December 3, 2022

MAJOR QUESTIONS: Where’s the missing money from the DeMantis Martha’s Vineyard migrant flights?

MAJOR QUESTIONS: Where's the missing money from the DeMantis Martha's Vineyard migrant flights?

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Newly released public records show a discrepancy in the reported $1.5 million paid to Vertol Systems by the Florida government in the cruel migrant relocation scheme devised by Governor Ron DeSantis, with only $153,000 being accounted for.

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That’s just 10% of the misappropriated taxpayer funds, begging the question  – where’s the rest?

The Destin-based charter company flew two planes, with a combined total of 48 migrants, from San Antonio, Texas to the New England town of Martha’s Vineyard — using money allocated to pay for the relocation of migrants from Florida to sanctuary cities throughout the United States.

The key phrase is – from Florida.

Reports that the Governor’s administration engaged in nefarious machinations – misleading and luring Venezuelan migrants onto privately chartered flights to the Massachusetts enclave – triggered multiple investigations and lawsuits decrying the Republican’s deliberate and cruelly false promises of jobs and resources awaiting the asylum seekers.

In addition to the flights, meals, travel supplies, and Visa cash cards were included in the costs, which Tampa Bay Times reports priced out to an average of $2,550 per passenger. Recruiters hired by Vertol to find migrants in San Antonio had their salaries and expenses paid as a part of the undisclosed contract.

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Gov. DeSantis’s public-safety czar, Larry Keefe, reportedly supervised the program. A former legal representative for Vertol, Keefe also worked as the Trump administration’s United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida.

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According to records, Keefe and Vertol CEO James Montgomeries traveled to San Antonio with recruiter Perla Huerta – identified by several of the migrants as being the woman who approached them.

Repeated requests by The Miami Herald on the breakdown of Vertol’s spending remain unfulfilled.

Multiple flights scheduled to President Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware and to Illinois were never completed, yet the Florida Department of Transportation records show the agency paid $950,000 of the $1.564 million for those flights – without any confirmation they had been completed.

$12 million in interest — earned on nearly $6 billion that the state received as a part of the American Rescue Plan — was appropriated in a bi-partisan effort to mitigate migration to Florida.

Florida State Senator Jason Pizzo (D) filed a lawsuit against the DeSantis administration, the Dept. of Transportation, and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis.

Though the suit was initially dismissed, Sen. Pizzo was given two weeks to reorganize and refile his complaint.

This news comes on the heels of a federal judge ruling that DeSantis’s “Stop WOKE Act” was dystopian and a violation of the University of Florida’s First Amendment rights, accusing the authoritarian Governor of “imposing its own orthodoxy of viewpoints.”

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The mishandling of state funds can potentially derail the rumored 2024 GOP presidential frontrunner’s aspirations for the country’s highest office, much to the delight of democracy defenders who believed DeSantis was overstepping his authority.

Michael Barfield, the Director of Access for the Florida Center for Government Accountability, questioned the oversight and costs of the migrant flight program.

“They had some hotel rooms, some McDonald’s gift certificates that they handed out like candy, whatever they paid Perla and the others. How much could that add up to?” said Barfield, whose organization has sued the state to obtain records about the migrant flights. “You’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars of fees that … they’ve pocketed without providing any services. This is taxpayer money.”

Original reporting by Nicholas Nehamas and Sarah Blaskey at

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

Ty Ross

News journalist for Washington Press and Occupy Democrats.

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