January 29, 2023

MORE FALLOUT: Top DeSantis aides sued over Venezuelan refugee flights

MORE FALLOUT: Top DeSantis aides sued over Venezuelan refugee flights

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An amended complaint from Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) — which represents thirty of the fifty Venezuelan migrants whom Florida Governor Ron DeSantis duplicitously flew to Martha’s Vineyard with promises of jobs and healthcare — has added the names of DeSantis’s chief of staff, James Uthmeier, and his “public safety czar,” Larry Keefe, a former Trump administration prosecutor, to the lawsuit.


The complaint, filed in Massachusetts, alleges that Keefe arranged the flights of the migrants, following a plan conceived by him and Uthmeier, under the direction of DeSantis.

Keefe was on the ground in San Antonio, where the migrants were picked up. Two separate flights transported them first to Florida, then briefly to the Carolinas before sending them on to Martha’s Vineyard.

Fake pamphlets had been made up to make it appear as if Massachusetts officials were involved in the plan and were prepared to accept the émigrés.

Also named in the amended complaint is Perla Huerta, a former soldier who served as both a medic and in Army intelligence, said to have been the lead recruiter.

The company that operated the planes, Vertol Systems Company, and its CEO, James Montgomerie, have been added as defendants as well.

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The amendment to the complaint was added after LCR discovered new and potentially damning information, including text messages that reveal how the political stunt was coordinated.

“Many of the defendants named in the lawsuit were in direct communication with each other. They were coordinating; some were on the ground, some were in Florida,” Jacob Love, an attorney for LCR informed WPTV in West Palm Beach.

LCR’s executive director, Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, said the lawsuit is meant to dissuade other politicos from engaging in similar tactics.

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“All actors – public or private – involved in this effort to exploit our clients for political or monetary gain will be held accountable,” he said. “Let this be a warning to anyone thinking about becoming involved in a deceptive scheme like this in the future: do so at your peril.”

For all his tongue-in-cheek claims about ensuring the safety and well-being of the migrants, DeSantis – who is named about 150 times in the complaint – has done little to hide his true intentions.

One deeply embedded DeSantis staffer, when asked the purpose of the stunt, was even so bold as to state with derision, “We did it to own the libs.”

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And DeSantis hardly backing down: instead he’s pledged to use $12 million from interest Florida earned on money given to it by the federal government for Covid to continue his “relocation” plan.

In a Republican Party possibly seeking an alternative to Trump who will support draconian policies and thumb his nose at “the libs” while maintaining an air of legitimacy, DeSantis likely feels he has nothing to lose by flaunting ethics and continuing to treat people as pawns.

Ross will continue to expose the GOP on Twitter: @RossRosenfeld – follow him there! He needs your support!

Ross Rosenfeld

is a news analysis and opinion writer whose work has also appeared in the New York Daily News and Newsweek. He lives in New York.

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