Former Hialeah mayor Julio Robaina pleaded not guilty to tax fraud charges during a formal arraignment Friday morning.
Robaina, 48, spoke with reporters following the brief hearing and thanked his family and friends for their support.
"Today is the first step of a process," Robaina said. "We believe in the justice system, we know that when the facts are told in our day in court, we will be vindicated, our name will be cleared, and we will continue to help in this community."
Robaina and his wife, Raiza Robaina, are charged with conspiring to evade their taxes, creating false returns and lying to federal agents.
Raiza Robaina's arraignment was rescheduled to June 7 due to the judge's concern of a possible conflict of interest in their case.
Robaina and his wife made their first appearance in federal court last week, where a judge set Julio Robaina's bond at $250,000 and Raiza Robaina's bond at $100,000.
A 10-page indictment released Thursday claims the couple, who own a loan company, made six-figure transactions between 2005-2007 but reported small five-figure losses. Over those two years, officials allege the Robainas' taxable personal income was falsely understated, while Mr. Robaina's business tax forms showed inflated losses.
The alleged incidents took place while Julio Robaina was earning a salary of more than $200,000 as mayor. Prosecutors say that when questioned in 2010 the couple lied to federal agents about Julio Robaina's involvement in his wife's lending business.
The allegations were uncovered after convicted Ponzi schemer and Robaina acquaintance Luis Felipe Perez helped investigators, his attorney said in a statement to NBC 6. The information provided by Perez linked Robaina to a loan operation that paid him off with interest in cash, the attorney said.
"[Perez] turned over records showing payments to Mayor Robaina as well as others at very high interest rates. The records reflected monthly payments of the interest, half by check and half by cash. Additionally, [Perez] provided testimony and witnesses who would make the cash payments..." said Alvin Entin, Perez's attorney.
Hialeah resident Reina Guanche is one of the supporters of the Robainas who refuse to believe the allegations.
“We're here for them, we believe in these people. We believe that this people is innocent,” Guanche said.
Robaina served as Hialeah's mayor from 2005-2011 before resigning to run for mayor of Miami-Dade, an election he lost to Carlos Gimenez.
“During his time as mayor, and I was councilman those years, there was no doubt, no shadow of a doubt about his managing of the public funds of the municipality,” Caragol said.
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