Pride Organizers Will Pursue Embezzled Funds After This Year’s Festival

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Pride Fort Lauderdale organizers will wait until after their annual festival on Feb. 11 to pursue the $13,000 they are legally-owed by Michael Cruz after his death.

In June of 2011, Cruz, who died last summer, was convicted of stealing $46,591 from Pride. Cruz, the former director of the then-named Pride South Florida, was sentenced to one year in jail and ordered to make monthly payments of $400 to Pride to reimburse the organization. Court documents also show that Cruz was ordered to attend Gamblers Anonymous meetings.

“I’ve kind of hit a road block [on finding out about the remaining money owed to Pride],” said Pride President Miik Martorell. “Hopefully, after Pride, I can make this happen. It hasn’t fallen off the charts. It just hasn’t progressed.” With all his organization’s time and effort going into February’s Pride, Martorell said he hasn’t had the time to pursue the matter properly.

In August, Martorell told SFGN that Cruz had made every monthly payment up until his death. But, he added, there is still money that is owed to Pride and the rest of the LGBT community and he and the other board members owe it to the community to see that all the money is paid back.

“I can’t just dismiss it. It was stolen from the community . . . Nothing against him or his partner. They knew there was a bill,” Martorell said.

When Cruz was convicted, a lien was placed against him by the court to ensure he paid Pride back. According to Broward property records, Cruz and a man named Emmanuel Stringos purchased a home in Fort Lauderdale in 2000 for $87,490. The home was sold in July of 2017 for $215,000, but Stringos was the only name on the title at the time of sale.

A spokesperson for the Broward County Records, Taxes and Treasury Division said that Pride might have to go to court to get the remainder of its money, possibly from what Stringos made from the sale of the home that was owned by he and Cruz. Multiple attempts to reach Stringos were unsuccessful.


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