Seven years after Raul Masvidal was accused of pilfering public money, the well-known Miami civic leader quietly triumphed. Mr. Bell and his co-counsel convinced a Miami-Dade judge to dismiss fraud and theft charges against Masvidal, who had been accused in 2007 of using $150,000 in county funds to buy artwork for his own personal use.
Masvidal, who ran for mayor in 1985, has been an influential figure in Miami-Dade County. He was one of the founders of the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) and was chairman of Miami Savings Bank. He also was a trusted adviser to former Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas, who recruited Masvidal to lead the campaign to build the American Airlines Arena. Masvidal also served on the board of Miami-Dade’s Public Health Trust, which governs Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Mr. Bell argued that the statute of limitations on most of the charges had run out — and that the disputed money did not actually belong to the county. In the end, Mr. Bell convinced the judge the matter was a civil dispute that did not belong before a criminal court judge. “The theory of the ownership of the money was flawed and the judge recognized that,” Bell said.
Mr. Bell’s victory capped a long-running legal saga first detailed in the Miami Herald’s 2006 “House of Lies” series, which exposed alleged corruption within Miami-Dade’s Housing Agency. Masvidal, 72, had been charged with grand theft and an organized scheme to defraud.
After court Friday, Masvidal hugged his lawyers, Henry Bell and John Priovolos. “It’s been a long hard slog for him. It’s been very humbling, very very difficult and I’m glad for him that the judge ruled in his favor,” Bell said.
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