Article Courtesy of The Sun
By Wayne K. Roustan and Erika Pesantes
June 8, 2013
Luck finally ran out for a Pembroke Pines condo association president accused of gambling away the community's maintenance money at a casino.
Nancy Marquez, 58, was arrested on charges she stole $148,012 from the French Villas condominium association, Pembroke Pines police said. Taken into custody, she admitted she commingled association funds with her own and used the cash to gamble at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, investigators said.
"It made my day when I got the call," said current condo board member Paul Coffman upon hearing of Monday's arrest.
Coffman said he and fellow board members found financial discrepancies in January 2011, when he replaced Marquez as association president for the 66-unit building in the 600 block of French Drive.
"We got the invoices and everything for the two years that she was on the board and started going through them," he said. "Some things caught our eye that just weren't right."
The board contacted police, who carried out an investigation that more than two years later resulted in Marquez's arrest.
Because of the inquiry, Coffman and other board members couldn't publicly discuss the missing money — even to concerned condo residents, Coffman said. Meanwhile, bills were being paid late because of the shortage of funds, Coffman said.
"When people kept complaining, you had to bite your tongue," he said.
The association received notices from the city of Pembroke Pines that the water would be shut off unless utility bills were paid. Florida Power & Light Co. sent notices threatening to switch off
Marquez is accused of embezzling close to $150,000 from her condo
association in Pembroke Pines, police say. She made withdrawals she
wasn't authorized to make, and used the community's funds to pay for
her personal expenses and gambling, according to an arrest report.
electricity that powered hallway and parking-lot lighting in the community.
Amid the debt, the association also had unanticipated expenses pop up: The community was ordered to replace all fire sprinkler heads in the garage, remodel the elevator, and inspect the sewer lines, Coffman said.
Marquez, who now lives in Davie, couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday, and it was unclear whether she had an attorney.
She served as the secretary and association president for two years until December 2010, officials said. And she controlled the association's finances — including a debit card, accounting records and bank statements, the arrest report said.
Police said she transferred money from the association's checking and savings accounts to her own personal checking account. She made withdrawals she wasn't authorized to make, and used the community's funds to pay for her personal expenses and gambling, according to an arrest report.
She was arrested on charges of grand theft and perpetrating a scheme to defraud. She was freed from jail Tuesday on $7,500 bond, records show.
Blane Carneal, a Fort Lauderdale attorney who represents unit owners in disputes with their associations, recommends that when condo residents suspect something is wrong with association funds, they form a group and hire a certified public accountant to investigate discrepancies.
"They need to be their own watchdog," said Carneal, who is not involved in the Pembroke Pines case. "They need to know where their money is going."
Carneal added: "You count on the board. If the fox is in the hen house, someone has got to be inspecting the hen house."
In Pembroke Pines, the French Villas condominium association has since managed to pay down its debt through the satisfaction of liens against foreclosed units, Coffman said. As they sold, the association received a percentage of the money, Coffman said.
"We were getting enough money to makes ends meet," he said. "We have caught up."
The debt problems have not disappeared altogether, but the association is in better shape.
"We're not sailing yet," he said. "We're still in a dinghy, but we're catching up."