Second fraud case looms for jailed

Davie condo president

The president of a condominium, currently jailed in the theft of more than $200,000, will likely face charges in a second case, police said.

Article Courtesy of The Miami Herald


Published November 1, 2007 


A Davie condominium president, who was arrested this week and accused of using forged checks to steal from his condo association, might have used a similar scheme to take money from another condo, police said Wednesday.


Davie police arrested Christopher Winkelholz, the president and treasurer of Whitehall Condominiums of Pine Island Ridge II, on Monday. Police say Winkelholz, 26, stole more than $200,000 from his condo association by using a dead man's signature to deposit phony checks in a fake company's bank account.

Winkelholz was charged with one count of grand theft of more than $100,000 and 10 felony counts of forging checks. And, now, Davie police Lt. Wayne Boulier said detectives are investigating allegations that Winkelholz stole money from another condo association where he formerly served on the board.

Boulier said Winkelholz could face more charges as early as Thursday. Details of that case had not been released Wednesday.

''Some more information has come to light and we're aggressively looking into it,'' he said. Boulier would not say exactly how much police believe Winkelholz stole from the second condominium association.


''I will tell you it's substantial,'' he said. ``It's probably in the same ball park if not a little less than what he's been charged with.''

Police say Christopher Winkelholz, 26, stole more than $200,000 from his condo association by using a dead man's signature to deposit phony checks in a fake company's bank account.

Winkelholz was being held without bail on Wednesday in Broward County's main jail, after Monday's arrest.

Condominium reform advocates say the large sums passing through many condo associations, combined with inadequate oversight, has led to increased fraud investigations around the state.

''The way condos are set up, some of them have huge budgets, checks are going back and forth constantly,'' said Bill Raphan, the state's assistant condominium ombudsman.

Raphan has been involved in a Miami-Dade pilot program that investigates condo fraud allegations.

''Construction companies are doing work and not doing work. There's so much money, if there's a payoff it's very hard to prove,'' he said. "They have a lot of money to play with in these condos.''

In the Davie case, Winkelholz wrote 10 forged checks totaling $201,111 between March and August, Davie police Detective Scott E. Kiso wrote in a police affidavit filed Monday.

Kiso, the lead detective in the investigation, said eight of the checks, made out to Bostero Pressure Cleaning Service, had Winkelholz's signature along with a signature stamp of condo resident Leon Brand, who died in November 2006.

The two remaining checks were signed using a signature stamp for resident Barbara Gordon, police said. Winkelholz told police that Gordon did not know he was using her name to cash checks.

Gordon could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

According to police, Winkelholz deposited all 10 checks into a checking account for Bostero Pressure Cleaning Service. The police investigation revealed that Winkelholz opened the account in June 2005 and was the sole account holder. The Division of Corporations with the Florida Department of State has no record of any company called Bostero Pressure Cleaning Service.

Condo association members at Whitehall II, 1700 Whitehall Dr., either declined to comment or could not be reached Wednesday. But Pete Gentile, who lives in the condo next to Winkelholz's, said residents in his complex had been hearing rumors about the case for several days before the Pine Island Ridge board of governors' president announced the arrest at Tuesday night's meeting.

''I'm really surprised,'' said Gentile, 78. "People liked him. He was very active and he looked over things.''


The Davie arrest is the latest in a string of South Florida condo fraud cases.

In August, Miami-Dade police arrested another condo association president who was accused of stealing about $50,000 in association fees from Villa Grande Condominium.

And in May, four Hallandale Beach condo residents were charged in an alleged kickback scheme at Parker Plaza Estates. Police say that case might have cost owners about $1.4 million.

For years, arrests in condo fraud cases were rare and allegations were largely handled by civil courts. But condo reform advocates have tried to make it easier for local law enforcement agencies to get involved, said state Rep. Julio Robaina, a South Miami Republican. And Robaina said he hopes the Miami-Dade pilot program into condo fraud cases will start statewide early next year.

''Apathy is going way down,'' he said. "More than ever, people are getting involved in their association, and they're coming forward.''


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