The private investigator who broke open the Hialeah absentee-ballot case that has vexed Miami-Dades two highest-profile elections is so paranoid, he wont part with his keys because someone might break into his car and steal his computer.
My computers have been hacked. You know they want to get into my car. They might be listening to my phone calls and they have my GPS, said an animated Jose Joe Carrillo. Ever since that day, my life has been hell.
Who would have enough interest to spy on him? I dont know.
What is known is that since Carrillo informed Miami-Dade Police in mid-July about the actions of a Hialeah woman he was hired to follow, the countys mayor and state attorney have been fending off questions about improper absentee-ballot collections, political operatives have been fired, and a 56-year-old woman known as a boletera has been charged with ballot fraud.
In short, what had been a relatively calm election cycle with somewhat intriguing mayoral and state attorney races has spun into a telenovela filled with intrigue playing out in Hialeah, a city that has long been recognized as the Rubiks Cube of politics. The election for mayor, state attorney, and several other local and state posts is Tuesday.
Carrillo bald and goateed, covered in tattoos, repeatedly arrested but never convicted wont reveal the answer to one of the mysteries surrounding the ballot-fraud scandal: Who hired him?
The state attorney asked who my client was under oath, and I didnt give it up, Carillo said. He added that he doesnt know if the person who hired him does or doesnt have a political agenda.
John Rivera, who heads up the countys Police Benevolent Association and has no love for county Mayor Carlos Gimenez or State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, denied hiring Carrillo but called whoever did hire him brilliant.
Carrillo said he was contacted in mid-July by a man who handed him Deisy Cabreras business card and hired him to follow her. The red-white-and-blue card had Cabreras name on the front and a hand-written note on the back that read in Spanish: When your ballot gets to you, call me, I work all elections.
Carrillo contacted Miami-Dade police. On July 24, Carrillo and police, acting separately, followed Cabrera first into the building housing Gimenezs Hialeah campaign office, then into some residential apartments, eventually to Miami-Dade elections headquarters, and finally to a post office, where she is believed to have mailed 19 absentee ballots. Carrillo and police video-recorded and photographed some of Cabreras travels.
Police took Cabreras lead seriously because some tips of his have panned out in the past, said one law-enforcement officer. Cabrera was arrested nine days later. (Late Friday, another Hialeah man, Sergio Tio Robaina, was charged with two counts of absentee-ballot fraud, though authorities dont think the two cases are related.)
And all this because of a 57-year-old repo-man-turned-private-eye who contacted police over an absentee ballot issue hes quite familiar with.
Born in Quebec in 1955, Carrillo said he was orphaned and adopted four months later by a couple who took him to their home in Havana. The family moved to Miami in 1961. Dad sold insurance while Carrillo sauntered through St. Brendan Elementary and Christopher Columbus High. He briefly attended Miami Dade College before going to work for his father as an insurance agent.