MIAMI – A woman lauding herself as a Cuban rights activist has been sentenced to more than four years in prison for real estate fraud.
Alicia Garcia, 44, who has been applauded by Miami-Dade county leaders for her philanthropic efforts, has a lengthy criminal history that involves shady deals with her real estate business.
Records show that Garcia has been arrested multiple times on grand theft charges.
Charges against Garcia date back to 2010, and deal with her real estate business that was once located on Bird Road and Southwest 92nd Avenue.
According to police, Garcia took a $150,000 deposit for a property in August 2011 that a customer wanted to buy.
When the deal didn't go through, Garcia wrote a bad check and used the money for her personal use, detectives said.
In 2013, another victim told detectives that he had given Garcia $20,000 to close on a short sale property, but the deal never went through, and he never received his money back.
Similar incidents were reported multiple times, and Garcia's real estate customers lost more than $200,000.
Despite the arrests, Miami-Dade County commissioners Rebeca Sosa and Esteban Bovo smiled for a photo with Garcia as she was given a proclamation, commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Cuban exodus.
Garcia was there as president of Fundacion Exodus 1994, an organization she started to help Cuban rafters.
Less than a week ago, Garcia spoke to local Spanish media about her efforts to help Cuban migrants who are arriving from Costa Rica.
Garcia claimed a property in the Redlands would become a shelter for the migrants.
A GoFundMe account that raised more than $300 was set up to help expand the shelter.
Garcia also regularly asks for donations for Foundacion Voz de Mujer (Voice of Women), a domestic abuse organization she has also been running.
Garcia's real estate license was pulled by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation in November 2011.
Attempts to reach Garcia's husband at home were unsuccessful.