Miami-Dade bureaucrat pleads guilty to massive theft

Jesus Pons, the county bureaucrat who used the cover name of gangster Meyer Lansky during his scheme to loot millions from taxpayers, pleaded guilty Friday and agreed to serve more than four years in prison.

A former high-level manager with Miami-Dade’s General Services Administration, Pons must also pay $1 million in restitution.

His legal troubles aren’t over – Pons is also facing sentencing on a federal tax evasion case stemming from the money stolen from Miami-Dade taxpayers.

The 52-year-old Coral Gables resident will be allowed to remain free for the next five months until he is sentenced in the federal case.

Pons, who was arrested in June 2013, pleaded guilty to eight felony counts of grand theft and one of unlawful compensation. In all, Pons must serve 54 months in prison, with an added five years of probation.

He was a former board member at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and longtime county employee who mostly kept a low-profile.

But Miami-Dade prosecutors say he allowed county contracts to swell to ridiculous dollar amounts, all while accepting paper bags stuffed with cash from a New York tech company.

Pons arranged a scheme to overbill for work never done by Data Industries Inc, then got kickbacks of between 10 and 50 percent of the profits, prosecutors say. This was done while he continued to collect a county paycheck.

Away from County Hall, investigators say, he exuded audacity.

He drove a Porsche Cayenne, arranged fraudulent deals via email using the name of his favorite gangster, “Meyer Lansky,” slept with the company president’s fiancée, bragged about off-shore banks accounts and a home in the Caribbean – while hinting at vague mob ties.

During the scheme, the president of Data Industries called himself “Beth Goldberg” in e-mails arranging the illicit payments.

Also arrested last year: wife Diana Pons, an accountant who prosecutors said was in on the scheme, and Bruno Diaz, Pons’ brother-in-law who also worked for the county.

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop the charges against Diana Pons and her brother.

The arrests were an embarrassing blow for Miami-Dade’s GSA, which is now called the Internal Services Department. The sprawling department manages buildings and properties, handles billing, and coordinates real estate purchases.

In 2006, GSA hired Data Industries to handle its information technology services. The original contract was for $760,000 but with Pons pulling the strings, it ballooned up to a staggering $10.7 million paid to the company.

In all, investigators say at least $6 million was stolen, with half of that going to Pons.