In October 2015, 92-year-old David Garrett called police. He believed someone was taking money out of his investment accounts. Miami Police Officer Johnny Fonseca was dispatched to Garrett’s home, where the elderly, dementia-addled man showed him documents that put Garrett’s assets at more than $1 million.
Fonseca never filed a police report about Garrett’s suspicions. But before the man’s death a couple of months later, the officer did write a will declaring himself executor and sole beneficiary of Garrett’s estate.
Last November, a representative of Garrett’s estate complained to the Civilian Investigative Panel (CIP), an independent police oversight board. An investigator who reviewed the complaint from Gloria Roa-Bodin has now found that Fonseca’s actions had the “appearance of being both unethical and immoral,” and recommended allegations of misconduct and improper procedure be sustained against the cop.
Yet Fonseca has never been charged with a crime in the case or punished by MPD for his actions.
An MPD spokesperson did not respond to New Times‘ request for comment. Fonseca, who is on military leave, claimed he was unaware of the investigation and declined to discuss the allegations.
“It’s not advisable for me to talk about that kind of stuff,” the 29-year-old officer told New Times. “I can’t really talk about it until I know more.”
According to the CIP report, Fonseca doesn’t dispute the basic facts in the case. The cop admitted that Garrett’s concerns in October 2015 might have had merit but said he decided not to file a report. Instead, while at Garrett’s house, he learned the elderly man was an Air Force veteran and enjoyed sailing. Fonseca, who served in the Navy and remains in the military, drove to the place where Garrett stored his boat and went aboard.
In the weeks that followed, the officer decided to look out for Garrett because he was a veteran. He made “community contacts” in Garrett’s neighborhood by knocking on doors and asking if people had seen anyone harassing “Mr. David.” He also checked in on Garrett a few times, once finding him stuck in his wheelchair and needing medical attention.
Fonseca called paramedics and Garrett’s brother. Later the officer visited Garrett in the hospital. He says Garrett told him his brother was a “greedy bastard” who was always trying to take his money. While hospitalized, Garrett named Fonseca his health surrogate, giving the officer authority to make medical decisions.
He also told Fonseca he didn’t have a will. That’s when Fonseca printed one off the internet and named himself the executor and sole beneficiary to the elderly man’s estate. Garrett’s name was signed to it December 9, though medical records indicate he was unable to sign his name December 7 or 10. Medical records also indicate Garrett had dementia, but despite being Garrett’s health surrogate, Fonseca later denied having seen that diagnosis.
In her CIP complaint, Roa-Bodin alleges Fonseca used a digital sample of Garret’s signature from personal papers at his home to create the will.
When Garrett died in late December, the complaint says, Fonseca submitted the will to Miami-Dade probate court, sparking a court battle. But the cop soon backed down; he said he didn’t think he deserved to be a beneficiary and emailed a copy of the will to an attorney representing Garrett’s brother. A legal battle over the will would be too stressful, he said, and he didn’t want to be part of it.
Fonseca signed a waiver renouncing his interest in the will in favor of Garrett’s brother. He never reported his beneficiary status to the police department.
Roa-Bodin in January told CIP staff that the estate had been settled, so she decided to withdraw the complaint. But the panel’s investigator sustained the complaint anyway; it will now be reviewed by the full panel later this month.
In her complaint, Roa-Bodin wrote that Fonseca should be charged with elderly fraud for executing a fraudulent document intended to enrich himself at the expense of the estate’s rightful heirs.
“When a police officer, a trusted public servant, participates in such a crime, the officer should be held to the highest standards,” she wrote, “and having failed to do so be subject to the severest punishment to discourage other trusted public servants from following the same corrupt path taken by Officer Fonseca.”
It’s not clear if any criminal charges are being pursued in the case.