Condo official's illness starts probe that leads to grand theft, fraud charges

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Adam Sacasa

Published January 9, 2016


A medical condition launched the discovery that led to accusations that a woman stole nearly $58,000 while treasurer of a Palm Beach Gardens homeowners association.

Martha Susan Coppock-Hughes, 58, of Palm Beach Gardens, was arrested Tuesday and is facing fraud and grand theft charges.

After the Royal Point Manor East Condo Association held its annual meeting in January 2015, the association collected dues from its 18 members, as usual, for several months.

But in May, Coppock-Hughes suffered a stroke, causing other members of the HOA to pick up her duties. When they did, they discovered she was missing a check to pay her fees, according to a Palm Beach Gardens police arrest report.

Coppock-Hughes explained to former HOA president Brigitte Mathews that she hadn't paid maintenance fees for ten years because of "all the work I was doing," the report quoted her as saying.

When other condo association members checked up on the work, they found the dry vents she claimed to have cleaned were dirty, trees she said were cut were not, among other discrepancies, according to the report.

With Coppock-Hughes in the hospital, the HOA president, Eric Poola and Vice President Denise Hindle added themselves to the HOA's bank account to collect maintenance fees. That's when they discovered checks going to a dance clothing store owned by Coppock-Hughes, the members told detectives.

The treasurer of a Palm Beach Gardens HOA is accused of stealing almost $58,000 from the HOA, police say.

When confronted by association members at her store in May, the report said, Coppock-Hughes promised to drop off her treasury and association records. Instead, she sent an email the following month resigning her post citing health reasons.

Detectives went through the HOA's records and said they found 62 suspicious checks totaling 57,402.22 that were either cashed out to Coppock-Hughes or going to her store.

Some of the checks had the names of people who did work for the condo association in the memo section, but when a detective talked with those people, they said they never received any money, according to the report.

Coppock-Hughes told investigators she used the money to help fund her business and support her family after hurricanes struck in 2005, according to the report.

Efforts to reach Coppock-Hughes and members of the HOA for comment were unsuccessful.

She was booked into Palm Beach County Jail and released Wednesday after posting $20,000 bond.