Nicole Cardona Charged in Fake Handicap Placard Scheme
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Nicole Cardona appears in a mugshot (L) and during her arrest (R)

Nicole Cardona mugshot (L) and during her arrest (R)

A Florida woman was arrested on Thursday and charged in connection with what authorities are describing as a complex scheme to falsely obtain and sell handicap parking permits in the Miami area.

Nicole Cardona, 26, stands accused of one count each of organized scheme to defraud less than $20,000, criminal use of a public record or public records information, forgery, and false official statements.

The defendant allegedly sold “applications for permanent disabled parking permits” that featured forged doctor signatures, law enforcement claim. Those allegedly fake signatures allowed customers to obtain real parking placards issued by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

“While profiteering from the sale of illegal handicapped parking placards may seem like a small issue to many who live beyond Miami Beach, this enterprise which allegedly involved the forging of doctors’ signatures on official documents, is a criminal act and impacts the daily lives of numerous residents living in the city,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a press release.

The investigation allegedly began after a Miami Beach detective saw a driver using a handicap placard under “circumstances [that] appeared suspicious,” according to the state attorney’s office.

“When questioned, the driver ultimately admitted that he had obtained the placard by way of a woman who was selling applications for placards,” the press release alleges. “He learned about the source via a co-worker at his restaurant job. The cost was $150.”

Fernandez Rundle’s office claims that local law enforcement have been “inundated” with complaints about “drivers abusing disabled placards to park in permitted residential neighborhoods for unlimited lengths of time” but did not specify or speculate as to how many placards Cardona is alleged to have sold over all.

An arrest warrant obtained by Miami ABC affiliate WPLG says the driver questioned then provided law enforcement with the defendant’s phone number – but that he did not know her name. But that detail didn’t appear to matter too much in the end.

According to Fernandez Rundle, detectives performed two controlled purchases with Cardona wherein the defendant requested a copy of a driver’s license as well as $200 for services rendered.

“Each fully completed application had the same handwriting style throughout the entire application, and included the printed name, medical license number and signatures of two different local doctors who denied signing those documents,” the DA’s office said.

The arrest warrant reportedly notes the doctors whose names were on the applications allegedly used by Cardona to obtain the parking permits were interviewed by police and said the handwriting was not theirs – and that they seldom approved such documents.

Miami Fox and Sunbeam Television affiliate WSVN caught the defendant’s arrest on camera earlier this week.

“The fraudulent use of disabled parking permits is certainly not a victimless crime,” Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements said. “The victims are those who legitimately need the parking spaces. Our department is cracking down on the violators and those who facilitate obtaining the placards.”

[images: mugshot via Miami-Dade Corrections; arrest via screengrab/WSVN]

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