After complaints were made by a licensed Florida architect that his former employer was forging his signature and using his State Architectural license number on numerous Miami-Dade County required documents recorded with the Clerk of Court and related to rehabilitated homes, a joint investigation was undertaken by the Office of the Miami-Dade State Attorney and the Miami-Dade Office of the Inspector General. Today, the Florida limited liability company, Newest Kendall LLC, Jorge Fernandez (an owner and operator of Newest Kendall) and Newest Kendall office employees Javier Quintero and Jose Manuel Vence, all surrendered in Circuit and County Courts before Judges Dennis Murphy, Veronica Diaz, and Michelle Alvarez Barakat.
The company, Newest Kendall LLC, Jorge Fernandez and Javier Quintero were charged with:
- 1 count – Grand Theft (2nd Degree Felony)
- 1 count – Identity Theft of a Person 60 Years or Older (2nd Degree Felony)
- 1 count – Recording False Documents related to Title to Real Property (3rd Degree Felony)
Jose Manuel Vence was charged with 1 count of Petit Theft, a 1st Degree Misdemeanor.
Newest Kendall LLC and Jorge Fernandez were involved in the purchase, rehabilitation and sale of foreclosed homes. In order to sell the rehabilitated homes, a Miami-Dade County Certificate of Use (CU) had to be obtained. In the application process, a licensed architect is required to inspect the home for structural soundness, render an opinion and estimate of the cost of any required rehabilitation work for the proposed purchaser. The complaining architect denied inspecting, preparing, or signing any of the 109 questioned “Disclosure and Findings Reports”, which were recorded at the Miami-Dade County Recorder’s Office. The architect noticed that all the inspection reports were prepared on behalf of companies related to his former employer. The investigation revealed that Javier Quintero, using his position within Jorge Fernandez’s or his entities’ employ, produced and signed the false and forged inspection reports. The investigation showed that Fernandez knew of Quintero’s actions and did nothing to stop them. Vence’s role was to deliver the fraudulent documents to the County.
By forging the Disclosure and Findings Reports, Fernandez’s companies saved the architectural or engineering fees of at least $400.00 per house ($43,600) and fraudulently obtained Miami-Dade County Certificates of Use valued at $36,375.48. As a result of this investigation, Jorge Fernandez and his entities have resubmitted valid documents and obtained valid CUs on 87 of the 109 properties.
In criminal court, Newest Kendall LLC pled guilty to the charges and was sentenced to five years of probation. As part of the plea, it must work to obtain valid CUs on the remaining outstanding properties, institute an employee ethics training program, file monitoring reports related to any CUs applied for during the term of probation, and pay costs of investigation. Moreover, Newest Kendall LLC must deposit $25,000 in trust to be used in legalizing the outstanding properties, if needed. To the extent that the money is not expended, the remaining money will be used to support victims of crime.
“As this case aptly shows, there are no short-cuts to honesty and propriety,” said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. “To save a few dollars, these defendants deliberately stole a man’s professional reputation and he properly worked with the Miami-Dade Office of the Inspector General and prosecutors from my office to restore his good name.”
Defendants Fernandez, Quintero and Vence all entered Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI), a program for first time offenders. As part of the program, they each must perform 109 hours of community service. To clarify the housing certification issues, the Court entered orders finding all of the fraudulent Disclosure and Findings Reports null and void and sealing them from public view. The Court also entered orders revoking all of the fraudulently obtained CUs. Pursuant to a civil lawsuit filed against Jorge Fernandez and others, restitution to the architect has already been paid.
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