Today, the Miami-Dade County Commission will vote on a resolution on whether to investigate a potential cancer cluster in Hialeah along NW 36th Avenue. Residents have pointed fingers at nearby King Metal Recycling Plant as the reason for the spread in sickness. County commissioners should already be familiar with King Metal -- earlier this year, the plant was cited for failing to put up walls to protect the area from noxious chemicals. Also, King Metal's owners -- Jorge and Pedro Amador -- are also the proprietors of a welding company that reportedly cut corners while building metal columns for the retractable roof at Marlins Park.
But allegations of fraud against the Amadors go beyond code violations and shoddy engineering. The brothers were charged in June 2010 with running the King Metal plant without a license. And a decade earlier, the Amadors were charges as the ringleaders of a racketeering and money-laundering scheme that defrauded the state out of $1 million over four years.
(Multiple calls to King Metal to reach the Amador brothers for comment were not returned.)
According to court documents, in 1998 the Amadors ran a metal works shop called J.C. Industrial Manufacturing Corp., which received work to maintain and repair drawbridges in Miami as a subcontractor to General Electric.
Through connections at the Florida Department of Transportation and the Miami Beach Public Works Department, the Amadors paid to get business steered toward their company. Then they overcharged FDOT and Miami Beach Public Works for various products, including gearboxes and motors for the bridges, and pocketed the difference. The Amadors would pay off their contacts with cash and plane tickets, prosecutors said. They also roped in a man working for Montenay Power, which managed the Miami-Dade County recycling plant, paying him $73,000 in exchange for contracts from the company.
The plan worked perfectly, police said, because the brothers raked in several hundred thousand dollars for their fraudulent work. The bribes and kickbacks continued until March 2003, when an internal investigation by FDOT officials showed that the agency had been paying for products and work it wasn't receiving. Eventually, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement caught the Amadors and, in September 2005, slammed them with charges of racketeering, money laundering, fraud, unlawful compensation, and a myriad of others.
Despite all the evidence, the Amadors walked away relatively unscathed. Jorge, who pleaded no contest to a charge of falsifying records in exchange for the dismissal of the 19 other offenses, received a year's probation. Pedro got ten years of probation after a guilty plea to a charge of fraud. The two were ordered to pay roughly $300,000 to FDOT and several thousand dollars to FDLE and other state agencies. Their four co-conspirators weren't as lucky; one drew a sentence of nine months in prison.
That wasn't the Amadors last brush with the law. On June 10, 2010, the brothers were arrested after Miami-Dade detectives stopped by the plant at its current location on NW 36th Avenue and found that the business had no occupational license or proof of registration with the Florida Department of Revenue.
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The detectives also discovered that King Metal wasn't keeping accurate records of business. The Amadors, as well as plant co-owners Yohani Danza and Arturo Alvarez, were charged with operating a secondary metals recycling business without a license and failure to maintain secondary metal recycling records. Those charges were eventually dismissed.
The Amadors can likely expect more investigations in the near future. If the county commission approves the resolution to examine the cancer cluster, officials from the Florida Department of Health and Miami-Dade Department of Health will soon be poking around King Metal to see if the brothers are once again skirting the law, or worse.