Investigators arrested five members of a S. Fla. HOA with 40 communities, saying they operated a “complicated fraud, racketeering and money-laundering scheme.”
MIAMI – Current and former board members of the largest homeowners association (HOA) in Florida are being charged with plundering millions of dollars from the organization’s finances.
Investigators on Tuesday arrested five members and vendors of the Hammocks Community Association, which oversees 40 communities and over 6,500 units in West Kendall. They are being accused of engaging in a complicated fraud, racketeering and money-laundering scheme that netted over $2 million in stolen funds.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office said on Tuesday it will detail the charges at an afternoon press conference.
The charges stem from a long-running probe that last year resulted in the arrest of the Hammocks homeowners association president Marglli Gallego, 41. Since her arrest, the sprawling planned community of over 25,000 residents has been in turmoil, its coffers depleted, homeowners hit with 300% to 400% hikes in maintenance fees and the launching of a contentious recall effort against the board.
Gallego faces additional charges, and prosecutors charged her husband, Jose Antonio Gonzalez, 45. He’s accused of running two companies that reaped at least $1.26 million in HOA funds.
Also charged: the current president, Monica Isabel Ghilardi, 52, board member Myriam Arango Rodgers, 76, and Yoleidis Lopez Garcia, 47, who served on the board between 2016 and 2022.
It was in April 2021 that prosecutors first charged Gallego on accusations she stole nearly $60,000 from the association – including money spent on a private investigator to spy on her perceived enemies in the neighborhood.
Prosecutors said that between November 2016 and March 2018, Gallego improperly used an HOA credit card for a wide array of personal purchases, including at supermarkets, bakeries and fast food restaurants such as Pollo Tropical, Panera Bread and Little Caesars. Her trial is pending.
An arrest warrant depicted her as using HOA resources to go after enemies, ordering the community’s security to “harass” rival association members and filing lawsuits against people she felt were “targeting her unjustly.”
Investigators say she and the board repeatedly ignored subpoenas, failing to turn over thousands of financial records while fighting with prosecutors over tens of thousands of dollars in reimbursement for the time and expense of gathering the records. At one point, she even filed lawsuits against a Miami-Dade economic crimes investigator who was leading the criminal probe that led to her arrest.
But as her criminal case wound through the legal system, the State Attorney’s Office embarked on a wider fraud probe into the HOA – and again found itself stymied by the board while trying to subpoena financial documents.
Despite judges ordering the HOA to produce financial documents, the association refused to comply, even appealing one judge’s ruling. An appeals court threw out the appeal. At one point earlier this year, an attorney for the board told a Miami-Dade judge the board voted to ignore the judge’s order because “the board doesn’t trust the state.”
Circuit Judge Diane Vizcaino, who then was presiding over the legal fights, even ordered the board’s “custodian of records,” an association employee, to come to court to explain himself. The employee, Kevin Alzate, a cousin of Gallego’s, insisted he had never been the records keeper. When shown an affidavit he signed saying he was, Alzate claimed he signed the document without reading it closely.
The HOA’s efforts to stonewall the investigation are still continuing – recently, the board filed a federal lawsuit against the State Attorney’s Office to block enforcement of subpoenas. That case is still pending.
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