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Lawyer Sends Cease-and-Desist Letter to FL Chief

Lawyer Sends Cease-and-Desist Letter to FL Chief

City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado (L) listens as police Chief Miguel A. Exposito speaks during a press conference to announce 'Operation Take Back Our Streets'' on August 10, 2010 in Miami, Florida. [AP]

The Miami Herald via YellowBrix

March 29, 2011

MIAMI – For months, Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito has fueled a political firestorm by suggesting the city’s mayor is in bed with nefarious criminals linked to slot-style video gaming machines in cafeterias and markets across the city.

Now two businessmen are adding another twist to the saga: They want Exposito to stop linking them to organized crime.

In a cease-and-desist letter sent to the chief last week – and copied to City Hall – a lawyer for Tomas Cabrerizo and Yoram Izhak demanded that the chief and Maj. Alfredo Alvarez stop making “defamatory” statements about them after the two top cops appeared on a Spanish-language news show to discuss the machines and organized crime.

Glenn Widom, the lawyer for the two men, pointed out that while the men were arrested in 2004 as part of a high-profile racketeering case, federal prosecutors dropped the charges after realizing they had nothing to do with the case. “They were completely exonerated,” Widom said in an interview.

On Monday, Alvarez bristled at Widom’s letter to Exposito, saying he and the chief never mentioned Cabrerizo and Izhak by name, although the news-show host did. “We have never talked about them directly, but I can still technically say they were arrested and indicted on this case,” Alvarez said.

While it’s correct the two men were indicted in the case, the federal prosecutor, Juan Antonio Gonzalez, confirmed in a recent letter to Widom that once the investigation was completed, prosecutors concluded the two men had “no criminal involvement” in the matter.

Widom’s letter to Exposito comes as the police chief and Alvarez have mounted a campaign in the Spanish-language media in the past few weeks to link gaming interests and organized crime to Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina, who is running for county mayor.

Alvarez said their purpose on the show was to show how Regalado brought in shady characters to draft an ordinance that in essence condoned illegal gambling. After the ordinance passed, Miami police seized more than 400 machines in a raid known as “Lucky 7” and later complained to the FBI that Regalado had meddled in the raid.

“How can you bring organized crime people to do a city government ordinance? It shows a relationship,” Alvarez said. “It shows why the mayor got pissed when we hit the machines. No one wants to print that.”

Regalado shot back Monday at Exposito: “It’s time to stop, for one reason: They just keep talking and there is no investigation. The reason I know that: If there is an investigation, they can’t talk about it. This is about him trying to look strong, look like he’s the one running the show.”

Exposito and Alvarez have crusaded against the video gaming machines that dot cafeterias and markets across Miami and Hialeah. They maintain the machines are illegal games of chance, while the adult arcade industry says the games are legal because they can be mastered by skill.

Last year Regalado successfully championed an ordinance, modeled after one in Hialeah, that allowed amusement machines as long as operators pay a registration fee. The ordinance stresses the machines cannot be used for gambling – but police feared the ordinance would be used anyway to flood the city with illegal ones.

The owners of 105 machines sued Exposito this month, seeking the return of 105 machines, saying they were illegally seized in the Lucky 7 raid.

“I really think these guys are becoming rogue elephants,” said attorney Al Milián, who along with Rick Hermida filed the lawsuit against Exposito. “They’re stomping around, making wild accusations against people when all they’ve done is confiscate some stupid little slot machines.”

In their months-long campaign against video gaming machines, Exposito and Alvarez have repeatedly invoked the name of the Jose Battle Sr. organization, which ran bookmaking and other illegal operations in New Jersey and New York dating back to the 1970s. Exposito has suggested Miami police played a significant role in bringing down the group by targeting the video gaming machines.

“If you saw the movie The Godfather, the murders that happened in that movie are nothing” compared to what Battle’s organization did, Exposito told the host of America TeVe’s A Mano Limpia show last week.

On the show, the two officers singled out amusement businessman Orlando Cordoves, who along with family and business donated thousands to Regalado’s mayoral campaign. Cordoves, they said, also helped craft the city ordinance passed last fall.

The federal government indicted Battle, his son, Cordoves, Cabrerizo and Izhak and a slew of others in 2004 after a long-running investigation. According to police memos, the federal probe was well under way when Miami police, in 2004, happened to seize several machines belonging to the suspects and the information was added to the much bigger case.

Cordoves, Cabrerizo and Izhak all saw their racketeering cases dismissed. Cabrerizo and Izhak did a short probation time for an unrelated tax evasion charge.

Cordoves’ attorney, Rick Diaz, blasted Exposito for appearing on America TeVe and spreading misinformation about his client. He stressed that Cordoves had his record expunged. “It’s outrageous. It’s inexcusable and unforgiveable,” said Diaz, who said he plans to sue Exposito and possibly the television station.

The elder Battle died in 2007 after pleading guilty to racketeering. His lawyer, Jack Blumenfeld, said that Cabrerizo and Izhak were legitimate businessmen who had “nothing to do with anything.”

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