PLANTATION KEY, December 3, 2019 – A Miami Lakes man has been arrested for fraudulently claiming a homestead exemption on a Florida Keys property even though his primary residence is in Miami-Dade County.
Yusmel Bocalandro, 39, was booked into the Monroe County Detention Center on December 2 based on an arrest affidavit prepared by State Attorney’s Office Investigator Roy Bogue. He’s accused of “knowingly and willfully” giving false information in an effort to receive the exemption, which can save homeowners money on their local tax bills.
Bocalandro initiated the application process on November 4 with a phone call to the Property Appraiser’s Office asking what he needed to do to receive an exemption for his newly acquired property at mile marker 65.8 on Long Key. For tax purposes, Florida law allows a $25,000 exemption to be applied to the first $50,000 of one’s assessed property value if the property is one’s permanent residence and one owned the property on January 1 of the tax year. The exemption applies to all taxes, including School District taxes.
During the phone call with a staffer at the Monroe County Property Appraiser’s Office, Bocalandro reportedly said “What if I lie?” about information he gives on the application, specifically, if he was married. He was told if he gave false information on the application certifying all the information on the application was true, that would be considered fraud.
Later in the day, Bocalandro went to the Property Appraiser’s Office on Plantation Key and presented supporting documents to receive the homestead exemption and completed the application, checking “no” in the box asking if he or a spouse or co-applicant own property elsewhere. He completed the application and where it asked marital status, he wrote “single.”
He and the staffer then reviewed the information he provided and he signed the application just below a paragraph that states “I certify all information on this form” and related documents is true. The form also says knowingly certifying false information is considered misdemeanor fraud.
A Property Appraiser’s Office investigator then reviewed Bocalandro’s application and found through Miami-Dade County records (a marriage license) that he had married Jessica Sarmiento on June 25, 2016, contrary to what he said on the Monroe County exemption application. Further information revealed Bocalandro and Sarmiento own a Miami Lakes house and that Sarmiento was receiving a homestead exemption on that house.
The Long Key house in 2019 has a total assessed value of $375,442, according to the Property Appraiser’s Office website. Bocalandro had been renting out the property, Bogue discovered, which was also a deliberate falsification of the homestead exemption application.