|Banah International Group|
|Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez (right) hugs ex-marimbero Alexander I. Perez|
On July 13, Alexander I. Perez stood underneath a new street sign christening a
portion of SE 10th Avenue in front of his Hialeah warehouse as "Banah Sweet Way." A gaggle of local politicos -- including Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, his Hialeah counterpart Carlos Hernandez, and County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa -- huddled around the owner of Banah International Group, a sugar-making company that boasts it will create 300 jobs in La Ciudad Que Progresa.
In addition to the street renaming, Perez's company has also received $400,000 in state and county tax breaks thanks to Gimenez, Hernandez, and Sosa.
The occasion capped a sweet turnaround for Perez, a 48-year-old Cuban American who was released from federal prison in 2007 after serving four years for moving a different type of ingestible white substance: cocaine.
Perez has even become a media darling at 1 Herald Plaza. In February, El Nuevo Herald
trumpeted Banah's claims he will invest $32 million into its 300,000-square-foot sugar making and packaging facility. Last week, the Miami Herald
's Business Monday
chimed in with a mostly positive fluff piece.
For the last three weeks, Banana Republican has been investigating how this former marimbero schmoozed some of Miami-Dade's most powerful Cuban American politicos into giving him taxpayer money and a street to celebrate his new found career as a sugar pusher.
I found that the county mayor's office, when doling out incentives to companies promising jobs, doesn't do routine criminal background checks or cursory searches of the Miami-Dade civil court system, which would have easily turned up Perez's felony conviction, as well as a spate of lawsuits that raises serious doubts about Banah's financial ability to deliver the jobs promised to Hialeah residents.