MIAMI — Theft and fraud are among the charges faced by Hilda Hall-Denis, president and executive director of the Business Technology Development Corp. after she was arrested last week, following a joint investigation by the Miami-Dade Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the State Attorney’s Office.
Hall-Denis was arrested on one count of Organized Scheme to Defraud and four counts of Grand Theft, first-degree felonies; three counts of Grand Theft, second-degree felonies; and three counts of Criminal Use of Personal Identification Information, third-degree felonies.
The investigation into Hall-Denis started after the OIG received a complaint from the Miami-Dade County Department of Public Housing and Community Development, which reveals that she fraudulently obtained and misused public funds received from Miami-Dade County, the Homestead Community Redevelopment Agency and the State of Florida, Division of Blind Services, a statement issued by Miami-Dade said.
Hall-Denis ran the Business Technology Development Corp. as a business incubator from 2006, until September 2012, which provided business development classes, technical assistance, mentoring and reduced-rent office space to new, small businesses. In addition, BTDC received subsidized rent from the City of Homestead CRA at a $1 per year.
Investigators say Hall-Denis fraudulently billed for employee salaries while paying the employees only a percentage of that salary. She also failed to pay vendors, and submitted phony receipts and invoices in order to obtain or justify the grant funds, while she deposited the funds into numerous bank accounts she controlled.
Hall-Denis used a double-billing scheme to obtain funds from the county and a State of Florida, Division of Blind Services job training program. Hall-Denis agreed to hire a visually impaired person to work as a receptionist at BTDC. Under the program, Hall-Denis received funds from the state’s Division of Blind Services to train the employee.
The investigation uncovered that Hall-Denis submitted reimbursement requests to the county for the same services paid for by the state. Most egregiously, Hall-Denis failed to pay the visually impaired employee the full amount of her salary.
The business incubator could receive county and state funding because it was a tax-exempt, not-for-profit corporation.
But the IRS revoked BTDC’s tax-exempt classification in 2010. Still, Hall-Denis applied for and received more than $460,000 from the county and the CRA. She tried to get an additional $500,000 from the county in 2013 but her efforts were thwarted due to the OIG investigation.
“Obtaining government funds intended for legitimate nonprofit groups and putting that cash in one’s pocket is a terrible crime. Like stealing from a donation jar, it deprives those truly working to aid our community of the chance to help Dade’s neediest residents,” said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. “Stealing from one’s own employees and the handicapped only adds another level to this crime.”