In less than a week, Marjorie “Monique” Acevedo will experience her first full day of something she hasn’t felt in nearly seven years: Freedom.
On June 15, Acevedo, inmate No. K08404, is scheduled to be released from the Lowell Correctional Institution, just west of the Ocala National Forest. The former director of adult education for the Monroe County School District has been in Florida Department of Corrections custody since Aug. 31, 2010, serving time after pleading out to stealing more than $400,000 from the district while employed there.
It was one of the most comprehensive prosecutions of a non-violent criminal case in the Keys outside of federal cases and peeled way some layers of what’s considered an ingrained Conch culture. Avecedo spent the money on a variety of things, from food to clothes to airline tickets to a “ride-me-cowboy” outfit.
She admitted to four counts of felony grand theft and two of organized fraud. A jury convicted her now-ex-husband Randy Acevedo, who was the schools superintendent, of three counts of felony official misconduct. He received three years of probation and a $15,000 fine for covering up his then-wife’s theft.
“It was the first time a local influential person was tried in state court,” said Mark Wilson, the assistant Monroe County state attorney who prosecuted both cases. “The Bubba busts, etc., were federal court.”
“I think that the case sent a profound symbolic message that just because you were related to a person of local influence, you weren’t above the law and the theft of a substantial amount of public funds will not be tolerated,” he said.
If one were thinking that he or she is untouchable from being punished for wrongdoing, “The legacy of this case put the lie to that,” Wilson said.
The case also brought about change in how the Monroe County schools chief is chosen.
Voters used to choose the superintendent. When Randy Acevedo was indicted in 2009, then-Gov. Charlie Crist removed him from office. Three governor-appointed interim superintendents followed before Keys voters decided in a referendum that the School Board should hire the superintendent. Current Superintendent Mark Porter is the first board-tapped schools chief, hired in 2012.
Monique Acevedo, 49, will have to be “picked up by a family member on the day of her release,” the Department of Corrections said in a prepared statement, and will have to report to Dodd Manor at 602 E. Union St. in Jacksonville. That’s a faith-based transitional center where Acevedo will live for eight months to a year before being fully released.
However, she will be on supervised released for 22 years, having to report to probation officers under various terms. She also has to pay $413,012.43 restitution to the School District. That includes money she stole using a district credit card, money she stole from students paying for the adult education program and money she pilfered from an eighth-grade fundraiser.
“That was the whole point of her being on probation, so she would have to pay it back,” Wilson said. “I’ll never have another case like this, I don’t think.”
Larry Kahn: 305-440-3218