Crime

Conspiracy charge against Reckwerdt indicates deal made; Former Islamorada mayor’s arraignment set for June 15

Then-Councilman Michael Reckwerdt discusses Village of Islamorada issues on the dais during a 2010 Village Council meeting. Reckwerdt was charged late last month with conspiracy to commit tax fraud. He faces five years in federal prison.
Then-Councilman Michael Reckwerdt discusses Village of Islamorada issues on the dais during a 2010 Village Council meeting. Reckwerdt was charged late last month with conspiracy to commit tax fraud. He faces five years in federal prison.

The tax-fraud conspiracy charge filed last week against former Islamorada mayor Michael Reckwerdt was likely negotiated between his attorneys and federal prosecutors.

One of his lawyers, Michael T. Davis, said this week that based on "negotiations," the charge reflects "what we hoped [it] would be," without going into further detail.

Reckwerdt, 47, is scheduled for arraignment on Monday, June 15, at 2 p.m. at the Key West federal courthouse at 301 Simonton St. The U.S. Attorney's Office filed the charge against Reckwerdt in a May 27 federal "information document. An information is almost the same thing as an indictment, with the exception that prosecutors decide to file charges without going through a grand jury.

An information is frequently used when the U.S. Attorney's Office reaches some sort of agreement with defense attorneys, said Scott Sunby, a criminal-law professor at the University of Miami’s School of Law.

"Since an individual has a constitutional right to insist on an indictment, that is, to require a grand jury decide whether probable cause exists that he is guilty, an information generally is used where the U.S. Attorney's Office and the defense do reach an agreement on how to proceed," Sunby said. "And as part of that agreement, the defendant waives his right to an indictment."

The charging document states Reckwerdt intentionally underreported salaries paid to employees of several companies he controls in order to reduce payments to the Internal Revenue Service. He faces five years in prison.

The document does not state how much money Reckwerdt allegedly owes the IRS.

Reckwerdt owns several businesses, but is mostly known for running Robbie's Marina, the landmark mile marker 77 tourist spot on Lower Matecumbe Key that offers charter boat fishing, shopping and tarpon feeding. There is another Robbie's on Stock Island in the Lower Keys.

Both locations were raided by dozens of federal agents in November 2011 but no charges were filed until last Wednesday. The raid involved agents with the IRS, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBI.

Nearly four years have passed since the raids, but it was only last week that there was any official indication the government had a case against Reckwerdt. In the time in between, the IRS and U.S. Attorney's office would neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation.

Beginning late March, talk around town in Islamorada suggested Reckwerdt made some sort of deal with the government to serve a year in prison. Asked about the possible deal in April, Reckwerdt's other attorney, Ben Kuene, denied there were any pending charges against his client.

Reckwerdt briefly addressed the raids during a Nov. 10, 2011, Village Council meeting. He told colleagues and constituents that "interesting times" were ahead. He also vowed not to resign from the council, which he never did.

"I'm not going anywhere. I'm not leaving. I didn't run. I never did run," he said. "That's not what I do."

Reckwerdt finished his final term on the Islamorada Village Council in 2012. He served for more than eight years, more than any other council member in the village's short history.

Several of Reckwerdt's former colleagues on the dais, including current Mayor Mike Forster, chose not to comment on the criminal charges.

Along with Robbie's Marina, Reckwerdt's charges involve payroll taxes at other businesses he owns, including Flamingo Air of the Florida Keys Inc., Rent-A-Boat Inc., Robbie's Charter Enterprises Inc., Robbie's Marine Enterprises Inc. and Robbie's of Key West LLC.

The IRS and the U.S. Attorney's Office would not comment when asked if more charges were pending against Reckwerdt or if any of the conspirators referenced in the charging document faced prosecution.

"The U.S. Attorney's Office will not be commenting on this matter," agency spokeswoman Annette Castillo said last week.

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