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Miami-Dade court sets trial date for accused development swindler


Disgraced developer Dennis Stackhouse, accused in 2009 of looting nearly $1 million from a development aimed at revitalizing Liberty City, finally has a trial date: May 5.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Monica Gordo set the date after chiding his defense attorney, Larry Handfield, for having taken only one witness deposition in the past year.

“Do not think for one second we have been sitting around clapping our hands doing nothing,” Handfield insisted.

The issue of delays in court arose Thursday after Miami-Dade’s lead public corruption prosecutor, Tim VanderGiesen, complained about the inertia. “The state has a right to a trial,” he said. “This case is over four years old.”

In 2003, Stackhouse pitched his development project as a $118 million retail and office complex that would create up to 3,500 jobs. Nothing was ever built. A 2007 Miami Herald investigative series titled “Poverty Peddlers” spurred a criminal investigation.

Prosecutors said he stole through an intricate scheme of double billing and fake invoices submitted for work that was never completed.

Some of the money was also used to curry favor to politicians who could benefit the project, records showed. He famously paid $40,000 in consulting fees to former U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek. Her son, then-U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, sought to secure federal funds for the development.

Separately, Stackhouse was charged with making illegal campaign contributions. He served seven months’ probation.