Sun-Sentinel – Pondering the Plundering
Among the great qualities of the Cuban people who are so abundant in South Florida, one trait that is widely suspected, but rarely noted in the media is this: Many people think they rank among the greatest thieves who ever lived.
Now, a three-part feature – the last running today – in the Sun-Sentinel has given numbers to support that view. And even for the most cynical, those numbers are inspiring. Four writers –Sally Kestin, Megan O’Matz, William E. Gibson and John Maines – researched “Plundering America,” with aid from Tracey Eaton in Cuba. They revealed that the Cuban population in Miami-Dade County is 24 percent, but it represents 46 percent of arrests for credit card fraud, 53 percent for insurance fraud, 59 percent for marijuana production, 72 percent for cargo theft, 73 percent for federal health care fraud and 77 percent for fuel theft.
Although Miami is the leader, similar statistics were reported around the country as the scams perfected locally have spread to other jurisdictions. The audacity of some criminals rivals the enormous profits they make. In some cases, fraud specialists have set up new shops even as their previous companies are being shut down.
The insurance fraud is often fake accidents. If we take this personally, there's a reason. Our daughter, driving a car registered to us, was involved in one way back in the mid-1990s. Our car was not damaged; the other was a messed-up junker. The car was filled with people who said not a word, probably didn't even speak English. None was hurt. And yet the claims for phony injuries led to the insurance company threatening to cancel us for failing to report an accident. We said there was no accident, and eventually we sent the insurance people a report on a fake-accident ring that had been busted. They were thrilled, but since then that scam has only gotten bigger. We have wondered for years why insurance companies pay those claims without researching their validity, and why the Medicare bureaucrats can be so stupid, or indifferent, when multiple claims come from suspicious South Florida sources.
Part two: After Hurricane Wilma resulted in a house behind us being razed, eliminating a fence and heavy shrubbery, which had concealed our storage place for expensive aluminum storm shutters, those shutters disappeared when Latin workmen arrived. We filed a police report and notified the owner of the demolition group. "My boys don't steal," he replied indignantly. As for credit card fraud, we have had cards reissued after the companies challenged (and fortunately did not pay) large charges in distant areas.
The Sun-Sentinel was quick to note that most Cuban Americans are solid citizens, and they pointed out that most of the thieves are not really Americans. And not even immigrants. They are Cubans who take advantage of the special advantages that immigrants from that country enjoy. They move freely back and forth, do their crimes and either escape to Cuba before they are arrested, or jump bail. Even when convicted, penalties are light. Some time in jail is worth the enormous profits they make. Unlike criminals from other countries, they are rarely deported. Cuba won't take them back.
Cuban American leaders, as today's story reported, suspect the Cuban government is a party to all this crime. There is some evidence that the Cuban government takes its cut when crooks return home under U.S. pressure. The ultimate sin tax. Efforts to modify or eliminate the special status for Cuban immigrants have been met with resistance by the strong Cuban lobby (mostly South Floridians) in Congress. Yet judging by comments by Cuban American legislators in today's paper, reform seems to be on the way. Cuba's special immigration status, a questionable idea when established in 1966, needs to end.
The Sun-Sentinel's work – they are after a prize on this one – is likely to be picked up elsewhere, and should speed up legislation.