A Florida homeowners association has been left reeling after several of its board members were charged with stealing millions from its residents.
This week, a criminal complaint was announced by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office alleging that Marglli Gallego, Jose Antonio Gonzalez, Monica Isabel Ghilardi, Myriam Arango Rodgers, and Yoleidis Lopez Garcia had together misappropriated $2 million from the Hammocks Community Association (HCA) board over the course of years.
Gallego and Gonzalez were the former and current presidents respectively and are all accused of stealing from residents in the forty communities that the HCA is responsible for in West Kendall, south Florida.
The accused have all pleaded not guilty to their charges.
The state attorney, Katherine Fernandez Rundle, commented that the allegations were “…terms we usually associate with drug cartels” and that they all “stem from misappropriating board funds to [Gallego’s] own use.”
One Hammock Trails resident, Shannon Baratz, spoke out about the financial impact of the board’s theft. “It was fine until this new board took over. It’s gone to crap,” Baratz said. “I’m paying almost $500 in an HOA. That’s ridiculous. This has really set me back. I didn’t want to lose my house, so what else could I do?”
An even more shocking twist was revealed in February when a court-ordered receiver of accounts looked over the finances of the HCA and calculated that the board had stolen $ 3 million and not the previously reported $ 2 million.
David Gersten suspects that former and current board members used 55 bank accounts and credit cards instead of just one. “That’s exceedingly abnormal” Gersten said.
Four other board members have also been named in a civil court case for allegedly “allowing or failing to stop the ongoing misappropriation of funds by former board members” according to the court complaint made in April.
In a bid to restore faith amongst residents, an election was held in April for seven new board members, and Idalmen Ardisson was elected by 926 votes. Ardisson said that the election was “secure and fair” and that the residents of the community were now feeling relief.
The defendant’s trial date is currently scheduled for August and it is yet to be seen what the outcome will be. In the meantime, the residents of the HCA can only remain hopeful that their funds will be returned and proper practices implemented to prevent similar crimes in the future.