MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Former Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina has been charged with federal tax evasion and is expected to surrender in federal court Friday morning.
The investigation, first reported by CBS4 News in 2011, stems from allegations made against Robaina by Luis Felipe Perez, who plead guilty in 2010 of operating a $45 million Ponzi scheme.
Click Here to read the indictment filed against the Robainas.
Perez, known by the nickname Felipito, has been cooperating with federal prosecutors in an attempt to reduce his ten-year prison term.
The Robaina investigation centers on a series of loans Robaina and his wife made to Perez over an 18-month period starting in 2006 or 2007. The total amount of money Perez borrowed from the Robainas was $750,000.
Perez needed the money to keep his Ponzi scheme afloat.
The loans, some of which were made in the form of mortgages on Perez properties, stipulated on paper an interest rate of 18 percent. But Perez has reportedly told prosecutors that the actual interest rate was 36 percent – a usury rate that would be illegal.
Perez claims the mortgage documents and promissory notes were deliberately falsified to cover the illegal transaction. He has also claimed that the illegal portion of the payments were made in cash to Robaina.
Prosecutors were investigating whether Robaina paid taxes on those cash payments.
Perez remains in prison, but his attorney, Alvin Entin told CBS 4’s Lauren Pastrana he was pleased but not surprised by the news.
Entin said Perez helped with the case.
“Hopefully he may get some credit for his cooperation,” Entin said via phone.
Robaina’s wife, Raiza Villacis Robaina, is also accused of being part of the scheme and was also charged with tax evasion.
Late Thursday, Robaina’s attorney David Garvin issued this statement:
“Mr. and Mrs. Robaina are very disappointed by today’s news. However, they are anxious to have their day in court and looking forward to that occurring. We are all confident that they will ultimately prevail and have their good names restored.”
When asked he was surprised by the news of the indictment, former Hialeah Mayor Julio Martinez told Pastrana, “No. It wasn’t surprising because I knew it was coming. The federal government takes a long time before they take action and it was coming since 2010.”
Julio Martinez said these types of allegations damage the city’s reputation.
“Our citizenship comes with many privileges, but also with attendant duties and responsibilities,” United States Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer said in a statement Thursday. “Among those duties, each of us– regardless of station or position– is required to pay our fair share of taxes.”
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) worked alongside the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Criminal Investigation Division on the case.
“Elected officials and people in positions of trust are held to an even higher standard than the general public,” said Alysa D. Erichs, special agent in charge of HSI Miami. “Joint investigative efforts by HSI and the IRS uncovered this alleged tax fraud scheme. This highlights the effective collaboration between federal law enforcement agencies to ensure that no one operates above the law.”