MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Jamie Martinez was second in command at the Miami-Dade Property Appraiser’s office. As of next week, he will be out of job because was busted for doing the very thing his office was trying to prevent; fraud.
Martinez landed in the Appraiser’s office, as newly elected appraiser Carlos Lopez-Cantera took office. Martinez, the administration manager, oversaw just about everything including busting property owners fraudulently claiming homestead exemptions.
In April 2012, an anonymous tip came in to the county’s 311 hotline.
The caller claimed that Martinez was renting out his house in South Miami. A house he had an active homestead exemption on. The exemption saves homeowners hundreds or even thousands of dollars off their property tax bill every year. Under Florida law you cannot claim a homestead exemption on rental property. Doing so is a misdemeanor that comes with fines and penalties.
A month after the initial complaint, another tip came in repeating the accusation Martinez was renting a property with an exemption on it; however, for two years no action was taken. When questioned about it, the property appraisers office blamed a backlog of complaints, some 4,000 complaints a year, that delayed their investigation.
It wasn’t until this February investigators finally followed up.
Documents revealed Martinez’s house had indeed been rented over the years. Meanwhile, Martinez was living in Downtown Miami. He even changed his address with the property appraiser to receive his tax bill. But he never canceled that exemption, as required by law. By keeping the fraudulent homestead exemption going, he saved almost $3,000 in property taxes.
In early October, Martinez was asked to pay all that money back, plus penalties and interest. He paid up, then submitted a resignation letter saying he “greatly appreciated the opportunity and privilege to serve both the residents of Miami-Dade county and staff members inside the office of the property appraiser.”
To the surprise of employees at the office acting property appraiser Lazaro Solis allowed Martinez to stay on all month for a transition period.
In a statement Solis said “Although the facts of the investigation revealed a violation had occurred, prior to him joining the office, there was no evidence of intent to defraud.”
Jamie Martinez declined our request for an interview. He is expected to leave the office at the end of the month.
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