Miami airport maintenance official charged in $5 million scheme

The director of terminal maintenance at Miami International Airport who was charged in a multimillion fraud case owned a Porsche, wore hand-tailored designer suits and rented sky boxes for concerts.

Ivan Valdes, 46, started out cutting grass but was promoted in 2015 to a management job overseeing 100 people, where he is accused of hatching a scheme to skim $5 million from fraudulent light bulb purchases.

He now faces a maximum 10-year prison sentence in a federal case and additional prison time on state charges. His attorney declined comment in an email Friday.

State prosecutor Katherine Fernandez Rundle says Valdes should have been seen as a classic American success story, working his way up to a $98,000-a-year job.

"Then he got greedy," Rundle told the Miami Herald ( ).

Authorities say Valdes conspired with a light bulb vendor and supplier, who manipulated wholesale prices.

Because Miami airport is owned by the county, Valdes was a county employee.

He was able to fool the county's inspector general, who oversees corruption at the airport, because of the participation of his vendor and supplier, according to court documents.

Valdes was involved in 20 bulk lightbulb purchases over five years.

Prosecutors say the airport under Valdes purchased about 9,000 LED bulbs for about $8.8 million, even though they were worth only about $3.5 million. Valdes and executives from the suppliers pocketed the leftover $5.2 million.

With the money, Valdes bought a $69,000 Porsche 911 Carrera, Christian Louboutin shoes and sky boxes at a Miami arena.

Also charged were lightbulb company executives Roy J. Bustillo, Rolando Perez and another airport executive Jose Barroso.

"With all the scheming and the lies, the day-to-day vendors had no chance of getting these contracts," U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said at a news conference.

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