Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero retires after 43 years at Channel 7

Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is retiring after 43 years at 7News. Cafiero plans on spending more time with her family and her 155-pound Rottweiler dog named Bear. Carmel joined Channel 7, then called WCKT, in 1973 as a general assignment reporter, becoming the first female journalist at our station!

*Please click PLAY in the video above to see our special tribute for Carmel*

Below is a highlight of Cafiero’s astonishing career at 7News:

The Carmel Cafiero you know, is the tough, no nonsense, won’t take “no comment” for an answer.

“How can you justify giving out a million oxycodone pills? Don’t touch the camera, don’t touch the camera!,” Cafiero said in one of her investigations.

She’s always on the case and usually on someone’s tail.

“Mr. Rodriguez, where are you going? Wait, mister,” Cafiero said.

THE TRAILBLAZER:

Carmel Cafiero is a New Orleans native, she worked in radio before landing at WAFB in Baton Rouge, where she was the first woman to anchor an evening newscast in Louisiana.

Then it was on to South Florida for another first. Carmel joined Channel 7, then called WCKT, in 1973 as a general assignment reporter, becoming the first female journalist at our station.

“She was certainly a trailblazer at this station and in the industry, without a doubt,” Edmund Ansin, Owner of WSVN-TV said.

Without a doubt in newsrooms, like in many other work places at the time, there were mostly men.

“Not only was she breaking stories, she was breaking ceilings with who she was and the quality of her professionalism,” Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Miami-Dade State Attorney told 7News.

“The thing that I find rewarding about my work is informing people, and if by informing people we can avoid one person from being hurt or taken in, then it’s a success,” Cafiero said.

UNLICENSED DOCTORS:

In one of Carmel’s first big stories, she wore a wig and went undercover to expose unlicensed doctors who performed abortions and clinic workers who told women they were pregnant when they weren’t. Carmel was told she was pregnant based on a urine sample from her male photographer.

THE CONSUMER SPECIALIST: 

There are plenty of people looking to separate South Floridians from their money. It’s true now, and back when Carmel was earning her stripes as our station’s consumer specialist.

“Airlines, rental cars, insurance, credit, how do you deal with them all?”

CHINESE DRY WALL:

And sometimes, the “deal” really did stink. Carmel exposed defective Chinese drywall being used in thousands of South Florida homes and condos.

She warned about pet jerky treats from China that were blamed for the deaths of hundreds of dogs. Carmel also pulled the cover off a dirty secret inside some used mattresses being sold as new.

“We found dirt, we found stains, we found hair, we even found stains on cardboard in the children’s mattress,” Cafiero said.

THE INVESTIGATOR: 

“It’s the biggest story that I can ever recall as far as our television station, with the video that they shot,” Bob Leider, former WSVN general manager said.

In 2008, Carmel blew the lid off an unfolding national epidemic, and Broward County was ground zero.

“It was a scourge on our community. Seven Floridians a day were dying from overdoses,” Al Lamberti, former Broward County Sheriff said.

Millions of highly addictive prescription painkillers flowed freely from clinics to people. Many from out of state, who used, abused and sold them.

“We have pictures of people snorting, shooting up in this parking lot after coming out of your clinic. I mean, what do you have to say about what’s going on here?,” Cafiero said in a previous story.

“I don’t think you’re right,” the clinic owner said.

But Carmel was right, and some clinic operators and doctors paid the price with their freedom.

The series earned Carmel one of the most prestigious honors in journalism, the Dupont-Columbia University Award. More importantly, for Carmel, it meant lives were saved and helped change the law.

“One of the things that her stories were critical for, we got that prescription drug monitoring program. It was passed by the Florida legislature, mainly because of the media attention that Carmel brought to the problem,” Al Lamberti, former BSO Sheriff said.

Carmel also brought attention to another problem. Undercover video showed young teens barely dressed and overdosing outside a Pompano Beach nightclub.

She caught up with the club’s owner, who was a convicted felon.

“If you know anything about my background, if you know anything about my background, then you’d leave me alone,” the club’s owner said.

THE CONFRONTATIONS: 

Some people may have tried to hide from the law, but they couldn’t hide from Carmel.

“Don’t run from me… Don’t you think as a public official, you ought to answer our questions?,” Carmel said during an investigation.

“I’m wondering how you’re able to park in a disabled spot?,” she told officials.

Self-proclaimed celebrity psychic, Miss Cleo, never saw Carmel coming. The state said customers were deceived nationwide.

“I think you are quite finished. Thank you, my dear,” Cleo told Carmel.

THE EXCLUSIVES:

Days after our country was attacked on September 11, 2001, Carmel was the first reporter who got a look inside terrorist Mohamed Atta’s former Hollywood apartment.

“It will take more than soap and water to scrub away the stains and the ghosts left behind by the terrorists responsible for our national nightmare.”

From the streets of South Florida to towns across the globe, Carmel went the distance to get the big stories.

In 1997, she tracked down disgraced former Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Gersten, down under in Australia, after he took off rather than face a civil contempt of court charge.

In 2013, Carmel traveled to a small town in Italy to interview the captain of one of the worst cruise ship disasters in history.

“They’ve called you this, ‘Chicken of the Sea.’ They’ve called you ‘Captain Coward,” Carmel said.

“I cannot be a coward. If you are a captain of a ship, you are not a coward. Come on, this is a joke,” the Captain said.

THE IMPACT:

“You think back about the kind of impact that she’s had — whether it was after Hurricane Andrew, helping change the building code — She went down there and covered so much of that”

“This is your roof, right? This is what your roof was made up of?” Cafiero said.

Carmel covered the heartache after hurricanes that devastated both of her hometowns.

“I was born and raised in and around New Orleans. Coming back now is both a heartbreaking and a heartwarming journey.”

Carmel also went a long way in helping to save a South Florida woman from herself. The inside Selma Shapiro’s home was a literal nightmare. Everything, covered in pigeon and rat droppings, and hundreds of rats dead and alive.

It took a monumental effort by many generous people to turn Selma’s life around.

“I didn’t realize that people actually cared about me. I thought no one cared about me, but I found out differently,” Selma Shapiro told Carmel when she helped her.

Carmel did care about Selma and continues to care about South Florida.

“I’m Carmel Cafiero from Channel 7, can you tell me who is in charge here? That’s not a tough question.”

Although that question may have not been, in 43 years there were plenty of tough questions asked in Carmel Cafiero’s never-ending hunt for the truth.

“I am grateful for you allowing me into your homes and for WSVN for giving me that opportunity. I may be hanging up the microphone but never on South Florida… so, stay tuned!”

Click here to see Carmel’s recent investigations.

If you’d like to leave a message for Carmel, you can email her at clue@wsvn.com

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