The Miami-Dade County Commission election is less than a month away and the race for District 12, which includes the cities of Doral, Sweetwater and parts of Hialeah, is heating up.
It is the first time in twenty years that there will be a new face in this seat, as Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz has occupied the seat since 2002.
In District 12, Doral Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez faces the former commissioner of Sweetwater Sophie Lacayo.
Lacayo had a brief stint in politics when she was elected commissioner of Sweetwater in 2019 and was promptly removed from office and charged with perjury in August 2020. A state attorney’s office investigation found that Lacayo did not live in Sweetwater and therefore had lied in his qualification documents. Lacayo was sentenced to one year probation, barring her from running for office.
Now she’s trying to convince voters that she won’t lie to them again. However, her actions lead some to believe that she is up to the same old trick.
In fact, Lacayo recently tried to get his case sealed with the town of Sweetwater in the middle of the campaign. She dropped her claim after prosecutors objected to closing Lacayo’s perjury case, saying the public has a right to know of a candidate’s past offenses while in office.
His campaign finance also throw up several red flags. According to public records, Lacayo has spent a record amount of his own money — $780,745.23 to date — trying to get elected to the County Commission.
This is an astronomical amount, considering the mayor Daniella Levine Cava spent $294 of his own money on the mayoral seat of the same county.
As you follow the money trail, you will find that Lacayo owns most of the companies who have donated to his campaign. Some examples: Lacayo Trade Inc., Lacayo Investment, Qc Tax Pro System LLC, Qc Trade Group LLC, Lacayo Trade Group Corp., PW Empodate Organization and TL Business Services Corp.
All of these companies made maximum contributions to Lacayo’s campaign. At first glance, this may not seem newsworthy, but what makes it interesting is that all of these companies received Paycheck Protection Program loans from the federal government, totaling millions of dollars. . Lacayo said these companies were faltering during the pandemic and therefore needed millions of dollars in PPP loans to stay afloat. Now those same companies are funding his political campaign.
Meanwhile, the town of Sweetwater is demanding that she repay the $68,887 she received during the time she illegitimately served as commissioner, which she has failed to do.
Reimbursing Sweetwater residents shouldn’t be a problem, given that she claims in her voter qualification paperwork that her net worth is $24,806,381.81. According to the documents, most of his net worth is tied to the previously mentioned companies, which received the PPP loans. What makes her qualifying documents remarkable is not the nearly $25 million net worth she claims, but the $1,500 in liabilities she lists.
A quick search of public records shows that Lacayo took out three private balloon mortgages for the three real estate purchases she made, totaling $4,634,000. These loans do not appear anywhere on his qualifying documents. The loans become even more interesting when we examine who holds the mortgages, because it seems that Lacayo did business with members of the Venezuelan regime: the person who holds these loans is Harb Anuar HalabiDirector of the Banco Nacional de Credito de Venezuela or the National Credit Bank of Venezuela.
Lacayo’s story of perjury, coupled with a campaign riddled with dodgy funds and sky-high PPP loans, raises many questions.
Where does all his money come from? Why are companies that needed PPP loans helping fund political races? Why are there so many inconsistencies in her qualifying documents, like the additional $4.6 million in liabilities she failed to mention? Who is Anuar Halabi Harb and why is he lending millions for “investment properties” that are claimed as residences for political candidates?
With just weeks to go until Election Day, we encourage voters to educate themselves on the candidates running for office and make informed decisions as it appears business is business as usual for the county. from Miami Dade.