The arrest warrants issued this week for Nathan Holmes, Robert Alvarado, William Acosta, Roberto Pereira and Elijah Pendleton have been sealed as part of the ongoing probe, according to documents filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.
A 2008 county audit found that Wackenhut, which guarded Metrorail stations for decades, overbilled the county from $3.3 million to $5.8 million for work it never performed.
Documents filed in court do not detail the allegations against the five men. At least one of them, Pendleton, was removed from working on the Metrorail contract after a Miami Herald story in 2006 detailed a whistle-blower lawsuit alleging false billing practices by Wackenhut.
According to court records, a judge sealed the warrants so that Miami-Dade police public corruption detectives can “seek cooperation of one or more of the said defendants in furtherance of the investigation.”
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Miami-Dade police said the investigation “is still open and active.”
Wackenhut released this statement Friday:
“We have learned today that a small number of former Miami-based Wackenhut employees have been arrested. We have not received any information from law enforcement. . .
“Wackenhut does not tolerate wrongdoing on the part of its employees. In the few cases where we have identified individual wrongdoing, the employee was immediately terminated.”
Efforts by The Miami Herald to reach the defendants were unsuccessful. Four were arrested this week, and two have posted bond; Pendleton is scheduled to turn himself in Saturday.
The arrests are the latest chapter in the stormy contract dispute that spawned a series of lawsuits and cost the county millions.
Wackenhut, based in Palm Beach Gardens, began guarding Metrorail stations in 1989, and by 2009, its contract had grown to more than $20 million.
But a series of whistle-blower lawsuits alleged that Wackenhut routinely couldn’t cover shifts, forcing supervisors and roving patrols to fill the gaps and sometimes leaving “ghost posts” that stayed empty for hours.
Although Wackenhut promised to meet increased security demands after the 9/11 terror attacks, current and former employees said in sworn depositions in 2005 that the company was struggling to hire and retain enough guards to meet the contract’s demands.
Pendleton, Wackenhut’s top supervisor at Metrorail, testified in a civil deposition that the company never left posts vacant, a claim undercut by depositions of his subordinates.
After its own audit in 2008, the county sued Wackenhut. In February, county commissioners voted to approve a settlement calling for Wackenhut to pay the county $3 million in compensation, and $4.5 million to one former Wackenhut employee and her lawyers who filed a whistle-blower suit.
“We already did our own due diligence and severed ties,” county spokeswoman Victoria Mallette said Friday. “We were the first to recognize the problem and take action.”
As part of the settlement, Wackenhut was allowed to again compete for future Miami-Dade government contracts.