A Hialeah sugar making company owned by an ex-cocaine trafficker who wooed Hialeah and Miami-Dade elected officials into naming a street after his firm and approving $400,000 in tax breaks has been ordered to pay up a $208,000 debt. On Oct. 25, All-American Containers won a default final judgment against Banah Sugar, located at 215 SE 10th Ave. The vendor sued the sugar maker for failing to pay $184,000 for thousands of containers used to package Banah's products. The final judgment includes attorney fees.
Two weeks later, Miami Circuit Court Judge David C. Miller approved All-American Containers request to garnish Banah's bank accounts to get its money. The judge's order is just the latest embarrassing episode for Banah founder Alexander I. Perez, who served four years in federal prison on a cocaine trafficking conspiracy charge. He was released in 2007.
Last year, with assistance from economic development agency The Beacon Council, Perez convinced Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and the County Commission to approve $400,000 in tax breaks for creating 300 jobs at Banah's 300,000 square-foot facility in Hialeah.
In February of this year, at the behest of Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez and the city council, county leaders authorized renaming a portion of SE 10th Avenue as "Banah Sweet Way." On July 13, Gimenez, Sosa, and Hialeah politicians celebrated the renaming alongside Perez at Banah's HQ.
Neither the Beacon Council or county officials bothered to run a criminal background check on Perez or look up any lawsuits against him or his company. Since April, Banah has been sued by its former chief executive, its former landlord, a bank that provided it with payroll capital, All-American Containers, and another vendor.
Banana Republican received the tip about the final judgment from former Banah employee Carlos Medina, who warned County Commission Chairwoman Sosa about Perez's debts weeks before the July 13 celebration. Medina left the company because he never got paid, he claims. Banah is located in Sosa's district.
Perez has not responded to several requests for comment. In October, Sosa told Banana Republican that Perez deserved a second chance and that she pushed for the street naming and the tax breaks based on the promise of new jobs.
"I met with Commissioner Sosa and her staff to let her know Alex was not paying us," Medina says. "What he is doing is immoral." He also emailed Sosa his allegations that Banah's founder was not paying his employees.
Medina says he began working for Banah as a freelance videographer in 2011. Three to four months before the county approved the street name, Medina went to work for the company full-time as its marketing director, he says.
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"Every paycheck that company gave me bounced," Medina alleges. "The final straw was when they posted a letter on the front door stating they didn't want to hear about any complaints about not getting paid."
Another former employee of Perez, Terry Perla, says she worked nine months as his company's chief financial officer in 2009 without getting paid. "He offered me a $150,000 salary," she says. "He is very convincing."
Perla says she didn't quit out of fear she would never get paid. Finally, when Banah -- which at the time was trading commodities -- received a large payment, she paid herself $60,000 and left the company.