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Courthouse Inquiry Ends With No Sign of Corruption

Courthouse Inquiry Ends With No Sign of Corruption

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Published by Neil Gillespie
Courthouse Inquiry Ends With No Sign Of Corruption, 35 page composite of news stories, Judge Gregory Holder
Courthouse Inquiry Ends With No Sign Of Corruption, 35 page composite of news stories, Judge Gregory Holder

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Published by: Neil Gillespie on Sep 25, 2013
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03/19/2014

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Courthouse Inquiry Ends With No Sign Of Corruption
By Elaine Silvestrini and Thomas W. KrauseThe Tampa TribuneSeptember 8, 2006TAMPA - No officials at the Hillsborough County Courthouse will becharged with any crimes at the conclusion of a lengthy investigation into possible corruption.Carl Whitehead, special agent in charge of the Tampa office of the FBI,said: "I am very confident that we have conducted a thorough and exhaustive investigation into these allegations. We were not able tosubstantiate those allegations. I believe the public should feel comfortableand have a sense of confidence that they can deal with their state courtsystem. I have no information that would indicate otherwise."U.S. Attorney Paul Perez said Thursday: "Bottom line, is that the FBI and the FDLE over the last number of years received a lot of complaints, leads,allegations, and they did their due diligence in running out each one of those, and that took time."Perez wrote a letter to Hillsborough Chief Judge Manuel Menendez Jr. onAug. 29, saying, "The investigation has concluded with our assessment thatno current judicial officer or court employees engaged in any alleged wrongdoing and that there was no credible evidence of 'courthousecorruption' within the 13th Judicial Circuit."Perez said Thursday that the investigation also cleared former judges and courthouse employees.Menendez said he hopes the letter will assure the public that there's nocorruption at the courthouse."I would really like this to be the last chapter of that saga," he said.
Case Predated Investigators
Perez said the corruption investigation, which began before he took officein March 2002, really involved a series of unrelated incidents that were "alllooked at by the same group of federal or state investigators.""Whenever a lead or tip was given, it would go to them," Perez said. "To methis was unfortunate, because most of these [cases] stood on their own."Whitehead said the investigation, which also predates his tenure, was an
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umbrella investigation into several similar allegations involving people whotraveled in the same circles. But he said the allegations of wrongdoing wereunrelated in that they didn't involve people who were accused of committing crimes together.The way the investigation was set up, Whitehead said, "everything thatcame in that was remotely connected was kind of put in under thisumbrella."Because he was not involved in the beginning, Whitehead said he wasn'tsure of the thinking behind that approach. "Maybe there was some good reason to do that," he said. "Tangentially, they were somewhat related, butnot in the way that you would think of in an investigation."Whitehead said the investigation started in 2002 as a spinoff of an organized crime case in the Sarasota area. He said a subject in that investigation gaveagents information about possible wrongdoing at the Hillsborough CountyCourthouse. The source, whom Whitehead wouldn't identify, mentioned former sheriff's Maj. Rocky Rodriguez, who would later figure prominentlyin stories about the investigation.Perez said the only indictment resulting from the investigation was of former postal union chief Lenin "Lenny" Perez - not related to the U.S.attorney - who was accused of accepting kickbacks from health care providers for referring union workers' compensation claims to them.Lenin Perez, past president of Local 599 of the National Association of Letter Carriers in Tampa, was sentenced in May to 21 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to a single felony charge of receiving akickback. Under a plea deal, federal prosecutors dismissed 32 other charges.His co-defendant, private investigator Joseph Anthony Gonzalez, wassentenced to probation.Whitehead said Lenin Perez was investigated as part of the larger investigation because authorities initially received allegations that he wasinvolved in wrongdoing at the courthouse. "That was not substantiated,"Whitehead said. "What was substantiated was that he was involved in other scams."Menendez said he has spoken to Paul Perez about the courthouseinvestigation on several occasions. Typically, Menendez said, federalofficials do not comment publicly on investigations. In this case, becausethere were public statements, Menendez said he made a special request toPerez."All I ask, in fairness to everyone involved, is that we announce when it isconcluded," Menendez said.The closed investigation, he said, shows thatcorruption did not exist. "If they found anything, they would have broughtcharges," he said.
Chief Judge Criticizes Tribune
Menendez had harsh words for the local media, The Tampa Tribunespecifically.The Tribune strung together many unrelated events and tried to "paint a picture of some giant entity" of courthouse corruption, Menendez said.
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He said federal agencies did investigate several allegations regardingcourthouse officials."That doesn't mean there was a massive investigation into corruption at thecourthouse," he said.Although the investigations were minor and unrelated, Menendez said, theTribune consistently pointed to them as evidence of one large corruptioninvestigation.At least three sworn affidavits acquired by the Tribune mention aninvestigation into corruption at the Hillsborough County Courthouse.In 2003, Circuit Judge Gregory P. Holder provided an affidavit in which hesays he has taken a stand against courthouse corruption. That same year, aTampa police detective and a former FBI agent said in sworn affidavits thatthey worked with Holder as part of an investigation into corruption at thecourthouse.The affidavits were all filed as part of a separate investigation into Holder.The Judicial Qualifications Commission investigated whether Holder had  plagiarized in a paper he wrote as an Air Force Reserve officer in 1997.Holder was cleared of that allegation.Last year, during a JQC hearing, Holder said under oath that he assisted in afederal investigation into former chief Judge F. Dennis Alvarez, former Circuit Judge Robert H. Bonanno and former Hillsborough County sheriff'sdeputy Rodriguez.
Menendez Dismissed Holder's Testimony.
"I'm not going to disagree with him," Menendez said. "I don't have anydetails about what he was or was not doing."Holder declined to comment on the closed investigation.Barry Cohen, Alvarez's lawyer, said: "I think Mr. Perez is to be commended for sending a letter advising the courts that an investigation has beenconcluded. A person spends a lifetime building a reputation. Most of thetime, it's more important that anything we have. When there is a suggestionin the media that someone has been involved in criminal or corrupt activityit is a serious matter and not to be taken lightly. … We're glad it's over with."Bonanno, who is now in private practice, said no one from the FBI or FDLEhas ever contacted him about any investigation."It's really nice to see that the Greg Holder flight of fantasy has finallylanded," Bonanno said. "I don't need any vindication. No one has ever accused me of anything."Bonanno was discovered after hours in July 2000 inside Holder's darkened chambers. He resigned in January 2002 as the state Legislature was about tocommence an impeachment hearing.Rodriguez, who now works as a private investigator, expressed relief thatthe investigation has closed, but frustration that it took so long. A former 
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