El Portal councilman charged in theft of Miami law firm funds

Report: Harold Mathis Jr. used money to pay for hotels, Lyft rides, including to sex toy store in Hialeah

MIAMI – An El Portal official is accused of embezzling thousands of dollars from a Miami law firm where he worked as a paralegal and office manager.

El Portal Councilman Harold Mathis Jr. was arrested Thursday and charged with various felony counts of grand theft and forgery.

According to a news release from Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle's office, among Mathis' duties was to prepare business credit card statements for review by the firm's attorneys and prepare checks for signing by the firm's partners.

Prosecutors claim that Mathis, who was "in serious jeopardy" of being fired in March, quit his job but was allowed to clear out his desk. It was during this time that one of the lawyers at the office "noticed what appeared to be a law firm credit card statement in the box of Mathis' personal items."

Portions of the statement appeared to have been cut out of the document, "potentially to alter the statement."

An investigation revealed 410 unauthorized purchases totaling more than $22,000 in charges, fees and interests.

Prosecutors claim checks from the firm were deposited into Mathis' personal checking account between March 2017 and February 2019.

"These 20 checks, amounting to over $23,000, allegedly appeared to have signatures that did not match the account's genuine signatures," the news release said. "Additionally, it is alleged that cash payments of $1,900 made by a law firm client were never deposited to the firm's account despite the client having received receipts from Mathis for these payments."

Rundle called Mathis' alleged actions a "betrayal of personal trust."

According to a report by the Miami Herald, Mathis used the money to stay at area hotels and pay for Lyft rides, including a trip to the Caliente Adult Superstore in Hialeah.

Mathis is also charged with one count of organized scheme to defraud, 20 counts of uttering a forged instrument and seven misdemeanor counts of petit theft.

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