Former Marco Island City Council vice chair charged with forging Belize condo votes
Former Marco Island City Council Vice Chair Victor N. Rios is accused of forgery committed during the election of the Belize Condominium Association in 2019, according to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement news release.
Rios, 78, turned himself in Friday on three counts of forgery of a ballot envelope and three counts of criminal use of personal identification information.
"I'm not talking to the media," Rios said Monday.
In case you missed it:Former Marco Island City councilor charged with forging condo association votes
An FDLE investigation found that several condo residents had ballots cast in their names, which they did not authorize and were unaware of, according to the release sent Sunday.
FDLE says the ballot envelopes contained the personal identification information of the victims, including their names, condo numbers and forged signatures.
An FDLE lab analysis of envelopes discovered a DNA profile that matched Rios, according to the news release.
Joseph Fleming, a Belize condo resident who originally filed the complaint against Rios, said he is glad that the investigation is moving forward.
"I'm very pleased with the work of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement," Fleming said.
Rios turned himself into the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Department of Corrections on Friday and has since been released upon posting a $30,000 bond, according to the release. FDLE said the case will be prosecuted by the Office of the State Attorney, 20th Judicial Circuit.
City Councilor Erik Brechnitz, who was chairman of the City Council at the time of the alleged incident, said he is unhappy to learn what Rios is accused of.
"I'm saddened by it, but I really have to assume that he is innocent until proven guilty," Brechnitz said.
How the investigation started
In 2019, Fleming filed a complaint April 26 with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation claiming that Rios "engaged in a fraudulent scheme of ballot-forging" during the condo's election in March.
Fleming claimed Rios did it to get another candidate and himself reelected to the condo's board of directors.
The allegations were forwarded to the Marco Island Police Department and then to FDLE because Rios was a sitting city councilor.
Rios resigned from the condo's board of directors in May 2019.
In an interview with the Marco Eagle in 2019, Rios characterized the complaint filed against him as a "defamation of character" and denied he did anything unlawful.
"I swear on the Bible I have never committed an illegal act," Rios said at the time.
In October of last year, Rios resigned as councilor, citing personal reasons, and announced he was moving away from Marco Island.
Rios told the Marco Eagle at the time of his resignation that he did not want to go into detail about why he resigned.
"It's personal family issues that I have to deal with," Rios said.
Rios was first elected to City Council in 2014 and was reelected in 2018, serving as vice chairman in 2019. His second term was set to expire in 2022.
Prior to his time as councilor, Rios volunteered with the city's beach advisory committee for three years and Collier County's coastal advisory committee for eight years, according to the city's website.
News-Press reporter Kaitlin Greenockle contributed to this report.