Courts

Former Miami-Dade bailiff agrees to pay $15,000 fine in criminal probe

 

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

Juana Olga Durand, the former Miami-Dade bailiff accused of accepting envelopes of cash in exchange for arranging legal defense work, pleaded no contest Tuesday and will pay a $15,000 fine.

She will not serve any jail time.

Miami-Dade police in July 2012 arrested Durand, 53, a popular bailiff who worked in the criminal and family division, after she was caught on surveillance video accepting money from a defendant facing traffic charges.

The man was secretly working with Miami-Dade police. Authorities alleged that Durand also concocted a fake traffic school completion certificate for the man.

Durand had originally been charged with three felonies and two misdemeanor counts of violating the county’s conflict of interest ordinance.

She pleaded no contest to one of the misdemeanor counts. In exchange for paying $15,000 toward the cost of the Miami-Dade police investigation, prosecutors dropped the other charges. A judge granted her a “withhold of adjudication,” meaning the charge will not appear on her criminal history.

“Olga is relieved that the case is over,” said her attorney, Carl Kafka.

Under the agreement, Durand — who resigned her position after the arrest — will be able to keep her county employee pension.

Her arrest last year shocked colleagues at Miami-Dade’s criminal courthouse, where she worked for years as the bailiff for Circuit Judge Reemberto Diaz. She was popular around court, known for kind touch with lawyers and doting over jurors with candy.

Durand’s husband is also a bailiff at the courthouse, and her stepdaughter is a Miami-Dade police officer assigned to the building.

The investigation began when a motorist facing a traffic ticket, Maciel Gonzalez, agreed to cooperate with Miami-Dade public corruption detectives.

Gonzalez, with police secretly recording, made phones calls in which Durand acted as a broker to arrange for the man to hire Miami attorney John Amarantos, according to an arrest warrant.

Detectives video-recorded Gonzalez handing $2,000 in an envelope to Durand outside the courthouse. She even gave him a receipt.

Amarantos was not accused of any criminal wrongdoing. The Florida Bar, which regulates conduct of lawyers, says no investigation was initiated.

Later, according to an arrest warrant, Durand boasted to an undercover detective — posing as another defendant, all while secretly recording her — that she might convince “friends” in the police department to not show up for traffic court.

Authorities are still investigating whether Durand ever succeeded in getting any tickets dropped through her contacts with police. Her family is active with Miami-Dade’s police union.

Read more Miami-Dade stories from the Miami Herald

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