In the Name of Mr. Burns

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But, let's remember, the state attorney is investigating BSO for fixing its crime numbers -- likely in an effort to impress the public. And there have been other scandals, from coerced confessions to DNA madness.

There's another numbers scandal that troubles this tube. BSO, "the nation's largest accredited Sheriff's Department," according to its website, has been "merging" with city police forces since 1977. Parkland and Cooper City are the latest two to be picked up this year. Overall, BSO has taken over 13 cities.

Take a close look at the BSO budget, which breaks out the costs for various cities, and you see that some pay a lot more than others. North Lauderdale, Southwest Ranches, and Dania Beach shell out the most per FTE -- BSO's "full-time equivalent" of a city cop -- $90,000 to $95,000 per year. The cheapest is Deerfield Beach at $51,000 per FTE.

"It's all about politics," Dania Commissioner Bob Mikes says. He notes that both that city's mayor, Bob Anton, and its manager, Ivan Pato, are former BSO employees. "Things are stacked so that we don't get the best deal."

Only on Sun-Days

Speaking of BSO, the deaths of a Boynton Beach couple on September 25 as Hurricane Jeanne loomed off the Treasure Coast left some big questions. What caused Donald and Leaber Hamlet Rogers' SUV to veer off Sawgrass Expressway in Coconut Creek and into the murky canal waters that drowned them? We'll probably never know. But then there's this: Why did the BSO wait until the next morning to send in a dive team to look for survivors?



BSO spokesman Hugh Graf told the Sun-Sentinel and the Miami Herald that weather conditions were too hazardous late Saturday afternoon -- as the winds of Hurricane Jeanne blew through -- for the dive team (or presumably any other investigators) to search the area. But the 'cane only grazed Broward County, and the worst of it hit hours after a Florida Highway Patrol trooper discovered the skid marks left by the SUV. Indeed, the National Weather Service's Pompano Beach monitoring station, the closest to Coconut Creek, reported sustained winds of only 32 mph and gusts up to 39 mph at 6 p.m. -- hardly the kind of severe conditions that should keep experienced rescuers from doing their jobs. Those readings didn't change much until past 11 p.m. In the wake of Jeanne, the Sentinel reported that Coconut Creek had no "major damage or debris reported."

Graf refused to elaborate for the 'Pipe on how BSO decided not to respond, nor would he explain its policy in such cases. He referred all questions to the Florida Highway Patrol. Lt. Pat Santangelo of the troopers checked the tapes. BSO told the Highway Patrol that it didn't have divers available and that, besides, the Medical Examiner's Office was closed, so there was no place to take bodies, Santangelo says.

Tailpipe feels plenty protected and served by BSO as long as the sun is shining. If some wind and rain pops up? All bets are off.

Business Grind



Tailpipe got the e-mail a few weeks ago. Michael Curran, an Irishman living in Merida, Mexico, set up a website (www.espressoitalia.org) claiming that Boynton Beach company Espresso Italia was a...

"Fraud!, Fraud!, Fraud!, Fraud!, Fraud!, Fraud!, Fraud!"

Espresso Italia sells coffee distributorships that include ten to 12 self-contained espresso machines and exclusive market rights for roughly $20,000. The distributors then place the machines in hotel lobbies and other high-traffic areas where they can reap the profits. Currently, the company has about 1,500 distributors. In 2002, it made $2.2 million in sales and turned a profit of roughly $500,000, according to court records.

Last September, Curran paid the initial $20,000 and became the company's first distributor in Mexico. "They said I could make a lot of money," Curran says. He never made a peso.

The South Florida company reneged on its agreement to pay the $4,000 Mexican import taxes, Curran claims, and also failed to provide a certificate of origin for the coffee. Finally, the Mexican government sent back the coffeemakers. After Curran asked for a refund, he recalls being told by a company official: "I know other people that have invested more money, and they lost everything."

Sour grapes over a failed business opportunity? Maybe. But Espresso Italia has been in trouble in the past.

The Federal Trade Commission in 2002 filed a lawsuit alleging that the company violated U.S. franchise rules by not providing documentary support for the enormous profits it advertised. Espresso Italia claimed that 40 of the machines generated more than $100,000 per year, according to the government complaint. The FTC eventually settled the suit after Espresso Italia agreed to be nice and play by the rules. Six months later, the State of Washington issued a cease-and-desist order after finding that the firm violated that state's laws by not providing financial information to potential distributors.

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