Charges: Santeramo stole $165,000 from Broward Teachers Union

By Bob Norman - Investigative Reporter

Former Broward Teachers Union chief Pat Santeramo, pictured above, turned himself in to the Broward County Jail on a slew of criminal charges. 

Santeramo has been charged with stealing $165,000 from the union in a kickback scheme involving a Coral Springs construction company, owned by a friend, David Esposito, the former president of the Broward Housing Finance Authority.

The scheme allegedly worked this way: Santeramo gave Esposito's construction firm, Marstan Construction, a contract to renovate BTU headquarters. He then overpaid Esposito, who allegedly returned $165,500 into Santeramo's pocket. Here's a release from the State Attorney's Office:

The Broward State Attorney's Office has charged former Broward Teachers Union president Patrick Santeramo with one count of racketeering and 19 other theft-related and campaign-fraud charges.
Santeramo turned himself in at the Broward County Jail Tuesday morning.
Besides the Racketeering charge, Santeramo was charged with six counts of Grand Theft; five counts of Campaign Contribution Violations; four counts of Money Laundering; three counts of Organized Scheme to Defraud and one count of Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering. The Warrant to Arrest was signed Monday by Broward Circuit Court Judge Ilona Holmes.
The investigation, conducted by the Broward Sheriff's Office and the Broward State Attorney's Office, showed that after Santeramo's election as president of BTU in November 2001, the new union president "began using the BTU as his artifice to organize his scheme to defraud the union and its members."
"Santeramo, while using his unilateral control of the union's business to include contracting, vendor approval, payment authorization and distribution of union assets, manipulated the union's business, accounting and financial operations for his own benefit," according to the Affidavit to Arrest.
Between 2001 and January 2012, Santeramo was able "to systematically divert approximately $165,500 in union funds to himself thorough an invoice-kickback scheme with a construction company.
In one of those 43 instances of racketeering that investigators uncovered, Santeramo had the construction company bill BTU $89,295 for repairing the BTU building elevators. The company gave $20,000 of the union's payment back to Santeramo in cash, investigators found.
Santeramo is also accused of making a series of illegal campaign contributions by having 25 individuals, including BTU members, make donations to a variety of candidates for which he then reimbursed them with BTU funds. Santeramo also improperly collected more than $121,848 by claiming false sick time and vacation time, it was discovered.
The lead investigator for BSO is Det. Michael Johnston. Assistant State Attorney Adriana Alcalde of the State Attorney's Public Corruption Unit is prosecuting the case.
Racketeering and Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering are first-degree felonies punishable by up to 30 years in Florida State Prison.
One Grand Theft charge is a first-degree felony, the other five charges are third-degree felonies.
Four of the campaign contribution violations are third-degree felonies; one is a first-degree misdemeanor.
The four money-laundering charges are third-degree felonies.
One count of Organized Crime to Defraud is a first-degree felony, the second count is a second-degree felony, and the third count is a third-degree felony.
Second degree felonies are punishable by up to 10 years in prison; third-degree felonies are punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

The Broward Sheriff's Office will hold a news conference on the Santeramo case at 12:30 p.m. The case was worked by deputies and the State Attorney's Office.

Even as Santeramo was under criminal investigation and funds were unaccounted for, the Broward Teachers Union new leader, John Tarka, approved a payout of $175,000 to Santeramo in sick and vacation leave. Some $121,000 of that money was improperly paid out, according to the State Attorney's Office.

Several union officials have been charged with violating campaign laws after being reimbursed by BTU for political contributions made to former gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink and Hilary Clinton in a scheme allegedly devised by Santeramo.

Here's a link to previous reporting.

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