Court Clerk Accused of Pocketing over $100,000 in Divorce Filing Fees
December 23, 2021 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense, News & Announcements, Theft/Property Crimes Social Share
Miami-Dade Court Clerk Accused of Stealing over $100,000 in Divorce Filing Fees
Going through a divorce can be an extremely traumatic experience. On top of all the emotions and stress of ending a marriage, there are also legal aspects that need to be taken care of. When a couple files for divorce, there is certain paperwork that must be completed and sent through to the court of clerks. Every time someone files for divorce, he or she must pay a filing fee.
The last thing you want when going through a divorce are any issues with the filing of paperwork. However, in Miami-Dade County, there have now been over 200 cases where the money from filing fees wound up in the pockets of the clerk of court.
The audit completed by the Miami-Dade Inspector General’s Office revealed that the clerk of court processed 201 cases where the filing fees were never actually filed, which reached over $100,000 in stolen cash and checks meant to be deposited in the court system.
So, what exactly happened? And what are the consequences of such a crime?
Tyrone Smith Jr., 35, has been accused of pocketing the money that is meant to be a filing fee for divorces in Miami-Dade County. Smith had been in charge of processing 201 cases — cases in which the fees were never actually filed. The fees never filed equal to $109,000. This is now believed to be stolen cash and checks that should have been sent to the clerk of courts.
Smith had been working as a deputy court clerk since 2007 in Miami-Dade family’s court. This is where people in the county go to file new lawsuits and complaints. Included in Smith’s duties are collecting money, tallying receipts, and preparing bank deposits. Smith then decided to resign as a supervisor abruptly in 2018 and started to probe missing money in June.
The investigation really started when a customer complained that his case was not progressing through the court system. A database check was completed that revealed that Smith was the one who was supposed to process the payment, but the filing fee had never been collected. However, the man who complained had an official-looking receipt from Smith, which turned out to be a false document.
There was also proof of a fake receipt file on Smith’s desk, which investigators believe he had printed to use for the customers he stole from. In addition, a man claimed that in March 2018, Smith said he had to pay $500 to have police serve the divorce petition. This was not true. A month later, the customer returned to complain that his wife had never been served the papers. Smith’s defense was that he had been extremely busy and that the error was his own fault. However, the customer ended up paying an additional $80 to hire a private courier service to serve the divorce papers.
Smith has come clean to the police and has since been charged with first-degree grand theft and organized scheme to defraud. Grand Theft falls under Florida Statute Section 812.014, which is the theft of any property which has a value of $100,000 or more. The penalties for Grand Theft can be a fine of up to $10,000 and up to thirty years in prison. Organized Fraud falls under Florida Statute Section 817.034 and is committed when a person has communicated with a person to further a scheme to defraud and money or property was obtained from the other person. Organized fraud is ranked as level 3 under the Florida Punishment Code, which is based on the value of property that was defrauded. Since the amount of money stolen was over $50,000, it is considered a first-degree felony with a penalty of a $10,000 and up to thirty years in prison.
Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida
It is never a smart choice to steal any amount of money from anyone. In the state of Florida, there are harsh consequences that come with theft and fraud. If you or a loved one have been accused of theft or organized scheme to defraud, the first step should be finding a skilled criminal defense lawyer in your area. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have represented clients for Grand Theft before and have what it takes to defend your case. Receiving proper legal advice from a Tallahassee criminal defense attorney can make the difference between getting pinned with high fines and potential jail time and walking away free. Let Don Pumphrey and his team stand in your corner and fight for your freedom.
Article written by Karissa Key