N. Miami to hold special election for new mayor

Miami Times staff report | 5/29/2014, 9 a.m.
North Miami Mayor Lucie Tondreau

A special election will be held in August to replace suspended City of North Miami Mayor Lucie Tondreau, officials said.

Acting Mayor Philippe Bien-Amie said the election has been scheduled for late August. Tondreau was suspended last week by Gov. Rick Scott after surrendering to FBI authorities to face charges of running an $8 million mortgage fraud scheme with three other conspirators.

North Miami Councilman Scott Galvin, a vocal critic of Tondreau, renewed calls for integrity in city government.

"The people of North Miami, are ready to demand better.  We're tired of the strings of negative headlines casting a shadow on a city where we live, work, and play," he said in a statement. "We're sick of a government that is more preoccupied with self-service than it is with community service."

Tondreau was in Las Vegas when law enforcement officials searched her home and gave a warrant for her arrest. She faces up to 30 years in prison for six counts of wire fraud, federal officials said in an unsealed indictment.

She turned herself in to the FBI on Tuesday morning and a judge later ordered her release on $50,000 bail. She was in Las Vegas when law enforcement officials searched her home and gave a warrant for her arrest.

"It's a lie," Tondreau told WPLG Channel 10 when asked about the allegations.

Prosecutors allege the 54-year-old Tondreau, who last year was elected North Miami's first female Haitian-American mayor, used her weekly radio show and illegal cash payments to recruit buyers to lie on mortgage applications to obtain loans that were never used to buy homes.

A native of Haiti, Tondreau immigrated to Montreal, Canada with her parents at the age of 7.

In 1981, she settled in New York City, where she became intensely involved with the Haitian community. She felt compelled to keep the community informed through various media outlets.

In 1984, Tondreau relocated to Miami where she joined the Haitian Refugee Center and the Haitian American Community of Dade (HACAD) as a board member and a social service specialist. In that capacity, she provided counseling and other social services to hundreds of Haitians. Tondreau is the city’s first Haitian-American female mayor. She defeated Kevin Burns last June with nearly 60 percent of the vote, in a racially-charged election in a city with a growing Haitian and Black population.

Her supporters remain steadfast — at least for now. Former North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre also said he and many others will continue to back the mayor despite the investigations. He urged the public to wait for the cases to play out before jumping to conclusions.

Charged along with Tondreau are Karl Oreste, 56 and two other defendants, Okechukwu Josiah Odunna, a disbarred area lawyer, and Kelly Augustin, a former North Miami recruiter for Oreste’s mortgage firm. All four face charges of conspiring to commit wire fraud and actual wire fraud between 2005 and 2008 — offenses that carry up to 20 years in prison.

Tondreau’s defense attorney, Ben Kuehne said his client called him Monday after family members notified her that FBI agents had come to her North Miami home with an arrest warrant.