Former Florida School Board Member Arrested for Allegedly Embezzling $100K from District

Former Miami-Dade School Board Vice Chair, Lubby Navarro, was apprehended on Thursday morning, as announced by State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. The arrest came after allegations that Navarro had made unauthorized purchases totaling approximately $100,000 on her district credit cards for personal use. These purchases included items such as food, groceries, appliances, vacations, and even two “artificial silicone pregnancy bellies,” which were considered particularly peculiar by authorities.

Navarro was officially booked into the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center at 10:35 a.m. on multiple charges, including organized fraud and grand theft. Her bond was set at $2 million. The former school board member, who had been appointed in 2015 by then-Governor Rick Scott, had announced her departure from the board in December 2022. The charges stem from purchases made during that year, according to officials.

During a news conference, Fernandez Rundle explained that the investigation was initiated after Navarro’s resignation. Normally, school board members are responsible for reconciling their own credit card statements, but with Navarro’s departure, administrators had to handle the task. It was during this process that they became suspicious of some of the large purchases Navarro had made. Investigators discovered that she had made numerous purchases at various stores, including Walmart, TJ Maxx, Party City, and Office Depot. These purchases consisted of appliances, beauty products, food, household goods, and even 178 gift cards, among other things.

The allegations against Navarro are detailed in a 91-page arrest warrant. Fernandez Rundle revealed that investigators found evidence of some of the purchases in Navarro’s home, such as a commercial-grade refrigerator and a sofa. Additional items were discovered in a storage unit. It was also alleged that Navarro had spent money on personal travel and related expenses, including trips to the Dominican Republic and Las Vegas with her mother and then-boyfriend, respectively.

The warrant provided further insight into Navarro’s spending habits. For example, it stated that she had purchased two artificial silicone pregnancy bellies, which she used to deceive her ex-boyfriend into believing she was pregnant. The warrant also revealed that she had bought Apple AirTags at Walmart to stalk him. Navarro’s attorney, Ben Kuehne, vigorously defended his client, proclaiming her innocence and criticizing the manner in which she was arrested.

Navarro’s resignation from the school board came shortly after a federal judge ruled on a new state law prohibiting politicians from becoming lobbyists. At the time, Navarro was a registered lobbyist for the South Broward Hospital District. Currently, she serves as the director of Government Affairs for the Memorial Healthcare System. Both organizations issued statements addressing the situation, expressing their commitment to integrity and cooperation with law enforcement.

If convicted, Navarro could face a prison sentence ranging from three to 55 years. In response to this scandal, the school district has pledged to prioritize audits of purchasing card usage, paying particular attention to current and former board members. They also plan to strengthen checks and balances to prevent similar incidents in the future.

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