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Miami Beach Community Health Center says fired CEO Kathryn Abbate stole $7 million

BY CAROL MARBIN MILLER, CMARBIN@MIAMIHERALD.COM

Calling the actions of their former administrator an “outrageous betrayal of trust,” authorities with the Miami Beach Community Health Center are investigating what they call the theft of almost $7 million in taxpayer money by the center’s longtime chief executive.

Members of the health center’s board of directors fired Chief Executive Officer Kathryn Abbate, saying she diverted the nearly $7 million in money intended to provide healthcare for the needy to her personal use beginning in 2008.Abbate’s chief compliance officer, Diego Martinez, resigned when the board determined he cashed thousands of dollars in checks for Abbate.

Chief Financial Officer Stanley DeHart was fired and the clinic’s human resources director, Angie Aguila, resigned after board members concluded the two had “facilitated” Abbate’s embezzlement.

Board members discovered the enormous loss in May, after a routine audit required by federal funders turned up irregularities, said Mark Rabinowitz, an obstetrician and gynecologist who is the center’s chief medical officer. Abbate had written a check for $5,000 to herself, and cashed it, labeling the expenditure a “community development” expense, said Rabinowitz, who has been tapped by the board to reorganize the clinic in the scandal’s wake.

When asked by Rabinowitz to explain the check, Abbate had no answer, the doctor said, and the agency retained forensic auditors and healthcare lawyers to disentangle Abbate’s dealings.

“Everybody here believed she was a real do-gooder, me included,” said Rabinowitz. “This has been very hard to deal with.”

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