Hey, uh, a neo-Nazi was stopped within minutes of burning down an entire Miami Beach apartment complex and causing an international mass-death incident. It would seem to be pretty hard to argue to name a crime in Miami this year was more insane.
Or maybe not. Crime in Miami is so utterly bizarre and inexplicable that the public tends to forget absolutely bonkers events mere days after they happened. For instance, we all basically memory-holed the fact that a deranged Miamian sent pipe-bombs to CNN this year. Here’s a primer on the most insane crimes that (allegedly) occurred this year, just to help keep our collective memories intact:
Last month, Miami’s federal prosecutors unveiled a string of indictments in an international scheme to funnel a staggering $1.2 billion out of Venezuela’s state-owned oil firm and then launder that money in South Florida. In fact, prosecutors believe that Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is wrapped up in the scheme, the Miami Herald reports.
Now, federal authorities say they’ve caught another man tied to the racket. Jose Manuel Gonzalez Testino, a 48-year-old dual U.S.-Venezuelan citizen, was arrested at Miami International Airport this past Tuesday after he was charged with paying off Venezuelan oil officials in exchange for lucrative government contracts.
“Gonzalez and a co-conspirator paid at least $629,000 in bribes to a former Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA) official,” the feds say in a statement, in exchange for contracts and payments in U.S. dollars instead of Venezuelan bolivars, which have suffered such high inflation they’re nearly worthless.
The feds have now charged 17 people, including Gonzalez, with crimes related to corruption at PDVSA. So far, 12 have pleaded guilty. Among other companies, PDVSA owns the oil brand Citgo, operating in the United States.
Of course, there’s a level of irony that U.S. prosecutors are targeting Venezuelan oil company corruption when American petroleum firms have been accused of absurd levels of government corruption and human-rights violations (especially in Latin America) for the past century without any real punishment.
But at the same time, PDVSA’s corruption has been thoroughly documented and has had a devastating impact on Venezuelans. Economists say Venezuela’s current economic crash and hunger crisis are tied entirely to government mismanagement and corruption. Under former leader Hugo Chávez, Venezuela operated as a single-industry “petro-state” that relied on oil profits to buy virtually all other goods from other nations and to fund government social programs. (Oil-related economic busts have been a recurring issue in Venezuela for decades, albeit not to this extent.) That government model worked pretty well for both the Chávez and Maduro administrations until global oil prices dropped in 2014 and the country could no longer afford anything. Enter the starvation crisis and Maduro’s subsequent human-rights crackdown.
In the meantime, it sure seems as if Venezuelan officials were also siphoning streams of public money from PDVSA when the nation’s citizens needed it most.
Friday, 56-year-old Planation resident Cesar Sayoc was arrested for sending 13 packages containing pipe bombs to prominent Trump critics.
Sayoc’s social media profiles show dozens of photos of him around South Florida and attending Trump rallies. They also claim he works for the Hard Rock Hotel, but a spokesperson said there is no evidence of this.
Sayoc, whose grandmother’s last name was Altieri, goes by Cesar Altieri in his online profiles. They show he was a serious Trump supporter who loathed the Clintons and George Soros. Videos on one of Altieri’s Facebook profiles show him at Trump rallies and posing with Michael the Black Man, who supports the president. Sayoc’s Facebook profiles have since been taken down and his Twitter accounts have been suspended.
On October 3, Sayoc tweeted at Eric Holder, one of the people to whom a bomb was addressed, saying, “See u soon Tick Tock.”
According to a lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade County Court, Miami Police Officer Adrian Santos was thrown out of the downtown Miami nightclub E11even in the early-morning hours of November 18, tossed into the back of a cop car, and given a drug test. He was quickly relieved of duty — and is currently suspended when he waits to be fired — but claims in court he had no idea why.
Today prosecutors filled in some blanks: The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office charged Santos with cocaine possession after security cameras caught the off-duty cop snorting coke inside the popular club known for its gyrating, topless women.
“Witnesses indicated that Santos was allegedly observed with a plastic baggie containing a white, powdery substance and was observed allegedly inhaling some of the white powder,” State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced in a news release. “The nightclub’s surveillance video appears to support this observation.”
Because E11even operates 24 hours a day in the city’s heavily trafficked downtown club district, Miami Police officers work in the area pretty much round-the-clock. Rundle’s office says the nightclub security director kicked Santos out of the club and turned him over to officers from his own department.
The city announced in a tweet that Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes is expected to host a news conference about the arrest at 2 p.m. today.
“It’s an unfortunate situation when one of our officers betrays the oath they took,” the department wrote on Twitter.
It was well after midnight inside the posh lounge of the Trump National Doral Miami when a man [and former porn actor named Jonathan Oddi] unfurled a large American flag, pulled out a gun, and started yelling about President Donald Trump. When he began firing, the resort staff called 911.
When the cops arrived, the man started shooting at them, sparking a furious gunfight in the wood-and-gold-trimmed lobby. Officers eventually wounded the man several times in his legs before arresting him and rushing him to a local hospital.
“MDPD and Doral Police responded to a shooting where a subject opened fire in the lobby of the Trump Doral,” MDPD said on Twitter. “Officers exchanged gunfire, striking the subject. Thankfully, there were no shooting victims. An officer suffered a broken wrist.”
TV cameras captured footage of the man believed to be the shooter as he was wheeled into a hospital. He appeared to be conscious and alert.
A man with an apartment full of swastikas and Nazi memorabilia damn near blew up a Miami Beach condo building yesterday, according to Miami Beach Police, who say they arrived literally minutes before 72-year-old Walter Edward Stolper lit the Pavilion Residences at 5601 Collins Ave. on fire. Officers said they got there shortly before 4 p.m. yesterday to find that Stolper had already begun spraying gasoline around the building and had brought padlocks to lock down the building’s fire hoses and ensure the place burnt to the ground with people inside.
“Our investigators eventually identified and then actually intercepted the suspect in the parking garage of the building,” MBPD spokesperson Ernesto Rodriguez said in a news release, which CBS Miami first reported on earlier today. “At that moment, he was in possession of two gasoline containers. He had already dumped other containers with gasoline down a trash chute, and residents could smell the fumes of gasoline throughout the building.”
Police say Stolper also brought two electrical fans to help spread the ensuing flames.
Stolper’s condo complex has apparently been trying to evict him for some time. His “motivation appears to have been a combination of anger at an upcoming eviction and anger toward fellow residents who are Jewish,” MBPD says. Officers said in an arrest report that they were called to the scene after witnesses said they heard Stolper say he was going to burn down the building “with all of the fucking Jews.” Officers wrote that Stolper had apparently “shown his anger” at his neighbors in the past.
A second witness told the cops Stolper had expressed a desire to “kill all Jews” and had told a neighbor he was going to pour gasoline down the building’s garbage chute and light the place up.
Investigators say they confronted Stolper in the middle of his act. At 3:45 p.m., the cops say they found Stolper inside the parking lot with two gasoline containers in a shopping cart. (The cops say they smelled a strong odor of gasoline.) The cops then checked the garbage chute and found eight more gas cans.
“Gas had been poured down the garbage chute from the 15th floor down,” the arrest form reads.
The officers then interviewed Stolper inside his apartment, where they say they found the black electrical fans. They also found “artifacts with swastikas and books of Nazi ideology.” Despite the seemingly obvious nature of the attack, Stolper told the police he had “bought the gas to make a small barbecue.”
He was arrested at 4 p.m. yesterday and charged with attempted first-degree arson. Beach PD at 4:43 p.m. today posted a clip of a storage locker they found containing 28 additional canisters of gasoline, plus sulfur powder and potassium nitrate. After the cops found those items, Stolper was charged with an additional count of attempted murder.