@jayhweaverFormer Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina, who lost a bid for Miami-Dade County’s top political position, was charged Thursday with tax evasion for allegedly making loans at sky-high interest rates and failing to report secret cash payments, authorities said.
Robaina, 47, who was at the center of Hialeah’s “shadow-banking” industry, is accused of receiving the undisclosed cash payments as interest on more than $1 million in personal loans he made to old friends and associates, including convicted Ponzi schemer Luis Felipe Perez.
Robaina has been indicted on charges of conspiring to defraud the Internal Revenue Service by committing tax evasion and other crimes. The IRS began investigating his finances in 2010, while authorities were making their case against Perez, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence.
IRS agents examined Robaina’s bank and other financial records for any deposits that seemed out of the ordinary for evidence that, they say, shows the former politician evaded paying his full share of taxes. Robaina lost to Carlos Gimenez in the 2011 Miami-Dade mayoral race.
Under federal law, if a person receives any kind of interest payment on a loan, that income must be reported to the IRS and it may be subject to taxes.
Perez, who cooperated with prosecutors as part of a plea agreement, maintains that he paid Robaina a combined interest rate of 36 percent, with half the payments in checks and half in cash, until he ran out of money in 2009.
He says he directed his drivers to deliver the cash in envelopes — with the mayor’s name or initials written on them — to the home of the late Rolando Blanco, their mutual friend who matched them up in their loan deal.
Blanco’s son, Roberto, testified about the alleged payoff arrangement before the federal grand jury in Miami, according to sources familiar with the IRS investigation. Roberto Blanco, who was spotted by a Miami Herald reporter entering the grand jury in 2011, received immunity from prosecution, the sources said.
Hialeah’s unofficial banking system flourished from Blanco’s home to City Hall.