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Crime & Politics

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Both Dugan and San Pedro believed Book was the perfect advocate to bring the matter before the state's parole board and Book's old boss, Gov. Bob Graham. Indeed, San Pedro needed all the help he could get. In a report analyzing his request, the state's corrections department noted, "A highly sensitive police contact indicated that this individual is one of the top ten cocaine dealers in Dade County. He has his own organization and is known as El Padrino (the Godfather). He is very violent. Informants are afraid to talk about him because they know he will kill them."

As Book worked on the pardon, he, Dugan, and San Pedro crossed paths on another project. A company called Southern Combustion Technologies had hired Book to lobby the Opa-locka City Council for approval to construct a ten-million-dollar hazardous-waste recycling plant.

Donald Dugan was also apparently working on behalf of Southern Combustion, and in November 1985, he approached Opa-locka's vice mayor, Brian Hooten, and offered what Hooten believed was a bribe for his vote on the project. Hooten immediately reported the offer to police and agreed to wear a listening device. During his next meeting with Dugan, Hooten asked him how he had become involved with the Southern Combustion project. Dugan replied, "It's through an attorney, Ron Book."

On November 18, 1985, Dugan, Book, and Hooten met at a Denny's in Hialeah. After a few minutes, Book reportedly asked Dugan to leave the two of them alone. Book proceeded to tell Hooten how important the Southern Combustion project was to him. "There were innuendoes and secret words," Hooten recalled in a Miami Herald article describing that meeting.

Two days later, on November 20, Book himself approached Hooten in the parking lot of Opa-locka's city hall and asked if they might speak privately. Book invited Hooten to sit with him in his brand-new Mercedes.

The lobbyist, however, did not know that Hooten was still wearing a listening device and that members of the Metro-Dade Organized Crime Bureau were monitoring the conversation nearby.

Hooten told Book that if he voted for the unpopular project, it could cause him trouble in the next election, both in votes and campaign contributions. According to transcripts of that meeting, Book replied, "I don't want to cheat you. What do you want me to do?"

"I gotta take time off from my own business, my own people," Hooten said.
"I'll see that you get paid for your time," Book responded. "I call the shots for my client. He'll follow what I ask him. You need to tell me what I need to do. . . ."

Hooten continued to talk about his business until Book interrupted and said, "I'm willing to make a commitment."

"Yeah, I understand that," Hooten said.
"Do you hear me?" Book asked.
"Everybody is gonna want something," Hooten continued. "I'm not saying that you're going to have to give everybody something."

"I'm there for you," Book stressed. "I'm there for whatever you tell me I got to do. How more direct can I be?"

On November 22, Dugan, whose telephone lines had been tapped by investigators, talked to Alberto San Pedro and complained about how Book was handling Hooten, that he was being too cautious. Dugan said Book is "probably afraid to say anything" and that he has "just been talking, talking with no nothing."

The exact nature of San Pedro's involvement in the Southern Combustion project remains unclear, but according to the wiretaps, he told Dugan to take charge. "Don't let Book give him [Hooten] the money," San Pedro ordered. "You give him the money."

Two weeks later, on December 3, 1985, Dugan visited Hooten at the vice mayor's home and laid out $4000 cash in what police alleged was a bribe to secure Hooten's vote for Southern Combustion. Hooten was to keep $2000 for himself and pass along the remainder to another council member and certain city staffers. Dugan promised that after the vote Hooten would receive another $3000 in cash.

In the meantime, Alberto San Pedro's request for a pardon was moving ahead. During a telephone conversation between Dugan and a Tallahassee attorney who was also representing San Pedro before the parole board, the attorney said, "Apparently Ronnie has gotten Graham to come across. The way it was put to me, the only friend [San Pedro has on the parole board] is Graham, and apparently that's in deference to Ronnie."

At a December 1985 hearing, Graham did say he was inclined to grant San Pedro's request for a pardon. Parole board members postponed the hearing, however, and before it could be rescheduled, San Pedro was arrested under a sweeping indictment alleging drug trafficking and bribery of public officials.

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Jim DeFede
Contact: Jim DeFede