Investigation or character assassination? Fraud claim roils Miami election

Joe Carollo claims fraud in City of Miami elections

Former Miami mayor Joe Carollo accused his political opponents of mail fraud Tuesday, capping an ugly month of mud-slinging in the race for the city’s District 3 commission seat.
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Former Miami mayor Joe Carollo accused his political opponents of mail fraud Tuesday, capping an ugly month of mud-slinging in the race for the city’s District 3 commission seat.

Former Miami mayor Joe Carollo gave voters a Halloween to remember Tuesday when he told reporters he’d uncovered a political mail fraud scheme involving a dead woman.

Known for seeing enemies in the shadows — and for sometimes being right about it — Carollo said during a press conference that a political committee blasting him with attack ads has spent thousands of dollars distributing mail pieces under the name of a dead Maryland woman’s defunct company. Carollo, one of seven candidates running for Miami’s District 3 commission seat, believes the Tallahassee-based Accountability in Government, Inc. is trying to hide the source of its money and the extent of its spending.

“They tried to steal an election from me with dead voters,” said Carollo, who famously overturned the results of the 1997 mayoral election against Xavier Suarez after absentee ballots were deemed to have been cast in the name of dead voters. “Now they’re trying to defame me in another one with dead people.”

The bombastic politician, who has spent October on a political warpath, laid out why he thinks political “mercenaries” are targeting him through a fake company and why Mayor Tomás Regalado and his son, Tomás N. “Tommy” Regalado — his chief opponent in the race — are to blame. He said he has been “defamed” by baseless attacks twisting his tenure as mayor in Miami and city manager in Doral.

Tommy Regalado
Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado celebrates his re-election victory with his son Tommy Regalado in 2013. Roberto Koltun el Nuevo Herald

It was, to anyone who has followed a 40-year political career filled with investigations and allegations, vintage Carollo.

“Nobody that has any intelligence will believe anything that he says,” said former Doral Mayor Luigi Boria, whose son has contributed to a pro-Regalado political committee and been called a Chavista by Carollo. “He’s a professional liar.”

Carollo, who is also running against Zoraida Barreiro, Alex Dominguez, Alfie Leon, Miguel Soliman, and José Suárez, says he discovered that BT Mailing Service, a company listed as the owner of a pre-paid U.S. Postal Service account used to send Accountability in Government mailers, is in fact a defunct Maryland direct mail company owned by Theresa Ann Bakersmith, who died last year. He says he’s filing a complaint with the postal service and FBI, since he believes the mail may have been sent across state lines.

The U.S. Postal Service declined Tuesday to discuss BT Mailing Service’s permit. William S. Jones, a political operative named as the chairman of the committee, has not returned multiple messages seeking comment.

“Never in the history of Miami have we had a bunch of mercenaries like these come down to try to defame people in a campaign in a local election,” he said. “I’ve never seen a false postal stamp being used.”

The Regalados, however, say Carollo’s latest accusations are part of a character assassination campaign based on misleading claims and lies. They are livid that he has suggested in his own attack ads that Regalado Jr. is lying about a 29-year journalism career that started at age 15 as a Univision intern working the 1988 Republican National Convention. And they’re furious with a political mailer that insinuates the younger Regalado — whose passport has nary a stamp — has flown for free around the world with his father.

The press pass Tomas N. “Tommy” Regalado says he wore to the 1988 Republican National Convention, which he covered as a Univision intern Tomas N. Regalado

“Over the past few weeks, I have read, listened to, and watched Joe Carollo make bold lies to now character assassinations of my family and me, and today’s press conference is yet another example,” Regalado said in a statement that accused Carollo of spreading paranoia. “Today’s press conference is just another example of Joe being Joe, and the Residents of the City of Miami deserve better then the ridiculous situations and allegations he has made throughout his career and this race.”

This article has been corrected to reflect that Regalado worked as a Univision intern in 1988.