Judge grants Santeramo bail

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. - UPDATE II: Broward Circuit Judge Carlos Rebollo has granted former Broward Teachers Union President Pat Santeramo bail after a court hearing on whether he could post his ten percent share of the $480,000 bond without dipping into allegedly stolen money.

See below for some reporting on the hearing, but this decision came as no surprise. Santeramo made a $189,000 salary from the BTU after authorizing, according to one board member, raises for himself that were at times never approved.

Local 10 has a crew at the jail overnight, so we'll definitely catch Santeramo on his way out of jail, where he's been since Tuesday morning bright and early.

UPDATE I: There's no doubt that criminally charged former Broward Teachers Union Pat Santeramo has the money to post his $48,000 portion of a $480,000 bond to get out of jail. His attorney, Ben Kuehne, presented evidence in court today to show that Santeramo and his wife, Lynne Webb, have at least $460,000 cash in the bank. 

But it's now up to Broward Circuit Judge Carlos Rebollo to decide if that money is made up of the roughly $300,000 he's alleged to have stolen from teachers he was supposed to be representing. 

Rebollo deferred his decision, making it likely that Santeramo will be spending a third night in jail. 

Santeramo walked into the courtroom in his jail jumpsuit and handcuffs, looking almost shell-shocked. His attorney Kuehne, who was accompanied by co-counsel Mike Moskowitz, then detailed Santeramo's finances. Some details:

-- During the past ten years, BTU has paid Santeramo between $150,000 and $200,000 while his wife has made between $70,000 and $90,000 from her own union leadership post at the United School Employees of Pasco County. 

-- In 2007, the couple had accumulated $600,000 that they used partially to buy the $574,000 vacation home in Sewall's Point near Port St. Lucie. They paid off the home in 2010 and currently have $462,000 cash in two bank accounts.

-- Prosecutor Ellen St. Laurent testified that she has good faith belief that Santeramo began committing crimes on the union beginning in 2001 when he obtained the post.

There's a lot more to come on this case. Below is this morning's post with additional details:

While jailed Broward Teachers Union President Pat Santeramo was representing educators in attempts to get small raises on their modest pay, he was living a fairly opulent life on their dime.

Above you can see the getaway home a block from the ocean on exclusive Sewall's Point in Martin County that Santeramo bought in 2007 for $574,000. He paid off a $300,000 mortgage on the property in 2010.

He and his wife, Lynne Webb, also purchased a home in Pasco County, where Webb is president of the teachers union, for $132,500. In Broward County, he owns a small condo in Dania Beach.

Not bad for an elementary school teacher who got involved in the union and became its vice president in 1991 before ascending to the presidency in 2001.

Sheriff Al Lamberti said he suspects the much of the $165,000 Santeramo allegedly received in BTU-related kickbacks went to pay for the house. But even without that money, Santeramo was making out very well. Public records show Santeramo, during his 11 years at the helm, often pulled in a salary of over $180,000. On top of that he was given $300 a month for unspecified expenses, a $600 a month car allowance, and up to $250 a month to pay for gasoline.

He also was apparently a chronic user of his union credit card. An audit of the BTU by the American Federation of Teachers shows that Santeramo rang up some $128,634 in credit charges over the last couple of years. The criminal investigtation determined that at least $8,000 of that was for personal use, including cleaning his pool at home.

On top of that, Santeramo was overpaid by more than $30,000 on what was shown on the union books. Two of his top officers -- VP Bernie Schultz and Treasurer Ronney Virgillito -- were also overpaid similarly substantial sums. Both Schultz and Virgillito were charged criminally with being improperly reimbursed for political contributions by BTU, and both are still in their leadership positions. 

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