Orlando Commissioner Regina Hill arrested amid elderly exploitation, fraud investigation

Orlando Commissioner Regina Hill was arrested Thursday amid an investigation into elderly exploitation and fraud after a grand jury filed an indictment against her, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. 

Hill surrendered herself at the FDLE's Orlando Regional Operations Center and was charged with three counts of exploitation of the elderly, two counts of fraud impersonation, mortgage fraud, and a scheme to defraud. She was being held at the Orange County Jail on $40,000 bond, but has since posted bail and was released later in the afternoon. FOX 35 was there to catch her exit. Watch the video below. 

In a statement, Hill said, "It’s unfortunate that I have been thrust into these circumstances with these allegations." She said she would trust God and the judicial process, adding, "After 10 years of service for the City of Orlando, I've illustrated my love and compassion for my constituents, my city, and my family. I know the truth; I know I'm entitled to due process, which I trust, and I will await my day in court to prove my innocence."

The charges against Hill were read to her at a first appearance hearing on Thursday, and she pleaded not guilty. 

The charges stemmed from a 13-month-long FDLE investigation that was sparked from a criminal complaint filed with the Florida Attorney General's Office in February 2023. The investigation revealed that Hill allegedly established power of attorney over a 96-year-old woman and went on to buy a home with her listed as a co-owner without permission and also using her funds to buy a facelift, IV infusions, a New Year's Eve stay in Miami, car insurance, dental surgery, and other personal bills.  

These alleged transactions exceeded $100,000. 

FOX 35 News spoke with a neighbor of the home where Hill allegedly took residence and spent $15,400 of the other woman’s money to renovate.

"She just doesn’t acknowledge [you], and that’s how she is. It’s just, doesn’t acknowledge whether it’s a look, a handshake, ‘Hi, how you’re doing?’ nothing, she just doesn’t say anything."

The neighbor said it appears renovations on the home started in the summer of 2022. Hill moved in the summer of 2023 and moved out early March, she said. 

"They started with the roof. That was the first thing that they did. Then they replaced the windows, and then they just put cement on the outside of the home. They didn’t really paint it or anything like that."

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On Thursday, a judge granted conditions on pretrial release, which included no contact with the elderly victim, no access to money held in joint accounts with the elderly victim, and no use of credit or debit cards held jointly with the victim, among other things. Hill is also prohibited from exercising any powers of attorney previously provided to her by the victim. 

"Mrs. Hill effectively betrayed the trust of her community by taking advantage of a 96-year-old elderly citizen, which is one of the most vulnerable in that community," FDLE Assistant Commissioner Lee Massie said at a press conference on Thursday about Hill's arrest. 

FDLE Special Agent in Charge John Vecchio also spoke at the press conference and shared more details about the investigation, which he said was ongoing and active. 

Vecchio said Hill became aware of the 96-year-old elderly victim because of her position as a city commissioner and lent what appeared to be some benefit services that blossomed into criminal acts. 

"The victim in this case was not aware of how much she had signed over to Commissioner Hill," Vecchio said. 

Vecchio clarified that the charges brought forth on Thursday concern Hill acting as a citizen rather than in her official capacity as a city commissioner. Massie elaborated, saying that the charges result from a crime, and law enforcement will focus on the actions she allegedly committed that violated Florida laws. 

"Our job is to be professional, not to pay attention to any of the peripheral noise," Massie said. 

Despite the ongoing nature of this investigation, Vecchio said FDLE is not aware of any other victims at this time. FDLE is also not expected to bring forth any federal charges. 

NOW WHAT?: What happens after elected official, city commissioner is arrested in Florida?

As far as Hill's cooperation in FDLE's investigation, Vecchio said they didn't have many interactions with her. 

"We did not get here by taking this lightly or by doing it without looking through everything thoroughly and making sure that we had everything lined up correctly before we moved forward," Vecchio said. 

James Smith, the attorney representing Hill at her initial appearance, spoke to reporters outside the courthouse on Thursday. He said Hill has not yet made a decision about who will be on her permanent legal team. 

"Obviously, the allegations against her are serious and shocking, but it's incredibly important to remember one thing: in the eyes of the law, she's presumed to be innocent," Smith said. "And it's also important to remember all the good things that she's done for her constituents and for this city. So I would ask that everyone who's paying close attention to this case, just to remember one thing: don't judge just based on the allegations and treat her the way that you would want a loved one to be treated if they were being accused of a crime." 

Smith also introduced a few challenges Hill might encounter throughout the legal process and said her permanent attorney might want to file a motion for a change of venue regarding all the media attention this case is getting. 

The City of Orlando shared the following statement with FOX 35 following Hill's arrest:

"We have been made aware that Commissioner Hill has been arrested and charged by FDLE. We do not have any authority to discipline an elected official, including suspending them from office, as that power lies with the Governor." 

The victim's attorney, John Martino, shared the following statement with FOX 35:

"While we decline to comment on any events related to matters outside of the case we are involved in. However, on behalf of (the victim), the attorneys involved and Community Legal Services, we wanted to express our gratitude for the offers from the community to support (the victim's) legal and personal needs during this challenging time. It is comforting to know that there are so many people truly care about (the victim's) wellbeing and the wellbeing of seniors."