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The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced Thursday it has charged Tiffany Carr, 54, and Patricia Duarte, 57, with three felonies in connection with the theft of millions of dollars intended to help victims of domestic violence.
Duarte, of Tallahassee, turned herself into law enforcement Wednesday.
Carr of Port St. Joe served as the Chief Executive Officer and Duarte the Chief Financial Officer of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
The not-for-profit organization was established by the Legislature in 2012 to award state and federal grants to local groups that provide shelter and care for battered spouses and children.
FCADV oversaw more than $52 million annually in funding and was required to submit an annual budget to the legislature for approval.
The relationship ended in 2020 and the state dissolved the organization the next year, following a Department of Children and Families Inspector General office forwarding information to FDLE and a six-hour Florida House hearing that gathered public testimony.
Attorney General Ashley Moody said the FDLE found Carr and Duarte had participated in a scheme that awarded themselves grossly inflated salaries and paid time off.
FDLE investigators said the two submitted false quarterly reports, billed the state for vacant positions, and charged for services never provided.
Moody pegged theft of more than $3.7 million in bonuses and vacation alone paid to Carr and Duarte by a compliant Board of Directors.
“During our investigation it became clear the only thing these FCADV executives were serving were each other. Their selfishness and greed came at the expense of domestic violence victims who needed their organization the most,” said FDLE Commissioner Mark Glass.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Carr.
Their alleged scheme began to unravel after lawmakers on a Florida House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee publicly expressed disbelief of answers provided by the FCADV board of directors and officials.
An investigation by the Miami Herald of the coalition’s spending practices prompted a Florida House hearing which revealed Carr was able to cash in more than $7 million in PTO earned in less than four years.
Under questioning by committee chair Rep. Tom Leek, R-Ormond Beach, and Rep. Randy Fine, R- Palm Bay, board members either failed to acknowledge they were aware of the generous time off provisions Carr and Duarte had received or said they misunderstood the benefit package they awarded the two.
“We, we, miscalculated,” then Board Chair Melody Keeth told Fine when asked for an explanation of a multi-million dollar paid time off provision.
“That may be the understatement of this hearing,” said Fine.
The hearing revealed that Carr was paid $7.5 million over three years.
Carr and Duarte face charges of participation in an organized scheme to defraud, grand theft, and official misconduct, all felonies.
James Call is a member of the USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida Capital Bureau. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @CallTallahassee
This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: FDLE charges ex-domestic violence agency heads in fraud case