Thank god for Florida's sunshine law. Because of this wonderful law we have access to all kinds of records that we may not otherwise be entitled to. Combine the Sunshine Law with the county's excellent online services and you have most of the tools you need to investigate without ever leaving your desk. In looking a little closer at the states victim (Bernardo Barrera), I was able to check the Miami Dade County clerk of the courts office website, the Miami Dade County Property appraiser website and now I'll take a look at www.sunbiz.org and see what I can find there. Perhaps Mr. Barrera after losing his job got the entrepreneurial spirit and incorporated his own company? BINGO! I searched for registered agents named Barrera, Bernardo and find this.
All good. I noticed that the address listed the principal address didn't match Bernardo Barrera's home address, so perhaps it was an office address for the corp. A couple of things struck me as strange though, as a former Coconut Grove resident, I recognized the zip code as a Grove zip code, but 527 SW 22 ave is certainly not in the Grove. The second thing is who uses "MGMT" in their company name? After all the state doesn't charge you by the character when you incorporate! Stuff like Inc. & Corp. I understand, but "MGMT"?! That got me thinking. I ran to google earth and look up the location. First problem is that neither Google earth, Mapquest or the Miami Dade County property appraisers office recognize that address as being valid. Now I'm really interested.
Mapquest suggests using zip code 33135 instead and here is what it gives us:
Again, I get as close as I can with the Property Appraisers office and get no 527 SW 22 ave in this vicinity, I only get this where it should be:
Now we're getting hot. I'm not up for another field trip, so my lazy ass is going to try to use Google Earth to find the address. Surely Mr. Barrera's place of business is hiding there SOMEWHERE! Here's what I found...
Are you seeing what I'm seeing?! I SEE AN EMPTY LOT! I know what you must be thinking!
Is this possible?! Did Bernardo Barrera set up a phony corporation with a phony address? NO WAY! I can't say with certainty that the business was phony, but the address CERTAINLY WAS!
Accident? Mistake? I don't know, but why the hell would you make up an address like that which leads to an empty lot, not to mention one that's been empty for MANY YEARS? Technically the address doesn't even exist, the photos that I'm showing here are of where the address should be if indeed it was a real address. That's also assuming that the zip code was a mistake (33133) as the zip code that would correspond to that address is 33135. Add in that "MGMT" in the company name and it all sounds a little too bizarre.
Forget what I think, if you were sitting in Detective Jorge Baluja's shoes and you had Bernardo Barrera telling you about his identity being stolen in a mortgage fraud case, after a little bit of investigating, wouldn't you begin to wonder about the validity of your victims claims? I mean after exerting the tiniest effort, we've already found that the states victim (Bernardo Barrera) has already committed mortgage fraud in the past, his claim of how he came to find out about the fraud is suspect and now we've found that Mr. Barrera is involved in some kind of monkey business with this funny corporation with a fake address. What we've discovered after a cursory examination of the facts really makes you wonder, doesn't it? I mean, here I am a chump with no investigatory background, no formal police training and look at what we've uncovered. After seeing what we've found, can you find anything that Mr. Barrera says credible? At the very least any statements from Mr. Barrera would require a closer look wouldn't they? That's what you would think right?
The problem is that Detective Jorge Baluja didn't think to look into Mr. Barrera's claims. Based on what I've been able to obtain from the file, Detective Baluja (is it really fair to call him that?) DID NOT LOOK INTO THE MAN WHO CLAIMED TO BE THE VICTIM! If Detective Baluja would have checked the background of his "victim" he would have uncovered enough to raise doubt about his victims claims. Unfortunately Detective Baluja didn't think it was necessary to investigate.
For Detective Baluja, IT'S OFF TO THE RACES! From what we've seen so far, how bad could this investigation get? I've already requested the whole police file from the MDPD, I suspect its going to be a while before they give me anything. For the time being I'm left to what I can find on my own. Here we had the good detective, with all the resources available to him through the MDPD and he managed to miss these facts. Considering what we've found undermined his victims credibility, you have to wonder what else he could he have missed? How could he have built a case when he started off like this? Remember, we're talking about investigating a complex crime, Mortgage Fraud, not some entry level street crime or investigating a traffic accident!
It's time to take a better look at Detective Baluja's background. Tomorrow, I'll put in a request for his personnel file. Based on what I've seen so far I think we'll find a boatload of entertainment in there...