An aide to the mayor of Broward County is under criminal investigation after she was accused of befriending a newly widowed woman and conning her out of thousands of dollars, police records show.
Broward Sheriff’s Office detectives are looking into allegations that Bina Fink, 51, gained the trust of the 60-year-old woman and persuaded her that her friends and family were out to get her, according to a police report obtained by the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
The case echoes a common refrain in Florida: people exploiting grieving seniors. But the allegations are unusual in that they involve a government employee who is widely known within the local Democratic Party and who is now suing her accuser, alleging defamation.
The widow, Carol Porter, claims Fink persuaded her to hire a new money manager, a new accountant and an attorney Fink recommended.
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In a written statement submitted to police last July, Porter says she transferred $798,948 to the money manager Fink lined up. When she eventually grew suspicious and tried to transfer the money back, she discovered thousands of dollars missing, she said.
Porter claims she had given Fink part of the missing funds — $82,500 — to pay the new lawyer, much of it through checks made out to “cash.”
Sheriff’s detectives subpoenaed Fink’s bank accounts last March, according to an email from a sheriff’s detective to Carol Porter. The case remains open, according to police.
A number of people believe Fink is wrongly accused. She denies all of Porter’s claims and has not been charged with a crime.
“Bina Fink has done nothing wrong,” said attorney Eric Shwartzreich, a friend of Fink’s who spoke on her behalf.
Broward County Mayor Steve Geller hired Fink part time in the fall of 2019 to handle outreach to the county’s Hispanic community. He said Fink is well-known in Broward Hispanic circles and regularly represents him at political events when he cannot attend.
Fink is “widely known in the political community, especially when I talk to Hispanic activists, and she seems to have access to lots of people at high levels,” Geller said.
Mitch Ceasar, former Broward Democratic chairman, concurs with Geller about Fink’s status in the community.
“I just know her from Democratic meetings, Democratic activism,” he said. “She was very good at publicizing events and was very helpful that way, in putting out to the community different things that were happening.”
Campaign records show that Fink did social media work for Russell Miller Thompson, who ran unsuccessfully for circuit court judge in 2015.
Geller, the county mayor, says he stands by his aide. “If Bina were to be convicted of a crime, obviously I would have a completely different view,” Geller said. “I might have a different view if there was a finding of probable cause. But I’d have to review the indictment.”
A widow in distress
Porter’s husband, Stewart, died from an aggressive form of brain cancer on March 14, 2019. She’s a former freelance photographer who is now unemployed. He left her about a million dollars, police records show. Now she lives alone with her cats. In her statement to police, Porter said she originally met Fink at a social event while her husband was still alive.
“She was helping me with stuff with him. We would go see him at the hospital together. He was at Delray medical for quite a bit,” Porter said.
Once her husband died, Fink “inserted herself into my life and systematically separated me from all my friends and family,” Porter said in the statement submitted to the Broward Sheriff’s Office. In a police report Porter filed last February, Porter said Fink had herself added to Porter’s living will.
Fink, the document states, would ask for money, in cash or cashier’s check, for the lawyer hired to investigate Porter’s family. Porter, it says, paid her with the understanding that it would be forwarded to that attorney.
Court records show that Steve Rossi, the attorney hired by Porter, still represents Fink in other legal matters. He did not respond to questions for this article.
Who is Bina Fink?
Bina Fink works for Mayor Geller for four hours a day as an “administrative specialist.” According to county records, she makes $24.76 an hour, or $26,780 a year.
“She’s very polished. Always seems very genuine. And she always drops a lot of names of people,” said Richard Kaplan, a friend of Porter’s husband who nursed the man through his dying days.
A Twitter profile belonging to Fink describes her as “a correspondent for Hollywood.TV. Bina is also a publicist to stars, charity and politicians for over 25 years.”
According to a news release on news site Benzinga.com, lauding her activities as a music publicist, Fink is a Honduran immigrant who lives in Weston. Her background, Geller says, has been a strength for his office.
“I wanted to have staff that looked like my district,” Geller said. “It’s a lot of Hispanics, and several people recommended Bina as being an active Democratic Hispanic person in the community. “
Court records show Fink has been sued twice by individuals alleging that she took money from them.
The most recent suit, which Fink lost, was filed against her by Russell Miller Thompson, the former circuit court candidate, now deceased.
According to court filings, Fink told Thompson she was temporarily short on cash. Thompson lent her about $10,000 with the understanding that Fink would pay him back as soon as she herself got paid, records show. Fink never paid him back, and Thompson sued and won, court records show. Fink was ordered to pay back the amount she borrowed, in monthly installments.
Thompson had previously represented Fink in another lawsuit against her.
In that case, a Dominican couple in Pembroke Pines sued her claiming she ran off with about $10,000 cash they’d paid her to help organize a Mexican music festival, court records show.
Fink, represented by Thompson, counter-sued, alleging that the Dominican couple didn’t do their part to make the concert happen. In the end, Fink agreed to pay them $1,000.
Now Bina Fink is suing Carol Porter.
In January, Fink sued Porter in Broward Circuit Court over a Facebook page that paints Fink as a “professional con artist.”
Kraig S. Weiss, Fink’s attorney in the defamation suit, did not respond to written questions about the matter. In an initial statement by email, Weiss wrote that “the information we have heard Ms. Porter state to others is false and defamatory.”
Schwartzreich, Fink’s friend, said, “She stands by the pleadings that were filed that she was defamed.” The suit does not seek a specific amount of money.
“Bina has been around for a long time. She’s very well-respected in the community. A lot of people know and trust her, and her reputation is beyond reproach,” Schwartzreich said.
In the lawsuit, Fink claims Porter “maliciously, willfully, or negligently published or caused to be published” the information on the Facebook page.
Eighteen people follow or have liked the page, according to court records.
Porter denies she authored the page.
“It’s kind of nerve wracking,” she said in an interview. “That Facebook page has nothing to do with me. … I feel like I’ve been the prey of a vampire.”
David Winker, Carol Porter’s attorney, says Fink’s lawsuit is without merit.
Fink declined to comment for this story, but her attorneys stress that she is fighting to clear her name from online attacks.
Mayor Geller — Fink’s boss — says he has never regretted hiring her. “I have found her work to be of high quality,” Geller said.