By: Sharon Aron Baron
A former president of a Tamarac homeowners association has been arrested and charged with grand theft and fraud for stealing close to $200,000 from her community.
Mainlands Seven resident Michelle Changar-Coe, 44, was arrested last Friday after an investigation revealed that she was fraudulently signing officers’ names to checks made out to an alias and creating a fictitious payee where she could funnel funds.
“She was responsible for paying bills,” said former President Arthur Collier. “The treasurer and vice president should have signed off, but she waved them off. The treasurer was extremely busy, and Michelle didn’t give them [checks] to her anyway.
The police report states that back in May 2012, Collier had been doing a paper audit of financial records. He said that several checks appeared to be forged with his signature for association funds. He met with a detective with BSO Economic Crimes for further investigation.
On February 16, 2014, Collier was made aware of an additional photocopy of a cashed forged check that was payable to a “Michel Chandar” in the amount of $20,475.35 with a Tamarac post office box address. The check was dated May 2, 2011, with Collier’s signature but he was positive that he did not sign it.
In another instance, Changar-Coe told the community that they had to hire a “city liaison” at $2,575 per month for a period of up to 24 months: a total of $61,800. The checks were not made out to the City, but to a “Michelle A. Charger” with a nonexistent mailing address that was close to the one at Tamarac City Hall.
Resident Steve Soloff was suspicious, and informed the Board that he had visited the City of Tamarac and spoke with City Clerk Pat Teufel. Teufel told him that in her 10-year tenure with the City, she has never heard of any agreement by a homeowners association to hire a city liaison. Teufel also stated she knew of no person named Michelle A. Charger.
An examination of the check ledger for the association’s operating account at Banco Popular revealed a theft of association funds using two fraudulent identities. Between February 1, 2010 and October 15, 2011, five checks were written to a “Michel Chandar” totaling $23,584.85. Between June 16, 2011 and November 15, 2013, 80 checks were written to a “Michelle Charger” totaling $155,387.00, for a total of $178,971.85.
Soloff credits homeowner and former board member Debra Sisson who made the connection between Changer-Coe and association checks written to Michelle A. Charger, the supposed City of Tamarac liaison. While Changar-Coe was President, Sisson, along with former treasurer Nancy Ballhorn, were investigating discrepancies in the association’s finances in early 2012, when a fraudulent court document was presented demanding that that they both resign immediately or face a $1 million lawsuit.
“A series of fortuitous events, beginning with the arrest of the defendant’s [Changer-Coe] husband in June 2013, which disclosed the defendant’s full legal name, led Deb to obtain evidence in October that association funds had been misappropriated,” said Soloff in a letter to residents. “There is no doubt that if Deb had not put two and two together at that time, the theft would have continued to go undiscovered.”
The current president, Lorie Whittington, wouldn’t speak to us pending the investigation, but other residents said that Changar-Coe, who has been living at the 5600 block of NW 50 ave for 14 years with her husband, are still living there. One resident stated at the association meeting that she was in fear of them because she believes they keep guns on them and have “trespassers will be shot” signs on their property.
Changar-Coe has been charged with grand theft in the first degree and four counts of fraud/impersonation.
Despite the association losing hundreds of thousands of dollars, Collier seemed hopeful.
“With all this money disappearing, we still have a good budget and have low maintenance.”
Below is a list of checks written to names that Changer-Coe was allegedly using