By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
In response to a records request, Boyd was given sworn statements of two women — Vianca Aguilar and Martha Pino — who had been charged with Medicaid fraud and worked off their legal bills by doing secretarial work for Cantera.
During their time in Cantera's office, the two women swore, they witnessed suspicious behavior. The MFCU consists of law enforcement agents and attorneys who arrest and prosecute individuals suspected of Medicaid fraud. Cantera's job was to defend those same people charged by the MFCU. But according to the secretaries, instead of acting like opponents, Cantera and MFCU agents seemed unusually cozy.
That relationship, Boyd contends, is emblematic of a corrupt system. With defense attorneys cooperating with law enforcement agents, the rights of defendants can be violated. MFCU agents get convictions, Cantera gets his fee, but defendants may be coerced into pleading guilty to charges of which they are innocent, Boyd insists.
The two secretaries claimed that Cantera seemed to know in advance if a person was being targeted by the Medicaid investigators. According to sworn statements, the two women overheard their boss telling one client, "Listen, they are getting close to you, and they are going to go into your family and know you are selling stuff without prescription." He also seemed to have influence with law enforcement. The secretaries said he would sometimes say, " 'The motherfucker don't want to pay me. Let him fuck with me and I will have his ass arrested.' And that happened."
Specifically, the secretaries named two people in the department: an investigator named Luis Albuerne, who was then a lieutenant, and Andrea Anido, then the chief assistant attorney general.
The secretaries said Albuerne would give Cantera lists of people who had just been arrested for Medicaid fraud — people Cantera could then solicit as clients. In return, they said, Cantera would handle a personal matter for Albuerne for free.
"One hand washes the other, and two wash the face," the secretaries heard him say.
Cantera also seemed close with Albuerne's higher-up, Anido. When Anido would call the office, the secretaries said, Cantera put her calls on speakerphone. "He would use that tactic to make people believe he had connections in high places," Aguilar said. The tone between Cantera and the government prosecutor — whose job was to put his clients in jail — was "very friendly, not a professional kind of thing..." One of the secretaries claimed Cantera gave out kickbacks. Aguilar testified that she saw a $5,000 cashier's check made out to Andrea Anido.
Eventually, the secretaries' statements were bounced around among the FBI, the U.S. Attorney, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The Inspector General's Office looked into allegations of misconduct by Lt. Albuerne — and found no evidence of wrongdoing. The report found that he paid Cantera for legal services he received and that there was no rule prohibiting him from hiring the lawyer — so long as it wasn't for a Medicaid-related matter.
According to sources, though, Anido was not formally investigated, and during Albuerne's internal investigation, the Inspector General cleared him without interviewing the two secretaries. "Speaking to the person or persons who allege the crime is Investigation 101," said one source.
Neither Albuerne nor Anido would comment directly for this article. Instead, the Attorney General's Office provided a statement saying, "The Attorney General's Office and the OAG Inspector General's review of Boyd's allegations regarding misconduct have not been supported by any credible information or evidence. This case remains open pending trial, and we cannot discuss any information related to an open criminal investigation or case. Additionally, no other law enforcement or government agency has found any reason to pursue Boyd's allegations against Regional Chief Andrea Anido or Capt. Luis Albuerne even though many have been requested to do so and there is no basis for changing that determination now."
One investigation of the agency has stuck, however. A lawsuit filed by two former female investigators, Diane Fernandez and Sandra Lozowicki, alleged that the Miami MFCU office has been plagued with discrimination and cronyism problems for years. It asserted that the office is dominated by white males, many of whom know one another from former positions within the City of Miami homicide department. Many of the male employees, the lawsuit says, socialize through the all-male lodge association, the Mahi Shrine.
The Attorney General's Office settled with the two women, awarding them each attorney's fees and backpay.
Current MFCU investigators in Miami take offense at suggestions of wrongdoing in their department. They point out that Albuerne was promoted to captain of the MFCU and that Andrea Anido was also promoted and is now the agency's regional chief. "If you're suggesting there's any funny business in my office, you're wrong!" barked Medicaid fraud investigator Ronnie Ilhardt while testifying at a Boyd hearing.
Several of Albuerne's peers, in interviews, defended him — vigorously. "He is the most honest guy I can ever hope to emulate," said one, asking that his name be withheld.
Most of the people alleging wrongdoing, an investigator pointed out — like the two secretaries — have criminal backgrounds and should not be trusted.