(Source: Robert Nolin Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (MCT) — Former Broward Teachers Union president Pat Santeramo, arrested for allegedly bilking some $300,000 of the organization’s funds through contractor kickbacks, was set to be released from jail after a judge approved his financial sources to pay a $480,000 bond.
In a two-hour hearing Thursday evening, Santeramo’s attorney, Bendict Kuehne of Miami, took pains to show his client’s funds were clean. Later that night, Circuit Judge Carlos Rebollo approved the use of the funds for Santeramo’s bond, clearing the way for his release from jail. As of 8:30 this morning, Santeramo remained in jail.
Santeramo, 64, turned himself in at the Broward County Jail on Tuesday, charged with 20 mostly felony counts, including grand theft, money laundering, fraud and racketeering. Between 2001 and 2012, investigators with theBroward Sheriff’s Office and Broward State Attorney’s Office said, he collected $165,000 in kickbacks from BTU and another $121,848 in false sick and vacation time.
David Esposito, of Marstan Construction of Coral Springs, told investigators that in more than 30 instances from 2006 through 2011 he submitted inflated invoices to the union for work such as changing light bulbs, dyeing carpets and exterminating ants. He then paid cash back to Santeramo in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $20,000.
Esposito was given immunity from prosecution in return for his information, Assistant State Attorney Adriana Alcalde-Padron said.
Circuit Judge Ilona Holmes set a bond of $480,000 for Santeramo, who faces at least 30 years if convicted.
But before bond could be granted, Kuehne had to prove that $48,000 — the 10 percent premium his client must pay — didn’t come from ill-gotten gains. Santeramo and his wife, Lynne Webb, president of the Pasco County school employees union, would pay the bond money from legitimate sources, he argued.
“All the money used to support the bond comes from salary and earnings,” Kuehne told the judge. “What they’ve done, from the beginning of their marriage to the present, is save money.”
Assistant State Attorney Ellen St. Laurent, however, countered that the couple’s income climbed even though they bought a $587,000 home in Sewall’s Point in St. Lucie County and, through accelerated payments, satisfied $300,000 remaining on the mortgage in three years.
“Their cash available should not have gone up during that time,” she argued. “If you look at the numbers, they don’t add up.”
St. Laurent also pointed out that from 2009 through 2011, even-numbered deposits ranging from $900 to $50,000 were paid into the couple’s account. Webb testified that she didn’t know how the money got there, because she handled household expenses while Santeramo dealt with savings and investments.
“In excess of 20 times we see money going into the account,” St. Laurent said. “They cannot delineate what the sources of those funds are.”
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