Miami Beach

Someone stole $3.6 million from Miami Beach and most of it is still missing

Miami Beach City Hall
Miami Beach City Hall

About three months after it was revealed that someone had pilfered one of Miami Beach’s bank accounts to the tune of $3.6 million, the city still has few answers about how it happened and no answer for who did it.

The money was siphoned from the city’s SunTrust account through unauthorized automatic payments over six months, but the theft was undetected until December. Residents were shocked to learn that so many taxpayer dollars had been stolen before anyone noticed.

The administration did announce on Tuesday that it has recovered $1.1 million so far, after an inquiry from the Miami Herald. That’s about $400,000 more recovered since early January.

“Some of the funds have come through the reversal of the electronic funds transfers, and others have come through the identification of cash and/or assets pursuant to the criminal investigation,” said Melissa Berthier, a spokeswoman for Miami Beach.

$3.6 million Amount of money stolen from a city bank account over six months in 2016

This leaves about $2.5 million still missing. In January, City Manager Jimmy Morales told commissioners that he had provided names of suspected people or entities to the authorities. On Tuesday, Beach police confirmed that no arrests have been made but declined to elaborate further because the police and FBI are still investigating.

Morales wrote in a memo to the City Commission on Tuesday that two financial consulting firms are reviewing the finance department’s internal controls and procedures. The scope of an annual financial statement audit was expanded to assess the department’s cash management.

After the theft came to light, two employees in the finance department were forced to resign. Morales said they should have noticed the unauthorized transfers. The chief financial officer at the time, Allison Williams, demoted herself before Morales named former budget director John Woodruff as the city’s new CFO.

On Tuesday, Morales wrote that two new financial analyst positions were created based on recommendations from one of the financial consultants. The positions have yet to be filled.

He added that he may recommend legal action if the balance of the stolen funds are not recovered.

“Although we are hopeful to fully recover the stolen funds, we are working with the city attorney’s office and outside counsel to identify all possible legal remedies in the event we have a gap,” Morales wrote. “Obviously, the intention would be to resolve any such issues amicably with the applicable parties, but we will be prepared to take stronger measures, if necessary.”

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech

  Comments