PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — A Panama City Beach woman is facing multiple charges after deputies say she embezzled more than $400,000 dollars from a Horizon South Condominiums Homeowners Association.
Cynthia Hayes, 55, reportedly stole the money while working as a bookkeeper for the resort.
The Bay County Sheriff’s Office started its investigation at the beginning of 2019 after reports from several homeowner association members, deputies say.
News 13 spoke with Sergeant Stephen Rhinehart on Friday morning about the investigation he says that dates back to 2012 or 2013.
He says Hayes was terminated from her position after the investigation started.
“From that point on, they had a forensic audit conducted on all their accounts because the homeowners association is a whole giant entity and then it’s got a lot of small entities inside of so they had to go through everything throughout the entire HOA bank accounts to figure out exactly what was going on,” Rhinehart said.
Rhinehart says the search had to be extra thorough due to the level of access Hayes had.
“She was the bookkeeper and had access to all the funds, dozens of bank accounts involved so she had taken out credit cards, she had taken out loans, moved money from accounts in people’s names.”
While the amount of money reportedly stolen was significant, Rhinehart says Hayes used it for day to day expenses.
“From what we can tell, it looked like a lot of personal use so stuff for her, her family, her home. I can tell you she wasn’t living a life of luxury which was kind of strange for the amount of money she took. It wasn’t being used for anything extravagant but it was just normal day to day things.”
Rhinehart said HOA members were shocked when they learned of the alleged incident.
“I don’t know what their active role in keeping guard over all their money and everything going on in the accounts was I think they realized they weren’t doing enough of what they should’ve been to have some checks and balances working there who were handling their money and I think that’s since changed,” Rhinehart said.
Hayes is scheduled to next appear in court in the case in March. She is charged with a first-degree felony, and could be facing up to 30 years in prison if found guilty.