Joseph Fleming, a
Belize at Cape Marco condo owner and neighbor of Rios, filed
a complaint on April 26 with the Department of Business and
Professional Regulation (DBPR) against Rios claiming that he
"engaged in a fraudulent scheme of ballot-forging" in March
to get another candidate and himself re-elected to the board
of directors of the Belize Condominium Association.
"Subsequent to the election, it was discovered that 16 of
the ballots ... cast were submitted under the names of unit
owners who did not cast such votes during the election," the
Fleming's complaint with the Division of Florida
Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes of DBPR includes
two key elements to try to prove that Rios forged ballots.
Ten Belize at Cape Marco condo owners signed affidavits
saying that they did not cast ballots in the March 22 annual
election of the association despite the fact that ballots
with their name and what may seem as their signatures were
Copies of these affidavits are presented in the complaint as
Vice-chair Victor Rios participates in the City
Council's Capital Budget Workshop on May 20.
In addition, the complaint includes a preliminary report prepared by a
forensic document and handwriting examiner to determine whether the
questioned handwriting in the ballots were executed by different authors or
if it had possibly been forged.
The report was signed by Rosemarie Urbanski of the Drake Group, a company
that provides private investigation services of many types, including
forensic science, financial fraud investigations and counterintelligence,
according to the Drake Group website.
"There are indications that Victor Rios authored the hand printing executed
upon Items Q (1-15)," the Drake Group report says.
"Q (1-15)" refers to the 15 questioned items that were submitted for
examination and comparison to one another.
"Known samples of handwriting / printing of Victor Rios were also submitted
for examination and comparison to the questioned items," the report says.
The Florida 2018 Statutes says that "forgery of a ballot envelope or voting
certificate used in a condominium association election is punishable as
provided in s. 831.01."
If proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt in a criminal court, the individual
accused shall be guilty of a felony of the third degree.
The complaint against Rios remains as a civil matter, not criminal, at least
DBPR referred the complaint to Marco Island Police Department (MIPD) who
then referred it to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).
In an email, Capt. Dave Baer confirmed that MIPD received a complaint from
the DBPR. "Upon receipt of DBPR’s complaint it immediately referred the
complaint, sans any investigation, to FDLE," wrote Baer. "Whenever possible,
it is considered a best practice to refer complaints which involve sitting
council persons to an outside law enforcement entity with relevant
jurisdiction. Doing so removes any conflict of interest concerns."
A communications coordinator for FDLE, Jeremy Burns, confirmed that the
state agency received the complaint against Rios.
"(We) are currently reviewing it to determine if a full investigation is
warranted," Burns said.
Rios voluntarily resigned May 17 from Belize at Cape Marco's board of
directors. The other candidate named in the complaint, Joseph Shady, also
Shady has been in the news before. In 2017, Rios provided Shady with a
prefabricated letter to the editor criticizing two other councilors at the
Rios emailed the letter to Shady with instructions to copy and paste a
prefabricated letter to the editor and submit it to the Naples Daily News,
Marco Eagle and another local newspaper.
Rios unintentionally sent the email to Marco Eagle editor Bill Green instead
In a letter to the Belize board, Rios said the only reason he was resigning
was because of a fairly recent Florida law amendment that seeks to prevent
board members from serving more than 8 years unless the election meets
"A board member may not serve more than 8 consecutive years unless approved
by an affirmative vote of unit owners representing two-thirds of all votes
cast in the election or unless there are not enough eligible candidates to
fill the vacancies on the board at the time of the vacancy," the Florida
Condominium Act says.
Rios said that he ran for the board of directors in 2019 believing this law
did not apply retroactively.
"Since there are some on The Belize who believe the statute applies, I will
resign in hopes the healing can begin in this wonderful place," Rios wrote
in his resignation letter.
Rios said he has been a board of directors member since 2006, running
sometimes unopposed, and that the board has selected him as its president
year after year ever since.
Fleming's lawyer, Melissa S. Turra, said Wednesday in a phone call to the
Eagle that no decision has been in regards to her client's next step.
"My client's primary concern is that the association is properly governed by
a properly elected board of directors," Turra said.
During his interview, Rios said several times that he had nothing to do with
the alleged fraud.
"When the investigation is completed by authorities I expect to be
completely cleared," said Rios, who is on his second and last term as city