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Homestead nonprofit director admits to stealing from disabled, government

Hilda Hall-Denis conviction won't be on her record after guilty plea

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. – For years, Hilda Hall-Denis took pride in helping a receptionist who is blind.

But Hall-Denis wasn't helping her. This week she admitted she was using her to get money from both Miami Dade County and Florida, while not paying her very much.  She also admitted to enriching herself with government funding and grants meant to help struggling not-for-profits.

Hall-Denis also used the identities of people she claimed to be helping to submit "fraudulent, phony and forged" documents to get grants, prosecutors said. She did all this as she bragged about being the executive director of an organization that was meant to create and nurture small business in South Miami-Dade.

"Obtaining government funds intended for legitimate non-profit groups and putting that cash in one's pocket is a terrible crime," Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said earlier this year in a statement.

The disabled woman worked at the office she named The Carrie P. Meek Center, 301 Civic Ct., in Homestead. Former Rep. Carrie Meek had nothing to do with her organization.

Through the center's Business Technology Development Corporation, Hall-Denis purported to offer business development classes, technical assistance, mentoring, reduced-rent office space and more, investigators said.  But she admitted she was even fooling her employees, as she only payed them a percentage of what she was billing.

"Like stealing from a donation jar, it deprives those truly working to aid our community of the chance to help Dade's neediest residents," Fernandez Rundle said. "Stealing from one's own employees and the handicapped only adds another level to this crime."

An investigation uncovered her trickery. She wasn't paying vendors and blamed Miami-Dade County for delays in reimbursements, the investigation concluded. She made up expenses.

She ran the organization from 2006 to 2012 with local, state and federal government funding, grants and donations -- although the IRS took away the nonprofit status in 2011.

The investigation concluded she defrauded several institutions including the City of Homestead Community Redevelopment Agency, State of Florida Division of Blind Services, Federal Community Development Block Grant, and Miami-Dade County Department of Public Housing and Community Development.

She was arrested back in July after she was accused of stealing about $460,000N. The charges: One count of organized scheme to defraud, a first degree felony; 4 counts of grand theft, first degree felonies; 3 counts of grand theft, second degree felonies; and 3 counts of criminal use of personal identification information, three degree felonies. 

On Wednesday, she plead guilty to being involved in an organized scheme to defraud and to the criminal use of personal identification information. Her plea deal: She was ordered to pay $33,000 in restitution and was sentenced to 146 days in jail. Prosecutors also agreed to withhold of adjudication.