At 76, Braulio Valenzuela has a long history of evading lengthy stays in prison — despite convictions or charges in a series of serious crimes, from rape and child molestations to burglaries. He was even accused of setting fire to a trailer home because he didn’t like that lesbians lived there.
But he’s off to prison for a long time now for — by comparison — a small-time scam. He got nailed faking that he was an accident victim
A Miami-Dade judge on Thursday sentenced Valenzuela to 10 years behind bars for filing a bogus insurance claim after he pretended to get hit by an elderly motorist’s car in the parking lot of a Coral Way Walgreens in May 2015. He was suspected of pulling the same con on at least three other elderly motorists.
“You have a history of violating those who are frail or can’t defend themselves,” Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Victoria del Pino told him.
Valenzuela, who did not apologize or admit to the crime, was sentenced as a “habitual felony offender.”
A retired fork-lift driver, Valenzuela has been arrested over a dozen times since the mid-1990s, his first a charge of fondling a child. The case wound up being dropped.
In 1995, he accepted a plea deal — and got probation — on a burglary charge. The arrests kept coming. A year later, Valenzuela again got popped for burglary and did less than a year in jail. Soon after that, he got convicted of a rape and did more jail time, records show.
Valenzuela, however, never went to state prison until 2006. That’s when he was convicted of a burglary for stealing dozens of bags of shrimp from a supermarket, as well as a separate case of fondling a 10-year-old girl at a church. That last crime landed him on Florida’s sexual predator registry.
He walked free in 2010, and wound up living at the River Park Trailer Court, just west of Miami’s Allapattah neighborhood. Miami-Dade police said video surveillance captured Valenzuela setting fire to a mattress outside the home of two women with whom he had been feuding.
“Although he did not admit setting the fire, he stated that he despised the two adult victims for the simple fact that they were lesbians,” according to an arrest affidavit. “According to the defendant, every time he saw them kissing he felt a deep repugnance and in his opinion, they did not deserve children.”
The case captured international attention as Valenzuela was charged with arson and ten counts of attempted felony murder – a slew of children in nearby homes were counted as victims. Prosecutors, however, were forced to drop the case when the two women refused to testify.
His next arrest came in May 2015, after Valenzuela filed an insurance claim with United Auto. He claimed that an 85-year-old motorist, Loraine Hill, backed her car into him as he walked through the parking lot of a Walgreens in Coral Gables.
“He lied in wait. He found an older lady, somebody whom he could pull one over on,” Miami-Dade prosecutor Jenny Conklin said.
The claim cost the insurance company over $14,000.
But surveillance footage showed Valenzuela casing Hill as she went into the Walgreens, loitering around her car, even looking into her windows as she was preparing to back out. As she slowly inched her car backward, he theatrically acted as if he was struck by the car, then crumpled to the pavement.
When a state insurance fraud investigator came knocking weeks later, Valenzuela was defiant.
“He told me good luck prosecuting me,” Detective Orlando Rodriguez told a judge. “It’ll probably get dropped like the rest of them.”
But despite her age, Hill was spry and testified at the April trial. A jury convicted him of insurance fraud. Hill, however, did not live to see the sentence – she died in an August car accident.
“He finally got stopped. He finally had a victim who came forward to testify,” Conklin said. “She wasn’t afraid. She didn’t let Mr. Valenzuela victimize her.”