Ex-official who stole from Tamarac homeowners association gets prison sentence

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Erika Pesantes    

Published August 20, 2016


A former homeowners association president in Tamarac has been sentenced to prison for embezzling more than $180,000 from her community.

Court records show that Michelle Changar-Coe, 46, changed her plea to guilty on a grand theft charge and was sentenced to five years in prison followed by 15 years of probation. She also was ordered to pay $192,416 in restitution during a court hearing Tuesday.

Changar-Coe was president of the Mainlands Section 7 homeowners association from January 2009 through December 2013 and forged signatures on dozens of checks she deposited into her personal bank account, authorities said.

A letter filed in court in January from Maureen Utich, a Mainlands resident, spoke of her wishes for prosecution of the crime and said more than 200 people in her community had suffered from Changar-Coe's actions.

"She has caused hardship for many of her victims. Families with children, elderly on fixed incomes, laid off and unemployed people struggling to pay their bills," she wrote. "She stole from all of us."

About a half dozen residents echoed her sentiments in letters to Broward Circuit Judge Michael Rothschild.

Changar-Coe's attorney, Michael Gottlieb, said his client has two young children and stole from her community at a time when her husband had lost his job due to an injury and she was a pregnant stay-at-home mom.

"She engaged in this conduct at a point in time when her family was suffering a great financial tragedy and she made a foolish decision stealing from her association," he said. "I know she regrets it. She's remorseful."

Court records show that Changar-Coe pleaded guilty to charges of grand theft and uttering a forged instrument in 1997. At the time, the judge withheld adjudication, meaning there was no conviction on her criminal record, and she was given three years of probation. She also was ordered to pay about $4,500 in restitution.