Former Plantation Mayor Lynn Stoner Arrested – Accused of Official Misconduct and Falsifying Record

Former Plantation Mayor Lynn Stoner Booking Photo
Former Plantation Mayor Lynn Stoner Campaign Photo

Clearing up code violations for the Strata Group started way before 2020!

Major reason selling and moving away from Plantation were the lies of the elected officials documented on the PPEHOA site which was created, at first, to support Strata Group, but then morphed when the true intentions of the Strata Group were made apparent and the site documents the opposition to the project.

Some Examples of Code Violations & Privileged Access:

On June 18th was told by Diana Berchielli that the Building Director directed the landscaping team to not pursue fines.

Project loans advanced after ex-mayor’s letter gave false info, investigators say

A developer shored up loans — including one for $95 million — just days after Plantation’s former mayor offered up a signed letter that had false information on it, Broward’s inspector general alleges in new documents released Tuesday.

The latest details about the allegations against former Mayor Lynn Stoner were released Tuesday by the Broward Office of the Inspector General, the county’s top ethics watchdog, as part of its final report into the matter.

Stoner was arrested in May, accused of trying to coerce Adnan “Danny” Ezzeddine, a former building official, to fraudulently sign off on development projects, and falsifying documents to help a developer get loans, including one for $95 million.

The office of Inspector General had sent its investigation that began in 2020 to prosecutors, and it made its report public Tuesday. Inspector General Carol Breece alleged “Stoner engaged in a pattern of criminal and ethical misconduct to benefit a private developer and its now deceased president.”

“Our investigation determined that Mayor Stoner persisted in a course of action intended to benefit the Developer or its President in their development of the Pixl Project,” the report reads. “The public expects a city’s mayor to act on behalf of residents and businesses to benefit them, but the acts we report here were outside the legal bounds of what the public, through its legislature, has deemed acceptable.”

Since her arrest, Stoner’s criminal defense attorney, Larry Davis, said that his client did nothing wrong.

“Mayor Stoner was doing her job as the CEO, pursuant to the Plantation city charter,” he said Tuesday. “The mayor was ensuring that a vital project in a blighted area was not scuttled by red tape and political agendas.”

According to the final investigative report:

The developer was building a multi-residential development within the city but an outstanding property lien stemming from an unresolved code enforcement case was complicating construction financing for the Pixl project.

Investigators allege in April 2020, Stoner asked the city’s then-building official to write a letter to the developer’s lender saying that the violation and fines were discharged “when she knew they were not.”

The building official refused to write the letter because the violation and fines were not discharged and the letter would be illegal, and so “Mayor Stoner said she would do it herself,” according to the investigation, “and then hung up on him.”

Investigators allege on that same day that the building official refused to write the letter she requested, Stoner used “city stationery or letterhead that falsely stated that the city had discharged the violation and waived the accrual of all fines, which by then had accumulated to approximately $181,500.”

The developer’s president “promptly sent that signed letter” to the private equity firm funding his companies’ loans and the title insurance company accepted the letter as proof that the property lien was removed.

Days later, the private equity firm and developer closed on two pending loans, including one for $95 million, according to the report.

“At the outset, it was evident to city staff that the developer’s president considered Mayor Stoner his ally in getting the city to do his bidding,” according to the report.

In another case, investigators said Stoner “continually attempted to improperly influence the building official to violate the Florida Building Code to help the developer.”

For example, she pushed to have him issue the developer a permit on the Pixl project — even though the developer had already started construction without a permit — or to allow the unpermitted construction to proceed despite the building official’s stop work order, investigators said.

On the evening of Aug. 14, 2020, Stoner called the building official at his home and “told him that she did not know he was going to shut down the developer’s job site and said that the developer’s president was going to call him,” according to the report.

They met at the site after the weekend even though “the Building Official discouraged her from being involved as she was the mayor,” according to the report.

When the building official and Stoner arrived at the job site that morning, they observed 25 to 27 workers working on the foundation and columns without authorization and without a permit.

“When the president arrived, he attempted to convince the Building Official to let him continue working without a permit. The Building Official pointed out that the workers had poured concrete for the foundation, which they would have to remove for inspection. Mayor Stoner responded that ‘we’ were not going to dig out the concrete,” according to the report.

When the building official authorized another stop-work order on the Pixl project as unpermitted construction continued, days later, Stoner fired him, investigators said.

“She had complained about the Building Official not doing things she wanted him to do,” according to the report.

The building official, Ezzeddine, could not be reached for comment at his home Tuesday. The Pixl project, 330 units, is still under construction at 4400 NW 8th Court. Construction is expected to be completed within 12 months.

The developer, Christopher Longsworth, CEO and founder of Plantation-based Invesca Development Group, died in December 2020 at age 36.

There was no answer at the business office of Invesca Development Group on Tuesday.

Stoner served on the Plantation City Council from 2011 to 2017 before being elected mayor in 2018. She lost her reelection campaign in November.

This is the second investigation by the inspector general’s office into Stoner’s alleged misconduct.

In 2020, authorities alleged in a 238-page report that Stoner frequently circumvented Florida’s Sunshine Law, which allows open access for board meetings and denied public-records requests to City Council members.

The inspector general said Stoner also was found to have “engaged in multiple violations of campaign finance law” during her mayoral campaign, including unlawfully overdrawing the campaign account and then making an illegal, post-election loan to cover the overdraft. She later filed false campaign treasurer reports to cover up the overdraft and illegal contribution, according to the inspector general’s report.

In response, earlier this year she paid a $1,200 penalty to the Florida Elections Commission after admitting to violating several state campaign finance laws during her 2018 mayoral campaign.

Stoner told the South Florida Sun Sentinel at the time it was “sloppy bookkeeping,” but there had been “no wrongdoing on my part.” She said at the time she was both working and running a campaign and had no intent to do anything wrong.

The case was forwarded to prosecutors. Still, it “is under review,” said Paula McMahon, spokeswoman for the Broward State Attorney’s Office, on Tuesday.

The Inspector General also said Tuesday it would also file its latest case, on the former mayor’s Pixl project involvement, with the Florida Commission on Ethics.

In Stoner’s pending criminal case, there is no trial date set. The charges — official misconduct, falsifying a record and influencing a building official — carry a maximum possible punishment of up to eight years in prison.

Lisa J. Huriash can be reached at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @LisaHuriash

Ex-mayor of Plantation faces charges tied to developer Invesca

Vera-Lynn Stoner allegedly illegally wrote that firm had cleared code violations on project

Former Plantation Mayor Vera-Lynn Stoner faces charges that she illegally tried to help Invesca Development Group advance its project.

During her tenure as an elected official, Stoner issued a letter from the mayor’s office falsely claiming that Strata Group LLC had fixed code violations — an alleged attempt to help the company secure a loan, according to a complaint affidavit filed by the Broward County State Attorney’s office. In addition, Stoner is accused of pushing a Plantation building official to allow Strata Group to build a project called Pixl without proper permits.

Strata Group is tied to Plantation-based Invesca Development Group, led by Michael and Bernard Hsiao, according to state corporate records.

Invesca’s Pixl project is a planned 330-unit multifamily development on a 6.7-acre site at 4300 Northwest Ninth Court in Plantation. In September, the firm scored a $76.5 million construction loan for Pixl and filed a notice of commencement of construction soon afterwards.

Invesca’s website also lists a planned Strata community in Plantation, describing it as a 147-townhome development with 21 buildings on 13 acres.

Stoner, 69, issued the letter in 2020 from the mayor’s office stating the developer had cleared code violations after a building official refused to succumb to her alleged requests that he write the letter, according to a news release from the state attorney’s office. In 2020, Stoner had “attempted to coerce, trick, persuade, or otherwise influence” the official to “do her a favor” and write the letter, the release says.

Prosecutors do not specify which Invesca project the letter was allegedly geared to help.

Stoner turned herself in to authorities on Tuesday and was released on her own recognizance. She is charged with one count each of official misconduct and falsification of records, as well as two counts of influencing a building official.

She will plead not guilty at her arraignment, which is expected in two to three weeks, said her attorney, Larry Davis.

Former Plantation Mayor Lynn Stoner has been arrested, accused of trying to coerce a city building official to fraudulently sign off on development projects, and falsifying documents to help a developer get a loan.

Stoner turned herself in to the Broward jail on Tuesday morning to face four charges of official misconduct, falsifying a record and influencing a building official.

The documents detailing the charges against her paint a portrait of a mayor intent on “knowingly and intentionally” helping developer Christopher Longsworth and his development companies and projects three years ago: She urged the building official, Adnan “Danny” Ezzeddine, to not throw her “under the bus” during his conversations with the developer, and asked him to write a letter saying code violations were resolved, when they hadn’t been, which would have been a violation of state law, the documents say.

Longsworth, CEO and founder of Plantation-based Invesca Development Group, died in December 2020 at age 36.

The charges are one count of official misconduct, a third-degree felony, one count of falsifying records, a misdemeanor, and two counts of influencing a building official, both misdemeanors. The charges of influencing a building official relate to incidents in April 2020, and between July and September 2020.

Among the allegations:

  • In April 2020, Stoner “attempted to coerce, trick, persuade, or otherwise influence” Ezzeddine to “do her a favor” and write an official letter stating that Strata Group’s building code violations and fines had been resolved or to eliminate those violations, or both, prosecutors said. When Ezzeddine refused, Stoner issued the letter herself, resulting in the official misconduct charge, prosecutors said.
  • Between July and September of that year, Stoner again tried to get Ezzeddine to allow the developer to do construction work “without a proper permit” on the Pixl project.
  • Stoner instructed Ezzeddine to not throw her “under the bus” during his conversations with the developer, according to the affidavit, and told him “that he had so much power that he could allow the Pixl project to proceed without complying with the Florida Building Code and without the proper permit.” She said that he needed to “fix the problem,” according to records.
  • Prosecutors allege Stoner told him to let the construction continue and not to send inspectors to the job site because the developer’s bank was going to visit the property that week, and when he sent them anyway, she “scolded” him, according to the affidavit.

The Pixl project is still under construction, and expected to be condos. The developer said last year it would be a 330-unit project and amenities would include multiple pools, a gym, yoga studio, park and an outdoor theater. The developer’s accompanying Strata project is now townhomes, with a second and final phase scheduled for construction once Pixl is completed.

Stoner’s defense attorney, Larry Davis, said the former mayor, 70, will plead not guilty at her arraignment, which has not yet been set. The charges carry a maximum possible punishment of up to eight years in prison.

Davis said his client was only doing her job. “Plantation is one of only two cities (in Broward) that have a strong mayor form of government,” he said Tuesday morning. “Mayor Stoner was exercising her administrative authority pursuant to the city’s charter.”

Plantation has a strong-mayor form of government, which means the mayor runs the city instead of a city manager and manages all the departments, from parks and recreation to police and fire.

Stoner served on the Plantation City Council from 2011 to 2017 before being elected mayor in 2018. She lost her reelection campaign in November.

City officials had previously complained about allegations of the mayor’s impropriety with projects.

There were allegations around City Hall in 2020 that Ezzeddine had been fired by Stoner because he refused to sign off on the Pixl project.

Three years ago, City Councilwoman Denise Horland called an online meeting to talk about Ezzeddine and other employees, saying at the time directors and staff were put in a position “to compromise personal and professional integrity.”

She said at the time she believed “he was fired because he refused the mayor’s orders to remove the stop-work order on the Pixl project, which was put into place because the developer was and continues to work without a permit. … Mr. Ezzeddine was fired for following the law.”

It was an allegation Stoner denied, saying staff changes are for the betterment of the city.

She had called Horland’s accusations “reckless and unsubstantiated comments,” and said Ezzeddine was fired for his unwillingness to work with multiple clients.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel on Tuesday could not reach Ezzeddine for comment.

The Sept. 29, 2020, meeting was abruptly cut short, because it was “porn bombed” with screenshots and audio from porn videos.

There was a police investigation but city officials said no instigator was named. A police spokesman and the police chief did not respond to an email for comment Tuesday.

Mayor Nick Sortal, who defeated Stoner in the last election and had alleged dirty politics during the campaign, declined to comment.

Other allegations of misconduct by Stoner are still under review by prosecutors, said Paula McMahon, spokeswoman for the State Attorney’s Office.

After being booked, which included being photographed and fingerprinted, Stoner was released on her own recognizance about noon, or about four hours after she turned herself in.

Davis said Stoner is “resigned to the fact she needs to fight this.”

City Councilwoman Horland called it “a sad day for the city of Plantation.” She said, “It breaks my heart for the city.”

Dmitry Kuznetsov, director of business development and analytics with Invesca Development Group, which built Pixl, could not be reached for comment Tuesday by email or phone.

Lisa J. Huriash can be reached at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @LisaHuriash