MIAMI-DADE OFFICE OF THE STATE ATTORNEY, 11th JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
+ home
+about SAO
+services
+employment
+publications
+contact us
+¿quienes somos?

The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office is dedicated to providing accurate information to the public and media. If you are a member of the working media and would like an interview with the State Attorney, or you need information on a case, would like to talk to a specific assistant state attorney or are looking for an expert in a certain area of prosecution, please contact our public information officers Ed Griffith, Terry Chavez or Lissette Valdes-Valle.

ED GRIFFITH Public Information Officer PHONE: 305-547-0535

LISSETTE VALDES-VALLE Hispanic Media Relations Public Information Officer PHONE: 305-547-0535

TERRY CHAVEZ Hispanic Media Relations Public Information Officer PHONE: 305-547-0535

Below you'll find recent news releases issued by this office.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Lawyers for Children America to Honor State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle with the John Edward Smith Award


Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle has been selected to receive the John Edward Smith Award by the benevolent organization Lawyers for Children America in recognition of her advocacy on behalf of vulnerable children including those who have been victims of Human Trafficking. 

Lawyers for Children America (LFCA) is a leading non-profit child advocacy organization protecting the rights of children who are victims of abuse, abandonment and neglect, by providing quality pro bono legal representation and collaborating for systematic change to improve the lives of children.

“My desire to help make this community better is my motivator to serve as Dade’s State Attorney”, commented State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. “Finding ways to improve our community and make it a safer place to live and raise our families has been one of the challenges I have readily accepted. I am truly honored to have been chosen by such a group of true humanitarians to receive this recognition.”

In June 1995, at a ceremony hosted by then Attorney General Janet Reno in the Great Hall of the Department of Justice, LFCA was launched as a national initiative. Since 2002, LFCA has leveraged over $3 million in pro bono legal time and in-kind contributions through its network of law firms, volunteers and participating organizations. Since its inception, the organization has provided pro bono advocacy services to over 1,300 children.

Each year, LFCA honors individual lawyers and law firms for their commitment and dedication to the organization.

Lawyers for Children America will present the John Edward Smith Award to State Attorney Fernandez Rundle during the organization’s annual awards luncheon which will be held on Friday, December 5, 2014 at Noon, at the InterContinental Hotel in downtown Miami. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

STATE ATTORNEY KATHERINE FERNANDEZ RUNDLE HEADS TO ATLANTA FOR "PROSECUTORS AGAINST GUN VIOLENCE" NATIONAL SUMMIT


Miami – October 21, 2014

Miami Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle is leading two important panel discussions at the “Prosecutors Against Gun Violence" national meeting today in Atlanta.

The group was formed to address the issue of gun violence in the United States as concerns mount over shootings and mass killings. Members include attorneys from several major metropolitan jurisdictions including Miami, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston and Milwaukee. The non-partisan coalition will focus on issues such as reducing gang violence, weapons trafficking, the connection between domestic violence and gun violence, and the link between mental illness and gun violence.

State Attorney Fernandez Rundle will head two panels, one focused on among other things, the trafficking of firearms and the enhancements that punish individuals for committing crimes while using a firearm. The second panel will focus on interventions in preventing mass shooting by persons who have mental health issues at which she will lead the discussion and highlight Miami Dade’s successful police Crisis Intervention Training (CIT).

“Gun violence plagues every jurisdiction in America,” said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. This Summit is an effort to take ideas that have worked in different parts of the country and by sharing experiences and techniques, spread that success around. In this way, we can make a real difference.”

Sex Traffickers Charged with RICO For Luring Hungarian Men to Miami


Miami – October 3, 2014 

The Miami-Dade State Attorney Office and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) announce the arrest of Three Hungarian nationals Gabor Acs, Viktor Berki and Andras Janos Vass as principles in a criminal enterprise which lured young gay Hungarian men to the United States with the promise of quick, easy and legal cash.  Instead, the targeted young men, ages 20-22, found themselves prostituting and performing sex acts in front of a webcam to enrich Acs, Berki, and Vass.

“The overall attractiveness of our South Florida area is equally attractive to sex traffickers,” stated State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.  “These individuals may have come from a different country to exploit the vulnerable but they used the same basic trafficker tools of fear and intimidation to make their profits.  HSI’s law enforcement partnership with Dade prosecutors should send all traffickers a loud and clear message that we will not tolerate their actions here.”

“This case serves as a reminder that sex trafficking is not limited to any particular race, gender, age or sexual orientation,” said Alysa D. Erichs, special agent in charge of HSI Miami. “I commend the State Attorney’s Office for their support of HSI’s aggressive campaign to stop human trafficking happening right here in our community.”

Homeland Security Investigations began investigating this situation on October 26, 2013, when the HSI Tip Line received information that three males in Miami Beach were possible victims of human trafficking.  Originally landing in New York City and engaging in prostitution there, the three Hungarian nationals were relocated to Miami Beach by Acs, Berki, and Vass.  While on Miami Beach, these young men prostituted themselves and performed for as many as 18-20 hours a day.  All payments went to Acs, Berki and Vass. 

Once interviewed, the victims revealed that their traffickers used various techniques to keep them enslaved, including isolating them from others, withholding their travel and identification documents, and using financial manipulation to keep them in constant debt.  Specifically, the victims indicated that they were rarely allowed to leave their shared apartment and they were told it was because  they could not speak English and were not familiar with the area.  Acs, Berki and Vass also took the victims’ identification documents and locked them in a safe.  All communication with family members in Hungary was closely monitored by Acs and Berki.  The three men indicated that they had been threatened, psychologically intimidated and had experienced levels of violence at the hands of Acs, Berki, and Vass. All three indicated fear for the safety of their families in Hungary since Berki claimed to have been a police officer in Hungary and maintained connections there.  Additionally, Acs, Berki, and Vass had their family information readily available from the documents needed to come to America

31 year old GABOR ACS, 28 year old VIKTOR BERKI and 24 year old ANDRAS JANOS VASS aka JANOS ANDRAS VASS are each being charged with:

RICO/ Racketeering                                                           1st Degree Felony
Racketeering Conspiracy                                                1st Degree Felony
Human Trafficking of an Adult (3 counts)                   1st Degree Felony
Deriving Support from Prostitution                               3rd Degree Felony

2 charged with in 2013 Homestead Absentee Ballot Tampering Investigation



Miami - October 9, 2014

The Miami-Dade State Attorney Office and the Miami-Dade Police Department  announce the arrest of James Brady and Samuel Jean for their roles in tampering with the absentee ballots of Ms. Robkevia Scott, Ms. Betty Brockington, Taquesha Robinson  and Mr. Willie James Snead during the November 2013 City of Homestead Mayoral and City Council Elections.

“Criminal activities which aim to undermine our voting process should offend every citizen of Dade County”, commented State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.  “The actions of my prosecutors and the Miami-Dade Police Department to effectively charge those who try to steal any citizen’s vote show our deep commitment to clean and honest elections. This lengthy investigation aimed to bring all the facts and all of the evidence into the light of day for a sound prosecution.”

An investigation was initiated by the Miami-Dade Police Public Corruption Bureau/ Public Corruption Unit after Ms. Robkevia Scott, a resident of the City of Homestead, filed a complaint with the Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics.  In that complaint she alleged that James Brady and Samuel Jean, workers/volunteers for Homestead Mayoral Campaign Candidate Mark Bell, fraudulently deprived Ms. Scott and three of her relatives of their right to vote for the candidates of their choice. 

A series of conversations started on October 14, 2013 with Mark Bell campaign worker/volunteer Samuel Jean inquiring about the status of their four (4) absent ballots and making suggestions as to which candidates to support.  On  October 16, 2013, Mr. Jean and  Mark Bell campaign worker/volunteer Mr. James Brady returned to the Homestead residence,  met with all four Homestead residents and offered to assist them in filling out their absentee ballots.  According to Betty Brockington Mr. Jean and Mr. Brady filled out the absentee ballots for the family, after getting their input as to which candidates each person wanted to vote for and then attempted to have the ballot envelopes signed. Three of four family members did sign the ballots without reviewing the contents.  22-year-old Robkevia Scott, refused to sign the absentee ballot without reviewing the actual cast votes and took her vote back.

Only then did Ms. Scott notice that Mr. Jean and Mr. James Brady had chosen the candidates the family had specifically said it opposed in the Nov. 5 election: mayoral
candidate Mark Bell and council candidate Norman Hodge Jr.  The men left with the 3 ballots and Ms. Scott then contacted the authorities.  Upon getting a search warrant for the ballots, it was learned that the 3 ballots had been submitted and the same votes (for Mark Bell and Norman Hodge Jr.)  had been indicated.  Samuel Jean and James Brady denied filling out the absentee ballots but fingerprint evidence contradicted those claims.

With the recent return of Samuel Jean from Haiti, both Samuel Jean and James Brady are presently being charged with:

 Absentee Ballot Voting Violations - 3rd Degree Felony

 Violation of Section 12-14 (b) of the Code of MIami-Dade County (Absentee Ballots       Ordinance - 2nd Degree Misdemeanor


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Email Computer Scammers Pretend a SAO Connection - Want Cash and Financial Information


Miami (July 21, 2014)  State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle wanted to warn the public about a recent computer scam which tries to scare email recipients into sending $750 to a website in order to pay off an “alleged” debt.  Additionally, the computer thieves hope to acquire valid credit card information which they would use to further enrich themselves. 

“I’m outraged that thieves would hope to use the prosecutor’s office as a tool to get cash from terrified victims,” said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. “We have already spoken to victims who almost fell for this scheme.  Only luck and good judgment saved them.”

The State Attorney’s Office (SAO) never communicates important information via email and would never be involved in debt collections.  Additional advice is to never electronically respond to situations that demand immediate action under threat of punishment.  If you have a concern about any debt collection, ask those contacting you to provide the documentation that substantiates the existence of the debt. 
Always be cautious with your email communications and simply do not open unsolicited e-mails from unfamiliar senders.  It appears that the false SAO emails may have originated in either Eastern Europe or in India, making it unlikely that U.S. law enforcement will be able arrest the scammers or get a return of lost monies.  Therefore, it is extremely important that individuals avoid being victimized at all costs

State Attorney Appointed to Statewide Council on Human Trafficking


Miami (July 11, 2014) State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle has been appointed to Florida’s Statewide Council On Human Trafficking by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.  The recently created Statewide Council will have an important role in developing and coordinating Florida’s efforts to fight sex trafficking and will help foster new approaches intended to help the victims of sex trafficking heal and reintegrate back into the community.

“Florida’s human trafficking victims would be invisible, if not for the commitment of a broad spectrum of advocacy groups and our law enforcement community. Raising awareness of the problem is the first step toward eliminating this modern sexual slavery. I am proud that our effort in Miami to create an innovative trauma informed prosecution model for Human Trafficking cases may become a model for the state and the country. I would like to thank the Attorney General for appointing me to this important statewide role on the Human Trafficking Council,” said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office Human Trafficking Unit has been a prosecutorial leader in this area of the law.  The Human Trafficking Unit has filed 236 criminal cases and is involved in over 106 open investigations. The permanent full-time dedicated staff that comprises this unit includes 2 prosecutors; a full-time investigator and a team of officers from various departments in our community; two  victim witness counselors; a paralegal and support staff who all working together to save and care for victims.

The recently launched “Stop the Sale of Our Children for Sex” awareness and hotline campaign uses billboards, bus shelters and other materials to inform the community on how to spot human trafficking and to report to our Human Trafficking Hotline: 305-350-5567.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

2014 Florida Legislature Passes Human Trafficking Legislation



Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle applauds the actions of the 2014 Florida Legislature for passing the additional Human Trafficking legislation she had proposed during her interactions with members of the Florida House and the Florida Senate.  “I am very proud of how responsive our Florida Legislature has been to the needs of Human Trafficking victims,” said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.  “They have seen the need to come down hard on those who would sell the childhood of our victims while recognizing the special steps it may require to rebuild the future of these victims.” Several of the criminal cases filed by my Human Trafficking Task Force contained conduct that so shocked our legislators (such as the “branding” via tattooing of young girls and the use of a 13 year old girl at a “strip club”) that specific prohibitions and requirements were created.

Among the accomplishments of the new legislation will be the prohibition on the employment of minors in adult theaters and “strip clubs”; the requirement that adult theaters and “strip clubs” verify the ages of employees and their independent contractors and maintain documentation of that proof; a revision of some of the penalties for various human trafficking offenses which can make a convicted repeat offender eligible for as much as a life sentence.  The legislation also provides sentence enhancements for the “branding” via tattooing of Human Trafficking victims while adding privacy protections to the victims of Human Trafficking by exempting information that reveals their identity of a victim similar to the protections given to the victims of sexual assaults.  Additionally, the Legislature provided Human Trafficking victims with access to Victims Crimes Compensation funds which also provide these victims a vehicle for possible relocation assistance. 

ILLEGAL SLAUGHTERHOUSE YIELDS ARREST


The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and the Miami-Dade Police Department have undertaken an action that has led to the arrest of Raul Fernandez a/k/a “Freaky”, the prime operator of an illegal slaughterhouse located in unincorporated Miami-Dade County.

 The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and the Miami-Dade Police Department became aware of a site operating within Miami-Dade County that was illegally slaughtering animals, and was doing so in a cruel and painful manner. Undercover videos were taken on December 24, 2013 and on December 30, 2013. Witnesses to these incidents saw the shooting, stabbing, gutting while alive of animals, beating, sledge-hammering to the head, dragging by mouth, and other cruel behavior to which the animals were subjected. On video surveillance, a pig can be seen being dragged, hook-mouthed through the jaw, at distances of approximately 150 feet, all while the animal remained alive.  Raul Fernandez is charged with 7 counts of Animal Cruelty which are third degree felonies.  The investigation of this case continues.


“When the Florida Legislature created the animal cruelty statute, they intended to end such brutal activities as were occurring at this illegal slaughterhouse,” commented Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.  “No legitimate slaughterhouse operator or any self-respecting farmer would treat his livestock in such a ghastly manner.”

23 Charged in Round-Up of Retail Theft Organization


23 individuals have been charged as a result of a  joint investigation by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and the Miami-Dade County Police Department and additional police agencies which included police activity as far north as the Orlando area.  Today, police were arresting all the members of this organized crime enterprise, from the shoplifting thieves through the various levels of middleman fences to the final retailer fences who sold the stolen goods to the unsuspecting public. This organization is estimated to have stolen some $15 million of merchandise.

A press conference detailing the arrests will be held at 2:00 p.m. In Room 418-S of the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.  Also participating in today’s press conference will be the Miami-Dade County Police Department, Sheriff Jerry Demings of Orange County, representatives of the City Of  Doral Police Department, representatives of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, representatives of Homeland Security Investigations, representatives of Walgreens Pharmacy, representatives of CVS Pharmacy, representatives of Publix Supermarkets.  The Office of the State Attorney is in the E. R. Graham building located at 1350 NW 12th Avenue, Miami.   Please arrive early enough to obtain security clearance through the building’s security review process.

Fake Attorney Charged


The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announce the charging of Imer Armando Perez with 3 counts of Practicing Law Without a License and with Grand Theft 2nd Degree and Grand Theft 3rd Degree resulting from his actions in holding himself out as an attorney and taking cash for supposed legal activities.

In one incident, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office received, and forwarded to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), a retainer agreement between Imer Armando Perez and the family of convicted felon Scotty Posada.  Perez collected a total of $70,000 from Posada’s mother to gain the “guaranteed” release of Posada from state prison prior to the expiration of his 27 year sentence.  In reality, there are no legal actions pending before any court that would allow/facilitate such a release.

In another incident, Imer Armando Perez, holding himself out to be an attorney, represented an individual in traffic court for a $500 fee.  In a third incident, Perez approached an individual and offered his legal services as an attorney for a non-refundable $20,000 fee.

“It is always a shameful act when swindlers walk the halls of our courthouse taking advantage of individuals in need,” commented Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.  “Guaranteeing a legal result, irrelevant of the existing evidence, is the surest sign that some sort of trickery is at play.  Don’t be a victim of a scam. If you have any concerns about your legal representation, you can always check a lawyer’s status with the Florida Bar.”

There appear to be indications that Imer Armando Perez may be a fugitive. If anyone knows the specific whereabouts of Imer Armando Perez or if others victimized by Perez wish to come forward, they may contact FDLE Special Agent Raul E. Perez at 786-336-1167

Woman Charged with 53 Counts of Animal Cruelty


“Gigi’s Rescue” Kept Animals in Squalid Warehouse


Miami (April 17, 2014) – A joint investigation undertaken by the Hialeah Police Department and the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office has led to the charging of Gisela Tacao with 53 Counts of Animal Cruelty, each count a 3rd degree felony crime.  Ms. Tacao had been operating her pet rescue operation, Gigi’s Rescue from a warehouse located at 269 West 24th Street in Hialeah since December 2010, indirectly receiving many dogs from the Miami-Dade Animal Services after other rescue groups provided the animals to Gigi’s Rescue.  Complaints based on the conditions at this site (specifically dealing with the visible presence of feces and urine throughout the building and the resulting stench that permeated the area) and based on the poor physical condition of the animals housed at the site (numbering anywhere between 100-200 animals), led to the eventual removal of the animals. 53 animals were given a physical examination which resulted in the 53 criminal charges.

Bond has been set at $5,000 per count resulting in a total Bond amount of $265,000.

“This case is a perfect example of the old adage that the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” commented Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.  “These animals were living in the worst of circumstances, sadly waiting to be rescued from their supposed rescuer. Such neglect is not a mistake, it is a crime.”

SEARCH WARRANT LEADS TO ARREST OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING SUSPECT


Miami – April 22, 2014 

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced that today, police officers working as a part of  the State Attorney’s Office Human Trafficking Unit, together with officers from the City of Miami Police Department SWAT Team, North Miami Police Department, Miami-Dade County School Board Police Department,  Miami-Dade Police Department and the FBI  served a search warrant at 2100 Sans Souci Blvd, Apartment A1509, North Miami, Florida in connection with a Human Trafficking investigation involving attempts to lure into prostitution two high school girls.  Due to concerns about possible firearms at the premises, the City of Miami Police Department SWAT Team became involved.  Ultimately, David Llama Lopez (DOB 05/13/1967) peacefully surrendered and will most likely be charged with a variety of crimes:

·   Human Trafficking (commercial sexual exploitation of a minor under 18 years of age in violation of Florida Statute 787.06(3)(g)
·         
     Procuring person under 18 years of age for prostitution in violation of Florida Statue 796.03,
·         
      Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor in violation of Florida Statue 827.04
·        
      and Interference with Child Custody in violation of Florida Statute 787.03

At this moment in time, the charging process is still ongoing.

“As a direct result of creating our Human Trafficking Unit, our police agencies are now fully mobilized to attack the problem of human trafficking, something that existed just below the radar for far too long,” commented Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.  “Those who think they can make a living by selling our children to the highest bidders had better think again.  Our community is united with our police departments to end this awful, awful trade.” 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

23 Charged in Round-Up of Retail Theft Organization


23 individuals have been charged as a result of a  joint investigation by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and the Miami-Dade County Police Department and additional police agencies which included police activity as far north as the Orlando area.  Today, police were arresting all the members of this organized crime enterprise, from the shoplifting thieves through the various levels of middleman fences to the final retailer fences who sold the stolen goods to the unsuspecting public. This organization is estimated to have stolen some $15 million of merchandise.


Monday, January 13, 2014

3 Arrested for Trafficking 13 Year Old Girl


The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office Human Trafficking Task Force, in conjunction with officers from the City of Miami Police Department and City of Miami Beach Police, have arrested 3 local adults in the forced prostitution and commercial exploitation of a 13 year old runaway girl.
Arrested were:  Vilbert Jean (DOB 2/15/1977), Marlene San Vincente (DOB 2/25/1991) and DeWayne Ward (DOB 2/22/1995).

 Each is charged with:
1 Count      Human Trafficking
1 Count      Delivering a Controlled Substance to a Person Under 18
1 Count      Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor
1 Count      Lewd & Lascivious Conduct on a person less than 16.

As outlined in the arrest material, a 13 year old girl who had run away from home on 12/10/2013 was located by her mother on 1/6/2014 in the area of North Miami Avenue and NE 55 Street.  The 13 year old was forced to prostitute herself for the benefit of her exploiters and later forced to dance as an exotic nude dancer after she refused to continue to engage in prostitution.  Her earnings as a nude dancer were surrendered to her exploiters.  Defendant San Vincente supervised and tutored the 13 years old on how to work the nude club scene and how to maximize her tip earnings for the benefit of the 3 exploiters.

“This sad case shows how quickly human traffickers locate their young prey and turn them from children into cash producing machines,” commented Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.  “Sadly, to human traffickers, destroying a helpless child’s life is unimportant when compared to the consistent flow of cash into their pockets.  The people of this community will not tolerate this.  With the help of my Human Trafficking Task Force and my specialized Human Trafficking prosecutors, we will end this hideous practice.”