A Broward County employee was indicted on a slew of fraud charges, state prosecutors announced Thursday.
Roberto Martinez, 46, worked at the Broward County Records and Treasury Division when he allegedly ran a $1.6 million tax deed scheme, according to an arrest warrant. He was suspended from his position at the tax office when the investigation began seven months ago.
He faces 102 counts of organized scheme to defraud, money laundering, ID theft, uttering forged instruments and official misconduct.
From May 2014 to July 2016, Martinez worked with five other people to falsify refunds owed to homeowners who paid property taxes, investigators said. The other suspects identified by state prosecutors are Marc Eugene, Patricia Eugene, Dim Villarson, Denis Eugene and Gawens St. Victor. These individuals would forge power of attorney and other documents to siphon cash into shell companies that would then give kickbacks to Martinez, officials said.
"Martinez issued tax-deed refunds to a number of companies that were owned and operated by what appears to be associates of Martinez," said Det. John Calabro, Broward Sheriff's Office.
The group pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars that belonged to more than two dozen property owners whose homes were sold at auction, according to an arrest warrant. The victims didn't notice the missing funds because they were unaware, out of town and some are even deceased.
"Initially, he would submit letters to all possible lien-holders and when no one came forward he knew he had a pot of gold," said Det. Calabro.
Deputies say they pinned Martinez when they discovered he deposited more than $100,000 into his own accounts. Detectives were currently searching for the other five suspects.
The County to the NBC 6 Investigators it has upgraded its policies to ensure this crime doesn't happen again.
"We've worked with our county attorney's office to further strengthen our procedures for accepting powers of attorney," said Tom Kennedy, who is the Director of Records at Broward's Records and Treasury Division.