Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Carmel on the Case: Tax Money
There's good news tonight for Miami-Dade County. Dead people won't be getting property tax exemptions anymore and that means big money could be on the way. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case with the exclusive.
WSVN -- Miami-Dade County, like countless other local governments has been forced to make cut backs because of the bad economy. But money from tax cheats could make things a little better.
Pedro Garcia, Miami-Dade Property Appraiser: "Definitely a success."
Property tax appraiser Pedro Garcia is talking about a new computer program designed to catch homestead exemptions being claimed in the name of dead people.
The results from the first computer run are in. Of 289 properties checked, 255 had violations. Violations that add up to $5 million in back taxes, penalties and interest.
Pedro Garcia: "We don't gonna protect anybody. We are going to go after everybody so even if you owe one dollars or you owe a million dollars, we are going to go after that, that's what we are here for."
People who inherit homes are required by law to report that the owner has died. Some do not report a change in ownership to keep the value of the home low and limit tax increases.
Pedro Garcia: "So it's very difficult to to find those but now with the new system we are going to be able to do it."
Retired Miami-Dade Police Major Jim DiBernardo has been an outspoken critic of the county for not doing enough to stop tax cheats. He became aware of the issue while in command of the Economic Crimes Bureau.
As 7 News first reported earlier this year, DiBernardo has a computer list that he says shows 12,000 dead people claiming homestead exemptions in Miami-Dade. He stands by that number.
Jim DiBernardo, Retired Police Officer: "I've done random checks sampling of over 400 and the numbers are there. The average one by the way comes out to between $15-25,000 per case."
He says the county could be in for a huge windfall.
Jim DiBernardo: "We're looking at easy $280-300 million conservatively."
But the appraiser's office does not buy DiBernardo's numbers.
Pedro Garcia: "That's a joke. We're not going to be even close to those numbers."
Carmel Cafiero: "The debate between Garcia and DiBernardo over the amount of the fraud has become so contentious, they've challenged each other to a public apology. That throw down won't resolve any time soon- it's expected to be a year until the final numbers are in."
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