Miami-Dade County

Probes targeting several builders

More developers who took public money to build affordable housing for the county's poor but failed to deliver may soon be arrested, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle warned on Sunday.

''Stay tuned for six or seven other cases,'' Fernández Rundle said at a news conference about the arrest late Saturday of Oscar Rivero, the first developer to be charged in the growing housing scandal detailed in The Miami Herald investigation House of Lies.

''We're moving quickly, we're going to do the same thing with [other developers],'' said Fernández Rundle, who was accompanied by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, County Manager George Burgess and Miami-Dade Police Director Robert Parker.


Rivero, 36, remained in jail Sunday on charges he spent at least $736,000 in public money meant for the poor to buy his South Miami house and pay for upgrades on the property.

Although Rivero's companies in recent years received almost $1.7 million from the Miami-Dade Housing Agency to build affordable housing, he never built a single home. Instead, he used at least some of the money to purchase his own house, according to his arrest affidavit.

He has been charged with two first-degree felonies: grand theft and committing an organized scheme to defraud. If convicted, he faces a minimum of 21 months in state prison. He is expected to post bail today.

As the scandal unfolds, a number of people have been removed from the Housing Agency, and Burgess said more people will be fired if they are found to be connected in any way.

''We're continuing these investigations both criminally and administratively,'' Burgess said. ``You're talking about the bottom feeders -- they are taking advantage of those most in need in our community, and that's repulsive to us.''


Parker said investigators are looking at government and public officials and people in the private sector who deal with affordable housing issues to find anyone who may have been involved.

Rivero's wife, co-owner of the 3,600-square-foot house he purchased with cash, will not be charged.

''We're not focusing on his wife for prosecution right now,'' Parker said. ``We're looking at Mr. Rivero's partners and associates.''

Rivero's arrest came nearly five weeks after The Miami Herald published an investigative series exposing widespread misspending at the Housing Agency, which in recent years paid a group of developers, including Rivero, more than $12 million for affordable houses that were never built.


Rivero held on to the cash for years, but the county only recently filed suit to recoup the money.

Rivero's projects also received $530,000 from the city of Miami and $750,000 from the county-funded, nonprofit MDHA Development Corp.

In recent days, Rivero has returned $1.5 million of the public's money, about half of what he owes.

Alvarez said the message for those involved is this: They will be arrested.

''I can assure you that we will take every step that needs to be taken and every action that needs to be taken to make sure that our Housing Agency is doing the job that they are supposed to be doing,'' Alvarez said.