Pinellas sheriff's investigators Tuesday charged 45-year-old Roberto Velez with embezzling $560,000 from 10 different entities.
The alleged pilfering went undetected for more than three years, until last summer. That is when a bank teller spotted a forged signature on a check, triggering a four-month investigation.
Detective David Kavanagh said Velez was the bookkeeper for TRS, a conglomeration of real estate and property management companies headquartered in Madeira Beach. The alleged victims include TRS, eight different condominium associations, and the Johns Pass Village Merchants Association.
"What the suspect was doing was basically draining all of the accounts from the condo associations all into his employer's accounts, and then from there he would direct a lot of the funds into his personal accounts," Kavanagh explained.
The detective said all of the missing money appears to have been spent.
The owner of TRS served as volunteer treasurer for the Johns Pass Village Merchants Association, which included use of her "in-house" accountant. That is how Velez allegedly gained access to those accounts.
"It was definitely a big hit," said association president Matt Powers, who said it lost about $30,000.
That equates to an entire year's advertising budget.
"Johns Pass is comprised of about 100 merchants, mostly local mom and pop shops," Powers continued. "We don't have big deep pockets to do advertising, so we work together and pool our money."
TRS issued a statement saying it immediately notified authorities "...when this former employee's activities were discovered. TRS is fully cooperating with local authorities and the state's attorney's [sic] office, as well as insurance companies and legal counsel."
Kavanagh said Velez was arrested without incident Tuesday morning at his home in Seminole, with his wife and two young children present. He described Velez as "polite and cordial and forthcoming."
Initial bond was set at $560,000, the same amount Velez is accused of stealing.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
Didn't find what you were looking for?