Fool Me Thrice

A South Florida company caught stealing twice surfaces under a new name and gets a lucrative government franchise.

This tested Cliff Berry Sr.'s temper. "I resent Mr. Rodstrom's thinking we did it on purpose," he said. "It's our damned bookkeeping, and it ain't nothing I can do about it, because when you get in computers, these things happen."

Rodstrom said he wanted a more thorough audit of Cliff Berry Inc., and Cliff Berry Sr. said: "Bring your auditors on and let's bury the hatchet."

In speaking for the old company, Cliff Berry Sr. contradicted statements he'd made moments before that he was no longer involved with the company. It seems he had authority to agree to an audit of the company but not to take responsibility for crimes of the company.

Cliff Berry II was acquitted, but a jury convicted his company.
Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office
Cliff Berry II was acquitted, but a jury convicted his company.

Florida law forbids the county from conducting business with a company convicted of a public-entity crime like fraud. But Cliff Berry Sr. assured commissioners that he would run the new company and agreed to include language in his franchise agreement stating it would be void if Cliff Berry II, who was then preparing his criminal defense case, was found to be involved in the new business.

Commissioners voted unanimously to award Cliff Berry Sr.'s Everglades Waste Removal a franchise at the port.

A message left at Everglades Waste Removal was returned by the company's operations manager, Kathy Dalton, who said she was calling on Cliff Berry Sr.'s behalf. She said that Cliff Berry II had no role in the new company. She confirmed that the new company was using "refurbished" equipment from Cliff Berry Inc.

When asked why Everglades Waste Removal had been granted a franchise to work at the port despite the criminal conviction of Cliff Berry Inc., Port Everglades spokeswoman Ellen Kennedy said, "They're considered two different companies."

On February 2, Judge Scola ordered Cliff Berry Inc. to pay roughly $2.5 million in restitution and fines. The company's attorney, Jonathan Goodman, says Cliff Berry Inc. is "surprised and disappointed with the verdict." Goodman wants another chance to cross-examine those who testified for the prosecution. "The state's main witnesses were thieves who were themselves defendants and who cut deals for themselves at the last minute," Goodman wrote in an email to New Times. He adds that star witness Schneir "admitted at trial to perjuring himself numerous times." He said Cliff Berry Inc. plans to appeal.

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