Tuesday, April 23, 2019

TAX FRAUD?: ST. AUGUSTINE COMMISSIONER JOHN OTHA VALDES FACES HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION TAX FRAUD INVESTIGATION








































St. Augustine City Commissioner JOHN OTHA VALDES is under investigation by the St. Johns County Property Appraiser for possible homestead tax fraud concerning the $139/night AirBnB rental of "THE TREE HOUSE," with a fake address of 344 Charlotte Street, which is actually a part of the homesteaded property at 343 St. George Street.  

On AirBnB, VALDES is also committing possible unfair and deceptive trade practices, inter alia falsely claiming his garage apartment rental is in "Lincolnville," "THE neighborhood," and is "beachfront." 

These material false statements in interstate commerce are in apparent violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914, and Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA), sections 501.201-.213, Florida Statutes, which is intended to "protect the consuming public and legitimate business enterprises from those who engage in unfair methods of competition, or unconscionable, deceptive, or unfair acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce." 

On April 5, 2015, the Property Appraiser wrote Valdes et ux, asking questions about rentals. A response is due in 30 days.

At the April 22, 2019 City Commission meeting, as the first public commenter, I thanked St. Johns County Property Appraiser Eddie Creamer for his efforts to "make rich guys pay their damn taxes." Commissioner JOHN VALDES seethed. Later, Mr. Creamer made a great presentation about a proposal for a homestead exemption audit -- first ever audit of exemptions, proposing it be done with outside assistance of a third-party contractor, to be chosen by a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) bid process.

Like a proverbial "hog caught under a gate," VALDES showed his behind in public last night, April 22, 2019 on homestead fraud penalties.  

After Mr. Creamer's presentation on the proposed RFQ and eventual contract, in response, by way of non sequiturs, a seemingly baffled, confused or conflicted Commissioner JOHN VALDES' asked a series of self-serving public questions to Property Appraiser Eddie Creamer during the City Commission meeting, without revealing this letter and his personal interest.

Self-described "fixer" Commissioner JOHN VALDES wanted Mr. Creamer to explain whether: 

  • the Property Appraiser needed approval of all taxing authorities,
  • this were the last time Commission could stop the process,
  • property owners who made innocent mistakes, who are "probably violating the homestead law but were not aware of it," saying the penalties were "quite severe," with "very significant impact," wondering if there was "a way around it" for such people, e.g., whether they could be forgiven penalties and interest out of "sensitivity." (Mr. Creamer said no, that's not what the law provides, as written by the legislature, which uses the word "shall." )
After the discussion with Mr. Creamer, during the next item, you can watch on video as VALDES, apparently hot under the collar, adjust the temperature of the HVAC. unit located west of his seat at the Commission table.


Watch VALDES on video here:

Item 7A 

GENERAL PUBLIC PRESENTATIONS

Property Appraiser Eddie Creamer will make a brief presentation detailing
the attainment of a third party auditing service. These efforts are pursuant
to enhance homestead compliance and ensure qualified business owners
pay proper tangible personal property taxes with the use of a third party
firm, while staying ahead of the county’s growth curve to generate a tax
roll that is fair, equitable and accurate. (J. Regan, City Manager).



Third generation Florida construction contractor JOHN OTHA VALDES moved to St. Augustine in 1992, having sold his construction company in the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to his Saudi and British partners.  Elected in 2018, he described himself in a WSOS radio interview as "I'm a 'fixer' -- I 'fix' things."

At an April 3, 2019 City Commission meeting, VALDES spoke of wanting to abolish the elected position of Mayor because it causes "turbulence," and "confusion" to people moving here from Chicago or New York. He also stated that he wanted to allow nonresident property and business owners to vote in City elections.

Three heaping helpings of hypocrisy?

  • VALDES fancies himself an advocate for affordable housing, saying his construction workers can't afford to live in the City, while renting his garage apartment for $139/night to tourist.
  • VALDES has positioned himself as an advocate for regulating AirBnB rentals.  Under Florida Statute 112.313(7), VALDES has a probable conflict of interest on AirBnB, being an AirBnB landlord himself. 
  • VALDES has also positioned himself as a member of the board of the Visitor and Convention Bureau, which promotes tourism and spends bed tax revenue.

My appreciation to the St. Johns County Property Appraiser for:
  • rapid response to information it received earlier this month, issuing an April 5, 2019 letter to the property owners, and
  • rapid response to my Open Records request this morning. 

One of the best-run government offices in our county!

I await a response and interview with JOHN OTHA VALDES. 

Here is JOHN OTHA VALDE$ AirBnB listing, falsely claiming rental is in "Lincolnville," "THE neighborhood," and is "beachfront."






Tree House Cottage in Historic Downtown St Aug!

Mason User Profile
Mason
Entire cottage
3 guests
2 bedrooms
2 beds
1 bath
This cozy treehouse cottage is located around the corner from an impressive lake view AND the famous St. Augustine municipal marina and anchorage. Stroll into historic downtown a quarter mile down the road! Cruise on a horse carriage, scooters, Segway tour, or even a boat tour around the city to explore the historic house. With the nation's oldest house a block away, you will know you're in the right place. 
We have yachts listed a mile and a half from the cottage...feel free to inquire :)
The space

This cottage couldn't be located in a better spot in St. Augustine for touring. The oldest house in the nation is only 2 blocks north. The Historic fort is less than half a mile and Flagler college/Municipal Marina half that distance. 30 feet from a beautiful lake and 10 feet from the Intracoastal. Drive 3 miles to the beach or keep the car parked and stroll for the entire stay...possibilities are endless :)
Guest access

Access the entire two bedrooms with laundry, kitchen, living room, full bath. 1/2 cars ok to park.
Other things to note

Zoning allows for minimum 7 day rentals but keep in mind there is a weekly discount and you can stay 1-7 days without stressing check in and out times. Ordinance seems like it could cost a fraction more but relieves the stress of back to back reservations on the guests :)

Amenities


Basic



Wifi
Continuous access in the listing
Laptop friendly workspace
A table or desk with space for a laptop and a chair that’s comfortable to work in
Iron
TV
Dryer
In the building, free or for a fee
Washer
In the building, free or for a fee
Air conditioning
Heating
Central heating or a heater in the listing

Facilities



Free parking on premises

Dining



Kitchen
Space where guests can cook their own meals

Guest access



Private entrance
Separate street or building entrance

Bed and bath



Shampoo
Hangers
Hair dryer

Location



Beachfront

Safety features



Fire extinguisher
Carbon monoxide detector
Smoke detector
First aid kit


Sleeping arrangements


Bedroom 1
1 king bed
Bedroom 2
1 single bed

Availability

Updated 4 days ago
April 2019
May 2019

1 Review

Sabrina User Profile
Sabrina
December 2018
We would recommend the Tree House. It has a full kitchen which is nice if you want to cook some of your own meals, good wifi, and plenty of space. It's within walking distance of St Augustine's historic area about 15 minutes - which gives one convenient access, nice views, and is much quieter than downtown. We had a great stay. Everyone at Tree House was very friendly and helpful. Thank you!
This host has 315 reviews for other properties.
View other reviews

Hosted by Mason

Neptune Beach, FLJoined in March 2016
Mason User Profile
320 Reviews
Verified
Fellow Airbnb host from North Florida, US. I love listing my sailboats on Airbnb and using the app as a traveler as well!
Languages: English
Response rate: 84%
Response time: within an hour
Always communicate through AirbnbTo protect your payment, never transfer money or communicate outside of the Airbnb website or app. 

The neighborhood

Mason’s home is located in St. Augustine, Florida, United States.
Lincolnville is THE neighborhood to stay for touring Historic St. Augustine (The Nation's Oldest City). Walkable to any site, tour, experience the town has to offer. Location Location Location. Besides this newly renovated house the location is absolutely priceless!


Map data ©2019 Google

Public Transit

500 m 
Exact location information is provided after a booking is confirmed.

Policies


House Rules

No pets
No smoking, parties, or events
Check-in is anytime after 3PM

Cancellations

Flexible - Free cancellation for 48 hours
After that, cancel up to 24 hours before check-in and get a full refund, minus the service fee.
Reservation confirmed
48 hours later
24 hours before check-in
Check-In

Full refund

Full refund, minus the service fee

Full refund, minus the first night and service fee