To Shelton and McCoy, it was a step in the right direction. "The county has been dealing with King Metal easy," Shelton says. "We don't want a slap on the wrist for them. We want action."
With thin-framed glasses and strands of gray hair ringing his balding head, Pedro Amador does not cut an imposing figure. Driving out of the parking lot of his Brownsville metal-parts manufacturing business in his shiny black Dodge Ram recently, he rolled down a window to speak with a New Times reporter. He was "not interested" in answering questions about King Metal or the county's investigation.
Five minutes later, a site supervisor led the reporter to Amador's office, where a written list of questions was dropped off. As the reporter walked away, the business owner shouted, "If you think you're such a big man, turn around and face me!" Fearing for his safety, the reporter exited. Amador hasn't responded to the missive.
But Amador's past is described in a decade's worth of public records, mostly arrest reports and lawsuits. They paint a picture of a businessman who has regularly run afoul of the law, regulatory agencies, the county, and even his own employees.
In the past decade, he and his companies have been sued ten times by various organizations and people. He has also been arrested twice in that span, including in 2010 for operating his newest business, King Metal, without a license or registration. During those last ten years, Amador and his brother Jorge, the plant's co-owner, have also been involved in a money-laundering case, three personal injury and wages lawsuits, and a suit filed by the county over a previous environmental issue.
One of the lawsuits, in which a crane allegedly injured a man's leg at King Metal, was settled for an undisclosed amount. Two other suits were also settled, and three more were dismissed. Pending is a claim by 11 former employees that King Metal failed to pay overtime wages, as well as a suit filed by a finance company against the plant over a contract debt. Finally, two more lawsuits resulted in judgments against Amador, including a $200,000 lien in 2010.
The county case came in 2008, when one of Amador's companies, E.M.R. Export, continued to operate despite an order from DERM to close.
"He was deeply engaged in trying to prevent us from shutting him down," Assistant County Attorney Tom Robertson says. "I've worked for Miami-Dade County for 27 years, and it's very unusual to see someone fight charges like that."
Originally a resident of Hialeah, the 48-year-old Amador has built his fortune on scrap metal and gears. He now lives in Davie, in a $600,000 house purchased in January 2011. The home sits in a bucolic gated community named Riverstone, with private security. No entrance is allowed without an appointment. It's 20 miles and several tax brackets away from the homes surrounding King Metal.
Amador has been in the metal and manufacturing business for 20 years. He and Jorge, age 42, opened J.C. Industrial Manufacturing Corporation in 1992 to fabricate industrial equipment. The Florida Department of Transportation and the Miami Beach Department of Public Works hired that firm in the late '90s to maintain and repair drawbridges. But that deal wasn't on the up-and-up, court records show. Prosecutors later alleged that Pedro and Jorge were illegally paying city, county, and state employees under the table to get those repair contracts sent their way. Then the brothers allegedly overcharged for their work and pocketed the difference.
Over the course of five years, prosecutors claimed, the Amadors raked in nearly $1 million in bogus charges. But an internal investigation in 2003 by the Florida Department of Transportation unraveled the scheme, and in 2005 the Amadors, along with four co-conspirators, were arrested and charged with fraud, racketeering, money laundering, and a host of other crimes.
Pedro pleaded guilty to fraud and received ten years' probation; Jorge pleaded no contest to falsifying records and got a year of probation. Though they were fined more than $300,000, the brothers kept their companies running. They were even allowed to bid on and receive county contracts.
In April 2008, the Amadors decided to expand their operations to include metal recycling. That August, regulators noticed the pair's newest company, E.M.R. Export, was engaging in metal recycling without proper permits, either from the county's Department of Planning and Zoning or from DERM, according to court records. When the county told Pedro to cease operation until he received the necessary go-aheads, he refused. So in December 2008, the county sued him to get the company shut down — at least temporarily.