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
When one of their former employees opened his own clinic, the Georges allegedly fired a gun next to his head and tried to hire a hit man to murder him. When an informant flipped on the brothers, Chris George texted her a pic of his new tattoo: a rat with a noose around its neck.
In 2010, agents raided and shut down the clinics. Months later, Chris George was arrested on gun possession charges. At a hearing, prosecutors let slip information about a massive investigation that was in the works. In August they delivered, with an indictment charging the brothers and 31 of their associates with a range of crimes from racketeering to fraud.
Jeff George took a plea deal. In state court, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in relation to a customer's death; the deal means he will not be charged with anything further by the state and will face a maximum of 20 years. He pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering.
Chris George also agreed to a plea deal. Like his brother, he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering in exchange for his other indictments being dropped. He faces a maximum 20 years in prison and $250,000 fine when he is sentenced February 3.
4. The Florida Department of Children and Families
Valentine's Day 2011: A 10-year-old girl was found beaten to death, her body tossed in a bag in the back of a pickup truck off I-95. In the front seat lay the girl's twin brother, alive but burned with toxic chemicals. Victor and Nubia Barahona were the latest victims of a broken child-welfare system.
The twins lived with their foster parents, Carmen and Jorge Barahona, for five years before the West Miami-Dade couple adopted them. Calls to the state child-abuse hotline alleged Jorge was sexually abusing Nubia, and the children were coming to school hungry and disheveled. Bruises appeared on Nubia's neck. Yet the Department of Children and Families approved the adoption in 2009.
Soon the Barahonas removed the twins from school and began instructing them at home, far from the prying eyes of teachers. On February 10, 2011, a therapist called the abuse hotline, claiming the twins were being bound by their hands and feet and forced to sit in a bathtub all day and night. A DCF investigator went to the Barahonas' home but couldn't find the twins. She decided they were not in immediate danger. Four days later, Nubia was found dead.
A state-appointed independent review panel cited "systematic failure" in DCF's protection of the children. DCF Secretary David Wilkins says the agency has now hired 100 more child protection investigators and has caseworkers visiting foster kids every month.
Jorge and Carmen Barahona have been charged with aggravated child abuse, neglect, and first-degree murder. If convicted, they could face the death penalty.
Actual dolphins cannot play football because they have flippers instead of hands. As for why the Miami Dolphins cannot play, the reason is a little trickier to pinpoint. It's tempting to blame the evolving doctor's waiting room of quarterbacks or head-smacking incompletions by star wide receiver Brandon Marshall. It's easy to blame recently fired head coach Tony Sparano, whose physical reserve, relentless gum-smacking, and medically necessary sunglasses just added to the impression that his mind was somewhere else while his team lost game after game.
Back in 2008, it looked like the start of a bright future for Miami. Arriving on the scene of a one-win 2007 season, former Dallas coach Bill Parcells took the title of executive vice president of football operations. He signed Sparano as well as two Chads — Pennington and Henne — as quarterbacks. This worked for a bit; they had an 11-5 record in 2008. But after that championship season, both QBs got injured and the team didn't follow the path to greatness that some had prescribed.
The decision point came in 2010, after two disappointing years and the switching of the Chads. Rather than ferret out a way to fix the team, Parcells stepped down, becoming a "consultant" for a month before heading off to an analyst gig at ESPN. Now he's free to watch and ruminate as the Dolphins try, more or less, to work with what little he gave them.
6. Pat Santeramo
Ain't karma a bitch? After years of railing against wasteful spending and corruption on the Broward School Board, Pat Santeramo is now engulfed in his own financial scandal. The longtime president of the Broward Teachers Union and the vice president of the American Federation of Teachers resigned from both posts this month under a cloud of criticism.
In the past three years of Santeramo's leadership, the union lost $3.8 million, according to an audit by the AFT. During that same period, union funds were allegedly used to reimburse members for donations to political campaigns, and Santeramo overpaid himself and top-ranking employees by a total of $89,000. The auditor kindly noted, however, that record-keeping at the union was so poor, "it is possible that the officers did not realize they were being overpaid."
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