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Jax Daily Record Friday, May. 16, 201412:00 PM EST

Nelson Cuba retires from sheriff's office, will start receiving pension this month

by: Marilyn Young

With 14 words, Nelson Cuba’s career with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office ended.

Twenty-four years after he joined the force.

After 10 years as the brash head of the powerful Fraternal Order of Police.

Fourteen months after being arrested on gambling, money laundering and racketeering charges.

Cuba’s one-line letter simply said he was retiring as of May 9.

He had been on unpaid leave since shortly after being arrested in March 2013 on more than two dozen charges as part of the Allied Veterans of the World gambling and money laundering case.

Chuck Hayes, pension benefits manager with the Police and Fire Pension Fund, said Cuba called last week to say he would be retiring. He submitted his letter to the sheriff’s office May 8.

Hayes said Cuba would receive an annual pension of $49,727, which includes a health insurance supplement. He said Cuba is scheduled to begin receiving bi-weekly pension checks May 23.

Robbie Freitas, who was first vice president of the union, was also arrested in the Allied Veterans case.

He pleaded guilty last month to two charges and will be sentenced Nov. 24. He is not expected to serve jail time or face fines, but has agreed to testify if prosecutors need him as a witness.

Freitas retired soon after his arrest. Hayes said Freitas started receiving his annual pension, including a health insurance supplement, of $59,108.14 in March 2013.

John Keane, administrator of the Police and Fire Pension Fund, said an officer can lose a pension only if he or she were charged with official misconduct or a felony involving work for the city, or theft of city funds and/or property.

Officials said the two former union executives were linked to five Internet cafes in the Allied Veterans gambling bust. Charging documents accuse Cuba and Freitas of setting up shell companies and using bank accounts tied to them to shuttle money through.

Court documents say from Sept. 4, 2009-Dec. 30, 2011, deposits totaling $576,100 were made in one account, followed by withdrawals of $571,400.

Authorities said the withdrawals were all less than $10,000. An amount larger than that triggers banking scrutiny.

During his tenure as FOP president, Cuba was not hesitant about getting in public battles with public officials, especially when talking about employee benefits.

When former Mayor John Peyton wanted to freeze salaries for police (as the city had done with non-unionized employees) and pursue pension reform, Cuba responded with a public call for the union to boycott Gate Petroleum, the business started by Peyton’s father.

Keane described Cuba as “very outspoken” and a “very strong leader” of the FOP.

Cuba is one of a handful of the Allied Veterans defendants whose cases remain open. He is scheduled for a pre-trial conference on Sept. 11.

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