Mesa, likewise, says the deal was legit. He says Baldwin was a "known drug user" and unreliable witness. "He would come to me on occasion asking me to loan him money," Mesa says. "Now he's making allegations because I stopped talking to him."

Also bolstering Baldwin's claims about the deal: Records show that Wallace purchased a Key Largo mansion — complete with a dock and boat lift — for $1.7 million three years later, in 2006. It's just the tip of a vast real estate holding he has acquired while working as a public servant making only $59,000 as recently as 1996. Wallace now owns at least 15 properties, according to financial statements he filed in 2010. They include two houses in Florida City, two properties in Cutler Bay, three properties and four lots in New Smyrna Beach, an empty plot in Jacksonville, and undeveloped agricultural land in Hawaii. Mesa, meanwhile, owns a $3.4 million home on the opposite end of the island.

Wallace says he paid for the Key Largo mansion with two mortgages, not a shady land deal. He says he inherited property in New Smyrna from his wife's parents and that he purchased the Hawaiian land during an expo at the Miami Beach Convention Center. "It cost $17,000 — not very expensive property," he says. "I can afford that in my sleep. I'm not apologizing for being an entrepreneur."

Former Homestead mayor Roscoe Warren (left), an unnamed youth, and Mayor Otis Wallace at a Martin Luther King Day ceremony.
City of Homestead
Former Homestead mayor Roscoe Warren (left), an unnamed youth, and Mayor Otis Wallace at a Martin Luther King Day ceremony.
South Dade High School teacher Israel Andrews in front of city hall last month.
Michael E. Miller
South Dade High School teacher Israel Andrews in front of city hall last month.

Baldwin's description of systemic bribery in Florida City, meanwhile, is supported by additional evidence. On January 7, 2011, detectives interviewed Mary Rivera, owner of several rental property management companies in town. She told them that she had applied for permits to remodel her properties in 1998. Mesa — then the director of building and zoning — demanded $25,000 for the permits, she said. Rivera paid and began construction, but Mesa was back a month later asking for another $15,000. This time, she secretly recorded their meeting. She asked if the bribe was for him, Mayor Wallace, and Bill Kiriloff. Mesa replied it's the way things are done.

(Rivera, reached by phone, admits meeting with investigators but now claims she didn't tell them anything. Mesa, meanwhile, says Rivera concocted the story because "she wanted to have a relationship" and "she's unhappy I turned her down.")

Finally, there is also evidence backing up Baldwin's claim that finance director Mark Ben-Asher laundered bribe money flowing into Florida City. According to investigators' records, Ben-Asher's own former payroll manager, Dorothy Henderson, said large sums of city money were inexplicably paid to companies owned by or in partnership with Mesa and Kiriloff.

Henderson declined to comment for this story. Ben-Asher denies any involvement in bribery and says he's named because he was "instrumental" in getting Baldwin fired. "So I can expect some fallout," he says. He also says Henderson was just a "bookkeeper [who] would not have the ability to determine what transfers... were improper."

Wallace, meanwhile, insists he and his administration are clean. Asked what he thinks of Henderson's and Rivera's statements corroborating Baldwin's claims of corruption, the mayor says, "The word bullshit comes to mind. It's a fairy tale."

The evidence wasn't enough for prosecutors. On January 11, 2011, two detectives from Miami-Dade's public corruption unit met with Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Senior to discuss the case. They asked the prosecutor to subpoena Wallace's bank statements, which would "provide the necessary evidence needed to verify the allegations," Det. Ashley Thomas wrote in a memo.

But Senior refused. Instead, he said the statute of limitations had expired on many of the charges and there wasn't enough evidence to proceed. The case was closed February 22, 2011.

There's a bloody coda to Baldwin's accusations. On November 10, two days before his 62nd birthday, Bill Kiriloff was found slumped over the wheel of his black sedan in Florida City's Fasulo Park with a hole in his head. He was wrapped in a blanket. Two silver handguns rested on the city official's lap, and an empty can of Heineken lay on the floor in the back. Police ruled the death a suicide.

Kiriloff had long faced allegations of drug use and corruption before he became a member of Wallace's inner circle. While working as a Charlotte County administrator, his secretary twice found cocaine on his desk. Kiriloff was arrested February 12, 1989, and pleaded no contest to the drug charge.

Just a few years later, Kiriloff was hired in Florida City. Wallace says then-city manager Dick Anderson hired the ex-con. The mayor also claims he learned of Kiriloff's past only in December 2003, when Gov. Jeb Bush pardoned him. By then, Kiriloff had spent "ten to 12 years at the city doing a good job," Wallace says.

Marlene Kiriloff, Bill's ex-wife, says she knew of his cocaine and gambling problems long before he left her in 1980. After their divorce, people began asking her if he had taken bribes. Eventually, she began wondering the same thing herself.

She was shocked by her ex-husband's apparent suicide, but not by news of investigations in Florida City. "After all his problems, there must have been somebody holding a candle for him to get into government again," she says.

James Brady stands on the corner of Lucy Street handing out cards with his name, photo, and "Vote #50" on them. Hip-hop thumps from a nearby car as voters trickle past on their way to the polls. It's January 24, Election Day in Florida City. And Brady, a tall, lanky 29-year-old with dark skin, a shaved head, and a gold cap on one tooth, has a sales pitch that's hard to forget: Elect me and I'll send Otis Wallace to jail.

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11 comments
g3j5
g3j5

what if he had her son killed... and if u stay in Florida city you know how this shit is they jus start building shit down here lol them ugly ass trees they put up that nigga pocketing all the money put his sister out and he got millions talkin bout he be at the football games he should be at every game its fuckin 120$ to play this shit is corrupt down here only thing the police do is ride around and fuck hoes

Pj3x71
Pj3x71

Mayor Otis Wallace is a very honest hard working man that i have none for quit some time. I meet him when my kids start playing football at the park, where he spend lots of hour cheering and supporting our kids.Continue doing your job that you have done so well..... I here the same guy that went to the FBI is also a convicted felon himself, that also sold and use drugs himself...

runrandrand
runrandrand

WHY IS THIS USELESS STORY IN IT'S THIRD WEEKEND CYCLE? THE NEWS IS EVEN SLOWER THEN THE DAYTONA RACE START THAT WASN'T-----! MAYBE THE HERALD PRESSES SHOULD INK UP AND START PRINTING COUNTERFIT MONEY TO HELP THE BANKRUPT CITY---WHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

Hym
Hym

Damn! The New Times sure does have a way and a tone to how they write these character assassinating stories. I have never met Mr. Wallace and even though I did not graduate from high school, I can read. I can definitely read through this bull and see that the New Times failed to substantiate the title of the article. Other than putting his sister out of the house, the story reads like a desperate attempt to sell newspapers. I must admit though, it was entertaining.

Dannykeehan
Dannykeehan

Martin Luther King will be turning in his grave. give a poor man the same job and leave it for 28 years, then at the end of it find out if he has change. i bet he will?

Joy
Joy

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jtp12
jtp12

Good job Mike Miller. If you had the time, I am sure you could uncover even more. All the land, hotel/motel, real estate transactions should be investigated in that area.This is exactly what is wrong with America today. This whole scenario infiltrates our entire system. Unfortunately, it is investigated and then nothing is ever done.We just need more good reporters like you. Power, money, and corruption. Will it ever end?

Oh, one last thing, do you have a bodyguard?

husterredt
husterredt

typical in Florida City & Homestead, corruption is everywhere, Bateman is not far behind, actually he is partners with Wallace, Berrones and Henschel, its about time the FBI looks intoit..Good Job, Get them all!!!!!!!!!!!

Kcgriefs
Kcgriefs

So since he makes an appearance at a park filled with constituents he is corruption free? I am not sure what is weaker, your spelling or your logic.

Bebep
Bebep

A desperate attempt to sell their FREE newspaper.

Congratulations on not graduating high school.

Ash
Ash

You might be able to read but perhaps you have a problem with comprehension. It's sad because he did many admirable things (as this article points out). He couldn't resist the temptation of corruption. He's slippery but they all get caught eventually.

 
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