South Florida contractor pleads guilty in alleged multimillion-dollar housing scam

Rene Sierra shows up for federal court in Miami on Thursday morning.
Rene Sierra shows up for federal court in Miami on Thursday morning. America TeVe

An affordable housing contractor accused of secretly diverting millions of dollars in kickbacks to four Miami-based developers pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing federal government subsidies meant to help the poor.

Rene Sierra, 57, founder of Plantation-based Siltek Affordable Housing, a construction company, faces between two and three years in prison at his sentencing this fall after reaching a plea deal on the theft conspiracy charge with the U.S. attorney’s office.

Sierra, who lives in Southwest Ranches, was charged with paying about $6.2 million in kickbacks to Biscayne Housing Group’s founders, Michael Cox and Gonzalo DeRamon, as well as Carlisle Development Group’s CEO, Matthew Greer, and the company’s co-founder, Lloyd Boggio.

They all allegedly cut a “side agreement” to inflate the construction costs of low-income apartment projects in Miami-Dade County to qualify for bigger government subsidies and then pocketed the “excess” profits, according to records filed in Miami federal court.

Sierra, who built four projects for Biscayne Housing Group, including two with Carlisle, made $1.3 million off the illicit scheme, according to prosecutors Michael Sherwin and Michael Berger.

Rene Sierra walks to court on Thursday, August 6, 2015. He reached a plea deal on an alleged scheme to plunder $36 million in U.S. subsidies to house the poor.

Sierra, represented by defense attorneys William Barzee and Hector Flores, is the second builder to plead guilty in the alleged fraud conspiracy.

Last month, Arturo Hevia, 63, founder of Doral-based Design Management and Builders Corp., pleaded guilty to the same theft conspiracy charge, stemming from paying more than $1 million in kickbacks to Biscayne Housing’s Cox, 47, and DeRamon, 51, according to court records.

Earlier this week, Greer, Boggio, Cox, DeRamon and a third contractor were accused of plundering $36 million in U.S. tax credits to enrich themselves from 14 government-subsidized projects built mostly in the Overtown, Little Haiti and Brownsville sections of Miami-Dade.

Greer, 37, and Boggio, 69, charged with two conspiracy offenses that carry up to 10 years in prison, allegedly received more than $26 million in kickbacks from a single Fort Lauderdale construction company that worked on most of their projects from 2007 to 2012. Michael Runyan, 66, president of the family-run business, BJ&K Construction Inc., has been cooperating with authorities.