Several current and former board members on one of Florida's largest homeowners associations have been charged with stealing more than $2 million of residents' money.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced a mix of theft, fraud and money laundering charges on Tuesday against current president Monica Isabel Ghilardi, 52; board member Myriam Arango Rodgers, 76; former board member Yoleidis Lopez Garcia, 47; former president Marglli Gallego, 41; and Jose Antonio Gonzalez, 45, who is Gallego's husband and accused of running two companies that were paid at least $1.26 million in HOA funds.
"This case is not closed," Fernandez Rundle said during a news conference. "These are not the end of the criminal arrests."
Gallego had been the Hammocks Community Association's president until she was arrested in April 2021 on theft charges. That arrest was part of a long-running probe that also led to the new charges. The HOA oversees 40 communities and over 6,500 units in West Kendall, located southwest of Miami.
A significant part of the investigation centered around board members writing checks, in some cases for hundreds of thousands of dollars, to vendors for services that weren't actually being provided, prosecutors said. Then the vendors would return laundered money after keeping a portion for themselves.
Residents have been fighting for years to get rid of Gallego and the board members who support her, the Miami Herald reported. Residents tried to oust the board in a January election when hundreds of voters standing in line were not allowed to vote because of a fake phoned-in bomb threat and again during a July recall election when the board threw out two-thirds of the ballots cast.
The association had been operating on an annual budget of about $3.7 million until this spring, when the board adopted of budget of more than $10 million, according to court documents. The new budget means residents face monthly maintenance and service fee increases of up to 400%. The increase has prompted a lawsuit, which is pending.
Fernandez Rundle pointed out during the news conference that HOAs in Florida fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, but state law gives the department little enforcement power.
An attorney listed for Gallego's 2021 case didn't immediately responded to an email seeking comment from The Associated Press. Court and jail records didn't immediately list attorneys for Gallego’s husband or the other board members.