Documents meant to combat election fraud in condominiums raise more
Enrique Flor and Brenda Medina
20 April 2016
Notary public Carmen Aslan—Enrique Flor
The 15th of November must have been an exhausting day for notary public
On that Sunday last year, Aslan notarized the signatures of 68
condominium owners at The Beach Club at Fontainebleau Park on
affidavits certifying that the owners voted in the condo association’s
elections at the end of that month, citing their ballot numbers as
proof of their vote. She would have had to meet with every person who
signed the affidavits.
That same day, Aslan appears to have had time to meet with an owner of
a Los Sueños condo in Hialeah to notarize her affidavit for an
association election in that complex.
Aslan, who works for the FM Law Group, where lawyer Hector Martinez
represents several condo associations, kept up her busy schedule for
the next eight days, apparently notarizing the signatures on 236
affidavits by owners at The Beach Club and Los Sueños.
But 23 owners at the two condos told El Nuevo Herald and Univision 23
in recent weeks that they never signed those declarations before any
notary. They also say they never showed their driver’s licenses to
Aslan, as she certified in the 236 documents. And 22 of the 23 say they
never met Aslan.
“She's the notary?” a surprised Horace Sinclair, a resident of The
Beach Club, said when reporters showed him a photo of Aslan. “I've
never seen her in my life.”
Representatives of Sunshine Management Services, which manages the
complexes, said it implemented the new system of securing affidavits to
prevent electoral fraud. The company has said residents have repeatedly
complained about falsified signatures on the ballot or ballot envelopes
in elections of association boards.
But an investigation by El Nuevo Herald and Univision 23 showed that
the affidavit system put in place by the company has substantial
Florida law requires that a notary confirm the identity and witness the
signature of the person on a document that is being notarized. Failure
to do so is a third-degree felony.
Aslan has denied any wrongdoing. “Any document that I have notarized
complies with all notary requirements. At this point I have no further
comments. Please do not contact me again,” she wrote in an April 12
email to reporters.
However, several owners of apartments at The Beach Club and Los Sueños
contradict her story.
Ana Pla Rodriguez, 57, a Cuban business person who lives in Puerto
Rico, said she was on the island and did not sign an affidavit on Nov.
18, when Aslan notarized her signature on the document. On that same
day, Aslan also notarized the signatures of another 33 owners at The
Beach Club and Los Sueños condos.
“That signature that appears on that affidavit is not mine and I do not
know that notary,” Pla said in a telephone interview from Puerto Rico.
“The last time I went to Miami was in June of last year when my father
died, and I stayed for two weeks,” she said. “And that woman never came
to Puerto Rico to notarize the affidavit that I supposedly signed. All
of that is false.”
Pla added that sometime in November she received a package with ballots
for the association election at The Beach Club, where she owns three
apartments. She filled in the ballots and returned them to the address
of Carlin Castillo, a resident who was supporting the reelection of the
A previous investigation published in March by el Nuevo Herald and
Univision 23 showed that the signatures of at least 84 owners on
ballots for that election — the one that the affidavits were supposed
to protect from fraud —were falsified.
Owners protested and forced the directors to resign after initial
revelations emerged about the vote fraud and an allegedly rigged bid
for a multimillion-dollar contract for roof repairs. Before it
resigned, the board canceled the contract with Sunshine Management
Services, which administered the condo.
Miami-Dade police are investigating the elections and the bid for the
Amid the controversy, Sunshine hired a public relations agent, Helena
Poleo. In an email to journalists, Poleo wrote that the company “is
aware that fraud in condominium elections is very common, which is why
it implemented a system that went beyond what is required by law to try
to guarantee the transparency and legitimacy of the elections.”
The system guarantees that the only valid votes counted are those that
are supported by an affidavit, Poleo argued. That's how the company was
seeking to avoid votes with falsified signatures.
“The votes, some accompanied by affidavits and others not, were
submitted by condominium owners to the condominium offices, where Mrs.
Carmen Aslan was available to carry out the corresponding
notarizations,” Poleo wrote.
Owner Castillo told reporters, however, that she gathered about 60 of
the 144 affidavits submitted for the election at The Beach Club. None
of the affidavits was notarized in the presence of the persons who
signed them, said Castillo. She added that she and other neighbors
received instructions to gather up the documents.
“The instructions they gave to us was to gather up the affidavits, that
possibly there was some part of the law that allowed a notary to not be
present” for the signatures, said Castillo. She declined to identify
who gave her those instructions. “I don’t have to worry about it
because I am not the notary. I don't believe she deceived me, and
perhaps she knew the law,” she said.
Castillo added that she made three trips to the main Sunshine offices
in Miami Lakes to deliver the affidavits as she gathered them. The
affidavits later turned up with the signature and notary seal of Aslan,
collection manager at the Martinez law office, which represents several
of the condos administered by Sunshine.
Ramón de la Cabada, a lawyer and former state prosecutor, said it is a
crime for notaries to “certify a signature that they did not witness in
“Fraud by a notary is a felony...”
“Fraud by a notary is a felony in the state of Florida, with a penalty
of five to six years in prison,” said De la Cabada. “If they do it as a
favor, that is an explanation but not a legal defense. But if there's a
constant recurrence of the same act, in my opinion, that is
circumstantial evidence that there's something bigger going on.”
Former prosecutor Eric Padron said the charges could be even harsher if
there's evidence that irregular notarizations were part of a conspiracy.
“The charges that a notary could face would be perjury and fraud,” said
Padron. “But if there's proof that this is part of a scheme, an
arrangement among several people, that notary could face more serious
The condo owner at The Beach Club who first complained about the
irregular notarizations told journalists that she signed her affidavit
at the condominium’s own office, with no notary present.
The date of the notarization was listed as Nov. 15, a Sunday. But the
owner recalled signing the affidavit on a weekday because she went to
the office to pay her monthly condo fees. She asked to remain anonymous.
She added that the blank affidavit was handed to her by Jose Hernandez,
at the time employed by Sunshine to manage the complex. Hernandez
denied gathering signed affidavits and said he no longer works for
The Los Sueños case
The November election at Los Sueños condo reported a stunning 115
percent voter turnout by its condo owners. Two opposing groups of
owners who ran slates in the election are accusing each other of
falsifying signatures on the votes.
Several condo owners there also denied having seen Aslan, who allegedly
notarized the majority of the affidavits designed to prevent fraud in
“I signed the paper, but I've never seen that notary,” said owner
Ubaldo Sierra when journalists showed him a photo of Aslan.
Another Los Sueños owner, Moises Gomez, said that he also did not sign
the affidavit in front of Aslan.
“I signed the document in front of the condo woman, Arelys. She was
alone,” said Gomez.
Arelys Lopez, who was reelected president of the condo association in
the November balloting, assured reporters that the affidavits were
notarized in front of the people who signed them, and that a notary
accompanied her around the complex to certify the signatures on the
documents she gathered.
When told that several owners had denied to reporters that their
signatures were notarized in front of them, she declined to reply. “I
am not going to comment,” she said.
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