Former Hialeah mayor’s Ferrari deal grabs spotlight at tax-evasion trial


Was Julio Robaina’s Ferrari a gift or income? That was the question at his tax-evasion trial.

For his birthday in 2004, Julio Robaina's business partner gave him a silver Ferrari. But was the luxurious Italian sports car a personal gift or income from their real estate company?

The business partner, Martin Caparros, testified Thursday in Robaina's tax-evasion trial that it was given as “compensation” for his “performance” at Prestige Builders Group, which then paid off a $142,000 loan on the car in 2006 — just after Robaina took office.

“It was not a gift,” Caparros said, adding that the company made all the loan payments through a subsidiary, PBG Toys, controlled by him and Robaina. But Robaina was listed as the “borrower” on the loan papers.

But the defense attorney for Robaina, who left Prestige after being elected mayor of Hialeah, argued that it was intended as a “gift.”

The distinction carries great weight because Robaina is accused of not reporting the Ferrari as income — part of the $2 million in earnings he allegedly failed to disclose on his tax returns. If the car were a gift, defense attorney David Garvin argued, then Robaina would not have been required to report it.

The debate over Robaina’s Ferrari marked a transition in the prosecution’s case, which is now highlighting his investments during the real estate boom. The first part of the trial, which began last Friday, spotlighted his high-interest loans to a Hialeah con man while he was serving as the city’s mayor.

Last year, a federal grand jury indicted Robaina, 49, and his wife, Raiza, 40, on charges of conspiring to evade paying taxes between 2005 and 2010. The main conspiracy charge in the indictment accuses the Robainas of overstating losses on their businesses and understating gains in their personal income.

On Thursday, Garvin got Caparros to admit that he wanted to “surprise” Robaina with the Ferrari on his birthday a decade ago, as if to suggest it was a personal gift.

“Yes, it was a surpise,” Caparros testified.

But Caparros told prosecutor Richard Gregorie that when Robaina left Prestige Builders in 2006, the Ferrari was included in the then-mayor’s buy-out agreement.

“So it was not a gift?” Gregorie asked.

“No,” Caparros testified.

That July, Robaina traded in his 2001 Ferrari for $134,000 and his 2004 Corvette for $33,000 at The Garage in Miami. He then bought a Bentley for $172,000. To complete the purchase, the mayor had to cough up an extra $5,000.

Read more Miami-Dade stories from the Miami Herald

A sign stands at 1448 NW 103rd St. in Miami to let passers-by know the government demolished the house even though the owner was on active military duty.

    Miami-Dade County

    Miami-Dade demolished active-duty soldier’s home

    A federal judge ruled last week that the county should have delayed building-code violation proceedings against the soldier when he asked for a stay while he was in Iraq.

  • Friends and Neighbors

    Friends and Neighbors: Campaign raises money to feed hungry school children

    Local food banks want to help children who often go hungry get what they need to thrive in school. Community support is needed.

  • Friends and Neighbors

    Florida Mayors join forces to say no to bullies

    Looking back at my growing up days, I can remember how school bullies tried to made life miserable for me and a lot of other youngsters. I remember being followed home one day by a bully who wanted to start a fight. When I kept ignoring her, she soon turned, with her followers and went home. Unlike some of today’s bullies, she didn’t try to hit me. She was just all mouth, spitting out insulting remarks.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category