Banah Sugar Employed Ex-Cocaine Traffickers, Raised Bundles for Dominican President Before Bankruptcy

As his Hialeah sugar company burned through cash and failed to pay employees, vendors, and landlords, Alexander I. Perez gave plum jobs to former drug-trafficker buddies and raised bundles of cash for Danilo Medina, president of the Dominican Republic.

Two weeks ago, Perez's Banah Sugar filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, reporting it owed between $1 million and $10 million to a list of 232 people and companies in its February 21 filing. It was a sour turn for a company that received special favors from local politicians. Last year, they renamed a portion of SE Tenth Avenue in Hialeah "Banah Sweet Way" and approved $400,000 in tax breaks if Banah created 300 jobs by 2014. Leaders including Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez gave Perez the royal treatment despite his criminal past and a long trail of litigation against him, including a recent four-year prison stint for cocaine trafficking.

Now, Riptide has learned that Perez gave lucrative six-figure salaries to other convicted felons who served time for coke dealing. Banah operations manager Manuel Arisso, logistics director Jorge Fernandez, and executive vice president Orlando Lorenzo are three of the ex-traffickers Perez brought on board, according to company emails and interviews with a half-dozen former employees.

Arisso, Fernandez, and Lorenzo were convicted in the late '90s for their roles in the cocaine ring run by Sal Magluta and Willy Falcon, two infamous Cuban-American dopers currently serving a life term and a 20-year sentence, respectively. In September, when Banah CEO Diego Leiva quit, Perez gave the job to Yurek Vazquez, who has a 2000 felony conviction for intent to distribute more than five kilos of yeyo.

What's more, ex-employees who asked for anonymity over fear of reprisal from Perez provided Riptide with photographs and emails confirming Perez hosted a fundraiser for President Medina at the swanky Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne in August that raised thousands of dollars. "Yet some of my colleagues ended up in the street because he wouldn't pay us," says a former Perez bodyguard who claims he is owed $70,000 in unpaid wages.

Perez says he hired the ex-cons because he wanted to give them a chance to have legitimate jobs and because he can rely on them. "These are the people I can trust," he says. "How can I discriminate against people who have gone through the same thing I've gone through?"

Perez adds he raised money for Medina because Banah imports sugar from the Dominican Republic and he wanted to maintain a good relationship with that country's government. "It didn't have anything to do with politics," Perez says. "It was just a business decision."

 
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Mr. Alvardo,

I believe the true measure of a good journalist is his or her ability to write pieces on the truth. There are several obvious mistakes regarding some of the aforementioned people in the article. If you had truely done your research correctly you might have realized these errors and not published false statements. Futhermore, your seemingly biased tone towards the convicted felons in your piece only further exposes your shortcomings as a journalist and your ignorance. I am sure that in your rather regretable and miserable existance you have not been a perfect person. Your words serve only to degrade and dehumanize men who have paid their dues to society for their past offenses. Life after prison does not stop and everyone is entitled to a second chance to forge a new and law-abiding life.  I hope that you consider my suggestions and attempt to apply them in your life as well as your writing. Maybe then you might find your articles having somewhat of a meaningful  impact, but I forgive you. I feel that the credibility of this article is embarrassment enough on your behalf. However, so as not to be a hypocrite, I urge you to take a second look at the facts in your article, after all, everyone deserves a second chance.

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password

Mr. Alvardo,

I believe the true measure of a good journalist is his or her ability to write pieces on the truth. There are several obvious mistakes regarding some of the aforementioned people in the article. If you had truely done your research correctly you might have realized these errors and not published false statements. Futhermore, your seemingly biased tone towards the convicted felons in your piece only further exposes your shortcomings as a journalist and your ignorance. I am sure that in your rather regretable and miserable existance you have not been a perfect person. Your words serve only to degrade and dehumanize men who have paid their dues to society for their past offenses. Life after prison does not stop and everyone is entitled to a second chance to forge a new and law-abiding life.  I hope that you consider my suggestions and attempt to apply them in your life as well as your writing. Maybe then you might find your articles having somewhat of a meaningful  impact, but I forgive you. I feel that the credibility of this article is embarrassment enough on your behalf. However, so as not to be a hypocrite, I urge you to take a second look at the facts in your article, after all, everyone deserves a second chance.

 
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