A Feast of Thieves

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"I do remember meeting with her [Nichols], but I never called anyone on her behalf. I don't get involved in personnel issues. If she got a promotion, it was not on my call," Carey-Shuler says, adding that she meets with many people. It could very well be that Nichols asked for help in her job, she allows. "I probably said I'll look into it. A lot of people ask for that kind of thing, but there's nothing I can do."

Carey-Shuler also points out that she didn't have a very good relationship with the county manager at the time, Merrett Stierheim, or former airport director Gary Dellapa. The airport, she notes, is not even in her district.

And although it's true Antonio Junior set up luncheon meetings with Richard Caride, she again asserts she believed it was to help the fuel farm win an award. If Junior was using the lunches as proof he was on good terms with the commissioner, implying she would get things done for him, "I just can't help what he might say about me. People do that all the time."

Cast of Characters

Barbara Carey-Shuler, age 65, was appointed to the Miami-Dade County Commission in 1979. Since then she has repeatedly been re-elected to the commission. She has had a long and storied career in politics, instrumental in establishing affirmative-action programs and minority set-asides for companies doing business with the county. She holds a doctorate in education and has worked as a teacher, administrator, and assistant superintendent for the Miami-Dade school district. She is no stranger to controversy. A technical school she founded shortly after the 1980 Liberty City riots, Carey Technical Institute, defaulted on a $300,000 loan from the City of Miami; the federal government later accused the school (though not Carey directly) of numerous financial and ethical irregularities. In 2002 the State Attorney's Office concluded she falsified time sheets for a part-time job with the school district but said the matter was not criminal. A subsequent ethics complaint was dismissed. Carey-Shuler denied the accusation, stating she had personal records that investigators did not examine. Now she has been implicated in a scandal at Miami International Airport.

Richard Caride, age 46, is the former Aircraft Services International Group supervisor who managed the fuel facility at Miami International Airport, known as the fuel farm. He is also a former Hialeah police officer who took part in an armed robbery at a Coconut Grove home in 1985 during which two people were killed. Prosecutors cleared him of being the triggerman, and he pleaded guilty and cooperated with authorities. He served three years of a seven-year sentence for second-degree murder. Caride pleaded guilty in the fuel-farm case and is now cooperating with prosecutors. The information he provides must be truthful or he'll be charged with racketeering and his information will be used against him. In exchange for his assistance, he is expected to serve two years in prison. He was also forced to sell his home. The $200,000 in proceeds was transferred to the Miami-Dade Aviation Department as restitution.

Antonio Junior, age 47, is the owner of Diversified Management International, which was awarded a contract to provide security at the MIA fuel farm. Junior was also a minority partner in a company that won the contract to provide baggage-cart services at the airport. As a minority businessman (Junior is black), he has been a partner in other MIA contracts as well. For years he has maintained a close relationship with county Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler. In 1996 he loaned her county commission election campaign $20,000. Carey-Shuler says she didn't ask for the money and that it was used to cover payroll when banks were closed. The money was immediately repaid, she says. He is charged with two counts of racketeering and one count of organized fraud.

Patricia Nichols, age 50, is a former Miami-Dade Aviation Department project supervisor who oversaw expenses at the fuel farm. She is charged with three counts of unlawful compensation for allegedly accepting expensive gifts from airport vendors and jockeying for a promotion in exchange for signing fraudulent and overpriced invoices.

Jacques Evens Thermilus, age 46, is the owner of the general-contracting firm T.L.M.C. He admitted paying Caride $230,000 in kickbacks and bribes and submitting to the county's aviation department more than one million dollars in fraudulent invoices. He pleaded guilty in the fuel-farm case and is cooperating with prosecutors in the upcoming corruption trial of former Miami City Commissioner Arthur Teele. Thermilus admitted paying kickbacks to Teele to steer city contracts his way.

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Tristram Korten
Contact: Tristram Korten

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