Thursday, October 7, 2010
7 News Investigations: No Justice For All
The court system is set up to protect the crime victim. The State Attorney's Office is there to prosecute the criminals, to insure the victims get justice most of the time, but one South Florida family is stunned by the deal an assistant state attorney made behind the victims' backs, the judge's back, even his bosses back. Here is Patrick Fraser with his exclusive we call, no justice for all.
WSVN -- Samantha Sigler was living in New York when her parents asked her to come back and help them run a family business.
Samantha Sigler: "It's like a public storage, but it's for frozen products."
Fish, meat and flowers, wholesalers rent space from the Miami Cold Storage Terminal for their products.
Samantha Sigler: "Twenty degrees below zero."
But, when Samantha started, she was troubled they were always busy, but the company wasn't making much money.
Samantha Sigler: "I came back to a disaster."
She realized what was going on after she started going through the books.
Samantha Sigler: "There's another signed receipt, this was $630 in cash."
Turns out their trusted supervisor shouldn't have been trusted.
Patrick Fraser: "He was stealing from you"
Samantha Sigler: "From me and from all our other employees."
Samantha discovered the employee would give customers a discount for paying cash. Give them a receipt and then delete it from the cold storage computers. When Samantha started gathering receipts, the theft total started soaring.
Samantha Sigler: "He took over $32,000."
Samantha turned this evidence over to police, Jesus Perdoma was charged with grand theft. Turns out he has been charged with crimes in the past, but walked away. The Siglers were determined he would be punished this time.
Samantha Sigler: "I would have rather not gotten the money back and have him deal with a felony conviction."
In July, the assistant state attorney handling the case told them to get ready they were going to trial in a week, but the next day he called Samantha's mother.
Samantha Sigler: "And she was upset saying, 'I just got a phone call from the state attorney telling me to come to pick up $7,000 from his office, there's a check waiting for me.'"
The state attorney had worked out a deal behind their backs.
Samantha Sigler: "They gave him withheld adjudication with special circumstances, two years probation and he had to pay us $12,000 of the $32,000. Nobody consulted us of what we thought about it. We never agreed to it, my mom would have never agreed to it."
Samantha was furious.
Samantha Sigler: "I mean got really angry. I'm not going to lie, you have to laugh about it. Are you kidding me, it just doesn't seem like justice. I thought justice was about being fair. It's infuriating."
And further aggravating her, the day we interviewed Samantha she checked the court records and discovered Perdoma had scheduled another court hearing to ask that his probation be terminated after serving just two months of his two year sentence.
Patrick Fraser: "Did the state attorney call and tell you?"
Samantha Sigler: "No, nobody told me. Good thing I looked. I'm going and hoping to say something."
Judge: "Mr. Perdome, motion to terminate."
Jesus Perdoma was there and so was Samantha.
Samantha reading letter to judge: "Have his criminal record show he's a convicted felon."
Samantha let judge Jorge Cueto know how upset she was and then was amazed when the judge announced the assistant state attorney had misled him as well.
Judge: "I am extremely disappointed. I rejected the plea the first time. I was under the impression that you in fact Mrs. Sigler or your mother had approved the plea, that's basically what I was led to believe."
Frank Paulino, the assistant state attorney who handled the case, wasn't in court. He resigned just days after he made the deal.
Samantha Sigler: "I have never heard of anything like this."
At the state attorneys office they were shocked at what one of their trusted attorneys had done.
Ed Griffith, Miami Dade State Attorney's Office: "We are upset because it violates our basic beliefs and it violates basically what he was told and what he knows is his job, to protect the people of this community that offends us."
Griffith says he doesn't know why Paulino made the deal. Paulino didn't return our calls, but his deal forced the judge to let Perdoma end his probation.
Judge: "Obviously there is not much I can do about that at this time because they have entered into what turns out to be a contract."
Judge: "Motion to terminate is granted."
The judge was fuming, the state attorneys office was upset, but as Perdoma walked by Samantha no one was as disgusted as she was.
Samantha Sigler: "He got away with it again. It's ridiculous, you can commit a crime and within two months it can be as if you did nothing."
Even worse for the Siglers, now that Perdoma is off probation he has filed for unemployment from the company that fired him for stealing $32,000.
Patrick Fraser: "You got to see the system at work. What do you think of the system."
Samantha Sigler: "It's scary, it doesn't seem to work. It's ridiculous."
It works sometimes, but in the Sigler's case, it was no justice for all.