South Miami police recently detained a homeless Canadian, who neighbors liked to hire for gardening and other household chores, and turned him over to immigration authorities.
Now city Commissioner Bob Welsh says he thinks fellow Commissioner Valerie Newman tipped police to the man’s presence to embarrass Welsh, who had occasionally given the man work. But Newman says she tipped police at the suggestion of another resident, and not to make Welsh look bad.
The 44-year-old migrant, Richard Warren Papove, had been living in different neighbors’ homes in South Miami for over a decade while working as a handy man, and was a friend of Welsh. Welsh said he knew that Papove didn’t have a driver’s license, and that his neighbor Lorie Yanoshik had told this to Newman last year.
“Most of us did not know he was illegal. We tried to help him out and take care of him, because he was homeless,” Welsh said. “I know this is political. My enemies don’t care about the collateral damage.”
South Miami police said the complaint on Papove came from Newman. Police Chief Orlando Martinez de Castro found out U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had wanted him for entering the United States after a previous deportation to his native Canada in the 1980s. Papove has been arrested several times on charges of marijuana and cocaine possession.
“If we are notified of any illegal activity, you bet we are going to act on it,” South Miami police Maj. Ana Baixauli said. Chief Martinez de Castro was on vacation in Key West on Tuesday, and she was the acting police chief.
Newman said in a commission meeting July 19 that the arrest was not a way to target Welsh politically. But Welsh and Papove are not convinced.
“It became clear to me from the beginning that this was about Bob,” Papove said. “They never asked me about the job that I was working on before they arrested me.”
Papove was arrested July 6. Earlier that day, neighbors said they saw Sharon McCain, a vocal Welsh critic, walking near Southwest 74th Street and 63rd Avenue. She later criticized Welsh at a commission meeting for hiring an “illegal alien” and said he “should be ashamed” of himself.
“She kind of patrols the neighborhood regularly,” South Miami resident Jorge Padial, 53, said. “She drives and walks to check some people’s homes and she will call code enforcement when she sees something.”
A South Miami Police Department investigation report says an anonymous person notified a code enforcement officer that Papove was working at Connie Streiger’s home, near 74th Street and 63rd Avenue. The code enforcement department, which is under the authority of the police department, doesn’t have an official record of the complaint.
“I read the narrative of the police report. It went into too much detail about him working on Commissioner Welsh’s house. It was pretty rehearsed,” said Todd Ostergard, an immigration lawyer who visited Papove as a favor to friends who live in the neighborhood. “This whole thing has the hallmarks of a set up.”
According to the report, Detective Joseph Mendez happened to be driving by when he saw Papove matched the description of the man photographed in a flyer that ICE had sent to South Miami police. Mendez and two other officers detained Papove, while an ICE supervisor arrived.