Davie condo association embezzler sentenced to 20 years in prison

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Tonya Alanez

Published September 6, 2008

The elderly Davie condominium owners befriended and trusted their young, affable association president.

In return, he betrayed them, embezzling nearly $1 million.

Christopher Winkelholz's crimes should cost him 20 years in prison, indignant condo residents told a Broward Circuit judge Friday.

The judge gave them what they wanted.

"He stole from those he lived with, those he worked with and those who trusted and liked him," said Arthur Smith, president of the Pine Island Ridge Country Club.

Many victims, noted Smith, were retirees on limited incomes or part-time workers toiling to supplement their Social Security benefits.

In May, Winkelholz pleaded no contest to two counts of grand theft and two counts of forgery for stealing from the Whitehall at Pine Island Ridge condo association, where he was president, and the adjoining country club, where he was vice president.

"You were in a position of trust," Judge Pedro Dijols told him before imposing the 20-year prison sentence. "You used their money like it was your own personal bank account."

Winkelholz apologized.

"I'm sorry for what I did. I know it wasn't right," he said.

But he also disputed the amounts that prosecutors said he stole and should repay. He emphasized the good he did for the condo community.

"We rebuilt the country club," he said.

Winkelholz, 27, also must serve 15 years' probation and repay restitution in an amount yet to be figured, Dijols ordered.

He had faced a maximum of 70 years in prison.

Peter Trampani Sr., vice president of the condo association, requested that Winkelholz "a parasite living off of somebody else's sweat" spend 30 days behind bars for each of the more than 250 families he stole from, for an approximate 20-year total.

Prosecutors say Winkelholz stole from the condo association from June 2005 to October 2007 by forging signatures and using a dead man's signature stamp to deposit checks into an account for a bogus pressure-cleaning business.

Winkelholz had a penchant for gambling, Rolex watches and luxury cars a Volvo, a Mercedes and a BMW. He told his mother, live-in fiancee and neighbors he worked for Homeland Security. He did not.

"He craves a lifestyle that is reserved for the rich and famous," said Smith, the country club president. He said he had "genuinely liked" Winkelholz.

Smith said Winkelholz was a quiet, polite, helpful, charismatic, young man who was also a liar, a thief and a manipulator.

When Winkelholz was arrested in October 2007, he had luggage in his trunk, and a passport and plane ticket to Argentina in hand, police said.