Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Carmel on the Case: Miami Seaquarium Investigation
Controversy tonight for a South Florida landmark. An undercover investigation has exposed the sale of alcohol to minors at the Miami Seaquarium. Carmel Cafiero has more in a special edition of "Carmel on the case."
WSVN -- Lolita is the star of the show here.
The quality of her life is a source of constant debate between the Seaquarium and animal activists.
But now an undercover investigation has spotlighted another issue at the park -- selling alcohol to underage kids.
Private investigator Steve Kiraly: We made three separate purchases of alcohol at the Seaquarium on three dates."
Private investigator Steve Kiraly says his firm was hired by an animal activist who does not want to be identified.
Kiraly released a videotape to seven news, which shows a 19-year-old buying beer -- over and over again.
Steve Kiraly: "We treated it like a criminal case. With our law enforcement previous background and we have the evidence. We have the bottles."
The undercover purchases took place last December and January, but not every stand sold to the minor.
One cafe turned him away three times.
Steve Kiraly: "Well he may look older but also like I stated - there was another individual that wouldn't sell him alcohol. They asked for his identification which is what you're supposed to do."
And this isn't the first time the issue of underage alcohol sales has been raised at the Seaquarium.
Last summer complaints sparked a state investigation.
Captain Kelvin Davis: "About 12 to 14 times we tested the locations out there."
Captain Kelvin Davis says the state investigation resulted in only one underage sale, and the worker was not a full time employee.
Captain Kelvin Davis: "Our agent spoke with the General Manager - explained the situation to them and on that day we just issued him a warning."
Andrew hertz is the Seaquarium's general manager. We showed him the undercover tape and it didn't take long for him to react.
Andrew Hertz: We're extremely concerned about this here at the Miami Seaquarium, so much so that we've changed our policy effective immediately. Anyone who goes to buy a beer will be asked for ID. No matter what they look like? No matter what their age."
Prior to this point, the Seaquarium asked for ID only when a person appeared to be under thirty.
Andrew Hertz: "Every single one of our employees in that department goes through training to be taught how to responsibly serve alcohol. It means that some people paid more attention to their training and some need a refresher. I will be personally speaking to every employee in that department and then they will all go through a refresher course."
The animal activist, a critic of the Seaquarium - is no doubt satisfied with the results of the investigation he financed. And on this issue both he and management here are on the same page - the sale of alcohol to a minors is unacceptable.
For more information, or if you have a story for Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
Or In Broward at 954-921-CLUE