Former Hialeah Mayor Julio Martinez said the indictment was a long time coming.
To have a mayor who is also a money-lender didnt look good for this city. He had no need to be doing that, considering that he made more than $270,000 per year in salary and perks, Martinez said.
Robainas longtime political consultant, Sasha Tirador, spoke respectfully of the former mayor.
Julio Robaina is a decent family man, she said. He was an excellent public servant, and Im proud to call him my friend.
Perezs mother, who was preparing Thursday for a trip to North Carolina to visit her son in prison, said she was surprised to hear the news.
Im shocked, she said. Its true that Felipito made a mistake and hes paying for it. But I didnt know that all of this was happening.
In 2010, Perez was convicted of directing a $45 million Ponzi scheme that duped dozens of investors and lenders, including Robaina, celebrity hairdresser Samy Suarez, Hialeah Council President Carlos Hernandez, Hialeah Chamber of Commerce head Daniel Hernandez, and Manny Alfonso, a board member of the charity La Liga Contra el Cáncer.
The IRS began investigating Robainas finances while authorities were making their case against Perez, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence.
Under federal law, if a person receives an interest payment on a loan, that income must be reported to the IRS and it may be subject to taxes.
Our citizenship comes with many privileges, but also with attendant duties and responsibilities, Miami U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said in a statement. Among those duties, each of us regardless of station or position is required to pay our fair share of taxes.
Perez, who cooperated with prosecutors as part of a plea agreement, maintains that he paid Robaina a combined interest rate of 36 percent, with half the payments in checks and half in cash, until he ran out of money in 2009.
He said he directed his drivers to deliver the cash in envelopes with the mayors name or initials written on them to the home of the late Rolando Blanco, their mutual friend who had matched them up.
Blancos son, Roberto, testified about the alleged payoff arrangement before a federal grand jury in Miami, according to sources. Roberto Blanco, who also borrowed money, received immunity from prosecution, the sources said.
In an interview Thursday, Roberto Blanco said he believed Robaina had turned his back on the Blanco family, which helped him advance in his political career.
Hialeahs unofficial shadow banking system flourished from the Blancos home to City Hall.
Some of Robainas borrowers, including Perez and Blanco family members, gave thousands of dollars to the two-term mayors campaigns and a political action committee that supported him, public records show.
In a 2011 interview, Robaina denied any wrongdoing, saying he reported all interest income from loans on his personal and corporate tax returns, before and after he became mayor in 2005, and stressed that he had no conflict of interest with his public position.
I have made certain that all investments, while in public service, are in no way a conflict of interest to avoid even the perception of impropriety, Robaina said. It is also important to note that the investments were with individuals I considered friends and/or acquaintances.
The Robaina companies RVR Holdings and MR Holdings sued delinquent borrowers from 2008-10, seeking about $1.4 million in unpaid principal, plus interest. That litigation came under greater scrutiny when Robaina launched his candidacy for Miami-Dade mayor in 2011. He lost to Carlos Gimenez.
In 2010, when the feds first asked Robaina about the $750,000 in loans he made to Perez, the mayor told federal prosecutors Richard Gregorie and Andrew Levi that the deals were done through his wifes companies.
The mayor maintained the same position in late January 2011 when he spoke with The Miami Herald about the loans to Perez. Im not trying to blame her. Im just saying shes the one who handles these things, he said.
Later, Robaina said he and his wife together packaged the loans to Perez.
El Nuevo Herald reporter Melissa Sanchez contributed to this report.