Bob Norman's Pulp

Source: Federal Indictment Coming for School Administrator Who's a BSO Sergeant

Sources tell me the U.S. Attorney's Office will announce the arrest of a Broward County public official as soon as tomorrow.

Thomas Correa, a longtime Broward Sheriff's Office sergeant and a former administrator at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is expected to be indicted on fraud charges, according to sources.

Correa was terminated from his position as sergeant in the BSO reserve unit last month as a result of an ongoing FBI fraud investigation, Sheriff Al Lamberti's media relations department confirmed.  

Correa, ironically, was a key witness in a sports ticket scam at the school that involved then-Athletic Director David Grad, who is no longer with the school. Grad was accused of pocketing money from tickets he sold on the side. Correa wasn't involved in any wrongdoing in that case and apparently just wanted to clean up wrongdoing and cover-ups at the high school.  

The sports-ticket case was poorly handled by the district -- imagine that -- and a lot of people believed that some of the ineptitude and long delays had to do with the fact that Marjory Stoneman Principal Ann Andersen-Kowalski is married to Craig Kowalski, who was director of the Special Investigations Unit at the time.

Whatever the reason, the whole thing stank. Here's a story about it that was published in the Sun-Sentinel last year. It should come with a laugh track, especially when Stephanie Kraft calls for more oversight and Supt. James Notter says, "It's going to be like all of our investigations. It will be done with the utmost integrity."

Good one, Jim.

Inside, see why someone who apparently wanted to help clean up the School Board is the subject of an FBI investigation himself. 

The case, according to sources, has nothing to do with Correa's official duties.

Sources say it's part of a banking fraud investigation. Apparently the official was trying to get a loan for a development project and is accused of signing false documents during the process. The financial institution in question was under investigation by the feds at the time, and he was swept into the net. One source says the federal prosecutor bringing the case is Ellen Cohen, who works in West Palm. Cohen, whom I left a message with for comment, filed a sizable bank loan fraud case last year. From the federal release:  

According to the superseding indictment, Jason Vitulano and Peter Hartofilis were branch managers of the TopDot Mortgage office in Boca Raton. They allegedly devised a scheme to submit loan applications to numerous lenders that contained grossly inflated statements of loan applicants' earnings and assets on deposit in a local bank. Steve Vento is alleged to have submitted two false loan applications to fund the purchase of two houses, priced at $1.9 million and $1.1 million.

The superseding indictment also alleges that attorney Joseph Miller acted as closing agent and title agent on a number of these loan transactions and that Miller agreed to divert loan proceeds to the personal accounts of Vitulano, Hartofilis and others without disclosing that fact to the mortgage lenders.

According to the indictment, defendant Robert Hofler worked at First Southern Bank in Boca Raton as a vice president. Hofler is alleged to have falsely attested to loan applicants having large balances on deposit at First Southern, ranging from $130,000 up to $600,000. In reliance on these and other false statements in the loan applications, the lenders approved and funded more than $5 million in mortgage loans to purchase residences in Palm Beach and Broward Counties.

It's not known if Correa's case is directly tied to this one, but let's just hope that whatever happens with the federal arrest doesn't stymie any School Board investigation. I left a detailed message on Correa's phone and will update if I hear more.

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Bob Norman
Contact: Bob Norman