A big-city mayor took the stand in Miami federal court last week and admitted he charged exorbitant, illegal interest rates to a Hialeah businessman — Florida law calls it “loan sharking” — which he failed to report as income on his tax returns.
But he was not the mayor on trial.
Carlos Hernandez, Hialeah’s current mayor, testified as a government witness in the tax-evasion trial of his predecessor, Julio Robaina.
On the stand, Hernandez was asked specifically if he had received as much as 36 percent interest annually on loans he made to a Hialeah jeweler later convicted as a Ponzi schemer.
“Yes, sir,” he told prosecutor Richard Gregorie. Florida law says anything over 25 percent interest is a crime.
Hernandez was also asked if he plans to amend his tax returns.
Yes, he said. Hernandez’s tax returns from that time, which have been public for years, show he did not report the income.
Why Hernandez, mayor of Miami-Dade County’s second largest city, can’t be charged with violating Florida’s loan-sharking laws is clear: The statute of limitations — one year — ran out long ago.
Why he couldn’t be charged with federal income-tax evasion is not as clear. Hernandez did not respond to a request for comment for this story.