Residents survey damage on Big Pine Key following Hurricane Irma
Two Miami-Dade County residents were arrested this week on grand theft charges in separate cases where federal and state investigators accuse them of falsely claiming their Hurricane Irma-damaged mobile homes in the Keys were their primary residences, allowing them to collect thousands of dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Both people told investigators with the Monroe County State Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General that they were separated from their respective spouses around the time of the Sept. 10, 2017, storm and moved out of their homes on the mainland, according to their arrest affidavits.
Rick Hermida, attorney for Leisdany Lastro-Del Toro, 43, said his client “made an honest mistake in the wake of Hurricane Irma. She used the monies to repair her trailer. She intends to make full and immediate restitution.”
The other person arrested, Alfredo Latour, 54, could not be reached for comment.
Del Toro received $19,024 from FEMA after applying for disaster relief from the agency for her mobile home on Long Key. She stated on the application that the trailer was her primary residence, according to the affidavit.
However, she and her husband receive a homestead exemption on their property taxes for their home in Palmetto Bay, State Attorney’s Office Investigator Abraham Vallejo stated in his report.
This April, two Homeland Security agents questioned her about the application. She told them, according to the affidavit, that she separated from her husband in 2017 and moved to Long Key full time. While living on Long Key, she said she commuted to her job as a case manager for an immigration services non-profit on Northwest Seventh Street in Miami — a 93-mile, one-way trip.
“Del Toro stated that sometimes she would stay at her mother’s address in Miami,” Vallejo stated.
However, she could not offer agents other specific details about her supposed time living in the Keys full time.
“Del Toro was unable to recall when she moved to Long Key, how long she lived there, or when she left and moved back to Miami,” Vallejo stated. “Del Toro offered to return the funds to FEMA. After approximately 12 p.m., she asked if she could call her attorney.”
Her attorney told her to end the interview, according to the report.
In a May interview with the Homeland Security agents and Vallejo, this time with her attorney present, Del Toro said the Long Key trailer was not her primary address and that she and her husband were not separated at the time.
Del Toro turned herself in to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday morning in Plantation Key, where she was arrested, and was released later in the day on a $25,000 bond.
Latour was arrested Wednesday on a $5,000 bond. It wasn’t immediately clear if he’s been released.
He received $3,363 from FEMA for damage done to his mobile home at the Calusa Campground Resort and Marina off mile marker 101.5 in Key Largo.
He also told investigators that although his primary home is on Northwest 79th Avenue in Miami, he separated from his wife in July 2017 and moved into his trailer, according to Vallejo’s report.
Latour told investigators that the storm made the trailer uninhabitable, so he moved back with his wife. However, on his FEMA application, he also stated that his wife and daughter lived with him at Calusa, according to the report.
He later told investigators that he only separated from his wife days before Irma hit and he spent a few nights at the trailer, returning home before the storm arrived.
“Latour additionally admitted that he realized at the time he made the FEMA application that the mobile home was not his primary address,” Vallejo stated.