Former Plantation Mayor Charged With Falsifying Records To Help Developer
Former Plantation Mayor Lynn Stoner was arrested Tuesday after being accused by Broward County prosecutors of falsifying business records to allow a developer to proceed with a project despite code violations.
Stoner, who lost her re-election campaign last year, is facing a felony charge of official misconduct and three misdemeanors, including two counts of influencing a building official and one count of falsification of records, prosecutors said in a press release.
The charges center around the development of Pixl, a 330-unit apartment complex being built by Strata Group LLC, a subsidiary of Plantation-based Invesca Development Group. Prosecutors say Stoner “attempted to coerce, trick, persuade, or otherwise influence” a building official in April 2020, asking him to “do her a favor” and write a letter that said Strata had resolved or eliminated building code violations at the Pixl construction site at 4400 South Sunrise Blvd.
Court records show the code violations hadn't been fixed and that the mayor was seeking the letter “to help the developer obtain a loan,” according to a statement from the Broward County state attorney’s office. When the building official refused to send the letter, prosecutors say Stoner wrote the letter herself.
Stoner is also accused of approaching the same building official between July and September to try to get the official to allow Strata to start construction at the development without a proper permit. Invesca obtained an $85M construction loan from Madison Realty Capital on the Pixl project in September.
Invesca had previously secured a $102M construction loan from Madison Realty in April 2020 to complete another apartment complex in Pompano Beach and start funding the Pixl project. Pixl was approved by the Plantation City Council in April 2019, the South Florida Business Journal reported.
Stoner’s attorney, Larry Davis, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that she would plead not guilty to the charges.
“Plantation is one of only two cities (in Broward) that have a strong mayor form of government,” Davis told the Sun Sentinel. “Mayor Stoner was exercising her administrative authority pursuant to the city’s charter.”
Stoner faces a maximum of eight years in prison if convicted, according to the state attorney, and was released from jail Monday after being booked on the charges.
She became mayor in 2018 after serving on the Plantation City Council for six years but lost her re-election bid in November.
Invesca didn't respond to Bisnow’s request for comment. The company was founded by Christopher Longsworth in 2001 when he was a teenager, and he ran it until December 2020 when he died at the age of 36.
The Pixl development, originally billed as a virtual reality-themed apartment building, was slated for completion by the end of 2022 but is still under construction, according to a website promoting the project. It’s the second portion of a three-part master-planned development being built by Invesca.
Pixl is adjacent to Strata, a 21-building community with 147 townhouses that Invesca started multiphase construction on in 2016. The third phase of the development, a 10-story office condo building called Modulus, has yet to break ground.