We were promised a new story in 2021. Instead, we seem to have binge-watched our way into the second season featuring the same pandemic, same characters, except now facing the ravages of time. Yes, we’re still watching — but please make it stop.
On season two of Going Down Slow With the Human Race, Miami once again kept us entertained with an all-star cast of scoundrels, scammers, and/or snake oil purveyors. There were guest appearances by elected officials, medical professionals, and community leaders who were so corrupt, confused, or creepy we simply could not look away.
Each year, New Times rounds up a list of 12 locals who rained shame down on our shiny but rickety city. Once again, we present the annual Dirty Dozen, with the sincere hope that season three gets canceled. (Illustrations by Mark Poutenis.)
Gretchen Anthony, a 51-year-old single mother living in Jupiter, should still be alive. In March 2020, at the onset of COVID-19 lockdowns, she was brutally stabbed to death by her then soon-to-be ex-husband David Anthony, an itinerant personal trainer with a short temper and misogynistic attitudes. At the time, David had been fired from yet another gym job and was failing his way through odd jobs while living with his elderly mother post-separation. He attempted to cover up the bloody murder by exploiting the pandemic: impersonating Gretchen, stealing her cell phone, and explaining her absence to loved ones via texts that she was hospitalized with COVID-19. The charade unraveled quickly, and he pleaded guilty to kidnapping and second-degree murder. Here’s to spending the next 38 years in prison, David.
Here in Miami, we have a word for former lawmakers who openly brag at parties about planting a no-party candidate in order to swing a state senate election: stupid. To be clear, nobody is all that surprised that erstwhile state representative and senator Frank Artiles — a guy who was forced to resign from the latter post in 2017 for having used the terms “bitch” and the n-word to refer to colleagues — would take it upon himself to try to subvert democracy. But the lack of surprise doesn’t negate his deplorability when you consider that the ploy — finding a guy with the same last name as the Democratic incumbent and inserting him into the race to clear the way for the candidate he was trying to boost — was successful: Republican Ileana Garcia unseated José Javier Rodríguez by a mere 34 votes in District 37, no doubt thanks to the presence of mystery man Alex Rodriguez, who raked in dark-money contributions and 3 percent of the final tally. Fortunately, law-enforcement officials weren’t impressed. Artiles was slapped with five felony charges and jailed. The case is ongoing.
While Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett might not believe that jet fuel melted the steel beams of Champlain Towers South, he has considered another debunked conspiracy theory about the 12-story condo’s collapse, which killed 98 of his constituents in June. In August, Burkett texted the town manager to have Surfside police investigate a tweet that claimed the death of antivirus software entrepreneur John McAfee in a Spanish prison was somehow connected to the collapse, which happened a day later. After the sleepy beachside hamlet was thrust into the international media cycle, Burkett prioritized interviews with Fox News, feuded with colleagues and his fellow commissioners complained he was exploiting the tragedy to hog the spotlight. To add to the ingloriousness of it all, Burkett was subsequently caught on camera making questionable comments to a female Surfside cop, calling her “the best-looking police officer we’ve ever had” and saying he had “a crush” on her.
You’d think that everything that could be said about “Crazy Joe” Carollo has already been said. And yet every year the don of Miami politics manages to come up with riveting new plot points to keep his name and the city’s in the headlines. During a bizarre late-September saga involving then-Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo — who’d been handpicked sans background check by Miami Mayor Francis Suarez (who has his own entry below, #BecauseMiami) — Carollo turned the halls of government into his own personal circus, where he acted as ringleader, agonizing over old photos showing the chief’s tight pants-clad nether regions and money reading from a dossier about Acevedo’s past. The Dinner Key theatrics drew an audience from around the nation, who witnessed Carollo’s banana republican politics with slack-jawed incredulity. Carollo, who was infamously arrested in 2001 for hitting his wife while Miami mayor, succeeded in making Acevedo’s the briefest of tenures. As the interim chief was sworn in, Carollo played The Godfather theme song on his cellphone — no doubt an allusion to Acevedo’s fateful quip that the department was run by the “Cuban Mafia.” Carollo was re-elected to the Miami City Commission in November.
David and Leila Centner
As businesses around the world refused to employ or wait on people who weren’t vaccinated against COVID-19, a pair of Miami multimillionaires appeared to welcome them and their lack of antibodies with open arms. David Centner and his wife Leila, cofounders of the Centner Academy (a local private school they named after themselves), hosted prominent anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., told teachers not come to work if they’d been vaccinated, and instructed parents to keep their recently vaccinated children home for a month. When those anti-science strategies received the predictable blowback from national media, David Centner did what any self-respecting multimillionaire would do: He launched a reputation-scrubbing website that allows people to bury bad press and negative search results online. (It’s unclear whether he and his wife have availed themselves of their new venture’s services to tidy their own tarnished images.)
Kudos to Laura Loomer for reminding us all to be more careful about what we wish for. Nearly a year after the “proud Islamophobe,” anti-vaccine extremist, and self-proclaimed most banned woman on the internet expressed her sincere desire to contract COVID-19 to prove its symptoms are akin to a misadventure with “bad fajitas,” she manifested a positive diagnosis with symptoms that seemed to be a tad more serious than an encounter with spoiled street food. She posted on the pro-Trump social network Gettr that she felt like she’d been “hit by a bus” and began a regimen of hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin. Despite her harrowing bout with a virus responsible for killing 62,000 people (and counting) in her home state of Florida, Loomer later clarified that she still has no plans to get vaccinated.
The New Times Dirty Dozen usually drags out skeletons from the Sunshine State’s shadiest closets, but few have made our stomachs churn as much as Prentiss Madden, South Florida’s notorious puppy toucher. Madden, a veterinarian and former hospital director at Caring Hands Animal Clinic in Aventura, pleaded guilty in October to charges of possessing child pornography and “animal crush” videos — i.e., videos depicting animal exploitation for sexual gratification. Even as unsuspecting families entrusted their pets to his care, Madden was making and sending videos of himself sexually abusing animals at home and at the clinic where they were ostensibly in his “caring hands.” According to court documents, Madden possessed more than 1,500 images of suspected child pornography and once told unidentified associates that he had a sexual relationship with a minor in Orlando. He’s now serving a 22-year prison sentence.
It’s late summer in South Florida and an airborne virus has already killed thousands and sent an alarming number of children to local hospitals. During an August meeting of the School Board of Miami-Dade County, parents, teachers, and health experts explained that masks are students’ best bet to avoid contracting COVID-19 given the constraints of social distancing in classrooms and the fact that children under age 12 were not eligible to receive the vaccine at the time. All but one of the school board’s eight members voted to uphold a mask mandate. The lone nay vote was cast by Lubby Navarro — or as she prefers to be addressed, Dr. Lubby Navarro, thanks to a doctoral degree bestowed by an unaccredited “university” located in a downtown Miami office building. If we ever fully emerge from this pandemic, we’ll do so with zero help from self-important hacks like Navarro who put political self-interest above the well-being of the children whose best interests they’ve sworn to protect.
Miami Police Capt. Javier Ortiz is one of the department’s most problematic officers. In his 17 years as a Miami cop, the onetime police union chief has been at the center of numerous embarrassing snafus, racked up nearly 60 citizens’ complaints, and cost the City of Miami more than $100,000 of taxpayer money in legal settlements. This year, Ortiz was reinstated after a yearlong suspension (his second) following his claim that he is Black (he’s not) and a federal probe into whether he’d abused people of color and other minorities. The U.S. Department of Justice didn’t bring charges owing to a lack of evidence, but that didn’t stop investigators from noting the obvious: that Ortiz has a remarkable tendency to evade punishment. Ortiz is currently being sued in federal court for allegedly trying to ruin the career of a fellow officer and making that person’s life in the department a “living hell.” In October, Ortiz was suspended yet again after being written up for defying a direct order and being late to his post. Might the third time be the charm?
Dr. Tara Solomon
Dr. Tara Solomon is what Joe Rogan would look like if he had a medical license, long blond hair, and a Broward County home address. The licensed physician, who specializes in obstetrics, gynecology, and infertility, billed herself as @DoctorCovidTwentyOne on TikTok and rose to fame while riding 2021’s brief national ivermectin craze. Sporting sparkly pink eyeshadow and winged liner, Solomon shared tips that contradicted the FDA’s cautions about using a compound that’s typically used as a treatment for intestinal worms as a COVID cure. Before her account was removed from TikTok, Solomon declined New Times’ request for comment, explaining, “Not now, saving lives is too important.” (Note: The Broward-based ivermectineer is not related to the Miami-based Tara Solomon, founder of the public relations firm Tara, Ink.)
How lucky we are to be able to say the patron saint of Bitcoin himself stands at the helm of our city government? Even as Miami grows increasingly unaffordable and vulnerable to the consequences of climate change, our city’s top elected official has prioritized tweeting superficial pleasantries with tech bros over developing practical solutions for our very real problems. Suarez has led Miami for four years now and was elected in November to haul us through another four. What with his side-hustle gigs at a private equity firm and a Los Angeles-based law office, it’s a wonder he can spare any time to serve his constituents. Encroaching seas pose an increasing existential threat to the Magic City on Biscayne Bay, but at this rate Suarez doesn’t require any assistance when it comes to sinking this town.
Extremism comes from all sides, including one’s own backyard. Witness Enrique “Henry” Tarrio, former chairman of the far-right Proud Boys, who was born and reared in the Flagami neighborhood of Miami. The public face of the militant national hate group was arrested and detained in Washington, D.C., two days before the January 6 insurrection that saw many of his fellow Proud Boys wreak havoc at the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election. In late summer, a D.C. judge sentenced Tarrio to five months in jail for burning a Black Lives Matter flag that belonged to a church and for carrying empty high-capacity firearm magazines. When people say the Proud Boys are racists and white supremacists, the group often points to their Black Hispanic leader as evidence to the contrary. At the very least, Tarrio’s conviction should put the lie to that canard.