Governor suspends North Miami mayor over mortgage fraud charges
05/20/2014 11:50 AM
05/20/2014 7:18 PM
Gov. Rick Scott suspended North Miami Mayor Lucie Tondreau on Tuesday, just hours after she appeared in federal court to face mortgage-fraud charges.
Tondreau was granted a $50,000 bond by a magistrate judge earlier in the day after cutting her city-sponsored trip to Las Vegas short and returning to surrender to FBI agents.
Tondreau, the city’s first female-Haitian born mayor, was expected to be released from custody late Tuesday afternoon. The now-suspended mayor, 54, is scheduled to be arraigned on June 30 on charges of conspiring with three others to recruit straw borrowers to purchase 20 South Florida homes while defrauding $8 million from various mortgage lenders.
Tondreau's attorney Ben Kuehne declared her innocence in front of the federal courthouse Tuesday afternoon.
“We await an opportunity to fight these charges to demonstrate her actual innocence," he said. "The circumstances are very questionable and with a lot of work her legal team intends to obtain her vindication.
"Mayor Tondreau has worked hard and diligently to serve her public and we hope the public continues to give all the support that she and her family need in this special time.”
Tondreau’s arrest was the subject of daylong discussion on Creole-language radio, with several hosts urging a show of support at the court house for the embattled mayor. About 20 supporters waited for her outside the Miami federal courthouse.
Listeners to a popular Creole-language show pledged their continued support for the North Miami mayor as they watched local television footage of the mayor surrendering to federal agents Tuesday morning.
According to federal authorities, Tondreau co-hosted several radio programs that federal authorities say were the key to an $8 million mortgage fraud scheme
On the Piman Bouk radio show, informally known as the CNN of Haitian radio, host Nelson Voltaire called onHaitians in South Florida to descend upon the federal courthouse for Tondreau’s court appearance and bond hearing at 1:30 Tuesday afternoon.
Voltaire and many of his listeners who called said Tondreau is a victim to a system that wants to bring down the growing Haitian community and its leaders. Voltaire cautioned listeners that an arrest does not mean a person is guilty and to let the case go through the court system.
“You arrest a Haitian and put her in prison, no problem. Don’t they arrest whites too? Don’t they arrest other people, what’s the big deal?” he asked in Creole. “The community should keep cool heads.”
State. Rep. Daphne Campbell could barely contain her emotions when she called the radio show to plead with listeners to stand by Tondreau just as the African-American community stood by former Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones when she faced bribery and grand theft charges while in office. Spence Jones was acquitted.
Campbell, who sounded as if she was crying, said she was distraught over the federal probe of her close friend.
“I’m dying ... this hurts so much,” she said in Creole, adding, “Let us pray, let us pray.... Let us ask everyone to pray. This affects all of our community”
Charged along with Tondreau are Karl Oreste, 56, of Miramar, and two other defendants, Okechukwu Josiah Odunna, 49, a disbarred Lauderdale Lakes lawyer, and Kelly Augustin, 57, a former North Miami recruiter for Oreste’s mortgage firm.
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