A sordid public corruption scandal in the Space Coast community of Palm Bay involving sex, drugs and an alleged plot to blackmail city council members has a Tallahassee tentacle.
Some of the players involved in the shenanigans allegedly hired prostitutes during a trip to the capital city, according to newly unveiled court documents. It was an unflattering glimpse into the seedy side of Tallahassee, where rumors have long persisted about people in the political process hooking up with sex workers.
The story hit front pages late last week with the arrests of Palm Bay’s former deputy city manager, Dave Isnardi, and a former council candidate, Jose Aguiar on racketeering charges. Isnardi, whose wife, Kristine Isnardi, is chair of the Brevard County Commission, also was charged with conspiracy to commit extortion and conspiracy to possess controlled substances with the intent to deliver.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement began investigating in 2015, after getting information from the FBI about Isnardi, Aguiar and other city officials. They used a confidential source, an unnamed but well-placed city employee, to wear a wire and record conversations.
The back story:
Isnardi and Aguiar allegedly plotted to get dirt on two city councilmen, Tres Holton and Jeff Bailey, so they would vote their way on certain matters, including a zoning change allowing Aguiar to open a scrap metal business with Isnardi as a silent partner.
They planned to set up cameras and record incriminating activity inside the “clubhouse,” a Palm Bay residence on Canova Street owned by Aguiar where city officials often socialized, sometimes with prostitutes and drugs. Bailey was given oxycodone at the house, Aguiar said in recorded conversations, and the confidential source, who lived at the “clubhouse” said Holton often saw prostitutes at the residence.
Details are scant on what happened in Tallahassee. What little is known came out of an April 9, 2018, FDLE interview with Bailey. During the interview, Bailey admitted he used tramadol, a synthetic opiod, at the “clubhouse” and saw Holton use cocaine there.
“Bailey also said that Holton informed him that he (Holton) had obtained prostitutes for Palm Bay Mayor (William) Capote while in Tallahassee and offered to obtain a prostitute for Bailey as well,” the report says.
Capote, who was not charged in the investigation, denied the allegations to Florida Today, a sister paper of the Tallahassee Democrat.
Meg Baldwin, executive director of the Refuge House in Tallahassee, said getting accurate statistics on prostitution in any community is difficult because of its underground nature. She noted that Refuge House offers support groups for women involved in prostitution and that 66 women have participated since July 1.
Demand increases for prostitutes where there are significant populations of transient males with disposable income. That could mean anything from a truck stop to a political convention somewhere.
“So conventions and large meetings, legislative sessions, probably, and interstate traffic are all factors that can increase the demand for prostitution within a community,” she said.
Attorneys for Isnardi and Aguiar denied wrongdoing by their clients, who were arrested Friday and made their first court appearances Saturday. Both were held without bond in the Brevard County Jail. Holton also said he categorically denied all allegations.
Contact Jeff Burlew at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @JeffBurlew on Twitter.