Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina Exposed on Facebook By Former Allies

Last Wednesday, shortly before

dawn, Rolando Bolaños logged on to his Facebook account to update his status

regarding his favorite subject, Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina. The ex-Hialeah

Police chief informed his network of friends about a $200,000 private loan

Robaina received from a city vendor in 2002. Three days earlier, Bolaños had commented

about Robaina's close relationship with accused Ponzi schemer Luis Felipe Perez

and disgraced former state Rep. Ralph Arza.

It's unusual for a retired police chief to wage a public

vendetta against his former boss on the Interwebs, but this isn't just any town.

It's Hialeah. "Everybody is on Facebook," Bolaños rhapsodizes. "It's free, and

it's technologically efficient. I can state my opinion without people changing

it. Besides, I don't know how to Twitter."

Bolaños's use of the popular

social media network to discredit Robaina provides an unfiltered view into the

nasty political civil war that has flared up in the City of Progress. On one

side is Robaina, the anointed successor to longtime Hialeah overlord Raul Martinez, who

weathered three trials and one overturned conviction before federal prosecutors dropped

their extortion and racketeering case.

On the other are Bolaños and former

Hialeah Housing Authority Executive Director Alex Morales, who accuse the

current mayor of running an unethical and corrupt administration. Robaina "is a

phony," Bolaños tells Banana Republican "He is not the person I thought

he was."

Robaina, an influential

Cuban-American Republican who is a rumored 2012 county mayoral candidate,

declined three requests for an interview. The Hialeah mayor is playing a

big role in Miami-Dade School Board member Perla Tabares Hantman's re-election

campaign, raising funds and supplying volunteers.

Politics in Hialeah has never

been for the meek. It's a grimy game that for a quarter-century was controlled

by Martinez's iron grip. If you wanted to get elected to the city council, you

had best stay on his good side. Anyone who dared challenge Martinez's power was

pulverized with impunity. Robaina, a Martinez acolyte, was elected to the city

council in 1997. He served as council president from 2001 to 2005. That year, Martinez retired and Robaina won the mayoral election by 60


For 20 years, Bolaños was the

Hialeah mayor's loyal police chief until he retired in 2007. Then came the

rift two years later. Bolaños's son Daniel wanted to run for the city council seat currently

occupied by Katharine Cue, a 22-year-old former Miss Hialeah. The Bolaños

patriarch wanted his friend Robaina's support despite the fact that Daniel and

his brother, Rolando Jr., both former cops, were accused of police brutality by

eight victims in the late '90s.

(Daniel resigned in 2004 rather than go through

a retrial. Rolando Jr. resigned after a separate criminal investigation turned

up that he did not disclose he had been arrested for grand theft auto when he

applied with the Hialeah PD. Last year, junior was criminally charged with robbing a Hialeah bank.)

According to Bolaños, Robaina

instructed him and Daniel to meet with Arza, who acts as an emissary for the

Hialeah mayor. When the three men convened at a Starbucks in Miami Springs,

Arza asked them to run against Councilman Luis Gonzalez, a friend of theirs.

Says Bolaños: "We told him we would run against Cue."

Bolaños says he knew that when

the clandestine coffee meeting ended, he and his son "wouldn't have a good time

with [their] campaign." He says, "Julio made phone calls to friends I wanted to

raise money from [and told them] that Kathy was his candidate and that Danny

was not to be helped." Cue defeated Daniel Bolaños by a whopping 90 percent in

the 2009 November city election. Robaina was re-elected by capturing 93 percent

of the vote.

Two weeks after his resounding

victory, Robaina acquired another ally-turned-enemy in Morales, then the

Hialeah Housing Authority's top administrator. The authority's board of

directors, appointed by Robaina, fired Morales, who is suing the mayor for

defamation in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. Morales has a separate complaint

against the HHA for breaching his employment contract.

Since this past May, Bolaños and

Morales have teamed up to destroy Robaina's credibility. They have appeared at

city council meetings to accuse the mayor of playing a shell game with the city

budget, among other dastardly deeds. During the council's July 28 meeting,

Morales brought up a loan Robaina received from Fedan Tire Corp., as well as

another private deal between the mayor and a city vendor.

Morales revealed that Robaina took out a $200,000 loan on July 1, 2002, from Felix

Sanchez, owner of Fedan. The transaction took place when the mayor was city

council president and one year after he and his council colleagues unanimously

voted to award Fedan a $50,000 contract to provide city vehicles with

replacement tires and roadside service. Sanchez did not return two messages left with his assistant at his business located at 115 W 22 St.

Between 2002 and 2003, Morales

noted, Robaina voted three separate times in favor of Fedan, including once for

a new $50,000 deal and then subsequently to increase that amount by $20,000.

According to Miami-Dade court records, Robaina paid off Sanchez September 24,


On his Facebook page, Bolaños

accused Robaina of violating the state's elected officials code of ethics which forbids private deals like the one the Hialeah mayor entered into. The ex-chief says Robaina also failed to publicly disclose the loan at any of the city council meetings or on his

financial disclosure statements during the two years the loan was outstanding.

In a separate deal five years

later, and two years after being elected mayor, Robaina and his sister loaned

$300,000 to the wife of Roberto Blanco, who at the time was owner of Galloway

Towing Services Inc., which provided towing for the police department. Like his

transaction with Sanchez, Robaina did not list the loan as an asset on his 2007

and 2008 financial disclosure forms. He did include the loan in his 2009 statement.

Bolaños and Morales claim Robaina

again violated Florida's elected officials code of ethics by entering into a deal with Blanco's wife.

Robaina's detractors have also focused on the mayor's

business relationship with Luis Felipe Perez, a flashy Hialeah diamond jeweler

whom the feds have criminally charged with running a $40 million Ponzi scheme.

Perez showered political campaign contributions on Robaina, Martinez, and many

other Miami-Dade elected officials, but only Robaina has publicly admitted to

doing business with the accused scammer.

MR Holdings Co., a corporation owned

by the mayor's wife, Raiza Villacis-Robaina, loaned Perez $100,000 in September

2006 at an annual interest rate of 18 percent. According to Miami-Dade Clerk of

Courts records, Perez paid off the loan in 2007.

In an article that appeared in El Nuevo Herald this past June 5, Robaina

claimed he was aware of the alleged Ponzi scheme 18 to 24 months before Perez

was indicted. Robaina said, "I knew the problem because my wife was cheated. I

cannot give details because it is in the hands of the lawyers."

Bolaños posted the Herald article on his Facebook page

this past August 8 with the following comments: "When you know for the past

18-24 months that the GIVER is a TAKER and that the funds MAY come from

victimized citizens, THEN, my friends, there is something WRONG with ROBAINA's

standards of ETHICS."

Morales, who provided copies of

the loan documents to city council members and Banana Republican, says the goal is to expose

Robaina. "There is a serious lack of ethics by the mayor," Morales says.

"Robaina has a clear conflict of interest. This guy is not on the up-and-up."

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.