The head of purchasing for Miami-Dade’s animal shelter ran a cagey scam, police say

The head of purchasing for Miami-Dade’s Animal Services department demanded kickbacks from a vendor and arranged for more than $100,000 of bogus purchase orders in order to siphon money away from the tax-funded agency, prosecutors said Monday.

Michael Garateix, 38, is charged with four criminal counts, including theft over $100,000 and organized scheme to defraud. Investigators said he and a purchasing clerk conspired to process invoices for disinfectant and other goods that the county’s animal shelter didn’t need, then pocketed money from the phantom transactions.

Animal Services is a county agency largely funded through property taxes. It administers the county’s animal shelter in Doral, along with animal-control enforcement actions across Miami-Dade.

Charging documents say Garateix and Ralph Granja, a former Animal Services buyer, first demanded a 10 percent cut from county payments for legitimate goods their agency purchased from supplier Glocecol, a local seller of janitorial supplies. If the owners of Glocecol refused, according to an arrest warrant, Garateix and Granja told them “the Animal Services Department would no longer use them as a vendor.”

From there, the alleged scheme escalated from kickback to made-up purchases. The warrant says Garateix and Granja persuaded Glocecol owners Cecith Londono and Gloria Ruiz to produce invoices for items the county didn’t order, and then used passwords from supervisors of other divisions within Animal Services to bypass procurement controls designed to catch fake orders. The alleged scheme began in 2016, and involved fake purchasing orders worth about $140,000.

Roberto Pardo, a lawyer for Glocecol, declined to comment.

Garateix and Granja received personal checks and cash from the Glocecol owners, investigators said. The scheme unraveled in 2018 when Animal Services supervisors began noticing unexplained budget overruns.

On Monday, Garateix was in the custody of county police while the Miami-Dade state attorneys office said Granja “remains at large.”

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Republished by the Law Office of Scott A. Ferris, P.A.