Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo Sent $12,000 in Campaign Funds to Sister-in-Law's Company

Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo Sent $12,000 in Campaign Funds to Sister-in-Law's Company
Photo by Michael McElroy
In May 2018, a Miami woman named Marlene Garcia filed state paperwork to create Peacock Consultants, Inc. Since then, the company hasn't produced any sort of online presence. Garcia did not respond to a message sent on social media, so it's difficult to determine the firm's area of expertise.

But City of Miami records show city commissioner (and former mayor) Joe Carollo, who also didn't respond to a message seeking comment, sent two checks to Garcia's company — one for $5,800 October 30 and another for $6,200 November 2 — for miscellaneous "consulting" and "production" help. The money came from Carollo's electioneering-communications organization, Miami First.

What few people — or campaign contributors — may know, however, is that Garcia is Carollo's sister-in-law and that her husband has significant legal problems.

Carollo is married to a woman named Marjorie. She's one of multiple spouses he's had over the years. Marlene is Marjory's sister. (Blogger Al Crespo first noted the connection yesterday.) Marlene is married to Vicente E. Garcia, who pleaded guilty in 2015 to charges of conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by attempting to pay a $145,000 bribe to a Panamanian social security official to obtain a contract with the Panamanian social security agency. Vicente Garcia was working for the German tech company SAP at the time. He was sentenced to 22 months in prison. After the feds said he worked with other, unnamed SAP employees on the bribe, the company paid a $3.9 million settlement to the Securities and Exchange Commission without admitting wrongdoing.

Before Vicente was sent to jail, Carollo involved himself in the sentencing process. Federal court documents show he wrote a letter to a judge begging the court to be lenient on his brother-in-law:

Your Honor, this is the first time that I have written a court to plead leniency for someone. I am doing this for Vicente Garcia because in getting to know him well for so many years, I have no doubt that he is a decent and good human being that unfortunately made one mistake in his life, which he has already suffered greatly for and will continue to suffer for it for the rest of his life. So many of his family members that have committed no crime in this matter and financially depend on him will be severely affected if he is sentenced to prison and not able to provide for them.
Court documents state Vicente and Marlene met as students at the University of Southern California. County records show the pair owns a home in Kendale Lakes at the address where Peacock Consultants is incorporated. Carollo formed the Miami First committee in 2017, but he also used the group to fund his fight against Miami Mayor Francis Suarez's failed attempt to become a strong mayor. Donations came from all sorts of people and groups, including retirees, an electrical contractor, campaign consultants, and other political action committees. To date, the organization has raised $429,303.

click to enlarge Carollo (third from left) at a birthday party alongside his wife Marjorie (center) and sister-in-law Marlene (second from right). - ANGELA ESQUIVEL VIA FACEBOOK
Carollo (third from left) at a birthday party alongside his wife Marjorie (center) and sister-in-law Marlene (second from right).
Angela Esquivel via Facebook
The news is yet another surreal turn in Loco Joe's absurd and upsetting career — from his early days as a Florida International University cop who made Ku Klux Klan-related "jokes" to black colleagues, to the multiple times he claimed with zero evidence that communists were trying to infiltrate city hall, to the time he allegedly beat his second wife and served no jail time, to the time he tried to open an Asian-fusion restaurant named Shogun Joe's.

Carollo returned to the city commission last year after a long hiatus. Since then, he has been accused of launching a petty vendetta against the Little Havana bar Ball & Chain, where he allegedly shouted, "I am the law!" at a valet parking attendant in the middle of the night last year. He also allegedly told his underlings to lie to the Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust about the kerfuffle. And multiple city code-enforcement officials said they received instructions directly from Carollo about which businesses and areas to slap with citations — which, if true, is a violation of city law and can lead to his being booted from office, fined $500, and/or jailed for 60 days. Nothing yet has happened to Carollo even though he's hatched near-identical schemes in the past.

Perhaps most interesting, he's under criminal investigation for allegedly misspending public money to illegally buy paella for guests at a campaign event for his pal, repeatedly failed candidate Alex Diaz de la Portilla, who was running for county commission at the time. De La Portilla has since announced a run for city commission despite the fact that the results of that investigation are pending.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.