There is more to come in the enormous criminal-corruption case at Miami International Airport's fuel facility. That's clear from the 12,000-word statement made by the state's star witness, Richard Caride, who managed the operation (known as the "fuel farm") for Aircraft Services International Group (ASIG).
But first I must correct an error. In the last issue I wrote that the Miami-Dade police, along with the State Attorney and the county's inspector general, participated in the investigation that led to the arrest of nineteen people for allegedly stealing some five million dollars from the county through fraudulent billing and the theft of jet fuel. I was wrong. County cops are handling a case involving a fuel-farm defendant who is cooperating in the corruption case against ex-Miami City Commissioner Arthur Teele.
The airport is spawning so many criminal investigations my head's beginning to spin. At the moment, however, the main character is 46-year-old Caride, a former Hialeah cop who pleaded guilty to murder in 1985; he took part in a home-invasion robbery in which his partner killed two people. Caride testified against his accomplice.
Now Caride is once again squealing on his partners in crime, recounting for investigators scams in which he took part from 1999 through 2002 with a host of companies and individuals. (The full report is available at www.miaminewtimes.com.) According to Caride, they stole jet fuel by the truckload, ordered unneeded equipment and obscenely marked up the prices, hired corrupt friends for work that was never done, exploited county programs designed to assist minority-owned businesses, and lavished money and gifts on Miami International Airport employees who kept the enterprise running smoothly.
This past week I wrote about a 47-year-old Miami businessman named Antonio Junior, who hit up Caride for a contract to provide security at the fuel farm. Then Junior managed to include some of his friends, including contractor Evens Thermilus, in the free-money feeding frenzy that ensued. Junior, who has long been close to county Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler, allegedly bragged he could have the commissioner renew contracts and promote people necessary to protect their scams. Carey-Shuler acknowledges meeting with Caride and Junior but denies she was ever asked to do anything illegal or unethical.
Many of the people Caride incriminated have been arrested. Investigators are beginning to look at others. One of them is 38-year-old Christopher McFarlane, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer and accountant who has been doing business at the airport for years.
McFarlane, who is black, was a partner in the notorious Host-Marriott contract to run concessions at the airport. For the past three years authorities have been investigating Host-Marriott for allegedly paying individuals to pose as partners so the company could meet the contract's requirements for minority participation. No charges have been filed.
Caribbean Airport Cuisine, McFarlane's company, is now a 30-percent minority partner in Global Concessions, which holds an MIA contract that earns Caribbean roughly four million dollars annually.
In his statement, Caride describes some odious encounters with McFarlane. Authorities, of course, have not charged McFarlane with any crimes; Caride's accounts are simply allegations at this point. McFarlane himself declined comment.
In 2000 Junior and Thermilus had a falling out, prompting Junior to insert his buddy McFarlane into the MIA schemes. The two have known each other since at least the late Nineties, when Junior was a consultant to the county's Housing Finance Authority, where McFarlane briefly served as director. (McFarlane had worked for the county since 1990.) Today McFarlane is a partner in Junior's company, Diversified Management International. In 2002 McFarlane sold his Aventura home to Junior for $465,000.
Here is Caride's version of events as summarized by investigators: "Antonio Junior phoned Caride and told him that he was sending a very close friend of his over. Antonio Junior told Caride to give his friend ösomething.' A short while later, Christopher McFarlane, along with a white male, appeared in Caride's office.... McFarlane asked Caride what he needed. Caride told McFarlane he didn't have anything for him at that time. McFarlane left unhappy.
"Within fifteen minutes Caride received a phone call from Antonio Junior asking, öAre you having a bad day? You were not very receptive to Chris.' Caride told Antonio Junior that McFarlane was OK, but he didn't like the white guy with him."
The next day, during a breakfast meeting at the Airport Hilton, Caride said that Junior asked him why he hadn't given McFarlane work. "Caride replied that McFarlane had to at least offer [Caride's company] something related to the airport." A day later, Caride said, he met Junior, McFarlane, and a landscaper named Mario Lignarolo at Junior's office. Lignarolo is a convicted drug-money launderer who owned the now-defunct National Landscaping, formerly Recio and Associates, which had been accused of rigging a contract in Coral Gables and billing the county for 3000 missing trees. "Caride stated that Antonio Junior and McFarlane made it clear that he had best find something for their friend Mario."
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That same night, Caride told investigators, he met McFarlane at a hotel in Coral Gables. "McFarlane called Caride over and greeted him. Caride asked McFarlane what he wanted, and he replied, öWe can make a lot of money, let's have a drink.' ... McFarlane stated, öWe have got to get as much money as we can before the DBED rules change.'" (A reference to a county program that ensured work for minority-owned businesses.) "McFarlane told Caride not to worry because he has numerous connections at county government.... Caride noticed that Antonio Junior was peering down from an upper level at the hotel while McFarlane continued to work on him. Chris McFarlane stated to Caride, öI can do more for you than Evens [Thermilus] because I am better connected.' At that time, Antonio Junior came down and joined them, asking, öDid we work things out?' Caride told Antonio Junior that he would see what he could do."
The next morning McFarlane's friend Lignarolo stopped by Caride's office. "What do you have for me?" Lignarolo asked, according to Caride, who sent him away empty-handed. This led to another meeting with Junior and McFarlane at Soyka restaurant. "Caride recalls Chris [McFarlane] was very upset and he told him that he wanted to invoice more money. McFarlane stated, öWhat's it going to take to get the big money jobs. I want little overhead and big profits.'"
Eventually Lignarolo did get work at the airport and soon handed Caride an envelope containing $1000 cash for his efforts. "Caride told Mario [Lignarolo] that instead of future cash, he wanted some trees planted at the new house he was building off Sunset Drive. Mario agreed to plant some trees at the house.
"Mario then informed Caride that he had to go see the öbloodsuckers' Antonio Junior and Chris McFarlane. Mario told Caride that they were getting more on this job than he was. Mario asked Caride to please give him more work because those guys were killing him."