Miami Beach has found no evidence to suggest any city employees were involved in the 2016 theft of $3.5 million from a city bank account, despite a delay in reporting the missing money.
Based on the findings of a Miami Beach police investigation, statements from prosecutors, and the account of the man who pleaded guilty to pilfering the money, Miami Beach does not believe any city employees played a role in the crime, City Manager Jimmy Morales said on Friday in a letter to the City Commission.
Morales' findings mark the end of an embarrassing episode that raised questions about the city's oversight of public funds. The theft also sparked suspicions that public employees might have been involved in the scheme because it was weeks after the money first started disappearing before the finance department reported any problems.
"Ever since the City discovered the theft of funds from the City's general depositary account in December 2016, the question has persisted whether any City employee played a role in the crime," Morales said in the letter. "I am pleased to announce that at this point, we can say that there is absolutely no evidence that any City employee played a role in the fraud."
The theft dates back to July 2016, when New York resident David J. Miller first began taking money out of a Miami Beach account at SunTrust Bank using account and routing numbers, according to court records. Miller started with small electronic bank transfers and worked his way up to transfers of more than $100,000, including the theft of $352,000 on a single day in October that year.
He used the stolen money to buy football tickets and expensive "seat licenses," which allow the holder to purchase season or individual game tickets, at NFL stadiums across the country and at other sporting events, according to court records.
Miller first obtained the city's bank account information while selling something online when a buyer trying to scam him sent a check with the account number, according to statements that Miller's attorney made in court. It's unclear how the buyer obtained a check containing the city's account information.
Miller pleaded guilty to bank fraud and aggravated identity theft in January. He was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison in April.
After the theft was discovered, Miami Beach conducted audits of its banking procedures and beefed up anti-fraud measures for its SunTrust bank accounts, in addition to taking additional measures to prevent thefts, Morales said in the letter. The city was able to recover all of the stolen funds last year through settlements with STR Marketplace, the website where Miller purchased the seat licenses, and SunTrust.
Miller has a long criminal history in New York that includes identity theft and grand larceny, according to court and prison records.