Local News

Apr 1, 2014 7:18 PM by Caroline Flores - cflores@kristv.com

Duval County Chief Appraiser Arrested

SAN DIEGO - Three people who work for the Duval County Appraisal District have been arrested for allegedly stealing money more than $300,000 by giving themselves huge bonuses that were not approved. To make matters worse, taxpayers may get stuck paying more to make up for what was stolen.

The Duval County Sheriffs Office says Chief Appraiser Rene Garza, his Administrative Assistant Analeigha Carrillo, and office manager Roel Charo were giving themselves bonuses on almost a weekly basis from September of 2012 to January of this year.

It was bonuses the Sheriff's Office says were never approved by the Appraisal Board. Sheriff's deputies also say Chief Appraiser Garza was using the company credit card to pay for personal hotel rooms and food.

"I never expected anything like that to happen, from any of them. Not even Mr. Garza. As a matter of fact. I trusted those people," said Carlos Montemayor.

He is the Chairman of the Appraisal Board, and is the one who signed all the checks.

He says he never really looked at the checks he was asked to sign because, "you're so used to just... They bring you a stack of checks and you sign it and you trust these people. And you don't really glance at them that close."

He says last month when he had time, he looked through them. That's when he noticed the extra checks. He called the County Auditor who then got the Sheriff's Office involved.

Now, the Appraisal District has about a month's worth of money left to work with. The Duval County Attorney says they may not have enough money to give their taxing entities the information they need to create their tax rates. So, they may have to freeze everyone's property values, meaning some people's tax bills may not be up to date.

"It could affect the individual tax payers by making them pay more taxes," said County Attorney Ricardo Carrillo.

Montemayor says the Appraisal Board will meet sometime next week. That's when they will figure out what they have to do, so the taxpayers won't be negatively affected by what's going on.

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