In 2010, while peeling back the layers of Hialeahs shadow banking industry, federal prosecutors pressed the citys mayor about allegations that he had collected exorbitant cash interest payments on more than $1 million in loans he made to friends and acquaintances.
Julio Robainas answer? Not true.
On Thursday, Robainas words came back to haunt him, when a federal grand jury indicted him and his wife on charges of conspiring to evade income taxes, making loans at sky-high interest rates, failing to report secret cash payments and lying to federal authorities.
He made the statements at issue in August 2010, while preparing an unsuccessful run to become Miami-Dade County mayor.
Robaina, 48, and his wife Raiza Villacis Robaina, 39, who operated two loan companies, are accused of receiving the undisclosed cash payments as interest on the personal loans they made to friends, including convicted Ponzi schemer Luis Felipe Perez. The loans were doled out as part of an informal banking system operating below the radar in Hialeah.
The indictment alleges the couple tried to enrich themselves by concealing, disguising and failing to report the true and correct amount of their income to the Internal Revenue Service.
Husband and wife surrendered to authorities early Friday and made their initial court appearance later in the day, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrea Simonton.
Julio Robainas got a $250,000 personal surety bond; is wife a $100,000 bond. They will be released Friday afternoon and their arraignment is set for next Friday.
The Robainas were shackled at ankles and wrists.
They proclaimed their innocence through Julio Robainas defense attorney on Thursday.
Obviously, both Mr. and Mrs. Robaina are disappointed by todays news, said attorney David Garvin. However, they look forward to having their day in court.
They are anxious to clear their good names, he added. We are confident that they will prevail and will ultimately be vindicated.
In addition to tax evasion, both Robainas were indicted on charges of filing false tax returns that understated their income. According to an indictment, the couples reported income swung wildly from a loss of $62,015 in 2006 to a gain of $1,023, 672 in 2007, when they knew their total income was greater than reported in both years.
The indictment also accused the couple of lying to federal agents. Robaina is charged with making a false statement in August 2010, when he told IRS agents that he had no involvement in his wifes loan businesses, MR Holdings and RVR Holdings, when the defendant knew he had negotiated and agreed to the terms of the loans made by those companies, the document states.
He also is charged with making another false statement to agents that month when he said he never received cash interest payments from L.F.P., when in truth and in fact, the defendant knew he had received cash interest payments from L.F.P a reference to Ponzi schemer Luis Felipe Perez.
Robainas wife is charged with making a false statement to agents in September 2010, when she said her husband had no involvement in the operations of the loan companies in her name.
In Hialeah, reaction to the indictment was varied.