Cops: Condo chief stole $50,000 in fees

Article Courtesy of The Miami Herald


Published August 24, 2007

Miami-Dade detectives with the economic crimes unit have arrested a condominium association president who is accused of stealing the association's money for personal use, officials announced Friday.

Ramon Perez, 57, was charged with one count of grand theft after an investigation found he stole $50,000 of board association fees at the Villa Grande Condominium, 6300 SW 138th Ct., police said.

Perez served as board president at Villa Grande from August 2004 to October.

''He's saying he used the funds on condo maintenance but we've found no evidence to prove that,'' said Sergeant Richard Davis.

Police said Perez used the money on car tires, vehicle repairs, light bills and other personal expenditures.

State Rep. Julio Robaina, a Miami Republican, said the case was investigated as part of a condominium-fraud pilot program that has been in place in Miami-Dade County since March. The program allows condo unit owners to report possible incidents of fraud to the police to investigate.

Facing a rising number of complaints from condo dwellers statewide who accuse their board associations of stealing money, Robaina decided to create a task force to crackdown on such crimes.

State officials receive about 1,000 complaints annually, Robaina said. His office receives about 40 to 50 calls daily.

''When people would call we never really had leg to investigate the allegations,'' said Robaina. "Now people have someone to turn to.''

With more residents statewide moving towards condo living, the risk of fraudulent activity is increasing, he said.

So far Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach have recorded the most complaints statewide, with an alarming number coming from Miami Beach, said Robaina. The program allows condo unit owners to report possible incidents of fraud by filling out a Condo Crimes Screening Checklist for police to investigate. The resource guide is now available at all police stations countywide.

Officers are also undergoing training in addressing complaints effectively.

At Villa Grande, a board member complained to police about Perez's supposed fraudulent activity. But with several other cases pending, officials said their work is just beginning.