MIAMI – A Miami lawyer has been accused of forging the signatures of seven circuit court and Broward County judges on documents related to structured settlements cases.
Attorney Jose Manuel Camacho Jr. of the Camacho Law Group allegedly forged about 95 signatures on structured settlement orders.
In structured settlement cases a person who is expecting to receive a large amount of money paid in installments over time, for example as part of an insurance award, can negotiate a deal with a buyer who agrees to pay a lump sum in exchange for future payments. To ensure that the person gets a fair deal, judges have to sign off on structured settlement agreements.
Camacho’s bank account statements for 2013 allegedly show that he received money from a number of structured settlement companies including Liberty Settlement Funding, No More Waiting LLC and Structured Asset Funding
“It appears he used the money for personal gain,” Joy Oglesby, public information officer for the Broward Sherriff’s Office, told the Florida Record.
According to the Investigative Action Report, Detective John Calabro met with Judge Marina Garcia-Wood, who identified 25 agreed orders, agreed final orders, and orders to vacate in which her name was forged between February 2013 and March 2015.
Upon further examination, Calabro purportedly identified six of Judge Thomas Lynch’s cases, three of Judge John M. Bowman’s cases, 13 of Senior Judge Eileen O’Connor’s cases, 30 of Judge Mily Rodrguez-Powell’s cases, and 18 of Judge Carlos Augusto Rodriguez’s cases with forged signatures. The oldest of these 95 cases allegedly was from June 2012.
The allegedly forged documents originally came to the attention of the police when Garcia-Wood noticed that orders had been signed in her name during a period when she was away from work due to illness. She purportedly looked at other orders and found one signed and dated on her birthday, a day she had taken off from work. She identified multiple orders in which her signature was allegedly forged, all of them in cases involving Camacho.
She brought her concerns to her colleague Rodriguez, who also found allegedly forged signatures among his documents. They reported their findings to the sheriff's office.
Camacho was arrested in October and accused of forging 114 signatures. He has been charged with 14 counts of forgery. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Originally, the case was assigned to Broward Circuit Judge Matthew Destry, but Destry recused himself and asked that the case be transferred to another jurisdiction. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Ellen Sue Venzner is now handling the case.
Camacho is free on bond and has pleaded not guilty. Hearing on the case will begin April 13.
To minimize the risk of forgery in the future, Broward Chief Administrative Judge Peter Weinstein has changed the way judicial orders can be filed in Broward County. A deputy of the clerk must go to the judges’ offices to pick up orders. Lawyers can no longer deliver them to the clerk’s office.
According to the website of the Florida Bar, Camacho is under suspension as of February 2016.