an Andy Garcia kind of way, and really photogenic, The Bearded One forgives at double-speed. Such is the lesson that can be gleaned from the parable of Father Alberto Cutié, the Miami Beach clergyman who diced his priest's collar in a metaphysical Slap Chop™ — and was consequently rewarded with a doubling of his flock.

In May, a Spanish tabloid photographer snapped pictures of a topless Cutié canoodling with a woman on the sand in South Beach. The priest dubbed "Father Oprah" for his camera-magnetizing aura reacted the only way he knew how: by getting teary-eyed on Univision. Time magazine profiled him, and rabid Cutiéheads defended their priest's honor using their fists. By early June, he ditched Roman Catholicism, married his playa sweetheart, and was preaching to packed churches of the Episcopal denomination, a far more canoodlin'-friendly faith.

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