FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Former Broward Teachers Union president Pat Santeramo has been approved for bond. The decision coming down late Thursday night from a Broward County judge.
Santeramo is expected to be released from jail late Thursday night.READ MORE: Be Prepared: Florida's Hurricane Sales Tax Holiday Begins Saturday
Santeramo’s bond was set Wednesday at $480,000 but he was not allowed to be released from jail until his attorney Ben Kuehne showed that any money or collateral put up for the bond premium came for a legitimate source.
The wife of the former BTU head testified on his behalf on the state of their finances during the Nebbia hearing Thursday.
“We’ve used our combined income which averaged over 250-thousand dollars every year, to save money pay down our debts and saved very aggressively,” said Santeramo’s wife Lynn Webb.
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.
According to the Broward State Attorney’s Office, after his 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.READ MORE: Condo Reform Measure Introduced During Florida Special Session On Property Insurance
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.MORE NEWS: Broward Dive Rescue Teams Come Together To Investigate, Recover Sunken Vehicles From Deerfield Beach Lake
Based on the charges, Santeramo faces up to life in prison for the crimes if he is convicted.