By Michael E. Miller
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Public records show that Eunice came to Miami from Cuba in 2002 as a 20-year-old and bounced between low-end apartments in western Hialeah and North Miami. Eventually, she met up with family: her mother, Eurice Rodriguez; aunt Loida; and uncle Jesus Ruben. They worked remedial jobs — housekeeping, factory work, building.
In June 2002, Eunice married her first — and only legal — husband, Mauricio Matos, a 27-year-old from Peru. Between 2002 and 2006, she wed ten times without divorcing, according to an arrest warrant filed this past November. But that's not all: Public records show that 17 marriages are filed under her name and birthday. (Eunice was divorced eight times before the news broke.)
Some of the weddings — to mechanics, bank tellers, construction workers — were as close as four days apart. The men ranged in age from 23 to 48 and were from seven South American countries. She typically charged $8,000 to $15,000. Afterward, in some cases, she continued to collect fees, prosecutors believe. Her attorney, Robert Lamons, did not respond to calls seeking comment.
Six friends and husbands who declined to be named described Eunice as having "a good heart," "restless, always moving," and "not smart with her money."
"She seemed like a strong person mentally," recalled Ivan, the courthouse groom. "I don't know if she was strong or dumb." Others pointed out that she had 7- and 8-year-old children and that she strove to be a good mother.
Public records tell another story. Less than a year after she arrived, in October 2002, Eunice was found guilty of petit larceny. It's unclear what she stole (files have since been destroyed), but she paid a fine. Then, in November 2004, Hialeah police officers arrived at her house on West 29th Street to find boyfriend Rodneys breaking in. According to the police report, he "pried the victim's window open" and cops found him "halfway inside the residence." He told an officer he was upset because she "was with another male." The next day, Eunice filed a domestic violence report. Details weren't available.
A couple of years later, in January 2006, she married Euclides Yepes Ceballos, a 45-year-old Colombian-born auto mechanic. He told New Times: "When I met her, she was living alone. She said, 'I can help you with papers.' I was going to give her a car that I was repairing, but we never talked about money. Never." Asked if he lived with her for love or for residency, he replied, "We lived together."
At the beginning of 2007, Eunice moved into a rundown Pepto Bismol-pink house on West 43rd Street in Hialeah. A landlord explained that she and her mother, Eurice, would disappear with food, medicine, and money to Cuba for weeks at a time. Eunice had first appeared at the door begging for a place to stay, and he rented it to her for about $300 a month.
Soon after she was picked up in Palm Beach, two husbands divorced her — joining eight others who had filed for divorce between 2005 and 2007. The files show no shared debts, property, or children to quarrel over. Most of the husbands stated they didn't know where she was.
A month after Eunice's arrest, Hialeah Police pulled over boyfriend Rodneys on SE Ninth Court for driving with a suspended license. Cops found out he had an outstanding warrant for three counts of bigamy. The 33-year-old, who has short hair and full lips, had married women from all over the map. There was a 37-year-old Italian, a 22-year-old Venezuelan, and a 40-year-old Colombian. All tied the knot between March 2005 and December 2006.
Eunice's mother, 46-year-old Eurice, was next. On June 8, ICE investigator Jorge Broche picked her up on NW 12th Avenue at 14th Street on three counts of bigamy. Her husbands were about her age and from Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, and Uruguay.
On a recent warm Wednesday at dusk, Eurice, a stocky, sweet-faced woman, stood in the back doorway of a gated tan house off Ali Baba Avenue in Opa-locka. The back door was open, exposing a bed with hot-pink sheets. She held a tiny infant and invited New Times inside. Then with a gesture, she offered a seat in a computer chair. Asked about the marriages, she refused to comment and motioned toward the door. (Eunice declined to comment by phone.)
On June 24, Eunice's uncle, Jesus Ruben Rodriguez, 38, turned himself in to ICE for having five illegal wives — all from Latin America. Eunice's aunt, 42-year-old Loida Rodriguez, still hasn't been arrested. Police released her after the Palm Beach traffic stop and later figured out she had married 13 men. Her record also shows that a 2003 theft charge for driving with stolen tags was dismissed.
Together, Eunice, Rodneys, and the Rodriguez family could serve up to 160 years in prison. So far, prosecutors haven't charged any of the spouses — a different approach than the feds took in the Orlando bust. "They're irrelevant to our case," says Ed Griffith, spokesperson for the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office.