Lawmakers, shelters respond to Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence charges
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV/Gray Florida Capital Bureau) - Two women who were responsible for funneling state money to help domestic violence centers are now facing several criminal charges.
The former leaders of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence are accused of organizing a scheme to defraud taxpayers of millions of dollars. Patricia Duarte and Tiffany Carr are accused of scheming to steal nearly $4 million from the state.
Durate turned herself in this week, and a warrant was issued for Carr.
“I hope justice is served,” Refuge House executive director Emily Mitchem said.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement accused Carr and Duarte of fraudulently awarding themselves time off using grants intended for shelters. They are also accused of falsifying quarterly reports and billing the state for open positions and services it didn’t provide.
The Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence was created in 2012 to manage state and federal grants to Florida’s 42 domestic violence shelters. It oversaw more than $40 million a year.
Refuge House is one of those shelters covering North Florida. Mitchem said she thinks about the women who could’ve been helped.
“The real people who were harmed are the ones who have the least and the resources they could’ve received had the fund been handled better would’ve greatly helped them,” Mitchem said.
Thursday’s charges come after several investigations, including one done by the legislature in 2020.
“It’s long overdue and I’m glad it’s happening,” Rep. Randy Fine, (R) Brevard County, said.
Fine was on the House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee in 2020 looking into the allegations. He said he was disgusted to learn of the accusations.
“This was money that was intended to help women who had been abused. For these people to steal all that money to buy mansions in other states, it was simply sick,” Fine said.
The state ended its contract with the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 2020. Gov. Ron DeSantis dissolved the coalition with an executive order in 2021. The Department of Children and Families now handles the grants.
“We were actually just disgusted to see that level of corruption had occurred,” Mitchem said.
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