Broward Corruption Probe: How Did It Start?
That was the $64,000 question at this afternoon's press conference. Based on the affidavits filed in the criminal complaints, we know that the investigation -- nicknamed Operation Flat Screen by agents -- began in approximately April 2005. And it started with then-Miramar Commissioner Fitzroy Salesman, who has much to regret from that month. April 30 is the day he was arrested for DUI after allegedly speeding through stop signs and the wrong way down one-way streets with twice the legal limit of alcohol in his system.
The complaint against Salesman alleges that undercover FBI agents met with him on August 24, 2005, posing as construction contractors in Broward. Salesman is said to have promised to introduce the undercover agents to the Broward officials who could get them construction contracts. In exchange, the agent allegedly told Salesman the contractors would "take care of you."
But the first payment, of $1,500, occurred on February 9, 2006, the week after Salesman introduced an undercover agent to political figures at a fundraiser. "We wanted to give you a little something for your efforts," the agent allegedly said as he handed Salesman the envelope.
That same month, the investigation into Joe Eggelletion would begin.
The criminal complaint against Eggelletion says that on February 27, 2006, agents posing as construction contractors were introduced to the Broward County vice mayor "by F.S., a local area politician."
We can guess that F.S. is Fitzroy Salesman. The following month an undercover agent made a donation of $5,000 to the Golf Oriented Leadership Foundation -- a 501c3 organization controlled by Eggelletion.
At today's press conference, acting U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Sloman said that Eggelletion told the undercover agents that ethical rules made it hard for him to do business with them in the States but that he would team with friends in the Bahamas who could help those agents launder money from what they told him was a Ponzi scheme. By May, the two sides were allegedly preparing to do business.
Meanwhile, the complaint shows that agents continued to work the Salesman case, and on April 2006, Salesman allegedly phoned a "city official" who could help the agent's company get a construction contract. "Salesman asked City Official 1 if he had any 'no bid' $50,000 jobs available," says the complaint. The Miramar commissioner, who by this time had been suspended in connection with the DUI, set up a meeting between that official, who isn't named, and the agent. The official allegedly gave the agent a contract to design and build two gazebos in a Miramar park.
The complaint says that three Miramar officials helped the agent's company fast-track the gazebo project in the months to come, receiving a check for $34,366 for construction of the gazebo.
The Eggelletion case heated up in late July 2006, when agents allegedly asked for the vice mayor's help setting up off-shore bank accounts for a client. He's accused of providing the agents with contacts in the Bahamas who could help. But by early 2007, Eggelletion is said to have reported to the agents that his Bahamian contacts were spooked. He's alleged to have then introduced agents to Joel Williams in February 2007. Williams is charged in the Eggelletion case, too, for allegedly setting up a Bahamian bank account through which money could be laundered.
Another defendant, Ronald Owens, is also accused of helping the phony money-laundering scheme. Williams and Owens allegedly met with the agents in March 2007 in Nassau, at which they described their desire to hide a client's income. That same month, Sidney Cambridge is alleged to have helped the undercover agent set up the illegal account. For providing these contacts, Eggelletion is accused of taking a two percent fee from the cash laundered.
Back to the Salesman case, where in May 2007 ggents raised the stakes.That was the month that Salesman was reinstated to the commission. They allegedly told the commissioner that they'd kickback money if Salesman ensured that they received construction contracts from the city. Soon, the commissioner is alleged to have convinced the city staff to build another gazebo, a project that was steered to the undercover agent's firm and for which he allegedly kicked back one-percent to Salesman.
In July of that month, Salesman is accused of helping the agent's company land a contract to renovate gymnasium floor, amounting to nearly $30,000.
Between the two investigations, agents would seem to have had their hands full, but around November 2007 the agents met with Broward School District member Beverly Gallagher, who allegedly said she could help their company land contracts with the district, for a fee, and that the two sides "could make a lot of money together."
So agents decided to make room for one more corruption target, and Pulp tells of Gallagher's trip down the legal drain.
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