Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
By Linda Trischitta
The former acting president of a Sunrise homeowners association was accused by police of stealing thousands of dollars from her community.
|From November 2012 to February 2013, Morris transferred $73,584.75 of HOA funds into three personal bank accounts to pay medical and personal bills, according to a Sunrise police complaint affidavit.
"People are distraught," said resident Jessica Velez, a new director of the HOA that oversees 64 units. "We're going through the books."
This is the same community — at 3619 NW 91st Lane, north of West Oakland Park Boulevard and west of North Pine Island Road — where several homeowners lost their backyards in the collapse of a canal bank in December 2010.
Catherine Helen Morris, 56, of the Springtree West Cove Homeowners Association, was arrested April 3 and charged with larceny greater than $20,000 and less than $100,000.
The alleged theft was reported by the HOA's treasurer, Dawn Romano, on Feb. 22. She could not be reached for comment Monday. Sunrise police said the homeowners association wanted to prosecute.
Morris became the nonprofit's registered agent and president in 2006. She served the HOA in those offices until March, 3, 2014, according to annual reports filed with the Florida Department of State.
Morris was freed from a Broward jail April 4 on a $5,000 bond. She has filed a written plea of not guilty with Broward County court.
"It's unfortunate that my client's been arrested," lawyer Michael Gottlieb said Monday. "Usually situations like this are best worked out among the parties."
The HOA has begun to pursue civil remedies against Morris, Gottlieb said.
"In general, doing that ties the person's hands in court, and makes it very difficult to reach a settlement and you get to a point where you can't get restitution," Gottlieb said. "They wind up causing the person, whether guilty or not, to spend money on attorneys."
Gottlieb said he looked forward to "trying to reach a resolution and to protect the interests of my client."