Three people have been arrested and charged in scheme that authorities say has cost Miami-Dade County millions in lost revenues, authorities said Tuesday.
The arrests were made under "Operation Bogus Billing" and involve at least one county employee, according to the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office.
"It was really to just underwrite a lavish lifestyle," said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.
Miami-Dade Police seized artwork, furniture and other items from the Coral Gables home of Jesus "Jay" Pons and his wife Diana Pons, saying the couple masterminded a sophisticated scheme to steal public money.
"It was almost as if the county was paying Mr. Pons to defraud the county," said Rundle.
Allegedly, with help from brother-in-law Bruno Diaz, Jay Pons is accused of using his former position as a county employee, overseeing billions of dollars worth of county contracts, to pocket more than $6 million.
"Essentially everything had to go through Jay Pons, and gave him the perfect placement to implement his scheme," Rundle said.
The arrest warrant says Pons used shell corporations to cover up over billing, with Pons getting kickbacks, and they did it three ways, including using ghost employees.
"They would falsify documents in phantom names, saying that so and so and so and so was working for the company and they needed to pay them at this hourly rate," Rundle said.
in this one case, prosecutors say a $760,000 contract ballooned into a $16 million expenditure for the county.
"But the bigger question is how did it happen? How did this happen? A lot of money over a long period of time," Rundle said.
County mayor Carlos Gimenez said the case will spark tighter oversight.
"You know you gotta put controls in place so that a contract that was about a million dollars doesn't go to 10 and there's gotta be some bells go off when things like that happen," he said.
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