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Measure calling for criminal penalties for condo violations advances to Gov. Scott

At this time last year, two news agencies published an eye-opening report detailing the findings of a joint investigation into various condominium board scandals across the Sunshine State. What was discovered -- evidence of everything from electoral fraud to misappropriation of funds -- served to ignite something of a firestorm.

Indeed, a grand jury in Miami-Dade County published a report this past February confirming these findings and making a number of significant recommendations, including making changes to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which is tasked with enforcement of condo violations, and amendments to Chapter 718 of the Florida Statues, which addresses condo regulation.

These recommendations resonated with several lawmakers, including Sens. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) and Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami), and Rep. Jose Felix Diaz (R-Miami), who later introduced legislation calling for greater accountability for bad condo boards.

Specifically, the legislation they sponsored called for some of the following amendments to Chapter 718 that are significant from a criminal law perspective:

  • Felony charges could be brought against those found complicit in condo association electoral fraud, including such actions as falsifying ballot signatures, manipulating records, and tampering with ballots
  • Felony charges could be brought if financial reports, which must be published by condo associations with 150 or more units on passed-secured websites going forward, are denied to owners by board members in order to conceal fraud

In recent developments, the state House of Representatives passed the measure by a unanimous vote during the last week of April, while the state Senate passed a companion bill by the same margin on Monday. It now heads to the desk of Governor Rick Scott and, if signed, would take effect in July.

If this measure does indeed become law, it will be interesting to see the impact that it has on police and prosecutors, both of whom have been reluctant to pursue electoral fraud in condos associations in the past given the absence of criminal punishments articulated in Chapter 718.

Stay tuned for updates ...

If you are under investigation or have been charged with any manner of white collar crime, it's imperative to consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can protect your rights and your future as soon as possible.

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