Courtesy of Miami Herald
Published May 31, 2007
Three of the men accused of bilking $1.4 million
from Hallandale Beach condominium owners paid a building employee $86,000
to keep quiet about the fraud, according to police.
One place allegedly used as a payoff site: the
parking lot of a Miami-Dade Wal-Mart.
Valerie Davis, 45, worked for several years as an
assistant condo manager at Parker Plaza Estates, 2030 S. Ocean Dr.
Then, according to police, she discovered her boss,
Robert Hittner, 59, and three other men were scheming to inflate bids for
work and keep the overpayments.
So several of the men now charged with organized
fraud in the case started paying off Davis, according to police documents.
When she left the condo, the money kept coming to
keep her quiet, police said.
Now she is cooperating with investigators.
''She is looking forward to closing this horrific
chapter in her life,'' said Davis' attorney, Brian Bieber. "Unfortunately,
she got swept away in the hurricane of cash.''
Hittner's lawyer, Bruce Zimet, said his client would
plead not guilty. As part of the defense, Zimet said he would evaluate the
accuracy of Davis' statements.
''A lot of people say a lot of things that aren't
necessarily correct,'' Zimet said.
Four men are charged in the case: Hittner; former
condo president Joseph Greenberg, 83; contractor Ira Silver, 62; and
maintenance supervisor Angel Ramos, 77. Hittner made at least some of the
payments, and Ramos and Greenberg knew about them, the arrest documents
stated. Silver was named in police documents, but not in connection to the
Investigators say the men created a system where the
condo board would approve overestimates for work at the building and have
Silver return the extra money -- totaling about $1.4 million -- to the
Davis won't face criminal charges because
investigators had no evidence against her before taking her statement,
which she gave in return for immunity, said Hallandale Beach police
Detective Eric Williams, who led the investigation.
But Davis is named in a civil suit brought against
the old management and former board members. As part of that suit, Davis
is paying back all the money she got, said Bieber, although he would not
say how much.
Arrest documents put the amount at $86,000. While at
the building, Davis noticed closed-door meetings with vendors and other
suspicious behavior, Bieber said.
Ramos confronted Davis at her Sanibel Island home
about the situation.
'He instructed her that she could `keep her mouth
closed' about what she knew and that she would receive a portion of the
proceeds at her office at the condominium,'' according to arrest reports
filed against all four men.
Davis feared consequences if she didn't take the
money from her superiors, Bieber said.
A painting contract netted Davis $20,000; a proposal
to replace 520 air conditioners in the building got her another $20,000.
QUIT IN 2002
Davis left the condo in 2002, but the men feared
that Davis, when no longer under their control, would start talking. So
they kept paying her, police said.
She got another $46,000 from Hittner over time,
Davis said; he would pay her either at his home or in the parking lot of a
Miami-Dade Wal-Mart, Davis told police.
During his investigation, Williams heard that Davis
was receiving money but found no evidence of it. Williams told this to
Bieber, who called him back within minutes saying Davis wanted to talk,
hoping to ''clear her conscience,'' Williams recalled.