By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
Miami FBI Special Agent in Charge George Piro is retiring, after sources say he was shown the door by FBI headquarters in Washington following a complaint by a subordinate that Piro improperly transferred his office’s bid-rigging investigation of Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony to South Carolina.
Piro’s last day in the office is said to be today, June 17, but he will officially depart June 30. The 23-year FBI veteran was named special agent in charge in November 2018. He also served as head of the Miami office from 2014-2017. In between, he was assistant director of the International Operations Division at FBI headquarters.
Phone and email messages seeking comment from Piro and FBI spokesman Mike Leverock over two days were not returned. The FBI national press office did not respond to an emailed request for comment before publication.
One source said that at a meeting with his agents last year, Piro explained transferring the Tony investigation by making two points: that he was not going to be responsible for the arrest of Broward’s first black sheriff, and that such an arrest would ruin the FBI’s relationship with the sheriff’s office, with which it frequently works.
Piro, who interrogated Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, also mentioned in the meeting that Sheriff Tony was responsible for sending $50,000 each to the families of two FBI agents who were killed while serving a search warrant at a Sunrise apartment on Feb. 2, 2021, the source said.
FBI’S INVESTIGATION OF TONY
The criminal probe of Sheriff Tony appears to be to be multi-faceted. A key segment involved suspected fraud, kickbacks and bid-rigging in BSO’s 2019 purchase of hundreds of bleeding-control stations from North American Rescue, a South Carolina company where Tony worked as director of community development before becoming sheriff. Tony concealed his job at the company, deleting it from his LinkedIn profile and not mentioning it when his job history was discussed.
Also involved: Tony’s alleged shakedown of a corporate official with jail healthcare provider Wellpath for campaign money, a source said.
Florida Bullldog disclosed the existence of the FBI investigation in April 2021 in a story about a trio of individuals who were interviewed by FBI agents about BSO’s transactions with North American Rescue before the case was transferred. They included an unsuccessful bidder for BSO’s bleeding-control station contract and a former BSO purchasing official.
Piro had the case shipped to the FBI field office in Columbia, South Carolina, where it appeared to stall. With Piro’s departure, the case is now said to be back in the jurisdiction of the Miami FBI field office.
In May 2020, Florida Bulldog reported that between the end of July and Sept. 6, 2019, BSO paid more than $512,000 for 854 bleeding-control stations sold by North American. When Tony worked for North American in 2016-2017, and even earlier when he was a Coral Springs police officer in 2015, he ran a side business, Blue Spear Solutions, which sold North American’s products, including bleeding-control kits and stations.
TONY AND NORTH AMERICAN RESCUE
Tony’s wife, Holly, is today the company’s president, although Gregory Tony’s photograph is still on Blue Spear’s website. He’s listed as the firm’s founder. Blue Spear also remains a “proud partner” of North American and displays its products.
As sheriff, Tony aggressively promoted North American’s bleeding-control kits as critical for public safety. BSO put out press releases announcing the sheriff’s plans to distribute about 12,000 of the bright red bleeding-control kits to every public and charter school in Broward.
In September 2019, Tony held a press conference at a warehouse where he displayed the kits, emblazoned with his name and BSO’s logo, for reporters and camera crews. He said Blue Spear was not involved in the purchase, noted he had “zero involvement” with his wife’s company and said he distanced BSO by putting the contract out to bid “and they [North American] just happened to have the lowest price of roughly 10 different vendors that applied.”
BSO bid records, however, show there were nine bidders, but some of North American’s eight competitors were not actual competitors.
For example, Henry Schein Inc. is a Fortune 500 distributor of healthcare products. Its per unit bid was about $100 more than North American’s. But Henry Schein acquired North American Rescue for an undisclosed price in March 2019 – four months before BSO’s bid went out.
Both North American and Henry Schein may have violated the terms of a non-collusion certificate required to be dated and signed by bidders. The certificates include language in which bidders aver that they “are not related to any of the other parties in the competitive solicitation.”