Developers Bruce and Shawn Chait were charged last week with bribing former Broward County Commissioner Joe Eggelletion with $25,000, including a golf club membership, in exchange for his vote to support their unpopular housing development on two golf courses in Tamarac.
The Chaits, who own Prestige Homes, also figure deeply into the investigation of Broward County School Board Member Stephanie Kraft. They hired Kraft's husband, Mitch, to help Prestige get a $500,000 break on mitigation fees the company owed the School Board. School Board records show that Stephanie Kraft used the power of her office to help Prestige get that break.
Now we learn that the Chaits also hired Sunrise City Attorney Stuart Michelson, husband of Broward County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman. Michelson represented the firm in a code enforcement action regarding the Prestige project in Tamarac last year, according to sources. His compensation from Prestige isn't known, and he hasn't returned detailed phone messages for comment. Bruce Chait, fresh off his arrest, answered the phone at Prestige but hung up before I could get my question out.
Michelson's wife, Lieberman, also voted to support the Prestige project in 2006, saying that "the community came to expect
green space, but... if not this developer, someone is going to come in and eventually develop it."
Yes, with this commission in power, I'm sure Lieberman was telling the truth.
The Michelson situation doesn't look as egregious as the Kraft or Eggelletion payoffs, but it should be investigated.
-- Speaking of dirty politicians, we might be in for a treat that will help supplant Scott Rothstein as the central attraction in South Florida news.
A full-blown Beverly Gallagher trial.
The former School Board member most famous now for stuffing bribe money into a doggy bag at a restaurant was indicted today after failing to plead guilty on bribery and fraud charges. I say "failing" because the thing for her to do, clearly, was strike a deal. The woman was caught taking money for helping to steer school construction money and rigging selection committees for contracts. It's all in black and white. It's looks like an open-and-shut case.
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Judging by federal guidelines and past cases, I'm guessing that if she gets convicted at trial on those charges, she would do north of ten years in the federal pen. I don't know what she's being offered by the government, but you have to think it would be at least cut in half if she came clean and inked a deal with the feds.
Her defense attorney, Dave Bogenschutz, must be pulling his hair out. Who in his right mind would want to defend this case at trial? Thing about trials is that all the details come out, the tapes, the side stories, stuff she couldn't possibly want known. He must know that bringing his client to trial will not only lead to her getting a considerably stiffer prison sentence but also to further embarrassment.
So what's the defense? It can be only one thing: That Gallagher was "entrapped." That she came into the clutches of the big bad FBI men and had no choice but to do their bidding (and take their cash every step of the way). Maybe she'll say that they got her drunk at bars and on the FBI yacht, breaking down her willpower. She had no choice but to become a horribly corrupt, money-hungry politician, she might contend.
Good luck with that Beverly, and believe me, we'll enjoy the show.