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Hammocks Awarded $2M in Lawsuit Against Former Board Members

The Hammocks, South Florida’s largest homeowners association with over 18,000 residents in south Miami-Dade County, has secured a $2 million settlement in a case against former board members. These members were accused of neglecting their duty to address an alleged extensive fraud that depleted millions from association funds.

Last year, police arrested four former board members in connection with a scheme that authorities initially estimated at around $2 million. However, an investigation led by Hammocks receiver David Gersten later revealed that the purported fraud exceeded $3 million.

Following these arrests, Gersten filed a civil suit in April against four additional board members: Ligia Capielo, Merlene Kopec, Madeline Maceda, and Luz Ordonez. Although they were not criminally charged, the suit alleged that they failed to take adequate measures to prevent their arrested colleagues from mishandling funds, including allowing improper payments without proper documentation.

Capielo, Kopec, Maceda, and Ordonez contested these allegations in court, asserting that they were not aware of the fraud and relied on advice from board attorneys.

In July, a judge rejected the defendant’s motion to dismiss the suit. Subsequently, both parties engaged in negotiations that culminated in an agreement for the defendants to tender the full $2 million covered by the association directors and officers insurance policy, which shields HOA leaders from liability in suits brought by residents.

Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Beatrice Butchko approved the settlement this month.

This development is the latest chapter in the ongoing Hammocks saga, which dates back to at least 2017 when residents began raising concerns about mismanagement and opaque financial practices within the association.

In November, former board president Marglli Gallego, described as the ringleader of the alleged fraud, along with her husband, Jose Gonzalez, and former board members Myriam Rodgers, Yoleidis Lopez Garcia, and Monica Isabel Ghilardi were arrested. The scheme was tied to kickbacks from fictitious vendors hired for supposed maintenance of the 3,800-acre Hammocks.

All five individuals have pleaded not guilty.

Gersten’s civil suit specifically targets Maceda, who served as the board’s treasurer from 2017 to the previous year. Maceda’s attorneys argue that the suit does not provide sufficient evidence that she was aware of the scheme. Additionally, they contend that Gersten’s claim regarding an attorney’s conflict of interest is unfounded.

The case also alleges that board members allowed the early closing of polls during a board election in January of the previous year. However, the attorneys for the defendants assert that this event occurred before Capielo, Kopec, and Ordonez joined the board.

Representatives for Gersten and the former board members did not respond to requests for comment.

The Hammocks case is a significant HOA litigation over alleged board fraud. Gersten filed a lawsuit against law firms representing the board, alleging negligence and conflicts of interest. Residents in South Florida communities have accused board members of fraud, including election interference and personal enrichment. Ben Dvir, former president of the Blue condominium in Miami’s Edgewater neighborhood, was arrested for directing a vendor to inflate invoices, with Dvir allegedly profiting from the markup.

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