Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
Published June 1, 2007
arrests of four people accused of defrauding a Hallandale Beach condo
association is making other law enforcement agencies take such accusations
more seriously, according to the state condo ombudsman and condo
Until the arrests last month, police and prosecutors generally brushed off
complaints as civil matters rather than criminal, or they couldn't devote
the time and manpower to the complex cases.
Since then, however, "we've heard from numerous police departments
with questions, and about setting up some additional training," said
Danille R. Carroll, the condo ombudsman.
Jan Bergemann, president of Cyber Citizens for Justice, an advocacy group
for condo unit owners, agrees police attitudes have changed.
"There is a case in Palm Beach County similar to Hallandale Beach
that no one would do anything about since January and now they are,"
That case involves Boca Rio Townhomes, a 264-unit community, where
homeowners in January filed a police report alleging a past director stole
more than $100,000. They followed that up with a lawsuit alleging fraud,
negligence and breach of fiduciary duty.
Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office spokesman Paul Miller said the case was
under investigation and he couldn't discuss it. He would not say if the
investigation began before the Hallandale Beach case broke.
"The laws are there. The problem is that state attorneys never felt
they should do anything about it," said Donna Berger, executive
director of the Community Advocacy Network. "They were under the
impression that since an association is private, they didn't have
jurisdiction and, to be honest, they didn't want jurisdiction. "
In the Hallandale Beach case, authorities say $1.44 million may have been
stolen in an alleged kickback scheme at the Condominium Association of
Parker Plaza Estates.
Awaiting trial on organized fraud charges are former condo president
Joseph Greenberg, 83; maintenance supervisor Angel Ramos, 77; community
association manager Robert Hittner, 58; and Fort Lauderdale plumbing
contractor Ira Silver, 62.
Here are some contacts:
State condo ombudsman: firstname.lastname@example.org
850-922-7671 (not toll free); www.myflorida.com/condos
. The ombudsman's
office answers questions for unit owners, tries to mediate disputes
between owners and boards, monitors elections and educates owners.
Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums & Mobile Homes:
954-202-3982; 800-226-9101; www.state.fl.us/dbpr/lsc/condominiums/index.shtml
The division enforces state condo law.
State condo law: www.flsenate.gov/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=Ch0718/ch0718.htm
State homeowner association law: www.flsenate.gov/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=Ch0720/ch0720.htm
Cyber Citizens for Justice, a nonprofit representing Florida condo and
homeowner association unit owners: www.ccfj.net
Community Associations Leadership Lobby, an organization that represents
boards and those who manage and advise associations: www.callbp.com