A Bettor Way of Buying

A Coconut Creek supervisor bought lawn chemicals from his Mob-connected bookie. Sound weird? We thought so.

Herring, who declined to talk in-depth about his dealings with Befumo, classified his gambling with Befumo as simply "recreational." He called Befumo's work for the city "acceptable."

City officials, until contacted by a reporter, had no idea that Befumo was an indicted bookie or that Herring was implicated in a criminal investigation, said city purchasing agent Sheila McGann.

"The investigators wouldn't tell us anything," McGann says. "And we tried [to find out]."

When told of the MIU investigation, John Kelly, the city manager, said he was "disgusted." He said he's calling in the Coconut Creek police department to investigate and will review the way money is spent by supervisors in the city.

"This should not be possible," Kelly says of Herring's unsupervised city dealings with Befumo. "I need to research it. I'm disappointed with the association."

Befumo and Herring struck up a friendship as neighbors back in 1983 and liked to bowl together in the Businessmen's Bowling League. Always looking for ways to clean his vast amounts of cash, Befumo, who was treasurer for the league, laundered gambling profits through the league's bank account, according to court documents.

Herring took casino gambling trips to the Bahamas and Las Vegas with Befumo, according to MIU reports. Herring also went to the Pompano racetrack with Befumo, and the city supervisor wound up buying a racehorse. He even listed Befumo as a reference when he applied for the job with Coconut Creek in 1993.

Herring also hired Befumo to perform work at the Samuel and Helene Soref Jewish Community Center in Plantation, where Herring moonlighted as chief groundskeeper. Herring told detectives that Befumo supplied chemicals and did maintenance work at the center through another Befumo company, Befumo Services, which has been identified in court papers as an entity through which the bookie laundered cash.

MIU agents visited the center and walked its nicely manicured grounds. They also questioned three maintenance workers who had worked under Herring.

"None of the three could identify Befumo as ever being seen doing maintenance work at [the] JCC," detectives wrote in reports. "After describing work projects [that] had been invoiced and supposedly performed by Befumo, all of the maintenance employees state that either they did the type of work described or Herring performed the work or supervised the JCC employees on how to do the job."

When told of this, Herring said that Befumo -- the big-spending, luxury-car driving bookie with cash to burn -- would come out and do work on the center's roofs and lawns on nights and weekends. That's the reason, he said, that no one recognized Befumo's photograph.

"I haven't done anything wrong," Herring says, adding that he no longer associates with his old pal Befumo and had no idea that Befumo was associating with reputed mobsters.

Herring says he's hired an attorney as a result of the MIU investigation. Despite these problems, Herring has gotten "outstanding" evaluations from the city and is generally regarded as a highly competent and hard-working supervisor.

"The city's parks and medians are kept beautifully," McGann said. "And that's his responsibility. He is the reason everything looks so nice.

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