Longform

A Friend Indeed

Page 3 of 9

Padreda's cubbyhole is down a hallway of the modest building. The cramped space must be a far cry from his offices of the Seventies and Eighties, when he was an energetic Republican fundraiser at the helm of a multimillion-dollar construction company. Those days are fondly remembered, but they are now history. Today he works at CSC, which is a state-registered Medicaid provider. Because Padreda is a convicted felon he can't be the licensed provider, and indeed his name is nowhere to be found on the clinic's official paperwork. His wife Jeanette is the sole registered owner and director of the clinic, according to a spokesman for the state's Agency for Health Care Administration. A receptionist at CSC refers to Padreda simply as "the administrator."

"I am not a crook," Padreda begins, sounding vaguely Nixonian. He's sitting behind his desk, brows furrowed, registering a look of reproach, maybe hurt. "If you find somebody who say I take money or I am crook, then you come to me, tell me. I will call them a liar.

"There was one thing in my past, but it was long ago and it was not my fault. That was because of my daughter," he continues in an unsolicited burst of autobiography. "No, no, I'm not going to go into it." This is most likely a reference to the feds' agreement not to arrest his daughter if he pleaded guilty to fraud and cooperated in the Martinez trial. The daughter operated a company that installed lighting fixtures in the HUD-funded housing project he used to swindle the government.

"Did you know that Castro's police put a gun to my daughter's head?" Padreda asks, deflecting the subject slightly. "She was less than three years old. They asked where I was. I tell you I would do anything for my daughter. I would take care of my daughter forever and ever."

Among the clutter of his office, on a shelf behind him, is further testament to his civic interests. There he is in a photo with a smiling police Chief Martinez. And over there is a framed gold badge. In the middle of the bric-a-brac is a soft-focus black-and-white photo of a young man in a ribbon-bedecked jacket staring resolutely into the distance. That, he explains, is a picture of himself as a young policeman in Havana. "I have been in law enforcement all my life. Since I was 21. I was a first lieutenant in the police department in Cuba," he says with pride, adding that he was on the force from 1953 to 1959. At one point he worked for the Bureau for the Repression of Communist Activities, known by its Spanish acronym BRAC. "This was created by the CIA, the FBI," he declares with a sharp nod of his head.

Presumably this was why gun-toting Castro thugs threatened his family. Did he continue his association with the CIA after coming to this country in the Sixties? He smiles: "I always tell people I can't comment on that."

Regrettably Padreda stopped commenting altogether after this first interview, protesting that he is a humble man who does not want to be in the spotlight. "I'm not answering any more of your questions," he concluded. "I don't think you will be fair."

But his accomplishments speak for themselves. After arriving here, he promptly established himself in his new hometown, and by the Seventies his entrepreneurial spirit was paying dividends. He had become a successful Miami developer who specialized in low-income housing. He also assumed the presidency of the powerful Latin Builders Association. And he learned early that, in Miami, knowing the right people made doing business easier -- a lot easier.

It was during this period he partnered with politically savvy businessman Guillermo Hernandez Cartaya, a fellow Cuban and Bay of Pigs veteran who ran a worldwide network of investment banks called, collectively, the World Finance Corporation (WFC). Hernandez Cartaya was a perfect fit for Padreda's construction enterprises. His banks loaned the money needed to build large housing projects, which were then insured by HUD.

In the mid-Seventies, WFC somehow attracted the attention of the Dade County Police Department's Organized Crime Bureau (OCB) and later, the U.S. Attorney's Office, which launched a wide-ranging investigation into Hernandez Cartaya's business practices. Padreda, because of his association with Hernandez Cartaya, came into the feds' sights as well.

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Tristram Korten
Contact: Tristram Korten