The Miami Herald spent seven months investigating the Poinciana Biopharmaceutical Park project in Liberty City, sifting through thousands of project files, court cases, e-mails, bank statements, County Commission transcripts and other documents the newspaper obtained through public-records requests and sources involved in the development.
Last November, the newspaper asked developer Dennis Stackhouse to provide a breakdown of how he spent millions of dollars earmarked for the project.
When Stackhouse refused, the newspaper contacted the Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust, the county-funded nonprofit that oversees the biotech park while holding a 5 percent interest in the deal.
Under its agreement with Stackhouse, the trust could have reviewed how every dollar of project funds was being spent, but trust Chief Executive Officer Aundra Wallace and Chief Financial Officer Rodney Carey refused to obtain the records.
Then, in January, Stackhouse fired his assistant vice president for administration, Carolina Misle, and cut off her insurance while she was pregnant and on bed rest.
Misle came forward and provided The Miami Herald with requisitions that Stackhouse had submitted to Tremont Realty Capital, a private firm that loaned Stackhouse $4.2 million after he mortgaged his lease on the county's land.
The newspaper compared the Tremont invoices with invoices that Stackhouse turned in to the Empowerment Trust, which had loaned the developer $3 million for the park.
The Miami Herald found that Stackhouse received at least $500,000 from the trust, using invoices that had already been paid by the private loan.
The newspaper also contacted companies that Stackhouse said would relocate to the park, including one in Australia, and found that most had no plans to move to Liberty City.
To research the developer's track record and financial history, the newspaper spent days in Boston, reviewing court cases from the Suffolk County courthouse and the National Archives in Waltham, Mass. The Miami Herald also visited the 300-square-foot office of MediVector, the Massachusetts-based company that Stackhouse said would anchor the park.
Liberty City families and small-business owners were interviewed, along with county officials, politicians and advocates for the poor.