A longtime contractor at Miami International Airport spent at least seven years doctoring invoices and pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars that should have gone to the airport, investigators said Thursday.
The scam, according to investigators from the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office and the county’s inspector general’s office, was as simple as charging cargo carriers a certain fee for services, then misrepresenting what those services were to the Miami-Dade Aviation Department.
Investigators say between 2009 and 2015 Luis Alberto Ramirez, who owned Aviation Main Services Inc., would bill cargo carriers 7 percent for ground support services, then report to the county that it only completed line maintenance services and that the carriers were billed 3 percent.
Ramirez was charged with pocketing the difference. In total, investigators say, Ramirez defrauded the airport of $376,809 over those seven years. This week he was arrested and charged with organized scheme to defraud over $50,000 and grand theft of more than $100,000.
“There will be a high personal cost for those nickels, dimes and dollars fraudulently siphoned from taxpayers, because you will be arrested and you will find yourself standing inside a jail cell,” State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle said in a prepared statement.
Ramirez was still in jail Thursday with bond set at $10,000.
Scams at the airport have not been infrequent over the years.
Last year an insurance company and its president were charged with overbilling a baggage handling company more than $400,000. And in 2013, a husband and wife in charge of purchasing supplies for the airport hotel were charged with jacking up prices by more than $222,000.
The most famous chicanery of them all at MIA, though, was over a decade ago when more than 20 people were arrested in the notorious “Fuel Farm” scandal, a series of schemes that included the theft of millions of gallons of jet fuel.
Aviation Main Services has provided ramp services at MIA since 1992. Company workers meet cargo planes on the runway and provide towing services and maintenance. The company’s deal with Miami-Dade Aviation was that customers would be billed 7 percent for ground services and 3 percent for maintenance.
Investigators say Ramirez, who was the sole owner of the company and sold his majority interest recently, would falsify records sent to MDAD by stating ground services were done when it was actually maintenance work that was completed. Ramirez, investigators say, pocketed the additional 4 percent of revenue he collected.