Miami-Dade elevator mechanics accused of paying hundreds to cheat open-book exam; 10 charged
MIAMI – Eight elevator mechanics in Miami-Dade County are accused of paying hundreds of dollars to have someone else take required state certification exams, now they and two others are facing charges.
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced the arrests in what her office described as a “cheating scheme” Thursday.
“When someone tries to shortcut a public safety requirement or certification, they go out of their way to create an unnecessary risk,” she said.
According to a news release, Xael Concepcion-Vargas, Jose Cuevas-Romero, Ramon Fleitas, Marcos Garcia, Hugo Marte, Gabriel Ortiz, Jose Tirado-Blanco and Frederick Williams paid $250 to $400 to have David Valles-Gomez take the competency exam in their names.
Fernandez Rundle said Gabriel Alfonso acted as a middleman in the scheme. Valles-Gomez would pocket about $200 to $300, she said.
The exam was online and open-book, according to her office.
“Upon the discovery of this alleged scheme, all work undertaken by these individuals on Miami-Dade County property was re-inspected by Florida Certified elevator mechanics,” Fernandez Rundle said.
Back in 2021, Local 10 News reported on elevator safety concerns at one highly-visited piece of county-owned property: Miami International Airport.
An 18-page arrest warrant obtained by Local 10 News Thursday afternoon showed that the investigation into the alleged cheating scheme involved workers at the very same company at the center of those concerns.
The warrant said a Valles-Gomez was a supervisor at Oracle Elevator, the company contracted to service elevators, escalators and moving walkways at Miami International Airport.
According to the warrant, Valles-Gomez was let go from Oracle due to licensing issues.
County officials began looking into the case in September 2021 after the International Union of Elevator Constructors reported that “several” Oracle mechanics, as well as employees of Schindler Elevators, participated in a scheme to cheat on the exam, the warrant states.
According to the warrant, the union report came six months after it had raised concerns about bypassed safety devices on moving walkways at the airport, the same findings raised in the Local 10 News report two months later.
All face third-degree felony charges of organized scheme to defraud and criminal cheating.
Alfonso and Valles-Gomez face additional counts of each charge because of their alleged roles in running the scheme.
Oracle Elevator later sent a statement to Local 10 News:
“We were made aware of these allegations against several employees on September 25, 2021. We immediately suspended the employees, launched a comprehensive internal investigation, and disclosed the allegations to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations. At the conclusion of our investigation, on October 4, 2021, we terminated five technicians found to have fraudulently taken the online Certificate of Competency exam. The two individuals who have been charged with organizing the test taking scheme were not employees of Oracle at the time these allegations were made but were employed by the company in the past. We are fully cooperating with the investigation by the Miami-Dade Inspector General.”
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