Wackenhut's Former Florida GM, Others Charged With Racketeering - NBC 6 South Florida

Wackenhut's Former Florida GM, Others Charged With Racketeering

Security firm execs arrested in the wake of a massive taxpayer overbilling scheme



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    Rene Pedrayes, arrested on racketeering charges related to the Wackenhut investigation.

    The man at the head of Wackenhut security services in Florida at the time of a 2007 NBCMiami investigation was arrested and charged with racketeering Friday, NBCMiami has learned.

    Rene Pedrayes, 49, was general manager of Wackenhut's state operations when he left the company amid allegations that the company systematically overcharged Miami-Dade taxpayers million of dollars for empty guard posts on county transit. [Read the arrest affidavit (PDF).]
    State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle also announced the arrest of two other high-ranking Wackenhut officials who oversaw the transit contract.

    Eduardo "Eddy" Esquivel was the top Wackenhut official in Miami-Dade County, managing the firm's lucrative security contract for MetroRail and Peoplemover train systems as well as the county's juvenile detention center, and Erika M. Ryan worked as a secretary and assistant to then-project manager of the Wackenhut Miami-Dade Transit contract, Elijah G. Pendleton.

    Pendleton was himself arrested and charged with racketeering two weeks ago. Two others were also arrested with Pendleton during the first wave of arrests related to the Wackenhut case.

    All are charged with racketeering, a felony. A county audit found Wackenhut overcharged taxpayers by several million dollars over three years, while an independent audit linked to a whistleblower lawsuit against Wackenhut found the amount as high as roughly $17 million over the life of the contract.
    Wackenhut has said it did nothing wrong, while investigators on the lawsuit case claim to have gone through  every single invoice and timesheet.
    Will there be more arrests? Fernandez Rundle's office isn’t saying. But documents have made reference to the possibility of Wackenhut being charged as a corporation, a possibility that would make government contracts more difficult for Wackenhut nationwide.

    Government contracts are an important part of the security giant, which was founded in South Florida but has since been taken over by a British firm. Its American operations are still based in Palm Beach Gardens, where it is run by president Drew Levine -- the same executive who presided over the firm during the unfolding scandal in Miami-Dade County.