During its first fifty five years, the convalescent home Hebrew Home for the Aged catered to “elderly Jewish people and war veterans” and had “nurtured a reputation for providing top-notch services to senior citizens of all denominations who can no longer take care of themselves.”
It then took nine years for the Galbut clan to run that reputation into the ground.
As reported in yesterday’s Broward Bulldog article, FBI probes whistleblower claim of $130 million scam; Plaza Health Network under scrutiny, Miami Beach attorney-slash-real estate developer, Russell Galbut, and his brother-in-law, Richard Zubkoff, joined the board of directors of Hebrew Homes in 1995. A scant year later, Galbut took over as chairman of the board. By 2007, Zubkoff was “hired as president and CEO.” Since then, Galbut has also managed to stack the board with a guaranteed majority vote – four out of seven board members are “people with close ties to Galbut: his brother Abraham Galbut, his cousin Joan Brent, attorney Ben Rozsansky, who works full-time at Galbut’s company Crescent Heights, and chairman Ron Lowy.”
Russell Galbut is apparently used to getting what he wants. With huge Miami Beach investments at stake (including his under-construction 17,000 square foot apartment on top of a South Beach parking garage), he generously contributes to the political campaigns of politicians who, once elected, would be in a position to return the favor to some of their most generous donors.
This strategy worked out well for Russell when he crossed paths with North Miami Beach EX-Mayor/Felony Defendant Myron Rosner. When Myron was running for re-election in May of 2011, Russell donated a total of $10,000.00 to his campaign, both personally and through various companies he owns. Myron lost that election, but Russell’s donation was money well spent. When the Galbut Dynasty’s Mondrian Hotel appealed a $1.8 million dollar fee assessed by the City of Miami Beach, Myron was in the position to “repay” Russell by persuading enough of his fellow members on the Miami-Dade County Board of Rules and Appeals to rule 8-7 in favor of the Mondrian. Of all the board meetings held in 2011, the only two Myron attended were those in which the Mondrian appeal was on the Agenda.
As usual, I immediately filed a complaint against Myron with Joe Centorino’s Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust for his accepting campaign donations allegedly in exchange for political favors. However, as I reported a year later on August 16, 2012, Let ‘Em Go Joe gave Myron yet another pass. I noted, “The July, 2012 Meeting Summary of the Commission on Ethics reported:
“A complaint (C 12-30) filed against former North Miami Beach Mayor Myron Rosner in connection with his membership on the Miami-Dade County Board of Rules and Appeals was found Not Legally Sufficient and dismissed. A citizen alleged that while he was running for re-election in 2011, Mayor Rosner accepted campaign contributions totaling more than $10,000 from developer Russell Galbut, his family members and various corporations in which he has financial interests. While he lost the re-election bid, Rosner continued serving on the Board of Rules and Appeals and voted in favor of Galbut at two meetings of that board. The County ethics code permits elected officials who are also members of quasi-judicial boards to vote on matters related to campaign contributors as long as the member will not personally profit or be enhanced by the vote.”
In Joe Centorino’s warped version of “ethics and public trust,” a board member’s acceptance of campaign donations in order to win an election does not constitute his being “enhanced” by voting in favor of his campaign donor.
Yeah, go figure.
One month and four days later on September 20, 2012, Myron was arrested on four felonies and five misdemeanors. In a Press Release issued by State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Joe Centorino didn’t hesitate to take credit for the “teamwork among the three offices involved.”
No credit was given to Team Irony.
Myron may not be Russell Galbut’s useful idiot anymore, but there are more than enough politicians with their hands out for donations. As Broward Bulldog reporter Francisco Alvarado pointed out, Galbut “is a big political contributor. In 2013, he and his companies gave $6,000 to a political action committee supporting Mayor Phillip Levine and two other city commissioners. Election records also show that Galbut and his companies also donated $113,750 to various Republican congressional candidates in 2008, 2010, 2012, and the recent midterm election.”
That might be chump change to someone who’s made millions upon millions of dollars on projects in Miami Beach alone, not to mention the income from Plaza Health Network, with its eight locations in Miami Beach, North Miami, North Miami Beach and Miami.
But if the FBI’s investigation into the company’s alleged theft of $130 million from the federal government leads to indictments, Russell Galbut may find himself donating to lawyers instead of politicians.
His former law partner, Alex Daoud, was convicted of felony bribery and served an eighteen month sentence … a few years after he served on the Miami Beach City Commission as Mayor.
Another shady character revolving around Planet Russell is one Herman Epstein, a convicted felon from New Jersey, who runs the physical therapy program at Plaza Health Network. This is “an employee with no medical background and no physical therapy certifications, but a 1999 securities fraud conviction,” according to the Bulldog article. “The criminal case stemmed from Epstein’s participation in a New Jersey boiler room operation that targeted elderly victims. According to the lawsuit, Epstein’s job at Plaza Health was to fabricate and inflate the number of hours that Medicaid and Medicare patients supposedly received physical therapy. Between 2008 and 2011, the company billed the government programs for $130 million in bogus physical therapy services, the [whistleblower] complaint alleges.”
It’s important to note here that just because his former employee filed a whistleblower lawsuit against his company, it doesn’t prove that any crimes have been committed.
Just because his former law partner, his employee, and his buddy on the Miami-Dade County Board of Rules and Appeals (that’d be Myron) are all either convicted felons or currently standing trial on felony charges, it doesn’t mean that Russell is guilty of anything.
And just because “FBI agents raided Plaza Health’s Aventura corporate office and two of its nursing homes … carting off computers and boxes of patient records for several days,” it doesn’t mean that any arrests will be made.
But there are two things I do know…
- Water seeks its own level.
- The Feds don’t screw around.
Russell Galbut is a major player in South Florida politics and real estate development, both of which have a tendency to attract individuals with questionable ethics. Because of his ties to North Miami Beach’s disgraced EX-Mayor Myron Rosner, he’s been on my radar since 2011.
With two of his Plaza Health Network rehab centers located in North Miami and one in North Miami Beach, which is also its corporate headquarters, Russell Galbut has now been added to my “Watch List.”
Just for sport.
“Spreading the Wealth”