You'd think that after Demetrio Perez Jr. pleaded guilty in 2002 to defrauding a trio of frail elderly tenants in his low-income Little Havana apartments, Miami-Dade politicians would steer clear of the felonious former school board member. But then they couldn't grease up to Perez and his deep pockets whenever an election rolls around.
How else can you explain Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro and seven of his colleagues voting unanimously and without discussion last week to issue $110 million in municipal bonds to help Perez's private charter school business?
Perez's scheme to scam the little old ladies in his low-income apartments wasn't his only scandal. Shortly after he pleaded guilty, a Miami Herald investigation alleged he also pocketed more than $1 million in rent payments from public school funds that were meant to benefit a program for at-risk children.
Perez seems to have a similar racket going on with his Lincoln-Martí charter school in Hialeah. In 2010, the Herald reported that the school paid his real estate company $744,000 in rent -- roughly 25 percent of the school's entire $3 million budget.
So why are commissioners still supporting this guy? Well, in part because his school's treasure trove lets him shower campaign donations. Perez's biggest beneficiary was -- surprise! -- Barreiro, who received $10,000 in bundled contributions before the August primaries...
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