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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