MANATEE -- The former manager of a Longboat Key condo association was convicted of two felonies for stealing more than $200,000 of the association's funds.
Judy Paul faces up to 30 years in prison after a jury convicted her of grand theft in excess of $100,000 and scheming to defraud more than $50,000
Paul, 49, was taken into custody Thursday afternoon to await her sentencing.
Condo board members called the verdict good news.
"It cost an enormous amount of time on the part of myself and other board members to research this," said Bob Fisher, a condo association board member.
Paul was hired by the Sandy Cay Condo Association as general manager in June 2006. Duties included banking, accounting, personnel issues and rental management.
Sandy Cay, 4725 Gulf of Mexico Drive, is a beach resort with 60 units that are individually owned but are offered as vacation rentals on a weekly or monthly basis.
As Paul gained the board's trust her duties grew and she worked with little
supervision. She soon began funneling money to her own accounts.
A routine audit in 2009 uncovered more than 50 checks that were issued by Paul and either cashed or deposited into her own accounts.
The loss came at the cost of Sandy Cay owners.
"We, the association, had to make up the lost funds," Fisher said. "It caused a significant amount of emotional stress on many of our owners."
Today the condo association says they have gotten tougher on employees and management.
"We have tightened our financial controls," Fisher said. "We are pleased with the decision in the court and we just have to move on."
This was the first case brought to trial by the State Attorney's new white collar crime division.
The state attorney's office has made a point of prosecuting fraud cases under the new division since Ed Brodsky was elected to head the office.
Throughout the trial Paul maintained her innocence, insisting the checks were justified.
When Assistant State Attorney Lisa Chittaro questioned Paul on the stand about the checks, she replied: "If there was a check that was written to me, it was for the agreed advance or for a reimbursement, one of two."
Paul's attorney Lee Blias was unhappy with the guilty verdict.
"Obviously we are very disappointed and there is going to be a very aggressive appeal," Blias said.
"There are a number of what we believe to be legal errors and we believe that are reversible."
Paul, who awaits sentencing in the Manatee County jail, plans to take the case to the appeals court.
"We do no think the weight of the evidence supported the verdict," Blias said.
A sentencing hearing has not been set yet.