A high-level Miami International Airport manager was suspended Monday, 10 days after the Miami Herald reported that he had been offered a “box of cash” by a corrupt employee but did not appear to have reported the shady offer to authorities.
Carlos Jose, the assistant director for facilities, maintenance and engineering, was placed on paid administrative leave as Miami-Dade County continues an internal investigation, an airport spokesman confirmed.
Jose oversaw a budget of more than $100 million and 400 employees. He could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday.
His suspension stemmed from the corruption conviction of his employee, Ivan Valdes, who orchestrated an illegal kickback scam involving the purchase of high-end light bulbs for airport terminals. The scheme cost the county more than $5 million and landed Valdes in prison for seven years, a sentence he began serving this month.
Jose, his boss who last year earned $161,808, was not charged with any criminal wrongdoing. But the Miami Herald’s report raised questions about whether the scam could have been uncovered much sooner had Jose tipped off his bosses or law enforcement.
It was only after a probe began that Jose admitted to detectives that Valdes, in 2013, approached him with a vague offer to get in on a scheme that would net him “a box full of cash sitting on his front porch the next morning,” according to the prosecution files.
In a sworn statement to police and prosecutors, Jose recalled Valdes said something like “it’s all cash … you don’t get your hands dirty” and “these people will take care of you.”
In an interview with the Herald, Jose said Valdes did not pressure him and offered no specifics.
“I didn’t know what he was talking about. I didn’t know if it had to do with MIA,” Jose said. “He never insisted. He left everything vague.”
He insisted he refused to take part in the scheme with Valdes, a former Latin boy band star in the 1980s.
Valdes used the ill-gotten gains to fund a high-end lifestyle: there was the Porsche, as well as sky boxes at Miami’s AmericanAirlines Arena and Christian Louboutin shoes. For his wife, he bought dozens of Louis Vuitton shoes, which after his arrest were hauled away in their boxes in a police pickup truck.
Jose told the Miami Herald that he did report the encounter to “proper authorities” — but could not say to whom. The airport admitted that no documentation existed to prove that Jose reported the suspicious offer to anyone.
The light bulb scheme continued into the next year, when the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Public Corruption Task initiated an investigation. Their probe began not with Jose, but when investigators noticed Valdes’ name pop up in suspicious financial transactions.
The FBI, in 2015, also began an investigation into the same scam, and Jose was not the source for that investigation.