Safe Wrap of Florida Already Messing Up Lucrative Airport Contract

The company that won a hotly contested contract at Miami International Airport worth tens of millions of dollars a year is already in the doghouse with MIami-Dade County's Aviation Department. On Tuesday, department director Emilio T. Gonzalez fired off a letter to Radames Villalon, general manager of Safe Wrap of Florida, notifying him that his firm had failed to submit a payment security to Miami-Dade as required by the contract.

Gonzalez warns Villalon that Safe Wrap is already in default of the contract and will lose it if the payment security is not submitted by June 26. Safe Wrap -- which charges travelers to secure their luggage by wrapping it in cellophane -- agreed to pay the county a $9.6 million annual minimum fee or 52 percent of its monthly gross revenues; whichever is greater.

Update: Villalon tells Banana Republican that the aviation department has nothing to fret about, noting Safe Wrap is finalizing a $2.4 million letter of credit with Banc of America to give to the county. He adds his company has also put up a $7.8 million bond. "In a couple of days Banc of America will send the county the letter of credit," Villalon says. "It is not an issue."

Safe Wrap had the contract for nine years until 2010, when it lost to a rival firm. The company came back earlier this year to reclaim its luggage wrapping throne, overcoming a second place finish to TrueStar USA, the county-owned airport's current vendor. Safe Wrap hired a phalanx of high-powered lobbyists -- including Felix Lasarte, Armando Gutierrez, Slyvester Lukis, and Roosevelt Bradley -- to help convince county commissioners to reject Mayor Carlos Gimenez's recommendation to stick with TrueStar, which had offered Miami-Dade 65 percent of its monthly gross revenues.

Despite being ranked ahead of Secure Wrap, commissioners dismissed TrueStar's bid.

A year ago, commissioners reluctantly reduced Sinapsis' minimum payment to the county to $8.7 million from $11.1 million. The company said it could not uphold its commitment in part because competitor Secure Wrap of Miami began wrapping bags at locations outside the airport. Secure Wrap and Safe Bag USA, a subsidiary of Italian firm Safe Bag Italia SRL, joined forces to form the Safe Wrap corporate venture.

Commissioners also cited findings of a county audit completed in December that, among other things, recommended that Sinapsis keep a better paper trail of its sales and provide all of its financial records in English. Some were kept in Italian and Spanish.

The county commission voted 9-2 to go with Safe Wrap and later overturned Gimenez's veto.

Safe Wrap Letter by Francisco Alvarado

Follow Francisco Alvarado on Twitter: @thefrankness.

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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.

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