The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office has charged Medley councilwoman Ana Lilia Stefano with two felonies, accusing her of defrauding a non-profit food bank out of $24,000.
The announcement came Tuesday in a joint statement with the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust which had investigated, reprimanded, and fined the councilwoman.
Stefano turned herself in at the Turner Guilford Knight correctional center Tuesday on charges of organized scheme to defraud over $50,000, a first-degree felony, and grand theft over $20,000, a second-degree felony.
Stefano later posted bond and walked out of jail, briefly denying that she'd done anything wrong while speaking with reporters.
"In short, the bottom line is, I didn't stole anything," Stefano said. "It’s embarrassing but you know at the same time, what should I be embarrassed of? Something I didn’t do?"
Prosecutors accuse Stefano of using her role as the director of the Santana Moss Foundation, named after the former NFL star, to profit from selling donated food to local religious organizations and healthcare clinics in and around the town of Medley.
"Allegedly defrauding a charity for one's own personal benefit can never find acceptance in this community," Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement.
Moss himself cooperated with the investigators. They said he had no part in the scheme and "was surprised that the Foundation still existed as a legal entity."
County ethics investigators began looking into the allegations after they already reprimanded Stefano twice for violating the ethics rules over voting conflicts. Earlier, she used her post as councilwoman to sponsor and vote on items that benefited the Santana Moss Foundation, where she was the director.
In a statement, Stefano's attorney said she has "served her Town and its residents honorably and with selfless service. She has focused on improving the lives of everyone for no personal gain. She will plead Not Guilty because she is INNOCENT of these politically-inspired charges. She asks the citizens of Medley to continue supporting her as she defeats these false accusations."
"The Ethics Commission will continue to aggressively pursue those who violate the ethics code in the quest to restore the public’s trust in Miami-Dade County,” wrote Nelson Bellido, chair of the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust.
Medley Mayor Robert Martell said he will support Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis if he chooses to suspend Stefano.
“It should be concerning to all citizens of Miami-Dade County, and Broward County, and throughout the state of Florida," Bedillo said in an interview with NBC 6. "The fact is if you are a member of an organization — and you are going to receive potentially a financial benefit, or that organization is going to receive a financial benefit — as a result of your involvement, you should recuse yourself. That’s why we have conflict of interest."
The food bank Feeding South Florida works with nonprofits like the Santana Moss Foundation. Prosecutors accuse Stefano of stealing $24,000 worth of food and then reselling it. She’s also accused of using donated items to sway voters in November 2020 when she ran for mayor and lost.
Medley is a small town on the northwest side of Miami-Dade County known for industry and warehouse space.
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