'Lack of oversight' blamed in corruption case

Jesus Pons held on $3.2M bond

MIAMI – The mayor of Miami-Dade County blamed a lack of oversight after a longtime county employee was charged in a racketeering case involving about $16 million in taxpayer funds.

Police arrested Jesus "Jay" Pons, his wife Diana, and Bruno Diaz on Tuesday. All three face several charges, including racketeering and conspiring to racketeering. Diaz is Diana Pons' brother.

Pons used his position to rig bids for Data Industries, an IT company, then padded and faked their bills for years of kickbacks, according to prosecutors. Pons worked for Miami-Dade County's Internal Services Department and resigned last year.

"There was a lack of oversight, lack of controls," said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez. "It looks like in the department."

The arrest affidavit showed Pons' supervisor Clayton Baptiste and department head Wendi Norris signed off on his paperwork, including unauthorized overtime.

"What ultimately happened here is you had individuals that allowed others to take on their responsibilities, eliminating the checks and balances," said Lester Sola, director of the county's Internal Services Department.

Norris resigned in May 2012, a few months after the investigation began. She hasn't returned phone calls from Local 10.

Baptiste also resigned, but months earlier. He wasn't home when Local 10 went to his house Wednesday.

"We do know that his resignation was abrupt," said Sola.

At least some of the bogus invoices went for approval before the full Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners, who often rely heavily on details from their staff to make decisions.

"I think in this case, the administration itself was relying on this one individual -- 'Hey, this is what's going on' -- not knowing what was really going on," said Gimenez.

Prosecutors have said the actions of supervisors in the department don't rise to the level of criminal intent.