Broward County employee makes first appearance in court

Roberto Martinez accused of using position to steal $1.6 million

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – When Broward County employee Roberto Martinez stepped up for his first appearance in court Friday, Judge Arlene Simon Backman seemed taken aback by the extent of his alleged crimes.

For more than 11 minutes, Backman read the 102 charges against Martinez, including organized fraud, money laundering, ID theft, uttering forged instruments and official misconduct.

Martinez is accused of using his position in the county tax office to help steal $1.6 million in surplus funds from tax deed sales that were supposed to go to unfortunate homeowners.

Among the five accused co-conspirators in the case are Marc and Patricia Eugene, who are accused of orchestrating the fraud with Martinez through bogus companies.

A neighbor told Local 10 News reporter Bob Norman that the couple were good neighbors.

"Very nice people, very respectful kids," Claude Germain said. 

The Eugenes listed their business address at a strip mall in Miami, which is nothing more than a mail drop.

Prior to his arrest, Martinez fled through the county building when Norman tried to question him, only to be arrested there an hour later.

He spoke in court Friday only of his and his wife's attempt to hire a lawyer.

"When I called her, she said she would have to go see him. So I don't know exactly what happened," he told the judge. 

Martinez's bond was set at $915,000

"I have gone through and found probable cause for each and every one of the 102 counts," Backman said.

In all, there were 20 victims of the $1.6 million fraud scheme that is believed to have started on or around May 1, 2014, and continued through about June 30, 2016, authorities said.