A former prominent player in Palm Beach County’s conservative circles was arrested earlier this month over her alleged participation in the deadly January 6 Capitol insurrection, which investigators were able to confirm with the help of the woman’s own social media posts and one of her coworkers.
Jody Tagaris, 67, faces four federal misdemeanor charges, including entering and remaining in a restricted building, and disorderly and disruptive conduct in a Capitol building, according to charging documents.
In mid-January, the FBI was alerted to a Facebook post under the name Jody Echevarria-Tagaris, that featured a photo of the defendant which indicated she had entered the US Capitol during the pro-Trump attack earlier that month, according to court documents.
The photo showed a woman dressed in distinct clothing, including an American Flag scarf, a unique US Olympics American flag jacket, and a red “Make America Great Again” hat, posing in the frame of a broken window next to the Senate Wing Door at the Capitol with the caption, “The Capital … back at hotel safe! Got tear gassed but okay!”
According to investigators, the FBI then identified a coworker of Tagaris, who confirmed the Facebook account belonged to Tagaris and identified her in the photo. A different anonymous tipster alerted authorities to Tagaris’ photo and provided another Facebook photo of Tagaris in the same American flag jacket that showed her face uncovered, according to investigators.
The FBI obtained a warrant to search the Facebook account, where they found an unmasked photo of Tagaris posted on January 6 in the same attire, court documents said. Investigators also found statements Tagaris made on Facebook about her travels to Washington, DC, on January 5 in order to attend former President Donald Trump’s rally.
Surveillance video from the Capitol on January 6 and Washington Metropolitan Police Officers’ body camera footage also captured Tagaris in and around the Capitol throughout January 6, according to investigators.
During the investigation, the FBI used Tagaris’ listed phone number on Facebook to confirm the number belonged to her and then to obtain a search warrant showing Tagaris’ cell phone location data placed her at multiple locations around the US Capitol on January 6.
Tagaris had a video hearing in West Palm Beach on Tuesday where she was released after posting a $50,000 bond, according to The Palm Beach Post. She will next enter a plea in federal court at an unspecified date.
Tagaris’ defense attorney did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
During the early 2000s, Tagaris played a prominent role in Palm Beach County’s Republican community, according to The Palm Beach Post. Then Jody Warmack, she served as a member of the executive committee of the county’s Republican Party, associating with top lawmakers like the late US Rep. E. Clay Shaw.
In 2002, she lost a primary race for county commissioner in a landslide to Mary McCarty.
In later years, she became involved in a hostile fight with her wealthy ex-husband’s children, according to The Palm Beach Post, who accused her of kidnapping their sick father, Nicholas Tagaris, and remarrying him as a way to access his money.
She eventually agreed to divorce him a second time and return millions in assets in exchange for $100,000, a $460,000 house, and a Porsche, The Palm Beach Post reported.
And Palm Beach County, located just north of Miami, has stood out. Elliott Management is planning on moving its headquarters there, Citadel Securities based its trading-floor’s COVID-19 bubble at a hotel there, and hundreds of families have relocated to the county.
Insider spoke to parties involved in the local economy, including the mayors of Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, and Palm Beach town, to understand what’s driving people to move to the area.
‘We punch above our weight in terms of business strength’
Palm Beach County has been working to drive a migration of businesses for around 10 years, Kelly Smallridge, CEO of the county’s Business Development Board (BDB), told Insider.
The county realized that executives were buying second houses or coming for vacations in Florida, but owned a large business in another state. So the BDB approached them about bringing their business to Florida, Smallridge said.
“That initiative has turned out to be the most lucrative economic development initiative in the last 40 years,” Smallridge said.
The BDB isn’t the only group actively recruiting businesses to move to the county. West Palm Beach mayor Keith James told Insider that the city had been reaching out to financial-services companies for years – not just in New York but in other Northeast states including Vermont and Connecticut, alongside some companies as far afield as California.
“We’ve seen tremendous interest in companies relocating to Boca Raton,” Scott Singer, the mayor of Boca Raton, told Insider.
He said the city had been fielding “plenty” of inbound calls, but that it had also launched targeted advertising in the New York, Chicago, and San Francisco markets, including promoting its technology business hub.
The three mayors told Insider they had especially noticed increasing levels of interest from venture capital, private equity, hedge fund, and financial-services companies, feeding into a state-wide trend.
Hedge fund Elliott Management is in final-stage talks to move its headquarters from Manhattan to West Palm Beach, while Maryland-based mortgage company New Day USA is leasing 50,000 square feet of office space as a second headquarters in the city.
Almost 2,500 financial-service firms have offices in the county, employing 37,000 people in total, according to the BDB.
But other industries are growing, too. West Palm Beach is targeting the marine and medical industries for future growth, while Singer said that Bacon Raton has been a tech hub for decades, noting that IBM developed the first personal computer there in 1981.
Singer said Boca Raton had the number of corporate headquarters you’d expect from a city of four or five times its size. These include the headquarters of The Office Depot, ADT, and Bluegreen Vacations.
“We punch above our weight in terms of business strength,” Singer said.
He said Boca Raton has a “rich entrepreneurial environment” and “an ecosystem that supports business and entrepreneurs,” in part thanks to actions of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. He also points to the collaboration between groups such as the Palm Beach’s BDB, the regional Chamber, and Enterprise Florida.
Boca Raton alone has three college campus that create a pipeline of intellectual capital for businesses relocating to the area, McLellan said.
There are a lot of transport developments either in place or in the pipeline for Palm Beach County, too.
The county has an international airport, which more than six million passengers pass through each year. Even the most northern part of the county, Jupiter, is located just 90 minutes’ drive from Miami and Fort Lauderdale airports for a wider range of long-haul flights.
Boca Raton also has its own general aviation airport, while West Palm Beach is planning to launch a study into the feasibility of direct flights from the city to the Caribbean to benefit its marine sector.
And traveling from West Palm Beach to the rest of Florida is getting easier after it was connected to Miami through Brightline, a rail system with investments from Richard Branson’s Virgin, John Boyd of the Boyd Company said. The route will be expanded to include Orlando and its airport as well as Tampa, too.
This transport network is luring both businesses and people to the county.
Singer said there had been “tremendous interest” from executives with businesses overseas, who wanted to open offices or even locate to Boca Raton because of its transport links. Meanwhile, West Palm Beach says it has “one of Florida’s most walkable central business districts,” reducing the need to commute.
People were already migrating – but the pandemic sped this up
Not only have businesses been moving to the county but people have flocked there, too.
Palm Beach County’s population grew by around 14.2% over the past decade, according to estimates from the US Census Bureau. This is almost double the rate of overall US population growth. Its population sits at around 1.5 million, making it Florida’s third-largest county by population and second-largest by size.
This growth isn’t just because of the natural population increases that you would expect over time. There has also been soaring rates of both domestic and international migration. The county’s net migration was around 11,500 in 2020, according to US Census Bureau estimates – compared to a net migration loss of 23,625 for New York County, which has a similar population.
Many of these migrants are coming from the Northeast. Around two in five people moving to Palm Beach County come from the New York City area, per a report by Unacast. But some also come from cities like Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco, or even from countries like India and Brazil, Boyd said.
Forbes identifies Palm Beach County as Florida’s billionaire hub. The 2,600-square-mile county has around 44 billionaires, Smallridge said. This is roughly as many as there are in the entirety of Los Angeles, according to Wealth-X’s 2020 Billionaire Census, and includes Interactive Brokers founder Thomas Peterffy, hedge-fund manager David Tepper, and food-and-drink entrepreneur Jude Reyes, per Forbes.
It’s also the home of Mar-a-Lago, the US’s second-largest mansion, owned by former President Donald Trump.
The county also has around 71,000 millionaire households, Smallridge said. Oracle Founder Larry Ellison recently bought an $80 million house in the county, though he plans to stay living in Hawaii full-time, and fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger sold his house in Greenwich, Connecticut to move to Palm Beach.
Danielle Moore, the mayor of the town of Palm Beach, said it had a reputation as “the hometown of ‘captains of industry,'” which she said motivated even more people to move there.
People had already been migrating to the county before the pandemic but COVID-19 forced people to address their work-life balance, alongside the deterioration of office culture, the mayors said.
Alongside companies opening up offices in the city, the rise in remote working during the pandemic has led to digital nomads flocking to the county.
Moore said the town of Palm Beach was experiencing the lowest inventory of available homes “in decades,” and house prices across the county have gone up around 10% over the past year as more and more people relocate.
“When they were closed down, we had plenty of recreation space and great weather year-round, and people are understanding more and more that this is where they want to be,” he added.
Alongside retirees, Florida is also associated with seasonal residents who move to the state for the colder winter months, and Moore said that the town of Palm Beach’s population more than doubles during the peak season.
But when people relocated to Florida, many started enrolling their children at nearby schools, and soon found themselves settled down in the state, Smallridge said.
Palm Beach County’s median age is 43.6, “and that number is probably going to stay steady even as we all age because younger people are being born and coming here every day,” Singer said.
“Most executives will go take a swim in the beach before they even go to work,” Smallridge said. “They never have to shovel snow and they don’t have to ride with the subway.”
But even as more people migrate to the county, some to work remotely while others to work for the companies opening new offices in the area, this trend is ultimately creating more employment opportunities for local residents, James said. He added that West Palm Beach has offered financial incentives to companies moving to the city based on the number of jobs they create, including expedited permit reviews and tax exemptions.
McLellan, meanwhile, said Boca Raton was trying to create a pipeline of future talent for businesses in the area, and that the Chamber was working to discourage residents from migrating away from the city.
Ultimately Palm Beach County is positioning itself as not just a major financial-services hub, but also a destination for families, young graduates, and high-flying execs to move to.
This is perhaps best summed up by West Palm Beach’s tagline: “business, life, balanced.”
Top officials in Palm Beach, Florida, met on Zoom to determine whether Trump will be permitted to continue living in Mar-a-Lago, the members-only club he purchased in 1985, where he moved to after his presidential term ended in January.
Ever since Trump changed his legal residence from New York to Florida in 2019 (Florida has lower taxes), his neighbors have openly dreaded him moving there. Some of the neighbors have tried to stop the town of Palm Beach from permitting him to use Mar-a-Lago as his permanent residence, citing a 1993 agreement Trump signed, and evict him.
The agreement, as Insider’s Thomas Colson reported, transformed it from a residence to a private club and forbids guests from staying there for more than “three non-consecutive seven day periods” a year.
Mar-a-Lago can be a club or a residence, they argue, but it cannot be both.
‘The mayor of Mar-a-Lago’
Meeting on Zoom Monday, Maggie Zeidman, the president of the Palm Beach Town Council, said the governing body would make a decision on the issue in April. She also said she personally believed Trump should be able to continue to reside at Mar-a-Lago.
But at the urging of the town manager Kirk Blouin – who said he receives “hundreds of emails a day” on the issue – the town attorney, John “Skip” Randolph held a presentation on the legality of the matter. The council also gave an attorney representing Trump a chance to respond, as well as attorneys representing Trump’s neighbors and a group called Preserve Palm Beach.
According to Randolph, the 1993 agreement allows “bona fide employees” to use Mar-a-Lago as “living quarters.” The question, then, is whether Trump is a Mar-a-Lago employee. The restriction over guests, he said, doesn’t apply.
Trump’s attorney at the hearing, John Marion said the former president is indeed an employee. He said Trump is involved in the club’s finances, evaluates employee performance, and oversees the property in other ways.
“This guy, he wanders the property like the mayor of the town of Mar-a-Lago,” Marion said of Trump. “He’s ever-present, and he loves it there, and he loves the people that he sees there.”
He also pointed out that Trump has stayed at Mar-a-Lago, in the past 22 years, for longer periods than described under the “guest” restrictions before.
“This debate, I think, is silly,” Marion said.
‘A permanent beacon for his more rabid, lawless supporters’
Philip Johnson, the attorney representing Preserve Palm Beach, said he worried that Trump’s residency could welcome some of his more unsavory supporters.
“We feel that this issue threatens to make Mar-a-Lago into a permanent beacon for his more rabid, lawless supporters,” Johnson said.
He also said that giving Trump the power to determine who does and doesn’t count as a Mar-a-Lago employee was irrational, and that it would effectively permit him to create his own zoning laws.
“If officers of Mar-A-Lago LLC are permitted to reside at the club, then there’s no limitation as to how many residents will be able to live there since the club controls the number of officers,” Johnson said. “In other words, the town could not limit the number of residents. Does it does the council want more eligible to be a multifamily residence?”
Reginald Stambaugh, the lawyer representing Trump’s neighbors, said the town of Palm Beach has repeatedly violated the resolution over the decades, not permitting his clients to “peacefully enjoy the privacy afforded to others on the island.”
“My clients purchased their homes after the agreement was signed with a reasonable expectation that this legal contract would be honored and enforced by the town,” he said.
‘A horrible imposition’
Marion appeared sympathetic to the neighbors’ concerns, acknowledging there were “more than 100” Secret Service agents at a time in the area while Trump was president, in addition to sheriffs’ officers, barriers, and blocked roadways that amounted to “an imposition to the neighbors” on Woodbridge Road.
But, Marion said, things have gotten better.
“The Secret Service is now limited to about 10 people,” he said. “As of Sunday night a week ago, all of the Secret Service people that had been out and around the property are gone. The barriers have been removed. Things have changed. And I think it’s going to stay that way.”
Marion told them to be careful what they wished for.
“If former President Trump had to move on to Woodbridge for some reason, there would be barriers across the front of that property,” he said. “There would be guards and Secret Service personnel in front of that roadway. There would be dogs sniffing the vehicles and checking in the vehicles every time a resident on Woodbridge were to go home or leave, or their guests came or left.”
“It would be a horrible imposition for them if they got what they wanted,” he added.