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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Miami-Dade Police Probe Overbilling Scheme

Miami-Dade Police Probe Overbilling Scheme
The Miami Herald by David Ovalle - April 6, 2012

Miami-Dade police detectives are investigating allegations that a New York tech company engaged in a widespread scheme to overbill taxpayers, according to court documents.
Two county employees with Miami-Dade’s Internal Services Department have resigned in connection with the corruption probe into Data Industries Inc., which has earned $16 million in taxpayer-funded contracts since 2001. Details of the investigation became public through a search warrant, filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, that was issued so that detectives could examine items seized last fall from the desks of the two employees at County Hall suspected of being in on the scam. The county late last year relieved the employees, Jesus “Jay” Pons and Bruno Diaz, of duty because of the investigation. According to a county spokeswoman, both has since resigned from Internal Services, which was known as General Services Administration until a recent reorganization. Pons, a board member at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, was a high-level GSA manager overseeing the Data Industries contract. Pons, who says he is the nephew of the late Cuban actress Maria Antonleta Pons, began working with Miami-Dade in 1993, after stints as a bank executive, according to his Arsht Center bio. His salary in 2008 was $121,484. Diaz, who earned $82,111 in 2008, was a senior systems analyst in the agency. Also under investigation is Paul Raifaizen, the co-founder of Data Industries. No charges have been filed in the ongoing probe. None of the men could be reached for comment. According to the search warrant, the crimes being investigated are grand theft, official misconduct and unlawful compensation or reward for an official. Miami-Dade police and the office of Mayor Carlos Gimenez said they could not comment because of the ongoing investigation. The probe began when a subcontractor, Anthony Mei, of Monodnock Consulting, agreed to talk to police about his suspicions. Mei was a project manager hired by Data Industries, which was contracted in 2006 to provide information technology services for GSA, one of the larger county departments, which handles billing, manages buildings and properties and coordinates real estate purchases. Mei told investigators he became suspicious of Pons and Diaz, whom he believed to be brothers-in-law because their wives shared the same surnames. He consulted with private detective Joe Carrillo, who later notified county authorities. Mei also took his concerns to superiors, including Internal Services assistant director Wendy Norris, and a police probe was launched. Among Mei’s allegations to Miami-Dade police, according to the warrant:
• For his work, Mei billed Data Industries $125 an hour. The company turned around and billed the county between $230 to $275 an hour, markups he felt were “inappropriate.”
• The company paid a web designer $30 an hour, but billed taxpayers $175 an hour for her services. Another woman earned $35,000 annually through Data Industries, which billed $350,000 a year for her work, he told police.
• Data Industries regularly billed for overtime – and received payments – even though the contract overseen by Pons forbid the practice.
• Mei lived in a downtown Miami high-rise apartment paid for through the contract. When he moved, he claimed, Diaz took the furniture “to outfit Bruno Diaz’s son’s college dormitory.”
• Pons arranged the hire of a worker named “Anapum” from India to write reports and billed the county for work supposedly done before the man was hired.
• The company regularly billed for employee hours that were never actually worked, including $400 an hour for time never worked by Raifaizen.
------ One former Data Industries employee, Zsuzsanna Mate, confirmed to investigators that Raifaizen asked her to submit invoices for hours that she did not work after she had left the company. She turned over her computer and documents to Miami-Dade police.

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