Prior to founding Gina Edwards & Associates LLC, Gina Edwards worked as an investigative reporter and editor at the Naples Daily News in Southwest Florida for a decade. Edwards has received national recognition for her investigative accomplishments, including a first place national award for investigative work at a small newspaper from the prestigious group Investigative Reporters & Editors.
Investigative Reporters & Editors, a 4,500-member professional organization, honored Edwards’ investigation that uncovered evidence of bribes and influence peddling by local elected officials and developers in what became known as the Stadium Naples public corruption case. The E.W. Scripps Co., parent of the Naples Daily News, submitted Edwards’ work on the Stadium Naples case for Pulitzer Prize consideration in 1999 and 2000.
She has won state awards for business and government reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Florida Press Club and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. In addition, Edwards was named a finalist for the national Roy W. Howard Award for Public Service and for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists. She shared in the Roy W. Howard Award in 2003 with the team of Naples Daily News journalists who produced the paper’s “Gulf in Peril” series. In 2006, the “Paradise at What Cost?” staff project on affordable housing that Edwards helped spearhead was honored with the Lucy Morgan Award from the Florida Press Club.
During her investigation spanning more than four years, Edwards made extraordinary use of Florida’s public records laws to uncover evidence of bribes and conflicts of interest on the part of local elected officials entangled in the proposed $100 million Stadium Naples golf development. Edwards special reports and dogged beat coverage, along with commentary by columnist Brent Batten and editorial page editor Jeff Lytle and support from Executive Editor Phil Lewis and Publisher Corbin Wyant, ultimately led to the arrests of three Collier County Commissioners, the county manager, developers and the founder of the ESPN cable network.
Edwards’ reporting uncovered partnership memos showing a county commissioner was negotiating for his estimated $7.5 million piece of the Stadium Naples deal months before casting key votes to benefit his developer partners and the stadium. Reader outrage prompted state attorney investigation.
After the local prosecutor investigating the Stadium Naples corruption case declined to bring charges, Edwards uncovered that the elected prosecutor had bought stock in a Stadium Naples related company during his probe. In response to Edwards' reporting, Gov. Jeb Bush ordered a more detailed investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and called for the removal of the local state attorney from the case. Eventually, Bush appointed a special prosecutor to take over what became sprawling criminal case involving 10 defendants.
Later, Edwards discovered and broke the story that a second commissioner had received a $100,000 business loan from stadium financier David Mobley, the Maricopa hedge fund manager who confessed to orchestrating a Ponzi scheme in which investors lost $60 million. The commissioner, who never paid back the loan, later pleaded no contest to a corruption charge related to the loan.
Because Naples has long been a magnet for wealthy retired CEOs, the upscale coastal city has seen more than its share of high-profile financial and white collar crime. While at the Naples Daily News, Edwards covered financial crime extensively.
Edwards conducted an aggressive nationwide investigation of A.S. Goldmen & Co., a brokerage firm linked to Stadium Naples that state and federal securities regulators dubbed as one of the nation’s most notorious boiler rooms.
Edwards tracked down jilted customers around the country and documented suspected illegal activities and organized crime ties at the firm owned by Naples multimillionaire Anthony Marchiano months ahead of indictments in New York brought by Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau’s office. And she built a database of current and former Goldmen brokers’ work histories and disciplinary records and showed how Goldmen brokers cycled in and out of stock houses under investigation by law enforcement and named in organized crime indictments.
Edwards broadened her experience and insight of securities fraud while covering the A.S. Goldmen stock fraud trial in Manhattan that lasted for more than seven months.
In addition, Edwards covered the collapse of David Mobley’s Maricopa Hedge Fund Ponzi scheme and its resulting aftermath. Mobley passed himself off as a legitimate hedge fund manager, but instead funneled investors’ money to his lavish lifestyle and a series of failed businesses and charities. Mobley, who was sentenced to 17 years in federal prison, made up bogus account statements for investors and claimed to have a proprietary “black box” trading system.
While at the Naples Daily News, Edwards also produced “The Waterford Files,” an investigative series written in narrative story form that told the story of a Naples-based mortgage fraud that cheated a wealthy Naples family out of $14 million.
Edwards has written numerous investor education articles and stories about a lack of law enforcement resources dedicated to investigating and prosecuting white collar crime. In response to public pressure, local law enforcement agencies created an economic crime unit. A Florida state senator read excerpts from Edwards’ story on viatical investor victims on the Senate floor during a 2005 session debate on regulatory reforms that ultimately won approval.
Data Analysis and Geographic Information Systems
Beyond the use of traditional shoe-leather reporting, Edwards uses advanced database technology and analysis techniques to produce investigative results that would otherwise be impossible to discover by hand.
For example, in a 2005 story that predated the housing market collapse, Edwards did an extensive database analysis of property records to tease out neighborhoods prone to real estate flipping and even identify “flippers” themselves. The resulting award-winning story “Fast Bucks” reported on the extensive real estate flipping taking place in the Naples market, which was subsequently devastated in the housing market meltdown.
In 2006, Edwards conducted an in-depth real estate market analysis using public property records and deed data for the Naples Daily News’ “Paradise at What Cost?” series that chronicled the impacts of the area’s affordable housing crisis and exodus of middle-class working families. Using database and Geographic Information System software, Edwards directed and coordinated analysis by reporters and new media staff of more than 100,000 home sales and calculated median home prices for more than 1,600 single family neighborhoods and condominium developments in Collier and south Lee counties for 2003 to 2006.
Edwards worked with programmers to design and develop a searchable online database of more than 100,000 home sales transactions that used Google maps, interactive graphs and photos of sample houses that sold near the median home price for a given neighborhood. The project was recognized as one of the first large-scale searchable online databases of its kind produced by a newspaper staff.
When examining systemic flaws that set the stage for corruption, Edwards analyzed 25 years of data from Florida’s Commission on Ethics to show that the body recommended removing an elected official in just five cases out of thousands of complaints. Edwards’ work in the Naples Daily News was lauded in editorials in both the Miami Herald and the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.
Another of Edwards’ analysis showed that fewer than 10 percent of Florida public officials convicted on corruption charges received jail time. The story helped to serve as a catalyst for an amended state law passed in 2003 that stiffened state penalties for public corruption.
For the Naples Daily News’ national award-winning “Gulf in Peril” series, Edwards analyzed septic tank locations in Florida and their pollution effects and 40 years of population growth data for the more than 100 counties that rim the Gulf of Mexico. She used Geographic Information Systems software to map growth trends and worked with a staff artist to produce a large graphic for the series.
More recently, Edwards has worked as a consultant analyzing more than 100,000 criminal records involving burglary and theft. She has also analyzed data covering more than 13,000 restaurant inspections in Florida for a study of food borne illness complaints.