MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — A Miami jury has found former Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina and his wife Raiza not guilty on charges of tax evasion and filing fraudulent tax returns.
Outside the federal courthouse,, they said they always believed they would be acquitted of charges they failed to disclose about $2 million in income on tax returns over a 5-year period.
Julio Robaina told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, “I told all of you from the beginning that we were going to
vindicate our name and that the truth would come out. Now we can go forth in peace and tranquility and help this community. We will continue to take steps to help this community and work hard. Our name has been vindicated.”
Robaina said, “I want to thank the community for their support. I want to thank jurors for listening. I want to thank the Judge and his entire staff here for a fair and just trial. I want to thank our legal team and David Garvin for believing in us and their ability to bring out the truth and the not guilty verdict.”
Raiza Robaina told D’Oench, “There’s nothing else to say except that the truth is all there is. There’s nothing else that I can say except the truth.”
Julio and Raiza Robaina were accused of hiding hundreds of thousands of dollars in questionable compensation — including a Ferrari sports car worth $176,000 — and money from high-interest personal loans to friends and associates, including convicted Ponzi schemer Luis Felipe Perez. The interest rate topped out at 36 percent annually.
Prosecutors claimed they used three shell companies that did almost no business to claim thousands of dollars in tax deductions that were actually their own personal and political expenses — including cuff links and cigar boxes the mayor doled out as gifts and printing of his Christmas cards.
“This is an absolutely shady enterprise,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Davis told jurors in closing arguments. “It was not an accident. It was not a mistake. It was done willfully.”
Julio Robaina, 49, served as Hialeah mayor from 2005 to 2011, and at one point was president of the Florida League of Cities before an unsuccessful run for Miami-Dade County mayor in 2011. He did not testify in his own defense, but Raiza Robaina blamed many of the problems on mistakes made by the couple’s accountant. She insisted they did not knowingly submit false or fraudulent tax returns.
Their attorney, David Garvin, laid blame on the accounting mistakes and also with Perez, the Ponzi schemer who is serving a 10-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to running a $40 million fraud scheme. Garvin said Perez, in an effort to get a lighter sentence, pointed government investigators at Robaina and his wife.
Garvin said the tax disputes should have been handled through an IRS audit rather than criminal charges.
Federal prosecutors are0 for 4 against former Hialeah Mayors. They brought charges three times against former Mayor Raul Martinez. He was acquitted all three times.
Federal prosecutors had called Robaina a tax cheat who ran high-interest personal loans under the table.
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