The New York man charged with stealing $3.6 million of public money from Miami Beach pleaded guilty in Miami federal court Friday.
David J. Miller, 45, reversed his initial not guilty plea on one count of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft during a hearing before Judge Federico A. Moreno, according to federal court filings.
The bank fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. The aggravated identity theft offense carries a mandatory, consecutive two-year term of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. Miller, who was brought down from Syracuse to face indictment in South Florida, is scheduled to be sentenced April 6.
Miller admitted to using the account and routing numbers for one of Miami Beach’s bank accounts to purchase “personal seat licenses” through a website called STR Marketplace. The licenses entitle the holder to buy season tickets or individual game tickets for sporting events. He created a fake account using a Chicago man’s identity and authorized electronic bank transfers to buy about 157 licenses over several months in 2016, according to court papers.
In July 2016, Miller’s first transfer out of the city accounts was for $7,511. The transfers increased to more than $100,000 in September 2016. In October, $352,000 was pilfered in one day.
Miller also used the stolen funds to pay his power bill in Syracuse.
It remains unclear how Miller obtained the information for the city’s bank account, held at SunTrust Bank.
The theft was revealed in December 2016 and first reported by the Miami Herald, sparking a controversy in the Beach and revealing serious shortcomings in City Hall’s finance department. Two mid-level finance staffers were fired after City Manager Jimmy Morales said they should have noticed the missing money, which was stolen over the course of six months.
But the problems ran deeper. A consultant’s review later found the department was poorly managed, understaffed and unable to quickly adapt to newly installed internal computer software. The city was typically 15 days to a month behind on reconciling its bank accounts.
Allison Williams, the chief financial officer at the time of the theft, was demoted to deputy finance officer. Former budget director John Woodruff returned to the city to become CFO. A number of recommendations from the consultant have been implemented.
Meanwhile, the city spent 2017 recovering the missing public dollars. In October, commissioners approved settlements with STR Marketplace and SunTrust to complete recovery of the $3.6 million.