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Cape council member faces fraud, larceny charges

By Staff | Dec 15, 2009

A Cape Coral City Council member has been arrested and charged with fraud and larceny.
Cape Coral Councilmember Eric Grill faces one count of fraud swindle obtain property $50,000 or more, one count of grand theft larceny $20,000 or more but less than $100,000 and one count of grand theft larceny $10,000 or more but less than $20,000. All three are felony counts, according to an arrest report from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.
According to the probable cause affidavit, Grill’s company Grand Cape Construction was hired by David Malmberg of Affordable Towing to construct a building at 213 S.W. Third Ave. Malmberg issued Grill a $15,000 check as a deposit toward the total cost of the project quoted at $180,000.
The probable cause affidavit states that after several months Grill had not pulled the city permits to start construction and “did not show any intent on doing any work on the property.”
Grill also accepted money from Lisa Johnson, owner of Tropical Twisters Gymnastics, to construct a building at 307 S.W. Seventh Place. According to the affidavit, Johnson gave Grill a check for $2,500 as an initial payment, then secured financing through Partner’s Bank and transfered an additional $46,718 to Grand Cape Construction.
The report states that communication between Grill and Johnson seemed to cease and “months passed before any significant progress began on the project.”
Grill reportedly told Johnson the building would be completed by November/December 2008 however “barely any work except for the clearing of the grounds” was done after Grill received the deposit, the affidavit states.
Lisa Johnson said she found out about Grill’s arrest through several friends who called Tuesday morning.
“I feel justified about what’s going on right now,” Johnson said. “He’s getting what he deserves.”
Johnson added she will now pursue a civil suit, and that the ordeal will not be complete until she and Grill face each other in a court of law.
“Now that we have charges on him, we can pursue it in civil court and request a jury trial. We need to get him out there and get people to understand that this is not allowed,” she said. “He still has to face me personally, I at least deserve that much.”
City council reaction was one of surprise, though most didnt know how to comment, one way or the other.
Mayor John Sullivan said he didn’t have enough information to make a statement, but said council could call a special meeting to address the situation.
According to section 4.11 of the city’s charter, a sitting council member can be removed from office if convicted of a felony.
State law also allows the governor to suspend an elected official pending adjudication of charges.
Either way, council can call a special meeting to address the vacancy by filling the seat for the remainder of the unexpired term.
Like Sullivan, Councilman Pete Brandt said the arrest was too new to offer any informed opinion, but didn’t think there was a reason to call a special meeting until more information is available.
“I don’t see why, at this point,” Brandt said of the prospect of a special meeting. “We just went on hiatus … let’s find out what happened and talk about it in January. It’s a shame it had to happen at all, but the timing is really poor.”
The city attorney’s office did not immediately return calls seeking comment or clarification on the removal of a sitting council member. Eric Grill’s attorney William Merchant also did not immediately return call seeking comment.
Bond has been set at $36,500, total, according to jail records.