Adam Barnett worked hard to make an impression, a young Miami businessman who drove luxury cars and surrounded himself with beautiful young women.
He boasted a curious array of businesses and personal interests, owning dozens of properties, a beauty salon and an emerging oil company purportedly primed to tap a Texas gusher — not to mention a really impressive collection of Nike sneakers.
But that engaging and eclectic facade masked a dark side.
Barnett, 40, has never been convicted of a serious crime but police, former associates and court documents paint him as a penny-stock con artist who scammed millions of dollars, mercilessly stalked enemies and lured an underage teen into a tryst on South Beach — by posing on Facebook as a Hooters waitress offering big bucks and a Rolex to bed a rich guy.
That guy, Miami Beach police say, happened to be him. And, they say, he never paid up.
Police documents released last month allege that Barnett — jailed since 2012 after the duped teen reported him to police — even plotted to have his young accuser murdered while he was behind bars.
Authorities worked with a jail informant to unravel the murder plot. Now, Barnett and his assistant, a former college student and model named Maggy Caceres, 23, have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder.
“He’s pure evil,” said one Miramar businessman who was says he was stalked by Barnett, and also targeted in his jailhouse scheme. “He wreaks havoc everywhere he goes.”
Both Barnett and Caceres have pleaded not guilty and face trial. Barnett’s defense attorney, Miami-Dade Assistant Public Defender Lisa Lewis, declined to comment.
Prosecutors charged Barnett and Caceres in November 2014. But records detailing the alleged plot remained sealed until late March as investigators ensured no one else was involved.
Caceres’ attorney said the former Florida International University student’s arrest came as a shock to her family and that the girl was manipulated.
“Maggy is a lovely young woman who was very naive and was taken advantage of and used by Barnett,” said defense attorney Jeffrey Weiner. “She realizes that and we’re working to favorably resolve the case on her behalf.”
Most of Barnett’s former associates were hesitant to talk. Several who spoke to the Herald did not want their identities revealed for fears of lawsuits — or for their own safety.
Raised in South Florida, Barnett worked as a manager at a Miami investment firm in the late 1990s. One former associate described him as punctual and extremely organized. “Bordering on OCD,” the associate said at a court hearing.
The first whiff of trouble came in the mid-2000s, when his company was targeted by law enforcement in a long-running scam to sell often-worthless “penny” stocks in nine companies that court documents say were nothing more than “hollow shells.”
Federal prosecutors say the group issued bogus press releases and Internet postings to create buzz for the sham companies. One of then, CMKM Diamonds, used “phony maps and fabricated videos” to convince investors it operated lucrative gold and gem mines in Africa, according to court documents.
Ten people were indicted in Las Vegas for securities fraud in a scheme believed to have bilked more than $70 million from investors. Several defendants are scheduled for federal trial this fall; Barnett, however, was not charged.
Barnett’s company, OMDA Oil and Gas, was part of the ring and billed itself as an emerging “serious player” in the energy business. Press releases touted the company’s improving financial fortunes, particularly with the “Concord Dome prospect,” a 167-acre field in Texas the company said was expected to produce more than one million barrels of oil.
“We expect Concord Dome to be a highly profitable project for many years to come,” Barnett said in a 2010 press release.
OMDA managed to sell millions of shares of stock to unwitting investors who shelled out at least $1.9 million, according to a federal indictment.
John Young, an Ohio investor, said that many people were lured in by Barnett’s affable nature and frequent company updates on online message boards. But as the months dragged on, he said it became clear the company was a scam. Young said Barnett used the threat of lawsuits to keep investors quiet.
“He used a lawyer as a gun. He sued practically everybody he came into contact with,” said Young, who lost more than $200,000 in stock purchases.
Another victim was Keith Houser, the head of a legitimate Texas company called BioTech Medical, which was working to produce lasers to be used in the medical field.
Houser recalls meeting Barnett a luncheon in Las Vegas in late 2003, a pretty young woman draped on his arm, “Mr. Barnett was referred to us as a guru who would help us raise $5 million in investments,” Houser said.
But according to court filings Barnett and the others illegally sold millions of shares – worth nearly $10 million – and pocketed the money meant to go to BioTech. Amid a flurry of suits and countersuits, Houser said Barnett began posting online “personal attacks” about him and his wife.
“He’s really a menace to society,” Houser said.
Back in Florida, where he owned over two dozen properties in Florida and a Kendall beauty salon, business associates began to grow alarmed.
In 2008, Miami police arrested him on charges of stalking after a former stylist at the salon complained he had been sending threatening text messages, then vandalized her car at the Coconut Grove mall CocoWalk. “My mission in life now is to punish you,” he texted her, according to court documents.
Prosecutors, unable to prove the charges, wound up dropping the case.
Barnett was a restraining-order magnet. In November 2011, a woman sought to keep Barnett away from her, saying he demanded $50,000 of her inheritance from a dead business partner. She reported two of her cars were vandalized. He was not charged.
The same year, Barnett had a falling out with a Miramar man with whom he had worked. After their relationship soured, Barnett filed a lawsuit, then began sending strange e-mails using an alias.
The businessman, who asked his name not be used to protect his family, discovered someone has thrown a brick through a sliding glass door and spray painted a wall. “I love what you’ve done with the place,” one of the e-mails read.
A man resembling Barnett was also captured on video surveillance stealing mail from the man.
He was convicted on a misdemeanor stalking charge, records show, and put on probation. One former secretary also accused Barnett of sending threatening e-mails and taking photos of her house after their relationship soured. “He’s a sociopath,” the woman told a judge in 2012.
She testified that Barnett had “many girlfriends” despite his marriage in 2007 to a Polish-born woman he met on a business trip in New York. “He liked to target people with low income, young and girls that were in need of papers or the money,” the secretary testified.
It was the pursuit of another young woman that finally landed him behind bars.
Prosecutors say that in the fall of 2012, Barnett set up a fake Facebook page — purporting to be a Hooters waitress named Janet Rodriguez — with the aim of befriending a 17-year-old Broward County girl.
Through Facebook messages, “Janet” later arranged a sexual tryst with a “wealthy friend” who promised to pay the teen $10,000 and a Rolex watch, according to an arrest warrant. The teen agreed and wound up having sex with the man at the Richmond Hotel on Miami Beach.
Afterward, at the hotel elevator, Barnett gave the girl a key card and told her to retrieve her money from the hotel room safe, police said. But the key didn’t work and Barnett split. “She realized that she had been tricked,” Miami Beach Detective Sarah Szuster testified at one hearing.
He was charged with sex crimes and human trafficking. A judge ordered him held without bail.
Behind bars, Barnett continued working with his new assistant, Caceres, the aspiring model. Caceres sent him mail to the jail, for instance, including photos of adult film stars, a local news weather woman and “the girl from Beverly Hills Ninja.”
According to an arrest warrant, Barnett in the fall of 2013 approached a fellow inmate with plans to kill the teen victim — as well as one of his ex-lawyers.
He also wanted his former Miramar associate shot in the legs “so he could never run” marathons again, according to an arrest warrant. The informant claimed he had “people” on the outside that could complete the plans.
Using Caceres, Barnett began raising money by selling his beloved collection of Nike sneakers online, and brow-beating his mother into giving him thousands as “a way to get proper justice,” he said on a recorded jail call.
Caceres delivered the money to the informant’s associates, police said. But unbeknownst to Barnett, the informant was secretly working with authorities, who analyzed Barnett’s jail calls to help cement their case. In December 2013, the informant told Barnett that the girl was dead, the warrant said.
As proof, the informant had someone create altered images depicting the girl as dead. The informant also showed him a fake tombstone — photographed at a real cemetery — to prove the hit happened. The informant told police that Barnett “is sick but very serious about these things.”