LAWFUEL – Press Release Service – R. Alexander Acosta, Unite…

LAWFUEL – Press Release Service – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and Jonathan I. Solomon, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced that defendant, Raymond A. Liberti, of West Palm Beach, Florida pled guilty today before United States District Court Judge William P. Dimitrouleas to fraud and corruption charges relating to his official duties as a City of West Palm Beach Commissioner. Specifically, Liberti pled guilty to two counts of mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341, and one count of obstruction of justice, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1512(b)(3). Sentencing has been scheduled for Friday, August 25, 2006 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

According to the Information filed and in court statements during the change of plea hearing, Liberti misused his official position as a City Commissioner to manipulate City of West Palm Beach police officers, code enforcement, and health department officials into action that would adversely affect the sales price of two separate businesses in the City of West Palm Beach. The two business were Relax With Us and Club Nessum Dorma.

In April 2005, an individual approached Commissioner Liberti regarding purchasing Relax With Us, a local massage parlor. The individual complained to Liberti that the purchase price was too high, and asked Commissioner Liberti for help “clos[ing] down” the massage parlor in order to reduce the selling price. Commissioner Liberti indicated that he would “do his homework.”

Within a month, Relax With Us was the subject of a surprise inspection by West Palm Beach code officials. Commissioner Liberti later told the individual, “That’s what you wanted, isn’t it?”

In June 2005, Relax With Us was again the subject of another unannounced inspection by code officials. Commissioner Liberti later told the individual that Relax With Us was “going to have a nightmare” and that he could drive the price further down.

According to the Information, Commissioner Liberti later instructed a deputy chief of the West Palm Beach Police Department to conduct an undercover inspection of Relax With Us. In addition, Commissioner Liberti subsequently called a County Commissioner and falsely reported that he had received a number complaints concerning Relax With Us and asked the County Commissioner to send the county health department to inspect the business.

Commissioner Liberti took similar actions in an attempt to drive down the price of another establishment, Club Nessum Dorma. To this end, he falsely told code officials that he had received citizen complaints and requested code enforcement. He then indicated to the individual that he would “keep the pressure” on the code enforcement officials to enforce a $500 per day fine against Club Nessum Dorma.

Through this course of dealings, Commissioner Liberti selected, and later received, a $2,000 Tag Heurer watch, a payment of $5,000, a second payment of $5000 and a final payment of $56,000.

The mail fraud scheme described in Count 1 of the Information is based on the mailing of a letter, dated December 19, 2005, from Liberti, on official City of West Palm Beach letterhead, to the owner of Relax With Us, falsely threatening Relax With Us with immediate adverse code enforcement action. The second mail fraud charge (Count 2) relates to a December 23, 2005 letter that Liberti caused an unwitting Assistant City Attorney for West Palm Beach to draft and send to 115 South Olive Enterprises, LLC. Like the letter to Relax With Us, this letter threatened significant code enforcement financial penalties for Club Nessum Dorma. The goal of both letters, according to the Information, was to intimidate and harass the owners into lowering the sales price of their respective businesses for Liberti’s chosen prospective buyers.

Lastly, Count 3 of the Information charged Liberti with obstructing justice when he encouraged the undercover agent, posing as one of the alleged prospective buyers, to lie to investigators by denying he knew Liberti and falsely stating that only code enforcement officials involved with Relax With Us.

Mr. Acosta commended the long-term investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In addition, Acosta thanked the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, who assisted in this investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys John S. Kastrenakes and Bruce E. Reinhart of the West Palm Beach Office.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

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