Florida Keys

Ocean Reef staffer accused of stealing nearly $1 million from resort

A Homestead woman admitted to the theft at the Ocean Reef Club in north Key Largo.
A Homestead woman admitted to the theft at the Ocean Reef Club in north Key Largo.

State Attorney’s Office investigators say a Homestead woman stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the exclusive Ocean Reef Club over the course of five or six years.

Jamie Lynne Anderson, 39, admitted to the theft, according to an arrest warrant. She said she siphoned the cash mainly to finance her husband’s drug habit. Ocean Reef Club internal and external auditors say close to $1 million was taken.

Anderson was a general cashier at the north Key Largo gated community, where she was responsible for receiving all check and cash payments made to Ocean Reef from its hotel and “various outlets and amenities.”

The Monroe State Attorney’s Office arrested Anderson on Saturday on a charge of grand theft of over $100,000.

Between April 2008 and March 2014, investigators say Anderson enacted a scheme where she would take cash payments and substitute them with checks.

Anderson said she would randomly select club member check payments and deposit them in place of cash received for toll tickets, food coupons and outlet cash receipts deposited in the front desk safe.

She would make copies of the member checks and keep the copies in her desk until she had another check to cover the first one. Any checks that were left over at the end of the month “became part of a falsified deposit for accounting purposes, which was posted to the general ledger by Anderson,” State Attorney’s Office Investigator Roy Bogue wrote in his Sept. 17 report.

Bogue said the staff accountant did not verify that the deposit was legitimate and recorded the falsified deposit as a deposit in transit on the bank reconciliation. Bogue added that the staff accountant “had no knowledge of the crime.”

Molly Carroll, Ocean Reef’s director of communications, could not immediately be reached for comment.

In the first couple of days of the following month, Anderson would deposit the exact amount of her falsified deposits into the bank.

“By doing so, the accounting was ‘clean’ each month and no attention was drawn to the theft,” Bogue wrote. “At which point, she then repeated the process, and did so for several years.”

An outside accounting firm hired by Ocean Reef to assess the damage caused by the theft estimated Anderson took her former employee for a total of $857,393.49.

Although Anderson blamed her husband for forcing her to rip off her employer, she told investigators that she too benefited from the stolen money — buying things like drugs, cruise trips, concert tickets and a Chevy Camaro. The alleged theft was done so she could “maintain some normalcy,” she reportedly told investigators.

In 2012, discrepancies with the resort community’s bank books were discovered. But it wasn’t until March 2014 that a surprise audit of the general cashier’s vault revealed a $700 cash shortage. Anderson denied responsibility, but Ocean Reef fired her because she was solely responsible for the vault and its contents.

After Ocean Reef let Anderson go, an internal audit manager noticed a pattern of cash being removed and substituted with checks.

Ocean Reef hired private investigator Wayne Black of Wayne Black and Associates, who met with Anderson at a coffee shop in Homestead on Nov. 17 last year. Black said Anderson admitted to taking the money. According to the warrant, Anderson wrote an apology note to her former boss at Ocean Reef, Ford Franklin.

Anderson provided Black bank statements that he said showed deposits into her account in consistent amounts that were missing from Ocean Reef accounts.

In February, Anderson met with Black and Lisa Runyan-VanderRhoer, Ocean Reef’s director of internal auditing. She told both Black and Runyan-VanderRhoer that she began stealing shortly after her daughter was born. She said she would steal thousands of dollars every month.

In her apology letter to Franklin, Anderson again blamed her husband’s drug addiction for her alleged crimes.

“Later in the letter, she stated that on the verge to find money for him, she did many things wrong,” Bogue wrote. “She replaced checks for cash and she knew that was wrong.”