Ramos hopes 1989 theft plea doesn’t lead to “ugly” politicsby George Bennett | July 23rd, 2009
Saying he doesn’t want to be the victim of “ugly” politics in the final days of a special state Senate election campaign, Democrat Bill Ramos today volunteered information about a 1989 guilty plea for theft when he was a young postal worker.
Ramos, a Jensen Beach mortgage broker, is running against former Republican state Rep. Joe Negron of Stuart in an Aug. 4 election to replace retiring Sen. Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie.
Ramos, 50, said he’s never tried to hide his past scrape with the law.
In a biographical entry on his campaign Web site, Ramos says that “almost 25 years ago, I was accused of theft by a trusted superior. Innocent, under pressure, and unable to afford an attorney, I was forced to accept a no contest plea to having taken money from my workplace.”
Ramos said a superior at a post office where he worked in eastern Pennsylvania told him it was OK to borrow $50 in petty cash if he agreed to replace it before his next payday. Before he could repay the money, Ramos says, he got blamed for more than $4,000 in missing money.
A federal court document provided by Ramos shows he pleaded guilty in 1989 to embezzlement of postal funds and agreed to three years of probation and to pay $4,383 in restitution.
Ramos said he disclosed the 1989 plea when he applied for a Florida mortgage broker’s license in the 1990s.
But when he applied for a real estate license in 2003, Ramos checked “No” on a form asking if he had ever “been convicted of a crime, found guilty, or entered a plea of guilty or nolo contendre (no contest).”
Ramos said he checked “No” because he believed when he agreed to the 1989 plea that his record would be clear after 10 years.
“I thought I was outside that 10-year window and it was expunged from my record,” Ramos said.
When the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation learned of the guilty plea in 2006, it suspended Ramos’ real estate license for five years.
Ramos said he made an honest mistake in not disclosing the guilty plea on his real estate license application. He says he accepts responsibility for the original incident.
“At the end of it all, I should never have trusted the guy and taken the 50 bucks under any circumstances. I make no excuse for the mistake,” Ramos said today.
He said he hopes voters recognize that “20 years ago does not tell you who a person is now.”
Negron said he became aware of the issue a few months ago from Ramos’ Web site, but hasn’t brought it up.
“It’s a matter between him and the voters. I’ve never talked about it,” Negron said.