Courtesy of The Miami Herald
By Enrique Flor And Brenda Medina
Published April 26, 2016
The 15th of November must have been an exhausting day for
notary public Carmen Aslan.
On that Sunday last year, Aslan notarized the signatures of 68 condominium
owners at The Beach Club at Fontainebleau Park on affidavits certifying that
the owners voted in the condo association’s elections at the end of that
month, citing their ballot numbers as proof of their vote. She would have
had to meet with every person who signed the affidavits.
Cops begin investigation of
The Beach Club at Fontainebleau Park
That same day, Aslan appears to have had time to meet with an owner of a Los
Sueños condo in Hialeah to notarize her affidavit for an association
election in that complex.
Aslan, who works for
the FM Law Group, where lawyer Hector Martinez represents
several condo associations, kept up her busy schedule for
the next eight days, apparently notarizing the signatures on
236 affidavits by owners at The Beach Club and Los Sueños.
But 23 owners at the two condos told El Nuevo Herald and
Univision 23 in recent weeks that they never signed those
declarations before any notary. They also say they never
showed their driver’s licenses to Aslan, as she certified in
the 236 documents. And 22 of the 23 say they never met Aslan.
Multiple South Florida condos under state investigation for
Notary public Carmen Aslan, who works for the FM Law
Group, refuses to respond to questions from the media.
“She's the notary?” a surprised Horace Sinclair, a
resident of The Beach Club, said when reporters showed him a photo of Aslan.
“I've never seen her in my life.”
Representatives of Sunshine Management Services, which manages the
complexes, said it implemented the new system of securing affidavits to
prevent electoral fraud. The company has said residents have repeatedly
complained about falsified signatures on the ballot or ballot envelopes in
elections of association boards.
But an investigation by El Nuevo Herald and Univision 23 showed that the
affidavit system put in place by the company has substantial irregularities.
Florida law requires that a notary confirm the identity and witness the
signature of the person on a document that is being notarized. Failure to do
so is a third-degree felony.
Questions arise over bids in
condo roofing repairs
Aslan has denied any wrongdoing. “Any document that I have notarized
complies with all notary requirements. At this point I have no further
comments. Please do not contact me again,” she wrote in an April 12 email to
However, several owners of apartments at The Beach Club and Los Sueños
contradict her story.
Ana Pla Rodriguez, 57, a Cuban business person who lives in Puerto Rico,
said she was on the island and did not sign an affidavit on Nov. 18, when
Aslan notarized her signature on the document. On that same day, Aslan also
notarized the signatures of another 33 owners at The Beach Club and Los
Crack down on condo
“That signature that appears on that affidavit is not mine and I do not know
that notary,” Pla said in a telephone interview from Puerto Rico. “The last
time I went to Miami was in June of last year when my father died, and I
stayed for two weeks,” she said. “And that woman never came to Puerto Rico
to notarize the affidavit that I supposedly signed. All of that is false.”
Pla added that sometime in November she received a package with ballots for
the association election at The Beach Club, where she owns three apartments.
She filled in the ballots and returned them to the address of Carlin
Castillo, a resident who was supporting the reelection of the condo board.
A previous investigation published in March by el Nuevo Herald and Univision
23 showed that the signatures of at least 84 owners on ballots for that
election — the one that the affidavits were supposed to protect from fraud
Owners protested and forced the directors to resign after initial
revelations emerged about the vote fraud and an allegedly rigged bid for a
multimillion-dollar contract for roof repairs. Before it resigned, the board
canceled the contract with Sunshine Management Services, which administered
Miami-Dade police are investigating the elections and the bid for the roof
Amid the controversy, Sunshine hired a public relations agent, Helena Poleo.
In an email to journalists, Poleo wrote that the company “is aware that
fraud in condominium elections is very common, which is why it implemented a
system that went beyond what is required by law to try to guarantee the
transparency and legitimacy of the elections.”
The system guarantees that the only valid votes counted are those that are
supported by an affidavit, Poleo argued. That's how the company was seeking
to avoid votes with falsified signatures.
“The votes, some accompanied by affidavits and others not, were submitted by
condominium owners to the condominium offices, where Mrs. Carmen Aslan was
available to carry out the corresponding notarizations,” Poleo wrote.
Owner Castillo told reporters, however, that she gathered about 60 of the
144 affidavits submitted for the election at The Beach Club. None of the
affidavits was notarized in the presence of the persons who signed them,
said Castillo. She added that she and other neighbors received instructions
to gather up the documents.
“The instructions they gave to us was to gather up the affidavits, that
possibly there was some part of the law that allowed a notary to not be
present” for the signatures, said Castillo. She declined to identify who
gave her those instructions. “I don’t have to worry about it because I am
not the notary. I don't believe she deceived me, and perhaps she knew the
law,” she said.
Castillo added that she made three trips to the main Sunshine offices in
Miami Lakes to deliver the affidavits as she gathered them. The affidavits
later turned up with the signature and notary seal of Aslan, collection
manager at the Martinez law office, which represents several of the condos
administered by Sunshine.
Ramón de la Cabada, a lawyer and former state prosecutor, said it is a crime
for notaries to “certify a signature that they did not witness in person.”
“Fraud by a notary is a felony in the state of Florida, with a penalty of
five to six years in prison,” said De la Cabada. “If they do it as a favor,
that is an explanation but not a legal defense. But if there's a constant
recurrence of the same act, in my opinion, that is circumstantial evidence
that there's something bigger going on.”
Former prosecutor Eric Padron said the charges could be even harsher if
there's evidence that irregular notarizations were part of a conspiracy.
“The charges that a notary could face would be perjury and fraud,” said
Padron. “But if there's proof that this is part of a scheme, an arrangement
among several people, that notary could face more serious charges.”
The condo owner at The Beach Club who first complained about the irregular
notarizations told journalists that she signed her affidavit at the
condominium’s own office, with no notary present.
The date of the notarization was listed as Nov. 15, a Sunday. But the owner
recalled signing the affidavit on a weekday because she went to the office
to pay her monthly condo fees. She asked to remain anonymous.
She added that the blank affidavit was handed to her by Jose Hernandez, at
the time employed by Sunshine to manage the complex. Hernandez denied
gathering signed affidavits and said he no longer works for Sunshine.
THE LOS SUEÑOS CASE
The November election at Los Sueños condo reported a stunning 115 percent
voter turnout by its condo owners. Two opposing groups of owners who ran
slates in the election are accusing each other of falsifying signatures on
Several condo owners there also denied having seen Aslan, who allegedly
notarized the majority of the affidavits designed to prevent fraud in the
“I signed the paper, but I've never seen that notary,” said owner Ubaldo
Sierra when journalists showed him a photo of Aslan.
Another Los Sueños owner, Moises Gomez, said that he also did not sign the
affidavit in front of Aslan.
“I signed the document in front of the condo woman, Arelys. She was alone,”
Arelys Lopez, who was reelected president of the condo association in the
November balloting, assured reporters that the affidavits were notarized in
front of the people who signed them, and that a notary accompanied her
around the complex to certify the signatures on the documents she gathered.
When told that several owners had denied to reporters that their signatures
were notarized in front of them, she declined to reply. “I am not going to
comment,” she said.