Former North Miami mayoral candidate 1 of 3 arrested for stealing Miami-Dade County grant money

MIAMI, Fla. – Three people allegedly manipulated the Miami-Dade County grant-awarding process out of $640,000 utilizing the prestige of a County Commissioner’s Office, according to State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.

The state attorney held a press conference Monday at her office in Miami to announce the filing of criminal charges.

The arrest warrant is 52 pages thick and it unspools a pretty complicated scheme — Miami-Dade County insiders who knew how to steal money from people who needed it most.

3 people were charged in a scheme that defrauded the community out of more than $600,000. (State Attorney’s Office)

The three used their positions to apply for and receive county grant money using names of legitimate county social services organizations that never knew about the applications, the state attorney said.

Mackinley Lauriston, the former chief of staff for Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jean Monestime’s district, was the most culpable, Rundle said.

“He had the power to grant grants or not. He had the power to decide the amount of the grant,” said prosecutor Carol Jordan.

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Rundle emphasized that this was the public’s money that was used.

” . . . Manipulating the grant system for their own personal benefit.”

Lauriston, who ran for mayor of the city of North Miami in 2018, is facing 55 counts against him, Rundle said.

“These are serious charges,” she said.

(WATCH the press conference below.)

Evelt Jeudy was Monestime’s district coordinator. Jeudy, 59, was arrested Friday and corrections officers booked him shortly after midnight Friday, records show. Jeudy’s alleged crimes go back to 2016.

Nadine Chery, 51, was a branch manager at a Hollywood Wells Fargo bank, according to the state attorney.

There were dozens and dozens of charges for each. For more than five years, says Rundle, Lauriston and Jeudy used a variety of ways to defraud the system. They would apply for cultural affairs grants, grants for kids and seniors, donations, even county reimbursements for fraudulent purchases.

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They received the money through corporations and at least one foundation they set up for that purpose, according to the arrest warrants. One foundation was originally at the same address as Commissioner Monestime’s district building in Miami.

The organizations may not have even known their names were being used.

Monestime’s District 2 comprises some of the county’s poorest neighborhoods.

“These individuals leveraged a position of trust and position of authority to steal the public’s money,” said Miami-Dade Inspector General Felix Jimenez.

There is no evidence that Commissioner Monestime knew about these actions, Rundle said. Local 10 News texted Monestime, who answered that he is not at liberty to comment because it is an open investigation.

We asked Rundle who it was that tipped off prosecutors to all of this seven months ago and are any other arrests or charges against more people on the horizon? She said that information is not public at this time.

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