Private eye Wayne Black in center of Broward Health storm
As a veteran private investigator, Wayne Black worked on the Tiffany Sessions disappearance, investigated the Paris crash that killed Princess Diana and sent teams to test the security of the Super Bowl.
And he drew the attention of congressional investigators for setting up a controversial undercover operation to undermine an environmental whistleblower.
Now Black, 68, is at the center of the web of investigations, rumors and accusations spiraling around the Broward Health public hospital system. His claims of corruption have heightened the turmoil at an institution that just experienced the suicide of its chief executive officer, Dr. Nabil El Sanadi.
A soft-spoken man whose pleasant manner belies a cheetah's commitment to snaring his prey, Black was hired by El Sanadi a year ago to investigate concerns about security and corruption at the health system. A former investigator under Janet Reno in the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, Black operates a firm with offices in downtown Miami and midtown Manhattan.
Jon Sale, former second-in-command at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida and now a white-collar defense lawyer in Miami, said he frequently hires Black because of his "excellence and his integrity."
Wayne Black, the private investigator hired to examine allegations of misconduct at Broward Health, pictured with his Harley-Davidson motorcycle in Sturgis, South Dakota. (Photo courtesy of Wayne Black) (Courtesy of Wayne Black/ Sun Sentinel)
Asked last week by an acquaintance for three recommendations for private investigators to handle a sensitive matter, Sale responded, "Wayne Black, Wayne Black and Wayne Black."
After the crash that killed Princess Diana and her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, the Fayed family, at the time owners of London's famous Harrod's department store, included Black on a team to examine blood, fenders, lights and other evidence from the accident.
While doing investigative work for the Weston division of real estate giant Arvida in 1989, Black became involved in a 25-year quest to find out what happened to Tiffany Sessions, a University of Florida student presumed murdered by a serial killer. After hearing that the daughter of an Arvida executive was reported missing by her roommate, Black flew to Gainesville.
God help you if he gets on your trail. He is a pit bull. When he gets on something, he will not let go of it. - Patrick Sessions
When Tiffany's father, Patrick Sessions, arrived, he found Black already at his daughter's apartment, conferring with the police.
"He was there the first day and he was there the day – 25 years later – when we pretty much figured out what had happened to her," Sessions said. "He was there when we dug up the field trying to find her body. And Wayne was there for me practically every day in between – he is like a brother to me. He shut his business down for months to work on her case. I tried to pay him and he wouldn't take a dime from me."
"God help you if he gets on your trail," Sessions said. "He is a pit bull. When he gets on something, he will not let go of it."
In a case that drew intense scrutiny from Congress and the media, Black investigated an oil broker named Charles Hamel who was passing information to government agencies and the press about pollution at the Alaska oil pipeline.
The pipeline company hired Wackenhut Corp., now known as G4S Secure Solutions, where Black served as special investigations chief. He set up an elaborate ruse to entice Hamel into divulging his sources, establishing a phony environmental group, pretending to be a scientist and secretly recording Hamel's conversations.
Confronted on camera by Steve Kroft of CBS's 60 Minutes, Black said, "I think we did a--did a good job. Our people did a good job. We'd do it again if we--if we had the opportunity," according to a transcript.
Kroft responded, "You're proud of going through somebody's garbage? You're proud of surreptitiously recording conversations? You're proud of setting up phony companies and giving people a lot of bogus information?"
Today, Black remains proud of the work, saying his undercover investigation broke no laws and exposed a man who had people stealing information that could have compromsed national security.
"It was a successful investigation," Black said. "People complain when they get caught doing bad stuff."
Black grew up in the Dayton, Ohio area. His mother was a nurse and his father an executive at Chrysler. After a few years as a Montgomery County Sheriff's deputy, he became a police officer in what was then called Dade County, working on organized crime and narcotics cases. While he was investigating a police corruption and drug case in the late 1970s, someone threw a Molotov cocktail at his home in Miramar.
"I continued to work the case, of course," he said.
Black frequently provides his services for free to deserving causes. In December, he traveled to secret locations in the Middle East to work on security plans to protect Izidi and Christian minorities from terrorists.
At Broward Health, which operates five hospitals and employs more than 8,000 people, Black claims to have uncovered extensive wrongdoing involving purchasing and other activities at the 8,000-employee institution. He says the system's general counsel, Lynn Barrett, has impeded the investigation, a charge she vehemently denies.
He became involved after running into the organization's board chairman, David Di Pietro, at Macy's in Fort Lauderdale.
Black knew Di Pietro, a former prosecutor, having worked across the table from him on a case involving a private school teacher accused of misconduct. Black mentioned he had in the past worked with Broward Health to send its former chief financial officer to prison for embezzlement, and said he was available if anything else came up.
Something did come up. El Sanadi and Di Pietro had both heard talk of corruption, particularly involving purchasing. At Di Pietro's recommendation, El Sanadi hired him.
Now, despite the shocking suicide of El Sanadi Jan. 23, Black is still working on the investigation.
He has been passing information on to the institution's security director and will be coordinating his work with the Berger Singerman law firm, which was recently hired as independent counsel for the board's audit committee.
"This guy's the real deal," Di Pietro said. "He's not just doing it for a job. He does it because he believes in the cause."
Black thinks El Sanadi hired him because of his reputation for pursuing cases with zeal.
"Nabil used to call me his Exocet missile because I would launch and there was no turning back," Black said. "I think he saw me as somebody he could hold out as unquestionably trying to do the right thing and wanting to get to the truth. People told him 'You don't hire Wayne Black if you want to cover up public corruption' because they know me."
by David Fleshler and Paula McMahon via Sun Sentinel