Apathy. Can you hear it? The silence that hovers from the beaches to the swamps. The lethargy that keeps people from standing up and fighting back. The malaise that makes South Florida so seedy, so corrupt, so chock-full of criminals who want nothing more from you than everything you own.
With all of its scandals, scams, sleazebags, and world-class debauchery, this beautiful, infected tip of the country has more bad guys per square mile than anywhere else in America. That's because, by and large, people in South Florida just don't give a shit. We see crime. We see corruption. We see avarice and evil done to people we don't know, and we wonder what's for dinner. We become ostriches.
But that won't solve our many, many problems. We need a little righteous indignation. So to that end, we've assembled our annual Dirty Dozen list, a collection of local individuals so bad that you fear for the fate of humanity. If these men and women don't get your ire up, nothing will.
Of course, in a place like South Florida, it takes an incredibly wicked résumé to make the cut. After all, this is the home of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Dexter. This year, we have quite a maddening lineup: In addition to the usual sleazy politicians, it includes a hypocritical homophobe caught in the act, a baseball executive caught lying, a talk-show host whose mouth is bigger than her brain, and a man whose girlfriends keep turning up dead.
For your convenience, we've rated the bad guys from one to ten (with ten being the worst) on our special Dirt Meter, distinguishing mere scamp from pure unadulterated scoundrel.
For decades, George Alan Rekers has been a general in the culture wars and a staunch advocate against gay rights. In 1983, he and James Dobson, America's best-known homophobe, formed the Family Research Council, a D.C.-based, rabidly Christian, and vehemently antigay lobbying group that has become a standard-bearer of the nation's extreme right wing. Rekers has also served in advisory roles for Congress, the White House, and the Department of Health and Human Services, and he's testified as a state's witness in favor of Florida's ban on gay people adopting.
Which makes it even more hilarious that he was caught on a European tour with a male prostitute he met on the website rentboy.com. Rekers, who has long trumpeted his ability to "cure" young gay men of their homosexuality by preaching Christian values, initially claimed that he'd hired the young man to carry his luggage (a photo from the airport actually shows Rekers lifting the luggage) and that he didn't know the guy was a gay prostitute.
And that's funny, because the rentboy.com profile by which Rekers apparently chose the male prostitute shows pictures of a shirtless young man with delicate features, guileless eyes, and sun-kissed, hairless skin. The profile touts his "smooth, sweet, tight ass" and "perfectly built 8 inch cock (uncut)" and explains that he is "sensual," "wild," and "up for anything."
Dirt Meter: 10 (Rekers is not just a hypocrite; he's a dangerous hypocrite.)
This 38-year-old wealthy socialite had not one but two beautiful young women die in his beachfront Fort Lauderdale condo, just four months apart. Brianna Negron and Casey DiStefano were both in their early 20s. They both liked Britney Spears and Lady Gaga, small dogs and trendy nightclubs. Both had an eye for designer purses and a taste for tony restaurants. Both died under similar circumstances, with similar chemical combinations found in their bodies. And both girls dated Richard Lippner. Through his attorney, Lippner says this is all one big coincidence, but the police — and some of his acquaintances — paint a different picture.
He dated Brianna for nearly three years, fighting and making up constantly. After she died in January, he started dating Casey — an aspiring model nearly 18 years his junior. He plied both girls with expensive gifts, regular shopping sprees, trips on private planes and yachts, and all the frills of VIP living. But acquaintances from the nightlife scene say that he was known to carry cocaine and that he provided the girls with various prescription pills. Though police say that the deaths are suspicious and that Lippner is a "person of interest," no charges have been filed. So while friends and family of both young women have struggled for nearly a year to deal with their tragic losses, Lippner has been free to roam the nightclubs and VIP rooms of South Florida.
Dirt Meter: 8 (Karma, as they say, is a bitch.)
When she took office 12 years ago, Stephanie Kraft touted herself as a minivan-driving, concerned mom out to clean up the Broward School Board. When her run ended this year, she was in handcuffs, facing the possibility of more than a decade in prison. Kraft and her husband, Mitch, were arrested on a slew of felony corruption charges in October.