A family of real estate developers who
avoided paying more than $100,000 in code violations in Homestead
thanks to Mayor
Steve Bateman sure knows how to spoil the city's elected
officials. Through various corporations they own, Eduardo, Fred,
and Larry Abbo also contributed $5,500
to Vice-Mayor Judy Waldman's reelection campaign -- the exact
amount they gave to Bateman's reelection bid. The contributions were
made six months after the Abbos saw their fine for posting illegal
signs drop dramatically from $114,000 to a measly $802. Bateman and
Waldman are facing challengers in the upcoming November city
According to city documents, Homestead's code enforcement chief recommended slashing the fine following a meeting with an executive for the Abbo's company Prime Home Builders and then-City Manager Sergio Purriños in June of last year. Investigators from the Miami-Dade Police public corruption unit looked into an allegation, among several others, that Bateman ordered Purriños to cut the Abbos a break. The year-long probe resulted in no criminal charges being filed against the mayor, who has denied any wrongdoing.
The fine reduction was ultimately approved this past January by Bernice Ratajczak, the city's special master who is supposed to act as an independent arbitrator for people and businesses appealing code violations. Ratajczak is a close friend of Waldman's. Both women live less than a block away from one another.
In addition to giving her campaign contributions, the Abbos - who own Portofino Coal Fired Pizza in Homestead - have raised funds and provided food for Waldman's charity organization, the Little Angels Foundation, which had its tax exempt status revoked by the Internal Revenue Service for failure to file tax forms for three consecutive years.
Waldman did not return two messages seeking comment. Fred Abbo responded via e-mail, saying he and his family "are not aware of either the mayor or the vice-mayor having any particular say in the correction of these improperly calculated fines."
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