February 1, 2011 | 8:30am
Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina
and his wife Raiza Villacis-Robaina gave out high interest loans to individuals other than accused ponzi schemer Luis Felipe Perez
. And Hialeah Councilwoman Vivian Casals-Muñoz prepared the mortgage documents that secured the loans the Robainas provided to Perez, former Councilman Guillermo Zuñiga, and Hialeah business owners Rodolfo, Roberto and Mercy Blanco.
The quintet are being sued in Miami-Dade civil court by Hialeah's power couple in an attempt to recoup their money. But the deals could ultimately play a role in the federal investigation of Robaina for alleged loan sharking, tax evasion and mortgage fraud, which was recently reported by CBS4
and the Miami Herald
Banana Republican learned about the probe several months ago from second-hand sources, but we didn't feel comfortable writing about it without confirmation from law enforcement officials close to the investigation. The same sources informed us that Robaina was the primary target, but that federal agents are also after Casals-Muñoz.
Robaina, who plans to run for county mayor
, did not respond to a request for comment sent to his assistant and to his Hialeah email address. We could not reach Casals-Muñoz. She was not in her city hall office when we called and the phone number to her place of business, C&M Title Inc., is disconnected.
From what we've been told, the F.B.I and the Internal Revenue Service set their sights on Robaina and Casals-Muñoz shortly after the Securities and Exchange Commission busted Perez, who pled guilty this past September to bank fraud and bilking 36 victims out of $40 million. During an 18-month period starting in 2006, Perez borrowed $750,000 from the Robainas through two companies Raiza incorporated.
The mortgage documents signed by Perez were drawn up by Casals-Muñoz and stipulated an 18 percent annual interest rate. The ponzi schemer has reportedly informed federal prosecutors that the actual interest rate was 36 percent and that he paid the mayor in cash for the illegal portion.
If the accusation is true, then the Robainas committed loan sharking by charging an illegal usury rate and then committed mortgage fraud by purposely fudging the percentage points Perez was paying on the loan documents. Casal-Muñoz would be an accessory to the mortgage fraud. Spokespeople for the FBI and the IRS would not confirm or deny the existence of the probe.
In his interviews with CBS4 and the Herald, Robaina has vehemently insisted he and his wife are victims. He has sought to discredit Perez by claiming his ex-pal is a liar who would say anything to lessen his prison sentence. The mayor even boasted that he and Raiza are the reason Perez is behind bars. "Because of our work with the investigation," Robaina told the Herald, "thanks to our work he is now serving a 10-year sentence."
Curiously, despite his assertions that he and his wife are victims, Robaina did not file a claim with the U.S. district court of south Florida for the monies he alleges Perez owes him. For example, Reinaldo Roman filed a restitution affidavit on November 12 to recoup the $1.2 million Perez stole from him. So did Miami Gardens couple Hugo and Dora Scotto, who say they lost $85,000 with Perez. So why hasn't Robaina put in for his $750,000?
He told the Herald that his attorney advised him to go after Perez by suing in Miami-Dade civil court. This past December, MR Holdings and RVR Holdings sued Perez. The Robainas also sued Zuñiga and the Blancos for allegedly not paying back their loans.
For instance, in September 2007, Julio Robaina and a business partner loaned $300,000
to Mercy and Roberto Blanco. The annual interest rate on the loan was 18 percent. The Blancos were directed to send their payments to 3822 W 12th Ave., the Hialeah address for Casals-Muñoz's title company.
In a seperate transaction between Raiza's company MR Holdings and Rodolfo Blanco
, he also had to pay 18 percent annual interest on two loans totaling half-a-million dollars. Blanco was also instructed to send payments to 3822 W12th Ave. In Zuniga's case
, he paid 10 percent annual interest on a $31,000 loan he got in 2008 from Villacis-Robaina's other corporation, RVR Holdings Inc.
Robaina better hope that the defendants don't corroborate Perez's claims.