Miami-Dade County

After failing to report ‘box full of cash’ offer, Miami airport bigwig demoted

Carlos Jose
Carlos Jose Miami-Dade County

A high-level Miami International Airport manager who apparently failed to report an offer of a “box full of cash” from a corrupt employee has been demoted — and his pay slashed by more than $48,000.

Carlos Jose had been the assistant director for facilities, maintenance and engineering for the airport, until a Miami Herald report last month chronicled his failure to alert authorities to an employee who was later convicted and sent to prison.

At the airport, Jose oversaw a budget of more than $100 million and 400 employees, earning $161,808 last year.

Now, Jose will work as a programmer and analyst for Miami-Dade County’s Information Technology department, a gig that will pay him $113,787 annually.

Jose was initially suspended with pay from his airport position, 10 days after the Miami Herald article. Through his demotion, he is being returned to a job and pay category afforded him under the county’s civil-service rules.

A newly released memo revealed the permanent demotion from the Aviation Department, although it did not explain why Jose was being moved.

An airport spokesman, Greg Chin, said Jose was moved after the department “began conducting a review of its overall procurement and management oversight processes” in light of the criminal investigation.

“Jose’s demotion is one result of the Aviation Department’s ongoing internal review, which was examining the issues raised in the Herald article long before it was published,” Chin said in a statement on Tuesday.

Jose could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

His suspension stemmed from the corruption conviction of his employee, Ivan Valdes, who concocted an illegal kickback scam involving the purchase of high-end light bulbs and fixtures for terminals at the airport. The scheme cost Miami-Dade’s airport more than $5 million. Valdes pleaded guilty and last month began serving a seven-year prison term.

Jose, his longtime boss, was not charged with any criminal wrongdoing. But his statement to detectives raised questions about whether Valdes’ scam could have been discovered earlier had Jose tipped off his bosses or police.

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.”

Jose told the Miami Herald that 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 said he declined to get into business with Valdes, a former teen singer with a Latin boy band called Chévere Internacional in the 1980s. Valdes spent his ill-gotten money on a lavish lifestyle.

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.