FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Former Broward Teachers Union president Pat Santeramo appeared before a judge Wednesday morning during a discussion on his bond.
Santeramo, 64, faces a total of 20 charges including: one count of racketeering, six counts of grand theft, five counts of campaign contributions violations, and several others.
During the hearing, known as a Nebbia hearing, Santeramo was informed that any money or collateral he put up for his bond had to be from a legitimate source. Santeramo and any co-signers of his bond must disclose the source of money used to pay the bail premium before he can be released. Santeramo’s bond amount has been set $480,000.
“I’ve reviewed each of the allegations and I’m of the opinion that there are enough facts in the warrant to arrest to support a find of probable cause for each of the allegations,” said Judge Michael Orlando.
When Santeramo’s attorney Ben Kuehne asked that the bond amount be reduced to $250,000, the judge said the bond amount would remain the same. Kuehne then told the judge that Santeramo was putting up his two homes as collateral so he could pay the bond premium.
“He intends to utilize those legitimately obtained assets to satisfy all bond conditions,” said Kuehne.
SSanteramo resigned last year as the Broward State Attorney’s Office and the Florida Elections Commission were investigating illegal campaign contributions made with union money.
According to the Broward State Attorney’s Office, after Santeramo’s election as president of the BTU in November 2001; Santeramo “began using the BTU as his artifice to organize his scheme to defraud the union and its members.”
“Santeramo, while using his unilateral control of the union’s business to include contracting, vendor approval, payment authorization and distribution of union assets, manipulated the union’s business, accounting and financial operations for his own benefit,” the arrest affidavit said.
Santeramo has denied any wrongdoing.
He issued a statement saying, “Having spent a lifetime of dedication to the public school students and teachers of Broward County, I’m disappointed by the criminal charges. At no time have I acted dishonestly or in violation of my sacred trust to the teachers of Broward County. Unfortunately in today’s troubling political times, the righteous cause of organized labor is under assault.”
Prosecutors say that’s a distortion of the facts.
According to the SAO, from 2001 to 2012, Santeramo “was able to systematically divert approximately $165,500 in union funds to himself through an invoice-kickback scheme with a construction company.”
The SAO said in one of the 43 instances of racketeering discovered by their investigation; Santeramo had the construction company bill the union $89,295 for repairing the building’s elevators.
The company then gave $20,000 of the union’s payment back to Santeramo in cash, according to the SAO.
According to the SAO, Santeramo also improperly collected more than $121, 848 in false sick and vacation time.
A BTU audit found that under Santeramo’s leadership, the union spent nearly $4 million in reserve fund over multiple years on political campaigns, rallies, and other areas. Additionally, the BTU didn’t pass along increases in state and national union dues to members.
- Click here to read more on the audit from CBS4′s Carey Codd
The state attorney’s office also said Santeramo made a series of illegal campaign contributions by having 25 people, including union members, make donations to a variety of candidate and then would reimburse the people form union funds for their contribution.
Santeramo’s lawyer, Benedict Kuehne, said Santeramo is not guilty of the charges and that the charges are part of a bigger battle against labor.
Based on the charges, Santeramo faces up to life in prison for the crimes if he is convicted.