A career criminal who embarrassed the campaigns of Miami-Dade’s mayor and state attorney may have conned one of their top political consultants over thousands of dollars in counterfeit postage stamps, according to authorities and court records.
Gerardo Judas “Jerry” Ramos, who ran a direct-mail business, pleaded guilty in 2009 to forging more than $2,000 in postage meter stamps on his laptop computer that he billed to consultant Al Lorenzo’s company for purported birthday greeting-card mailers, authorities said.
As part of the ruse, Ramos represented to Lorenzo and his company, Quantum Results, that the birthday mailers were being sent on behalf of local politicians to their constituents in 2006-07.
“He was making a few thousand dollars by ripping off his boss and ripping off the postal service, because the stamps were fake,” Postal Inspector Bladismir Rojo, the federal case agent, told The Miami Herald on Wednesday.
“The politicians had no idea [Ramos] was involved in this fraud,” he added.
Lorenzo’s failure to disclose Ramos’ lengthy criminal history to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez cost the consultant his job late Monday, one week before Tuesday’s election. Meanwhile, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle kept Lorenzo on her campaign, but told him to kick Ramos out.
Ramos, 47, could not be reached for comment. He served two years in federal prison on the postage-forgery conviction until his release in February 2011 and had a state criminal record dating back to 1989, including grand theft and credit-card fraud. “Ramos’ criminal history discloses that he is a habitual thief, fraud, forger and counterfeiter,” federal prosecutor Dwayne Williams said in court papers before Ramos’ sentencing in 2009.
Despite his criminal record — Ramos is still on probation — Lorenzo said via email earlier this week that he was aware of Ramos’ history, but thought Ramos deserved “an opportunity.”
Lorenzo’s apparent forgiveness thrust him — along with his high-profile political clients — into the headlines, tainting reputations days before the election.
The candidates reeled in Lorenzo days after a Hialeah absentee-ballot broker, Deisy Cabrera, was charged with voter fraud. After the arrest, Fernández Rundle recused herself from the case, citing unconfirmed reports that someone from her campaign had been seen with Cabrera.
Lorenzo said in a statement Monday that he did not hire Cabrera to work for either the Fernández Rundle or the Gimenez campaigns. He also signed a sworn statement, at Gimenez’s request, saying he did not hire Cabrera.
Several Lorenzo clients interviewed by Herald reporters this week said they knew Ramos but were unaware of his past. Fernández Rundle said in a statement Monday that she saw Ramos “on occasion at meetings” and knew him as Lorenzo’s “driver/helper/courier.”
In his statement, Lorenzo called Ramos an independent contractor.
“As it relates to campaigns he has traditionally only handled the placement of signs, early voting logistics and election day logistics,” he said. “As to this election cycle he has also coordinated visits by candidates to the senior centers in predominantly Hispanic areas.
“Aside from this Jerry Ramos handles administrative activities for my company and nothing more.”
Lorenzo could not be reached for comment Wednesday. He asked a publicist, Seth Gordon, to return a reporter’s call.
“Al’s understanding was that nothing from the postage-stamp fraud touched his business,” Gordon said.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service did warn Lorenzo at the end of the federal investigation about Ramos’ previous offenses, Gordon added. But Lorenzo, who had known Ramos’ late parents, brought Ramos back on after he was released from prison.
“But since Jerry had just lost his parents, Al’s charitable instincts overrode other considerations,” Gordon said. “Al has since conceded that may not have been the best course of action.”
In 2007-08, the Postal Inspection Service discovered that Ramos had used his laptop computer to forge thousands of postage meter stamps at Lorenzo’s company in Coral Gables, where the subcontractor had an account. Ramos affixed the counterfeited stamps to the birthday greeting cards on behalf of Quantum’s political clients to send to voters — without Lorenzo’s knowledge, according to the Postal Inspection investigators.
In September 2008, Ramos was indicted on charges of counterfeiting 2,700 postage meter stamps at 39 cents each from December 2006 to May 2007, and another 2,700 stamps at 41 cents each from May to September 2007.
Ramos pleaded guilty in 2009. He was sentenced to two years in prison, fined $3,000 and ordered to repay $2,361 to the federal government.
Before his sentencing, Ramos said he deserved a more lenient sentence.
But the prosecutor, Williams, pointed out that Ramos tried to get his 15-year probation on a state conviction terminated, while knowing he was under investigation by U.S. postal inspectors in the federal case in 2008. Violating his state probation by committing another crime would have likely put him back in jail, the prosecutor said.
“When he was confronted by the Postal Inspectors, Ramos immediately went before the Miami-Dade Circuit Court and fraudulently induced the state court to terminate his probation.”