3 Broward politicians arrested in federal corruption probes
(MIAMI HERALD) Three separate federal probes in Broward County involving the exchange of more than $40,000 have led to the arrests Wednesday of two leading political figures and a former Miramar city official.
Broward County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion Jr., School Board member Beverly Gallagher and former Miramar Commissioner Fitzroy Salesman were arrested Wednesday on a variety of charges including bribery, fraud and money laundering.
FBI agents are interviewing other witnesses and could bring additional charges against other people.
“Our work in Broward County will continue,” Jeffrey Sloman, acting U.S. attorney, said at a noon press conference. “We are not done.”
Sloman declined to elaborate on reporters’ questions related to any continuing investigation.
Officials would not say how the investigations started, but it is apparent from the criminal complaints that Salesman, while under investigation, led undercover agents to Eggelletion.
Gov. Charlie Crist’s office was working on executive orders to suspend Eggelletion and Gallagher, said Crist spokesman Sterling Ivey.
So far, no resignation letter from either official had been received by Crist.
Crist will solicit applications and interview candidates and make interim appointments sometime in the next several weeks.
Criminal complaints outlined the probe of each public official as follows:
• Salesman, while serving as Miramar commissioner, accepted $5,840 from FBI agents posing as contractors attempting to land business with the city of Miramar. He then agreed to cooperate with the FBI in their separate investigation of Eggelletion.
According to a criminal complaint, an FBI undercover agent and a cooperating witness met with Salesman in April 2006 to get construction work. At the recorded meeting, Salesman accepted an envelope containing $1,000 from the undercover agent and then made a phone call to an individual identified by Salesman as a high ranking Miramar city official.
The complaint said Salesman asked the city official if he had any no-bid $50,000 jobs available and made an appointment with the official for that month, adding he would bring the person he thought was a contractor.
Salesman told the contractor that the city official “owes me” because he had gotten him his job and raises in the past, the complaint said. That city official arranged for the contractor to meet another official regarding the design and construction of a gazebo project that had been destroyed by Hurricane Wilma.
After further negotiations, Miramar wrote a check one year later for $34,366 as payment for the construction of the gazebo.
During that time, Salesman was suspended after a 2005 DUI arrest. He was reinstated in April 2007.
In a separate deal orchestrated by Salesman, Miramar issued another check for renovating a gym floor for $28,475 in October 2007. For that deal, Salesman got $3,000, the complaint said.
• Eggelletion was involved with two South Florida businessmen and an attorney in the Bahamas to launder $23,000 collected as part of a Ponzi scheme. The others arrested were Ron Owens and Joel Williams, both businessmen. The third defendant is Bahamian attorney Sidney Cambridge. To establish their relationship with Eggelletion, FBI agents donated $5,000 to the commissioner’s private golf foundation. The allegations against Eggelletion are not related to his public office.
This is how the money laundering scheme unfolded, according to the criminal complaint:
In July 2006, the undercover agents told Eggelletion they were interested in opening an offshore bank account on behalf of a client. Eggelletion said he had contacts with bankers in the Bahamas.
Late that year, an undercover agent and cooperating witness told Eggelletion they wanted to hide their client’s proceeds from a “nonexistent European, high-yield investment fraud scheme that was sending out `made up’ statements to clients.”
Federal authorities say Eggelletion got $23,000 in kickbacks in a money laundering operation, where he helped set up a bank account in the Bahamas to wire $900,000 derived from a purported Ponzi scheme.
Eggelletion introduced the agents to Williams and Owens to assist with opening a bank account in the Bahamas.
In March 2007, the undercover agent, Williams and Owens met in the Bahamas with attorney Cambridge.
“At that time, the defendants agreed that for every deposit that came into the bank, defendants Owens, Williams, Cambridge and Eggelletion would receive a percentage of the money laundered,” the complaint said.
The first payment of $100,000 was wired to Cambridge’s trust account at First Caribbean International Bank in Nassau from a bank account in Miami on March 23, 2007. The payoffs were to be deposited in the name of a company called Hexagon Development.
• Gallagher accepted $12,500 from FBI agents posing as builders who were trying to land a contract with the Broward County School Board. The money allegedly paid to Gallagher was in exchange for her vote in support of a school construction project.
At a November 2007 social event, Gallagher spoke with an undercover agent posing as an asset manager representing construction contractors.
She said she could help direct business to the client.
According to the complaint, Gallagher said, “They could make a lot of money together.”
In February 2008, Gallagher met with the undercover agent who said the glass company was having trouble getting prequalification for a contract. He asked if he could hire her as a consultant. She later said she could “work behind the scenes to direct work” to the company.
She helped them set up a meeting with a School Board official. The undercover agent posing as a consultant got $4,000, which he split with Gallagher.
The consultant asked her if she thought the amount was fair, to which Gallagher responded, that’s “more than fair.”
He gave Gallagher a day planner stuffed with the cash, which she placed “in a plastic bag in which she had placed leftovers from her meal,” the complaint stated.
The undercover agent met with her the following month, saying he now had a new client.
The man was going to throw a party for the construction company client to get to know people in Broward and said he would split the $3,000 with Gallagher.
He asked if that was better than a $500 campaign contribution. She said it was.
The undercover agent said the client would be willing to contribute to the campaign, but she said she already had $90,000 and “would rather `make money.’ ”